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The Tao of Self-Defense

The Tao of Self-Defense

by Scott Shaw

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This complete guide to "street smart" self-defense covers a wide range of subjects including: rapid assessment of potentially dangerous situations, fast and simple response to an attack, continuous flow of defensive techniques, vital strike points, first strike advantage, fighting techniques and body weapons, specific attack responses, grappling and ground fighting


This complete guide to "street smart" self-defense covers a wide range of subjects including: rapid assessment of potentially dangerous situations, fast and simple response to an attack, continuous flow of defensive techniques, vital strike points, first strike advantage, fighting techniques and body weapons, specific attack responses, grappling and ground fighting, defending against weapons, and home training exercises. 185 photographs. Introduction. Index.

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Red Wheel/Weiser
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By Scott Shaw

Samuel Weiser, Inc.

Copyright © 2000 Scott Shaw
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60925-327-1


The Foundation of Self-Defense

In military protocol, the warrior stands firm and speaks directly. When deployed in battle, the warrior focuses on his duty and acts accordingly. During battle, those wearing battle armor need not bow. Those in war chariots need not follow the rules of protocol. In times of war, one does not worry about seniority. One acts.

The common patterns of human behavior, during times of war, are like inside and outside. The citizen and the warrior are like left and right, night and day.

—Su-ma Fu

It is imperative when choosing to master the science of modern self-defense that you are able to separate yourself from the formalities of everyday life when you are engaged in battle. Confrontation is not kind, nor is it just. It is for this reason that you must never consciously seek out battle-at any level. If it finds you, however, you must enter into personal self-defense at the most appropriate level.

If you hesitate when defending yourself, even for a second, you allow your adversary the potential to destroy you. Thus, in battle fight- in life be kind.


At the foundation of any method of effective self-defense is your own ability to read a situation, decide upon the appropriate action, and then implement successful techniques in order to keep yourself free from injury. In martial arts schools and self-defense courses, you are taught methods of how to encounter the various types of physical attack that may befall you: be they a punch, a body grab, or a weapons assault. It is far better, however, for you to never be forced into physical confrontation at all, for this is your only assured method of never becoming injured. To achieve this, the most basic level of self-defense, you must learn how to read physical and environmental situations and then take appropriate defensive action before a physical altercation ever finds you.

Perhaps the most disconcerting factor of this level of self-defense, especially for those who have been previously attacked, is that there is no one who can teach you a method that will keep you safe from all physical confrontations. This is in no small part due to the fact that each person who would accost you possesses a different look, a different body language, and an undisclosed reasoning for why that person would wish to instigate a physical encounter in the first place.

Certainly, there are types who you may come upon who "look evil," who speak to you with an intimidating tone, or who act in a specific manner that signals you to move away. In these situations, the decision to walk or run away is obvious. It is the less obvious individuals who pose the biggest problem as you may not know exactly why you want to steer clear of them.

There are countless theories-and the word "theory" is used because that's exactly all that they are-about how you should behave if some-one with ill intentions comes upon you. Some of these theories tell you to remain calm, in a nonaggressive mode, that you should speak passively to the person; others tell you to be assertive and attempt to back the opponent down. Still others say you should scream or run.

When you are accosted, no theory will work. This is because each attacker is completely different and motivated by his or her own set of irrational standards. As is the case with all areas of self-defense, you must confront every situation as it is presented to you, and react at your most effective possible level.

There are some standard, commonsense rules for conduct that can hopefully keep you free from confrontation. For example, lock your doors and windows, avoid dark isolated locations, don't place yourself in dangerous environments where hostility is imminent. If accosted, leave the location immediately before the altercation has the ability to escalate. If an attacker comes up to you in a public place, call for the help of others, and so on. All of these rules can only be applied, how-ever, prior to a physical confrontation actually taking place or when you are located in an environment where other people are present. The sad fact is that most attackers will not come upon you in public situations. They will wait until you are alone. In these situations, your absolute, full-focused, self-defense is necessary. You cannot think or be concerned about the injurious effect you are having upon your attacker, as he or she is certainly not concerned with your well-being or you would not have been accosted in the first place. For this reason, you must master, and be willing to utilize, to the best of your ability, the most effective self-defense methods available.


Fear is one of the most detrimental emotions you can possess not only in making yourself an effective self-defense technician, but in terms of the quality of your overall life as well. People carry fear with them. They wear it like a badge. All who encounter them know they are afraid. Thus, they attract those who would take advantage of weaker individuals.

