7 Self-Defense “Techniques” That Will Get You Hurt

7 Self-Defense

Anyone studying martial arts or hand-to-hand combat waits for perfect opportunities to present themselves in a fight. When fighting an experienced fighter, he won’t likely expose his neck, head, or extremities to easy access for your strikes, grabs, and holds. As such, here are seven mistakes that fighters sometimes make which can end up becoming “perfect opportunities.”


Telegraphing is the process where you broadcast what you’re about to do before actually doing it. I think the reason it’s so common is that people watch too many Hollywood movies. Every Hollywood movie includes a lot of telegraphing because that’s part of the dramatic effect. The stunt coordinators, martial artists, and actors performing in those bits all know what they’re doing is for theatrical entertainment. Unfortunately, people in the real world have a bad tendency to haul back their fist to hit someone. That’s a good way of getting hit yourself.

Over-extending On Strikes

Reach is essential in a fight. Hitting your opponent before he can hit you gives you the opportunity to inflict damage and degrade his defenses first. On the receiving end, sometimes the only thing you have to work with is using your opponent’s added reach against him. An extended arm left out there too long is an invitation to get it grabbed. Arms and legs are vulnerable when they’re overextended from your guard.

One defensive posture works all the time

If you’re fighting only one opponent, your focus is on him. If you are fighting multiple opponents, your attention needs to be able to shift and prioritize. A defensive posture, or a guarded stance, is a defensive posture that allows you to move with your attacker. It’s best to study more than one, though, as different circumstances may require it.

Focusing on only one spot on your opponent

In soccer, watching a player’s hips is a good strategy to see how the opposing player is going to move. However, in a fight, it’s a mistake to only focus on just that. Situational awareness is critical in a fight.

Brute force attack

For larger, stronger guys, they tend to try to overwhelm an opponent and beat or tackle him into submission. They have the advantage of weight. However, brute force attacks where a guy goes out swinging can leave him exposed and, if unsuccessful, leave him tired and unable to press an attack.

Only going after the head

It’s true: if your opponent’s head isn’t working, the body is sure to follow. While striking the head can end a fight quickly, it’s also the first place people naturally guard. In a fight where your opponent is guarding his head against you, there’s an opportunity to wear him down by hitting whatever is exposed – even if it’s only his shoulder or arms.

Overextending legs and feet

A proper fighting stance can be improvised from standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and bending slightly at the knees. When you overextend a leg outside of your ability to block or guard an attack, you make it a prime target. If your kneecap gets dislocated, you’re going to have a lot harder time putting weight on it.

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James England

James England is a former Marine and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He works as a copywriter and enjoys a long relationship with Aikido and the great outdoors.

  • gwp1948

    As a black belt in traditional karate I can assure readers that we do not train to ‘wait for perfect opportunities’ to defend ourselves. We train to recognize threats from and weaknesses in our opponent, some of which you describe herein, and use our skills to counter, avoid, or leverage the weakness. The weaknesses you describe are valid and familiar to properly trained martial artists, as are the counters. Trying to take advantage of the weaknesses without training can be foolhardy and dangerous.

    • Mikial

      So, for the average person who may not have the time or money to go through weeks and months of training, what do you suggest? And no, I’m not talking about myself. Years of Kyokushinkai training with a real brawler of a sensei who required us to fight every other member of the dojo (with handicaps against lower ranking students such as no hands or no feet, or multiple opponents) and then himself before any rank advancement, periods of study in Kung Fu, Gracie Jujitsu, and even Ed Parker Kempo taught me one thing . . . there is no comparison in dojo or tournament fighting that matches the violence and unpredictability of a street fight. But the “average” person does not have the opportunity to devote time to intensive training, they have jobs at the auto repair shop or the office, kids to take to soccer, and overtime to work to pay the bills. Granted, the author presented a simplistic view but he was no doubt constrained by article length limitations and actually did a decent job presenting the material. Frankly, people need to understand that there are really two primary components to surviving a physical assault; an understanding of both yours and your opponent’s capabilities, and commitment. No one survives by going halfway, they only survive by being utterly committed to surviving.

      • gwp1948

        To your initial question… Many martial arts academies/studios offer self-defense classes that are 1-2 hours; I give them to ladies groups regularly for free. No you can’t learn complex self-defense skills in 1-2 hours but you can give your brain options should you be attacked (See ‘Sharpening the Warriors Edge’, Siddle for a complete discussion of how effective even minimal training can be). Not everyone has to become a black belt; in fact only 7% of students in Tae Kwon Do achieve black belt; lower percentages in traditional karate and most other disciplines you mention. Every class gives your brain options for responses to threats that it did not have before the class. Those who can’t or won’t invest the time and money that we have invested should at least get their ass off the couch and do some minimal hand-to-hand training.
        As to your last two sentences – yep,