Thursday, January 29, 2015

Self Defense in the Home

Look around you, if you come face to face with a criminal in your home and you don't have a firearm within immediate reach, what would you use to defend yourself?  (If you think electrical cord to choke your attacker, you have watched way too many movies with Matt Damon in them).  Spontaneous attacks in your home could vary from open hand, firearms, impact or edged weapons.  You'd better have the same things around you to fight back.

Self defense experts will tell you we have six basic physical weapons:
The head

But unless you're Chuck Norris, with the Element of Surprise,  they are not going to be enough.

Your defense starts the moment you face your attacker, not when you get a weapon in hand.  Unless you have a firearm as back up, you are not likely to kill an attacker with either your spatula or your ball point pen. Captain Kirk might fell someone with just one karate chop and  Rambo can kill with just a fighting knife and a backpack of claymores, but your best defense in the home  always will be a firearm that you are trained and proficient with.

Remember though, you are morally, financially and legally responsible for everything that departs the barrel of a firearm under your control and any damage you do to another human with anything else constituting a lethal weapon in the eyes of the courts.  What I present here is some very basic advise for defensive scenarios in the home, and it's geared more towards women who would unlikely be able to fight back with only their bare hands. But should you ever be thrust into an actual situation where you must repel an aggressor in your home,or elsewhere, you must decide, based on federal, state, and local laws, as well as your own ethics, what constitutes a legitimate use of deadly force versus simply removing yourself from the threat or disabling it.

But  I'm going to tell you what I would do, and would instruct my child to do.  When confronted by a bad guy in the home without a firearm you've been trained to use, close at hand, you must use what you can to slow him down or drop him, even if temporarily, in order to escape, control or terminate the attack as quickly as possible. If I can not escape or control, and my life (NOT my property) is threatened, then to terminate includes the use of deadly force, without hesitation.

My first choice comes in .45 acp with hollow points, but that is not always going to be available and stopping someone physiologically with the use of a firearm is not the topic of this post as I've covered that earlier.  However, there are various points on the human body that are quite vulnerable, if struck with even a moderate amount of force, blows that can result in excruciating pain, perhaps enough to disable or seriously injure while you get the heck out of Dodge.  All around you may be items that can be used to facilitate these strikes.

Short of tying someone to a chair and forcing them to watch endless reruns of Jersey Shore, there are three basic ways of causing trauma to humans. Cutting, crushing, and burning.

The last one, burning, is often overlooked in a self defense system.

Hot coffee, boiling liquid. Burns are quite effective in overloading the central nervous system, causing the person to immediately fixate on the pain of the injury instead of what YOU are doing. If someone confronts me in the kitchen, they're going to get a boiling pan of dinner thrown in their face before I can say howdy with the .357 in the kitchen drawer. Heaven help them if they find me burning the sugar on the top of the Crème brûlée with the acetylene torch.

Burns can also  be chemical in nature. There was a widespread email going around about carrying wasp spray as a self defense weapon. The purveyors of that piece of information didn't think much about the legal ramifications of that.  Many jurisdictions specifically prohibit the use of any self defense spray other than pepper spray, the labels  of wasp spray often bearing the words "It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling". Certainly, spraying a would-be rapist in the eyes with your bug spray as you're accosted otherwise unarmed in your Petunia bed is one thing.  Carrying a big ole can of Raid in your purse and then using it while in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot is just going to land you in jail most places. I also wouldn't trust my life as to how disabling it would really be.

In my shop, there's a gun on my person or in my pocket.There's also a  Cold Steel Tanto with a 550 cord-wrapped handle in another  pocket. I'd take that over a can of wasp spray.

We've touched on burning (hot hot hot!). That leaves cutting and crushing.

But first we need to talk anatomy. If you believe the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, you need an anatomy lesson.  If you want to learn self defense, you need another one as well.  Combative anatomy.  Simply put, it's knowing enough of the basic design of the human body to stop aggression in the shortest amount of time. Combative anatomy also does not rely on pain compliance either as drugs and alcohol can greatly deaden an attackers perception of pain. A basic knowledge of combative anatomy and the proper mind set can help you deal with threat appropriately and in a way that is not only defensible but is grounded in basic physiology, NOT marketing.

