I believe two essential components of self defense are speed and efficiency. Speed and efficiency can be a single glance or a few well-chosen words. An old story in Japan describes a time when a commoner offended a samurai. The commoner had no weapon so the samurai told him that he would meet him the next morning for a dual. Of course the commoner had no training so he asked the advice of a swordsman on how he might survive the dual. The swordsman told him there was no chance he would survive but at least he would teach him how to die with dignity. The commoner agreed and accepted his fate. He was told how to properly hold the sword above his head, to stare into the eyes of his opponent and to accept death with no fear. The next morning as the samurai approached the commoner he seen a man whose eyes showed not even the slightest sign of fear. He wondered if the commoner was quite skilled with the sword if he exuded such confidence. The samurai decided that that such a minor offence did not warrant risking injury so he called off the dual.
Terry Chitwood’s book, “How to Defend Yourself Without Even Trying” has many examples of verbally avoiding a physical confrontation. A verbal confrontation is often an attack of the ego so not allowing your ego to be attacked results in no threat and no need to respond aggressively. Backing down when someone says you’re a chicken is another situation that deserves some thought and maybe a future essay.
The physical aspects of speed and efficiency are more straightforward. Action/reaction is a big part of who will hit or get hit. If you’re fast enough to outrun your opponent or duck and dodge every strike and grab then it does matter what is thrown at you maybe with the exception of projectiles. Physical efficiency is producing maximum effect with minimum motion. It starts with breathing. If you’re huffing and puffing after a few punches or blocks either you’re in really poor shape or you’re tensed up and burning through energy with no results. Relaxation is a big part of efficiency and you can easily see when an experienced wrestler works with a new person who may be twice the strength. The experienced person will look like they’re falling asleep while the new guy will be dying of exhaustion.
The topic, essential components martial arts, started with
some thoughts of learning hundreds of responses to a punch, kick or grab vs.
learning general concepts like: how to move with balance and speed, best
stances for mobility vs. kicking and how to unbalance your opponent. Those
hundreds of responses could be a vehicle to learn the general concepts but I
doubt that a good coach would let you swing a bat 1000 times without explaining
where to look, how to place your feet, etc. Having said that, it is not unusual
for Japanese jujutsu instructors to explain very little and apply the technique
many times until the student discovers the correct method. I certainly cannot
criticize doing vs. verbalizing since there’s no substitute for practice but I
believe in a balance of both methodologies.
A teacher could explain that speed comes from relaxing the antagonist muscle when punching or kicking but it would not mean much to someone sitting in their Lazy Boy. Students do not know what to ask so it is up to the instructor to explain the hows and whys of movement.