Fear is one of the most common deterrents to conscious self-defense, for if you are scared you can't function with precise mental reasoning. As such, you will make erratic decisions-attempting to escape from your fear as opposed to encountering your current reality in the most efficient manner possible.

Fear is based in the unknown: a different race, an uncharted geographical location, or a situation you have not previously encountered. Fear is propagated by society, your family, and your friends, who have all warned you to be afraid of a specific group of people or particular locations. By possessing this mentality you never allow yourself to understand that each individual is his or her own person, each sector of a city has its own beauty and attributes.

Fear can be consciously overcome by realizing that what you are scared of is not the reality that you are currently living. Fear is some-thing off in the distance-something that has not and may never actually occur. By encountering your fears with this formula, you will no longer be dominated by this emotion. You can encounter new people and witness them for who they truly are, and view an undiscovered environment and observe its intrinsic beauty and uniqueness.

If you are forced into a physical confrontation you must consciously let go of fear, for fear in battle does you absolutely no good. In fact, in battle, show no fear. An assailant who sees that you are not afraid may choose to leave the altercation altogether as the assailant will understand that you will not be easily overpowered.

To forego fear, encounter all human beings, new environments, and unfamiliar situations with wonder and respect. Never bring to them unfounded and predetermined suppositions. From this, you will possess no fear and you will be able to live your life with a new level of perfection.


Being a victim is a state of mind. It is what you do with the experience of loss, which in turn determines whether or not you become a lifelong victim. A victim is an individual who has lost an altercation and, because of this the person is dominated by that experience for the rest of his or her life. Everywhere this person goes, he or she is scared—expecting a similar negative experience to occur. The victim mentally brings the same situations into the life experience—over and over.

The person who is not a victim may have lost battles in the past, but realizes that life is a step-by-step process. Though he or she may not have liked the experience of losing, this individual has learned what could be learned from it. The non-victim has become stronger, and has moved on with life, becoming a better and more whole individual.


You cannot win all altercations. Winning or losing is all a state of mind. If you learn from your seeming loss, your are, in fact, a winner— as you have become a stronger, more complete individual. From the opposite perspective, if we have won many confrontations and are constantly seeking to prove ourselves in battle, there will eventually be somebody who will beat us. Thus, the conscious self-defense technician never seeks out battle. If battle is forced upon us, we proceed in the most conscious and effective manner possible. Then we leave the experience behind us, not attempting to gain ego gratification from this seeming victory.


The question often arises, "How do we remain conscious in the all engulfing randomness of battle?" There are two primary methods to achieve this. One is partner practice. The second is mental visualization.

From partner practice we learn, through personal experience, the most efficient method to deal with each style of physical attack. Thus, if we are accosted, we have already worked through the scenario and know how to most effectively deal with it.

Through the practice of mental visualization relation to self-defense, we detail in our minds the most effective method to encounter each type of assault. By running the battle scenarios on a mental level, we train ourselves in self-defense by using mental imagery.

By learning these two practices, we have just upped the potential for becoming more secure as we move around our neighborhood and our world. We can consciously refine how to defend ourselves in all environments, and from each of the various types of attack. Once we possess this sense of mental security, we also project that mind-set to the world. Therefore, when we encounter people, they experience the inner power we possess. Thus, they will not thoughtlessly challenge us to battle, as they intuitively know we cannot be easily defeated.

Learn, practice, and master the techniques of self-defense. Then, project that inner self-confidence to the world. This is the best first line of defense!


The unfortunate reality about life is that we can be accosted by an attacker in virtually any location, at any time. Each physical location is unique and possesses its own environmental constraints. For this reason, there is no singular method of physical self-defense that will universally protect us in all geographical locations.

To master environmental self-defense, we must not only understand how to effectively encounter an attacker in each type of environment, but, more importantly, we should think about taking precautionary measures before entering any location. We should learn how to judge an environment by its own physical parameters and, thus, avoid placing ourselves in situations where physical danger is imminent.

The Car and Self-Defense

To begin the study of environmental self-defense, we can begin by viewing the defining factors of the car we use. The car is a common place where confrontations take place, because road rage is so prevalent. Many people are in and out of the car in parking lots late at night-or even during the day. It is a very important physical environment to master in environmental self-defense.