Look at your attackers body like a house, an structure that has to have electricity, plumbing air and walls to house all the good or evil that dwells in it. The body, fundamentally, breaks down into three main systems.  What you have to destroy it with is not what you naturally think of as weapons but tools, situational tools. 

The central nervous system (brain and spine). This is the electrical system, where power is processed and distributed. This should be your primary target, even if you are not able to attack it first.  A crushing blow without something quite hard along the side of the head may well have the same effect as cutting off power to the house. A hard enough blow to the temple can kill.  At the very least, you're going to get an interruption in service. The central nervous system is easily attacked with items you can carry in your hand, the crushing/impact defense.

Next is the structural system (bones muscles ligaments and tendons).  This is the frame of your house. It's often said there are 206 bones in the body.  Actually that number may vary from individual to individual and in the individual themselves throughout their life,  but they all make up our frame.  If the frame is damaged, the motion and locomotion needed to articulate an attack can be greatly inhibited.  Just taking out an elbow or a knee can render one almost helpless.   Both the knee and the elbow joints work most effectively on one plane (hinge joints). Smash the elbow and that arm is pretty much out of the picture for holding a weapon, smash a knee and no one is going to chase you when you retreat. Stomp like hell on the instep of the foot,  as well, is a useful technique to break away from an assailant when grabbed from behind.

The structural system also includes the muscular system. Just as bone needs to be crushed to incapacitate, the muscles must be cut.  Remember though, just having one or more muscles simply cut can have little effect on what the body of your attacker is capable of doing to you.  Cut one strong bicep and he still has another one, with another hand to use the same weapon, as well as two good legs that can run you down if you try to just cut and run.

The structural system is also easily attacked with the open hand, a hand containing a impact tool and the the feet (and they said steel toed shoes would never be fashionable). These are crushing / impact attacks. Your goal is a combination of physiological and central nervous system disruptions likely to break the concentration of your attacker allowing you time to either grab a more suitable weapon to incapacitate or get away if you know he's down for the count.

The circulatory system, the heart arteries and veins that carry blood to and from the heart as well as the respiratory system.  This is the plumbing of the home. The circulatory system is affected by cutting but short of a direct arterial blow, an attack on the circulatory system with a knife edged or impact weapon is going to be the slowest.  Remember, just cutting, in and of itself, unless the blow lays open a key arterial point, such as the brachial, carotoid or femoral artery, is not going to stop your attacker in time to prevent him from doing more serious damage to you.  The body can continue to operate with a surprising amount of blood loss. 

Sure you can choke someone, cutting off respiration, but to do that effectively you usually have to be behind someone, and it also ties up both of your hands.  Not likely the way things are going to play out in a home assault. But never underestimate a good strike to the windpipe (trachea). Under the thyroid cartilage at the base of the throat is a hollowed out area that sits right above the beginning of the thoracic cage. This cage begins at the shoulder blades and ends at the bottom of the ribs. Within this hollow area the trachea is not protected.  A simple push can cause great pain, a forceful blow can case permanent injury or death.

Don't forget the windows of the home, the eyes.  The fingers can do some serious damage to the eyes. When going to my vehicle, in my left hand, which I've done some sparring with so I can control  it about as well as the right one, I have keys, between the fingers, pointed out. That is going to hurt you if I punch you in the eyes with it. Even hitting the bridge of the nose hard, with that (or this big mag flashlight) is going to cause tearing of the eyes, and possible bleeding.

Sure, those coffee burns are distracting  but the only really effective way to damage the body in a close in encounter is to crush or cut it. Unless you are Catwoman, with your own built in claws (not that you could really fight in that skin tight outfit anyway) you need to rely on a crushing attack at least until you can produce a flat edged or ballistic weapon, to take out that most critical part of the human structure if the defense of your life necessitates that step.

