By Mark V. Lonsdale

 Welcome to part one of Strike Back – a column dedicated to self defense, street survival and the physical and mental conditioning that may prevent you from falling victim to assault, rape or robbery. More than just  a “how to” column on personal safety, Strike Back will stress  the value of martial arts and self defense programs as a valuable and interesting  forms of personal fitness.

 We have all experienced the tedium of exercise for the sake of exercise. This would include weight training, running, aerobics, swimming, etc. – and although all excellent sports in their own right they lack practical application to our everyday lives. Self defense and martial arts training, on the other hand, can be a challenging form of personal fitness with the added benefit of possibly saving your lives or dignity in the face of violent crime.

 One only has to turn on the television or pick‑up a newspaper to know that law abiding citizens are attacked, beaten, humiliated, robbed, sexually assaulted, or even killed in our cities on a daily basis. Sta­tistics tell us that it is only a matter of time before each and every one of us is confronted by the harsh realities of urban existence and the accompanying increase in violent crime. The police are handicapped by rules that do not apply to the villains; slick lawyers make a mockery of the courts; over crowded prisons put dangerous criminals back on the streets; and the judicial system seems more interested in the rights of the criminal than the rights of the victims.

  Since we can’t all afford a team of bodyguards, and the police can not be in all places at all times, it is up to the individual to accept these realities and then say to him or herself, “I will not be a victim!” And then prepare for the worst.

 This is not paranoia, just common sense. Just as we put additional locks on our doors and windows, purchase fire extinguishers, and install alarms in our homes and cars, we can also prepare ourselves mentally and physically for a confrontation. This preparation comes with the added benefit of improving one’s personal fitness. In security terminology this is known as “hardening the target”, or making your self a less desirable potential victim to an attacker. The rapist or mugger is not looking for a challenge; he is looking for a weak target that will not fight back.

 People who are fit, confident, alert or purposeful in their manner are seldom the victims of street violence. It is the meek, the weak, and the unaware that are easily ambushed or intimidated. Understanding this, it is our first goal to change our appearance in the street and not fall into the profile of “a victim”. Ninety percent of physical security is appearance and deterrence. We seldom hear of martial arts’ Black Belts or professional fighters being attacked in the street. It is not that the potential at­tacker knew that this person was a Black Belt, it is that he sensed a quiet confidence and awareness that worked as a warning signal that screamed, “this one may fight back!”   

 One does not need years of formal martial arts training to reap the benefits of not being perceived as a victim. In fact, many martial arts have very little street value and the bulk of the techniques studied could prove suicidal if attempted in a con­fined space under less than ideal conditions. So what we have done is take only the most effective tech­niques from judo, karate, aikido, and several other fight styles, and integrate them into an effective form of self defense and physical conditioning. The techniques are simple to grasp, easy to learn and effective in application. Immaterial of age, weight, height, strength, or sex, these self defense techniques will work for you ‑ provided you study them carefully, do the necessary conditioning exercises and practice on a semi regular basis.

 In this program we will study how and where assaults occur and how to avoid these situations: how not to look like a victim, personal awareness, mental conditioning for the confron­tation, and then a select number of actual self defense techniques.  These will include “soft options” like breaking grips and pressure points; and the “hard options” of striking, kicking, blocking, and throwing. Remember, there are no rules in the concrete jungle and only the fittest survive.

 Fighting fitness has four components:

            1. A fundamental knowledge of self defense techniques

            2. The physical ability to apply them effectively

            3. The presence of mind to handle a stressful situation

            4. A fierce determination to survive and a will to win

 Avoiding an ugly confrontation is always preferable to having to deal with one. The following are just a few tips on life style modifi­cation that may contribute to your future well being:

  • Avoid high crime areas and rough neighborhoods known for drugs, prostitution or gang activity.
  • Stay away from bars and clubs that have a reputation for trouble or a rough clientele.
  • At night, stay in well lighted public areas, avoiding dark streets, parks, beaches, back alleys and parking lots.
  • Young ladies should be wary of guys that “just want to party” – this may be the prelude to abduction and rape.
  • Alcohol and impaired judgment are contributing factors to date rape.  
  • Be alert to what is happening around you; do not allow strangers to get too close.
  • Be extra alert when using public bathrooms – they are a common location for assaults.
  • Keep car doors locked and windows rolled up when driving through bad neighborhoods. If you must stop, do it in a well lighted gas station or shopping center.
  • Excessive or expensive jewelry draws unwanted attention from the wrong people.
  • Do not wave a thick wad of cash around. This is like waving a red cape at a bull.
  • Dress according to your environment.
  • Avoid clothing that may hinder your ability to flee or fight.
  • Park in well lighted areas if you know that you will be leaving work late at night. If necessary have a male co-worker walk you to your car.
  • Do not enter your house or apartment if there are signs of a forced entry – the burglar may be still inside.
  • Maintain an alert, confident manner.
  • Carry a cell phone.
  • Get reality-based self defense training.

 Our physical conditioning tip for this month is to maintain your cardiovascular condition. The ability to be “fleet of feet,” or knowing when discretion is the better part of valor, is an important component in avoiding some nasty confrontations. The object of street survival is to SURVIVE with as little physical and emotional harm as possible to yourself or your loved ones. Whether you are outnumbered, or just out of your league, there is no shame in running – providing you can run and there is a safe haven to run to.

 In any fight, even if you win, you can expect to get hurt – especially if your attacker is wielding some form of weapon or sharp instrument. Immaterial of what we are exposed to in the  movies, even black belts don’t intentionally take on berserk,  knife wielding assailants if there is any other option. And if they do, they expect to get cut.

 So aerobics or jogging, with occasional maximum effort sprints, should be a regular part of your weekly training program.  This is not just for the cardiovascular benefits, but for the sheer practicality of being able to outrun some scumbag that intends you harm. To make the running more interesting, and more practical, try to include agility exercises similar to those done by professional football players. The ability to dodge, turn, fend‑off or avoid an attacker is very similar to the techniques that we see on the football field. But where the pro ball player’s goals are money and glory – yours are escape and survival, so run for your life!


 Mark Lonsdale is a national judo coach, unarmed combat instructor, and a former international judo competitor; an international shooting gold medalist; and holds a Masters degree in international criminal analysis. Mark develops training programs for military and law enforcement and is the author of several books related to tactical operations to include, “CQB – A Guide to Unarmed Combat and Close Quarter Shooting” available from


About Mark V

Dedicated shooter, seeker, traveler, teacher, trainer, educator
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