For example, if an attacker rushes toward you, while you are still in the car, if you attempt to get out, you are leaving yourself highly prone to attack. Not only must you get up out of your seat and turn to face the opponent (in which case he or she can easily strike you to the back or side of your head before you can confront the attacker), but you must also open the car door and expose at least one leg before you can even stand up. With your legs on the ground and your body not yet standing, the attacker has the advantage, and can powerfully smash the car door against your exposed extremities. There is virtually nothing you can do to halt this type of attack except to—hope-fully—overpower the attacker's superior position, and either get out of the car or get your legs back into the car. By this time, you are probably injured and your self-defense options are highly limited. Therefore, it is very important to fully evaluate your environment before beginning to leave the car pending a confrontation. If an attacker has already rushed the car, don't attempt to get out—lock the doors, close the windows, drive away! Forget the anger that led to this unsavory situation.

We could be approached by a potential assailant as we attempt to get into the car-and here the car, itself, can be an impeding factor to keep the attacker at bay. If we see an attacker approaching, we can keep the car between us. If he or she begins to move around it, we move in the opposite direction! Though this may look like a child's game, by forcing the assailant to remain at a distance, we can ascertain his or her intentions and hopefully call other people who are in the area to our aid.

If, out of frustration, the attacker attempts to supersede our movements and jumps over the hood or trunk of the car, this is the ideal time to deliver a powerful first strike as he or she is coming off the car. He or she will be off balance due to exaggerated movements, and will be open to any striking technique.


In any physical confrontation that takes place outdoors, we possess a very important advantage for effective self-defense. That advantage is space. In an outdoor situation, we can move if we are accosted. This does not necessarily mean that we should run, though this may be our best defense. What it does mean, however, is that we are not required to stay boxed in a stationary location, as is the case with interior combat.

An attacker rushes in, and by moving backward or sideways, out of his path of attack, his initial offense is foiled. At this point we can launch a powerful counterattack, or just quickly leave the site of the altercation altogether.

When defending yourself from an attack that happens outdoors, the most important thing to keep in mind is to keep moving. Each time the assailant attempts to punch, step back out of his path of attack. If he attempts to grab, move away. If he does take hold of your body or clothing, immediately free yourself from his grasp, in the most elementary way possibly, usually just by rapidly pulling free. Thus, he will not have the opportunity to substantiate his grasp.

Just remember that any attacker is highly adrenalized. As such, his energy is quickly expended. As long as we can keep him away from us, he will be burning excessive amounts of energy and we, remaining relatively calm, will maintain our energy surplus. Thus, like the competent boxer who allows his opponent to chase him around the ring, we can also conserve our energy and counterattack when the opponent is worn out and drained.

The Alley

It is often said that we should back ourselves up against a wall if we are attacked in an outdoor location. This is especially the case if we find ourselves in a narrow outdoor placement, such as an alley. The belief is that by backing up to a wall, the attacker or attackers cannot come around behind us. Though there is a logic to this form of self-defense, the biggest downside to it is that once against a wall, our movements are highly limited and our attackers can close in and strike with multiple assaults. Additionally, our defensive blocking techniques are highly restricted, for with our backs against a wall, we can only move effectively from side to side. Ifwe attempt to push out from the wall, we then must meet the blows of our attackers head on.

For these reasons, moving against a wall should only be employed when it is to some advantage. This situation would occur when the attacker is rapidly rushing in at us. Then, by side-stepping his attack, redirecting his aggressive energy, and guiding his face or body into the wall, we will save ourselves the necessity of forcefully striking out at him-as we have used his own force to cause him to powerfully impact the nearby wall.

In virtually all other cases, it is to our advantage to keep moving if we find ourselves threatened in a walled outdoor location. Even if our movements must be linear, due to the confined configuration of the space, the attackers will still need to chase after us to grab or strike.

Let's consider the attack scenario when the initial altercation occurs and our backs are already against the wall. In these cases, immediately strike a vital point on the attacker-his knees, groin, throat, eyes, temples, and so on. Once this has been accomplished, immediately move off the wall. From this rapid style of self-defense, we may have foiled the attacker's intentions. If not, additional self-defense can be employed as necessary.


Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) have become a very common place for individuals with ill intent to accost would-be victims. Though most ATMs now have video surveillance, this has not seemed to halt these attacks, as criminals know it takes several minutes for police to arrive. During this time period they can rob their victims and in some cases injure or them. Knowing this, we must all be very cautious whenever using an ATM.

Excerpted from THE TAO OF SELF-DEFENSE by Scott Shaw. Copyright © 2000 Scott Shaw. Excerpted by permission of Samuel Weiser, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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