In  looking at possible weapons that you can hold in  your hands, they fall into two groups.  Edged and impact (bullets fall into both groups I think, crushing bone and cutting through tissue). 

But if there's an assailant between you and your bullets you'd best come up with Plan B.  And fast.

Look at an item.  If it can cut it's an edged weapon.  If it can smash, it's an impact weapon. Either  can take the contraction of fear and adrenalin you have and exert it onto a small surface area with the resultant trauma consistent with both your force and your selection.  You are looking for weight and a concentration of force  That force is not just in your mind, but it starts at your feet and travels through your hands to the weapon itself.

Crushing attacks can cause immediate incapacitation, unlike cutting attacks which can take from seconds to minutes, and that is a long time when you life is on the line.  So now, with the house safe and quiet,  look around you and think what you would do if you realized that shadow behind you is not Big Orange Cat ready to steal your waffle but a home invader.What are you more likely to have on hand and if seconds mean the difference between life or death, which one are you going to choose first?

It just takes seconds to close the distance between your attacker and you.  If he is in the room and you don't have your hand already on the firearm, it's not likely going to end well.

So there you are, gun on the shelf or in a drawer, where he can't see it, but you can't get it, already down on the floor, fighting for your life.  In reaching around you for something to use, you are more likely to grab an impact weapon. The object of your attention once you do should be the face, head and neck.  On the side of the neck, right above the collarbone is an area  that contains both a sensitive nerve cluster as well as the jugular vein and carotid artery.  Blows to this area can cause great pain, temporary stunning (and possibly death). If you can't get at the face head or neck, and you aren't outsized greatly by your attacker, hit a good blow to the collarbone as well. As I said before,  the hinge joints are vulnerable, particularly when extended all the way out. Downward blows to the kidney area  (should the assailant tackle you by grabbing both of your legs exposing his back) can be momentarily disabling as this area is not supported or protected by the skeletal bones or muscles.

Just as you are looking to take out your attacker,  remember, he may be using the same techniques on you. There's a reason I don't wear  the fashionable hoop style pierced earring, or any dangling earrings or piercings. Outside of good taste, still another reason not to wear face tackle. Grab one of those and yank and the pain is going to disable ME as flesh tears.  I don't wear scarves or necklaces either unless out with a very well armed date night. Why give someone your garrote.  Think about your own body and protect those areas you are aiming for on another.  Eyes up, tuck your chin down into your chest and make sure your knees are slightly bent at all times and that you don't lock  your arms out during a blow.

Think size and space.  A rock, paperweight or such is small and can be easily manipulated.  It also will require more precise placement of blows to be effective.  A larger object is going to require that you naturally swing out further to hit with it.  The bigger the object, the more room you will need to deploy and use it but it may do more damage with a single blow.

Now, with that in mind, walk around your room, pick up various items you might think could be a weapon. How they feel in your hand is a good indication of how effective they will be for that second shot if your first blow fails to do the trick.

If nothing else is present, there is one thing that is often in every room. The often overlooked pen. I'm not talking about a 2 pound heavily machined tactical pen some guys have in their pocket that gets more attention from the TSA than women.  I'm talking your plain, ordinary home or travel metal pen, used to write or tear into the pizza box you ordered instead of the $38 room service hamburger. 

It wouldn't ever be my first choice, but if all I had was a pen between my tighty whities and a rapist, I'd be swinging that pen into his neck like a Singer sewing machine til I could get my Kimber or get away with no chance he's going to be right behind me..

A pen, held like a hammer grip fist, is like a cat swiping at you with its claws (assuming it's a single action kitty as opposed to the double action).  It's a painful diversion, meant to just get you away. Although the judicious use of a pen as weapon can product tight, vascular trauma to the head and face, the physics of its use is such that it's not likely to take anyone out permanently.  Already on the ground?  Think thrusts to the ribs and groin if your own target of opportunity is based on position.

A pen doesn't rely on your weight, body size or momentum, so keep your movements without your own silhouette.  The roundhouse blows seen on TV are easily telegraphed, and even more easy to block, no matter what your weapon. 

