In the broad view, a warrior must uphold the values of his or her society to be of any honorable use. We all depend on one another. The warrior must quell disorder, promote peace, and cultivate character. In practicing the ways of war, one has an obligation to not use them in an illegal or immoral fashion.
Let us now consider fighting tactics. First, we must understand self defense. One should exercise caution in the use of force. Awareness must have the highest priority.
In self defense, one must be able to read the situation and potential adversary. Pay attention to the neighborhood, your own mental and physical state, as well as the mental state of potential attackers. One can never be too careful. When visiting a new area, stay in well lit areas that seem safe. Also try to find good information on the right places to stay if you are going to be in town for a while.
There are many articles on the uses of makeshift weapons, and weapon disarms. Not all such articles are realistic, nor are any of them a substitute for hands-on defense training. They may be a supplement to such training from a true instructor. The broken rhythm of fighting, the form without form, and the warrior's mindset are difficult to learn without guidance.
Blend with or break the opponent's energy, rhythm, or attitude. Read timings/habits quickly. This is applied to hand to hand combat, large scale combat, and overall strategy. You must be ready to defend yourself as soon as you leave your home, even if you are sick, caught off guard, outnumbered, or overwhelmed by a stronger attacker. You must be prepared for the worst. End the fight as soon and as peacefully as possible; simplicity and instinct are key!
Many fights actually begin at or near home; before a disagreement turns into an altercation, try to defuse the situation. In any altercation, use positive reinforcement. 'I know / am sure you're a nice person, but I would rather not (fill in the blank).' Remember, martial arts are not just collections of fighting techniques, but 'arts' by which we defend the quality of life for ourselves and others.
'Budo' and 'kung fu' have rather holistic meanings for everyday life, and not simply 'martial arts', as they are so commonly translated. In this sense, 'martial art' may itself take on a new meaning. 'Martial' certainly connotes fighting tactics, yet 'art' presents a deeper level of understanding. Do everything you can to 'preserve the whole'. Do not fight if possible, or to take the path of least resistance if conflict is inevitable. Fight out of necessity rather than hostility.
An attacker believes he/she has an advantage. This may include a weapon, surprise, strength, and so forth. He / she is also more likely to attack you if he / she sees you as a potential victim. Therefore, be cautious when you are fatigued or alone, and do not appear timid, even if you are smaller than potential attackers. Always try to stay aware, and prepared to talk your way out of a situation, or defend yourself.
The environment, mindset of the attacker, and effects of panic will further handicap you. Your attackers do not come at you in prearranged patterns. You have to be ready to fight back, and take the initiative, because every second counts!
The best defense is a good offense. Use distance and the environment; be spontaneous. This is all very important against multiple assailants! Your movements must be fluid, economical, and not overly mechanical. The longer the fight, the more dangerous it becomes! When in unfamiliar territory, scan for escape routes, taking potential obstacles into account. Don't forget pepper spray, pinching, biting, etc. to provide distractions. Overall, you want to be as prepared as possible for potential violence.
When faced with a heavy handed puncher, his or her hand speed and upper body defenses may be hard to match or get past. In this case, timing and creativity are of high priority. In a street situation, you do not have time to memorize his or her habits. Watch for openings in the attacks, and draw out your opponent for a timed hit. Don't forget use of body shifting; especially to the outside of the opponent, which will present you with a strategic advantage. This reduces his / her options by 50%. This will be easier or harder to do depending on the attacker's training; such is hard to judge immediately, so it is instead better to take the initiative and/or counter-hit as quickly and efficiently as possible. Untrained punchers, however, tend to have a large amount of telegraphing (movements that signal a certain attack).
Against a kicker, remember that people are already on the brink of disaster on two feet, and taking another foot off the ground ruins balance even more. Also, a kick generally takes longer than a punch to reach its destination. You will want to react to the opponent's starting movement as quickly as possible with a jamming technique or combination. Be extra careful when the attacker does manage to raise a kick. A well trained kicker can often change a kick's height or target before putting his or her foot down.
You must maintain a strong cover from which you can counter swiftly, and off-balance your opponent while their kicking foot is still traveling. Make an opportunity to close with the kicker, and reduce his or her options. Elbows and knees are particularly effective for striking away kicks. Use caution, however, if your attacker appears trained in a heavily body-conditioning oriented flavor of Muay Thai / Thai boxing, Kyokushin karate, or the like. Counter striking to vital areas that cannot be conditioned (solar plexus and so forth) will be even more important in these cases.
Many fights end up hitting the ground. If you are not comfortable working from the ground, then maintain a solid fighting distance and avoid in-close fighting as much as possible. Adding to the danger of ground fighting is the possibility of more attackers arriving, glass on the ground, weapons, and your most immediate attacker being much heavier, as well as numerous other factors. A grappler will have methods of closing the fighting distance with you, and taking you out of the range from which many types of strikes can be thrown solidly. In this case, use standing submissions, reversals, makeshift weapons, and/or muay Thai style clinching (using elbows and knees as well). Do not to over-extend your strikes, or leave them extended for long after delivery, against a seasoned grappler.
When faced with an attacker who you suspect has a weapon, you will, of course, have even more reason to seek means of escaping the situation other than hand to hand combat. It is possible that if you comply with your attacker, they will let you alone afterwards. However, do not always be quick to believe that he or she shares your belief system; they could very well harm or even kill you after getting what he / she wanted.
The attacker may also be on drugs such as PCP, which would make him or her very dangerous to deal with. Pain compliance may not work as well against such an assailant. Use the environment even more so, such as getting free to run and throwing things in his / her path. If at close range, attempt to stop any weapon from even being drawn. If this is not possible, dodge an attack or jam it as your opponent comes at you. Control the wielding arm, and strike at your opponent with your free limbs, head butts, etc. until you can disarm or subdue. It's also very important not to get caught off guard with a handgun, which would put you at a severe disadvantage. In this case, use distraction or other methods to diffuse the situation, and disarm if necessary.
Overall, there is no way anyone can plan ahead for all situations. However, one should constantly learn, as well as use strategy, adaptability, and heart to one's advantage. In life, stay truthful to yourself and loved ones. Be honorable as possible in every situation - your enemy today may become your ally tomorrow. Also remember that what protects and upholds you today may hinder you tomorrow. Watch carefully, ask questions, and never stop learning.
This article is a part of the author's concise guide to karate. Be sure to check out his Johnston Karate Home Page to view the free version of the guide or order a professionally printed copy.