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Self defence guide

This self defence guide will look at what it is to defend yourself, how to work within the law, understanding fear and the most important things to know while defending yourself or others and how best to train and develop your skills.

What is self defence?

Self defence is the protection of yourself or others in reaction to a threat, but you need to understand that if you get it wrong you could end up in trouble with the law.

The key to effective self defence is to detect – avoid – deter – this three point approach is the basis of all self defence classes; learning to recognise danger, avoiding it as soon as possible or if you can not, deter using a justifiable level force.

What is reasonable force?
How much force you use against an attack is important, if you are confronted by an attacker, the force you use has to be reasonable to get you out of harm’s way – if you push them over then run away, that is reasonable force. Pushing them over and punching them in the head several times is not.

This is proportionate to that used against you by an attacker. Does you response fit the crime? If someone knocks your drink out of your hand at a bar, turning round and punching them is not proportionate.

Can you justify your actions to a police officer and in a court of law. If you can’t then whether your the victim you could end up having serious implications either in terms of compensation law suits or jail. If an attacker tries to steal your wallet do you think it would be justifiable to stab them? Apart from it being illegal to carry a knife, of course, it would not be justifiable to cause grievous bodily harm to someone who only threatened you verbally.


Why we need self defence

Remember the threat of physical violence is tiny and the vast majority of cases are preventable. It’s like having a fire alarm in the house. The likelihood of having a house fire is minimal, but you get one to reassure your family are safe. Self defence skills you may never need them, but there are there just in case. We like to call them life skills, things you can add to your every day life.

motivation, means and opportunity. The triangle of violence


The triangle of violence – combat indicators

Violence can be either premeditated or impulsive, the study of the psychology of violence can cover many causes, but it can be reduced down to three things.


Money, sex or because of an antisocial personality disorder. You have been singled out, by the perpetrator. They use the classic “you looking at my girlfriend?” line to start a fight, regardless of whether you were even looking at their girlfriend or if they even have a girlfriend.

The perpetrator feels confident to beat you in fight, by sizing you up, body language, has some fighting/martial arts background. They may have a weapon on them, knife, kosh or gun, anything that will persuade you to readily give up what they want from you.


You find yourself in a situation where someone can take advantage, inebriated in a club separated from your friends, walking alone in unlit alleyways or with your guard down walking away from a cash-point. That is to say, the victim unsuspectingly gives the attacker the upper hand by dropping his guard or being manoeuvred into a position of vulnerability.

Combating the triangle of violence

Look at the fire triangle, to light a fire you need fuel, oxygen and ignition by removing one of these you get no fire. This is the same with potential conflict – although the one aspect you have the most control over is opportunity, if you remove that, the likelihood of the simple motive escalating into a violent confrontation  can be diminished.


Physiology of fear – why fear is a good thing

We teach our students to trust their gut instinct. A superb book is the gift of fear by Gavin de Becker – case studies of people who escaped certain death by using their primal instinct, with little thought going into their actions.

Fear is a response in the Amygdala, the oldest part of the brain that deals with our most primal of emotions. Fear results in the body releasing chemicals in response to danger or perceived danger – watching a horror film on your own or walking down a dark alleyway at night, each can evoke the same reactions from the body and these are real physiological effects that are important in helping you escape danger.


One of the main noticeable effects is the release of the stress hormone cortisol, and adrenaline – this gets the heart pumping more blood around the body, delivering oxygen to the muscles and speeding up the heart rate.

Adrenalin is made up of hormones that consist of amino acids, these trigger physical effects throughout the body being the main hormones involved in the flight or fight response and can be initiated by your natural flinch instinct or “startle response”.

Overly complicated techniques taught in dojo environments will more often than not fail due to the bodies physical reaction to the surge of adrenaline as well as inflexible techniques that require an opponent to be in exactly the right position.

In KAPAP we replace katas and techniques with drills  that work with your natural bodies flinch instinct. Drills that get repeated, time and time again until becomes a natural response, with regular grappling and sparring, you also become accustomed to the adrenaline rush.


Self defence starts with awareness

The number one skill to keep yourself out of harms way. If you not need to be in a position of confrontation, simply remove yourself from it. Unfortunately sometimes our ego’s, keep ourselves in a position of danger when really you could simply just walk away.

Being switched on
What may seem a little paranoid can actually become instinct and routine without living in fear all the time. Keeping your head up when walking down the street, not making telephone calls where doing so puts your phone on display to all and sundry, making the probability of being mugged that much higher, taking notice of other people about you and where you park your car in the car park all. Criminals select potential victims by single out individuals who are oblivious to there surroundings and displaying signals of lack of confidence in there body language.

This all very preventable, in fact about 90% of all violent confrontation could be avoid by learning simply techniques that train you to spot potential threats much sooner.


Jeff Cooper colour codes

In KAPAP we refer to Jeff Cooper Colour Codes, it teaches our students to become aware of their own awareness in situations as well as other people in situations.

Easy to learn and apply there are four ‘conditions’:

Jeff Cooper colour codes of awareness states

Ideally everyday spent outside of your home, around other people, you should be in condition yellow – this is not necessarily expecting trouble, it is a level of awareness where you are switched on. In this state you are alert to any key signals and ensure you react early enough and with appropriate behaviour – either raising awareness to orange level in order to avoid trouble, or remaining alert in condition yellow if the situation dissipates.

For example, it’s late at night and you are walking home you are alert and focused on the journey. You start to hear voices coming towards you and soon see that there is a rowdy group of drunks kicking road signs and shouting up ahead. You feel uncomfortable, move into condition orange and cross over the road before they can see you. They pass by and you return to condition yellow. 


Practice makes perfect

With regular practice you condition your mind and body. What may have started out as a fearful situation can become a run of the mill event once you are aware on how to make the situation less dangerous. It’s important to train regularly to prevent skills from fading.


Pressure testing – Keep it real

The only real way of proving what you have learnt really works is through pressure testing. Scenario based training where students placed under physical and mental stress to trigger the bodies natural defence mechanism ‘fear’.


Choosing the right self defence class

Make sure you choose the right self defence instructor. A good teacher will be more concerned with your escaping or avoiding confrontation, this is not about fighting or winning, there is no shame in running from a fight where possible and not coming to harm is the goal that you should be aiming for.

If you do need to deter using force, a good self defence instructor will always emphasise the importance of reasonable, proportionate and justifiable force. If they don’t, maybe you should consider training with someone else.

For more information on self defence training contact us

Written by Norvic Warrior



I’ve tried a few martial arts over many years, and if you’re looking for something that works in real situations, this is it. No fancy moves, no chasing belts or expensive grading, just no BS reality based training that covers stand up, close range and ground work.

A friendly class and great teaching from Gary, with regular support from the extended Kapap family. Certainly taught me a lot. Highly recommended. 

Robert Cowan