Your assailant has a knife. He doesn't know YOU have a knife, even if it's the water proof little plastic one from your last summer camp in the shower. 

A knife is a stealth/deception weapon. Show it just to threaten, and you've already lost. Have it ready, but hidden, even in your palm, behind your shopping bag, in your pocket, on a shelf above their eye view but within easy ready. Big blades look impressive, but are only marginally more deadly than a small palmed razor knife used with confidence. 

To defeat the knife you have to go for the limbs or the intelligence (limited though it may be) that controls it.  The most obvious practical attack is the armed hand or the assailants forearm.  The second would be the upper arm or shoulder.  Both of these targets could allow you to momentarily divert the attack.  Your final goal should be an outright attack to the neck or head of the attacker (control his body before he can destroy yours).

Forget all the movies you have seen.  If you aren't trained in fighting with a flat edged weapon or are experienced only with grating carrots, this is not going to go as easily or cleanly as on TV. I can tell you from observation and training that when on the attack, one tends to stab, when on the retreat and defensive, one tends to stab.  That being said, what you do have to remember is that there are  two things that can keep you alive,

(1) destroy your assailants intention to use the knife to kill you.  If you can't do that. . .
(2) destroy the functionality of the weapon by attacking the forearm, shoulders, head and neck.

Stay in close, moving to his side or back, keeping him off balance, keeping his weapon as far away from you as possible.  Stick to him like glue, any space between you at this point is to HIS advantage giving him space to maneuver the knife or take away your balance.

I'm not going to attempt to teach you the specifics of flat edged weapon defense here, there are many sources of information and professional training in all matters of self defense.  But you need to think about it.  If you are naked and coming out of the shower and someone is standing there with a knife or even just two massive fists and the look of evil in the eyes, you may only have a split second choice, a split second movement to cut off the attack.   Retreat is good but only retreat if you know the threat is NOT able to follow you.  Otherwise you're simply giving your even more enraged attacker  the space to follow you into that often fatal psychological corner of your fear and desperation.

Think. Plan. That little bitty Bersa in the range bag in the back of the closet behind  isn't going to help you. YOU are going to help you. Knowing yourself, running a scenario, planning, you are more likely to keep your head. How you react depends on so many things other than the obvious, sex age, health. It's personality, culture, survival skills. How you react under extreme pressure, any special training skills and past experiences can save you.. Yes, I cry at happy endings in zombie movies but when the things get difficult I can be as tough as a kevlar gumdrop. I've had to be. Survival isn't of the strongest, it's those who keep their head, breaking down what they need to do into the most elemental things. Clausewitz said "Everything in war is very simple. But the simplest thing is difficult." I remember that, and practice the simple things.

Some women will say, don't use a knife, don't own a gun "He'll just take it away from you". This is how I think, this is how I live.  You can do otherwise. You have that choice, in which you abrogate the ancient balances of hunter and hunter. You won't even be that afraid, there in that first moment, propelled by your unerring belief that you are just too good to be a victim, too smart, by god you vote for snappy dressers and drive a Lexus. Then as you look into the eyes of something only those of us who hunt predators have seen, you will know the moment when fear takes you completely. Skin, blood, bones, all will fill with it, memories of childhood innocence, memory of pride, all gone. Nothing left but the fear seeping into every cell. As you wet yourself, your last coherent thought will be sound of pleas for your life as your hands are bound and some thug with gang tattoos drags your 13 year old off to the back room.

Myself. I'll take my gun, my fighters mindset  and I'll take my chances. You can call me paranoid, but I will hold on to that polished lucidity that differs me from the predator. A sense of morality, the power of faith and will, and John Moses Browning. I will protect my life and those I love, and  those innocents for whom I was bound by an oath of office to protect, or I will die trying.


P.S.  Comments are off - I'm not going to have time to be on the computer for a few days for HOTR  as I'm sort of out of pocket work wise for a few days. So, until I'm back on line--- just read and take away from it what you wish; something to discuss it with your family or among your friends.  This wasn't intended as public debate or forum, just some serious things to think about.   

1 comment:

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