When I met and trained with Hoch Hochheim around 18 months ago he used a phrase that has stuck in my mind ever since, “Nothing works all the time, everything works sometimes”, it stuck in my mind straight away and I have used it countless times myself since. We all know it is true, especially in a self defence situation. We all have some favourite techniques and methods that we drill and drill and drill to try to make them second nature and we are all pretty convinced that this is good practice I think, well as we are training ourselves if it works all well and good, but if it does not it is we who suffer the consequences.

Many of us in the SD community encourage the use of, and teach effective pre-emptive striking, obviously in context with the level of threat present and the law pertaining to self defence in the location the event takes place. As  I am based in England I  refer to Section 3 Paragraph one of the Criminal Law Act 1978;

“A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or of persons unlawfully at large.”

So in my SD classes I teach, having exhausted avoidance, escape, de-escalation strategies, and looking at a list of attack indicators used by the police, a range of simple pre-emptive strikes designed to cause disruption in the attacker, or potential attackers, modus operandi, or to incapacitate and remove the threat both being to create a window of opportunity to escape. Simple. No. Because I can demonstrate the technique very ably if that is not immodest, I can explain applications of these techniques in various scenarios but they are all just that, demonstrations, using pads, shields and other protective equipment in well-lit, safe, risk assessed environments.

Use Jaw Jaw first where possible.

De-escalate, walk away, do not, I REPEAT, do not engage the monkey brain.

Reality based operators will know that however good the drill, however much we stress test, it is never the real thing. I know people who have taken jobs on doors, gone to work in dangerous environments to test themselves because the dojo and the training room did not offer enough. But that is not my point, remember the words of Hoch, “Nothing works all the time, everything works sometimes” as we look at a guy not getting his pre-emptive strike in properly and the consequences.


now let us not read too much into the clip, we will never know the full story. The guy in red gets a fair strike in but his aim is not great and it lands more forehead than face and certainly nowhere near the chin where it should be game over. He then reaps fails to follow-up, maybe stunned his imagined one hit knock out has not worked and allowed his opponent time to observe, orientate, decide and act. Remember those last words from somewhere? I thought so. So that was how to do it wrong, here is how to do it right.


Again I do not know the context and there are hints of something sinister in this, what matters is that when it happens it happens fast, with no warning due to successful misdirection technique and the technique, aim and delivery are brought together in harmony.There really is little else to say.

So what is the point of this blog. Well the point is about honesty, being honest with your students. I have come to the conclusion that it is fundamentally dishonest to lead  students to believe they have skills they have not. Doing a percussion slap 50 or a hundred times on a pad or dummy may mean that on the one occasion they need to do this in real life, against an aggressive threat, when they want to pee their pants and are feeling a full on adrenal dump is unrealistic and anyone telling them different should hang their head in shame.

Those in the business who know a thing or two will know how to manage a students expectations and know it is their duty to do so, not passively but actively. Almost anyone can teach a knockout blow, but can they start at the appropriate point and travel through the wide range of variables and their consequences. Because if they get it wrong there are consequences as there are if they get it right. Personally I spend time explaining the dangers posed when people consider the use of violence even when they are empowered to do so by the law. In this world that is rapidly moving towards the need for instant gratification, I feel many proponents of SD are starting at the point of conflict too high up the use of force pyramid, they go there because it is part of their mindset and often what the customer expects and demands. This is dangerous as it negates the importance of the lower levels of conflict resolution. There is no money to be made teaching people to run away, take the insult, apologise yourself and walk. Customers want to know how to fight back against a snarling violent opponent and yes I agree, if that is what they are facing often then they need help, help to look at their lifestyle.

The softer skills, the thinking sentient beings that we are need to be encouraged to work through the various stages and learn how to assess threats and deal with them, I am seriously thinking of hooking up with a theatre group to play some of this stuff out for people. It is not as much fun as hitting and kicking things but I have been experimenting with it in six school recently, 4 primary and 2 secondary and it has gone down incredibly well, several of the schools are now looking to spread the provision and others not in the batch are wanting it too, good news spreads fast I hope.  I am not claiming my approach is new, I know it is not, I am not claiming it is a one size fits all situation and yes I remember what Hoch says, it will not work all the time, but I feel it works better than going straight to the fight.

So that you realise I have not gone all hippy I teach that when it does go straight to the fight, when against your choice it goes War War it needs to be instant aggression and immediate Shock and Awe. Destroy your attacker, make yourself safe then rationalise it. So I like to have my cake and eat it, what do you think? Whilst you gather your thoughts, and I really would love to hear them whether you agree or not or would just like to add to the debate, I am always happy to learn, watch out for those carefully crafted pre-emptive strikes in this little compilation.