Practical Common-Sense Self-Defense
By Master Instructor Jon W Fish
Co-Founder National Self-Defense Agency
Member of the International Independent Hapkido Alliance, Korean Martial Arts Instructor’s Association, The Academy of Self-Defense, and the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society.
Graduated Summa Cum Laude (highest honors) from Chattanooga State with a degree in Marketing
When we talk about Self-Defense, we often fly over the many common sense self-defense
elements and go straight to arm bars, throws, weapons craft and all manner of ways to take
down and neutralize our assailant. We often itch for an opportunity to “Street Test” the battle
the worthiness of our tactics and techniques.
But what if we could follow a few simple steps that would almost assure us that we would
never need to confront an attacker? What if common sense defense could predict that 99.9% of
attacks would never occur? And what if we are 10x more likely to sustain an injury from
circumstances of our own making rather than any third-party threat…
Because you see, most of the time, the reason we come under attack is because we ignore the
many signs, steps, and warnings that we are treading on dangerous ground and self-imposing a
target on our back. Too often, we find the trouble we are looking for.
12 Common Sense Self-Defense Tips that embrace a holistic Mind, Body, and Spirit approach to
the martial arts:
- Avoid circumstances.
- Identify potential threats or potentially dangerous interactions and avoid them.
- In any potential scenario, ask yourself, “What can I do to ensure I won’t need to use my
martial arts knowledge today.”
- Analyze your route or destination. Does it take you into remote, poorly lit or crime
- Walk with Purpose
- Make yourself a hard target by keeping your eyes up, head on a swivel and ears open.
- Avoid distractions like texting and walking, taking on the phone, and obstructed vision
- Hands free. Avoid the appearance of being a soft target by keeping your weapons free
from obstructions like bags, boxes, and phones, etc.
- Use Protection
- Wisdom is the knowledge of self-defense, while being wise enough to avoid using it. So,
ask for a security escort after shopping. Drive instead of walk. Use a taxi instead of the
- Wear PPE (Personal Protection Equipment). Protect your body, eyes, ears, hands, and
- Wear proper gear to match the environment, climate, weather etc.
- Discipline your Tongue.
- Quiet Man Theory – talking can often verbalize your weaknesses to a potential attacker.
Talking about your abilities can limit the advantage of the element of surprise.
- Avoid “poking the bear” – avoid conversations that can create unnecessary conflict.
- Avoid being the target of an “Alpha Challenge.”
- Exercise Daily (Physical Health)
- Flexibility & Balance – regular stretching and balance exercises can help you avoid injury
during sudden movements brought on by surprise circumstances.
- Cardio – aerobic and anaerobic fitness can make the difference between winning or
losing the first :30 of a confrontation. Having great Cardio can also limit the effects of
stress during or leading up to a potential conflict – resulting in more effective decisionmaking including conflict resolution or avoidance.
- Strength & Core – being physically capable of falling without injury, absorbing a blow,
easily getting back on your feet, administering powerful retaliation, and controlling the
force of your attacker can make the assailant think twice about continuing their assault.
After-all, they attacked because they believed they could win.
- Internal Self Defense
- Health – eat right to defend against sickness. Proper defense includes a regimen of
vitamins, minerals, protein, good fats, and fiber while limiting cholesterol, sodium, carbs
and processed sugars.
- Hygiene – from oral health to washing your hands, protecting your body from the
internal attacks of inflammation and infection is just as important as the external attacks
of an assailant… and many times more likely!
- Hydration – keeping the body well hydrated and with sufficient electrolytes is key to
making sure your central nervous system can communicate quickly with your muscles,
your muscles won’t cramp, and toxins can easily be flushed from your system.
- Mental Health
- Challenge yourself with puzzles and new ways of doing familiar tasks. This builds new
neural pathways and encourages faster response times.
- Are you happy? Being unhappy or distracted by stress can blind you to your
surroundings. It can also break your “give-a-damn” allowing you to throw caution to the
wind and indulge in dangerous behaviors or antagonize others.
- Mediate and compartmentalize your challenges.
- Stress Tolerance
- Build stress tolerance through HIIT (high intensity interval training – wind sprints,
punching bag, rowing, cycling etc.), hot & cold repetitions (ice bath, hot tub) or sensory
- Perform detailed tasks while under systematic stress. For example, after hitting Zone 5
cardio, immediately attempt a precision task such as open a combination lock, field
striping a handgun or rifle, or sending a correctly spelled, detailed sentence with
numbers and punctuation in a text message.
- Proper diet and eating can influence your tolerance for stress. For example, if your
blood sugar is low, you may be easily aggravated and prone to triggering an aggressive
reaction or response.
- Be a student of body language.
- Learn to recognize predatory verbal cues.
- Learn to recognize micro aggressive body language that could indicate a potential
- Use your knowledge of body language to deescalate aggression before it manifests.
- Broaden your understanding of the Martial Arts. Studying exclusively violent aspects of
the martial arts will only give you a narrow understanding of the discipline’s full potential.
- Study meditative disciplines such as yoga and Tai Chi.
- Study cardio forms such as boxing or kickboxing.
- Study avoidance or leverage forms such as Judo or Hapkido.
- Avoid substances that impair your ability to analyze your circumstances or perform
- Avoid alcohol when you need to be focused or during times of potential conflict while in
- Avoid drugs that will impair your ability to rationalize, function or your ability to use
your mind and body in self-defense.
- Avoid eating heavy carbs before driving or operating dangerous machinery. Carbs can
cause you to get sleepy or impair your cognitive abilities.
- Practice Peace
- Practice using words and body language that calm people instead of antagonizing them.
- Seek peaceful settings and avoid chaotic circumstances.
- Use Audible verbal commands to rewire your brain for peace. “I attract good.” “I
surround myself with peaceful intentions.” “I am an advocate for peace.”
- Engage in listening to positive affirmations. It calms the mind and detoxifies us from
negativity. Both are key elements in conflict avoidance.