On Her Own

Trapped belly down!

If you follow On Her Own on Instagram (or my personal/shooting page over there), I posted a couple videos over the weekend that got a lot of attention, so I wanted to talk about them a bit more today. The scenarios illustrated involved guns, but the principles and skills involved apply regardless of whether you carry weapons or not.

For some background, my opponent here has approximately the same amount of training and martial arts experience that I do. We’re both BJJ blue belts, though we train at different schools, and he’s been doing it a tiny bit longer than me. We’re both graduates of multiple Shivworks classes, though I’ve done more work in that world than he has. It’s reasonable to call us about equal in skill. However, he has about thirty pounds on me, along with the extra strength that comes with being male (sorry ladies, we’re generally stuck with that biological reality regardless of how much we lift at the gym). We’ll call him Bad Guy 1. I can, and have, duplicated these results with larger and stronger opponents, but I want the focus to be on what techniques and strategies I’m using. Can we agree that Bad Guy 1 is a pretty fair representation of an actual attacker for me?

In this first video above, I’m being held flat and face down by Bad Guy 1, and he’s hanging on to my arms. It’s one of the nightmare positions in an attack, especially for women. The problem I’m trying to solve is how I’m going to get to my defensive weapons, which I carry in front of my hips, but the solutions I’m working toward are what I’d need to do even if I didn’t have any weapons at all and the goal were merely to get to a safe position relative to Bad Guy 1. I start by tucking my knees up, like I’m doing a tuck jump facing the ground. That makes some space underneath me for my next step: turning my entire body so that I can face Bad Guy 1. It’s really hard to do this turning around part without that room, which is why I don’t start there. After that, it’s a matter of getting my feet to his hips. There’s no “just” here, but my end goal is to wedge my feet, heels in, right on his hip creases, where he bends between torso and legs. That lets me use my strongest muscles to push him away, at a place on his body that gives me a lot of leverage and control. Plus, my legs are probably longer than his arms, which gives me some room to do things like, I don’t know, get my gun – or a knife or even pepper spray. He doesn’t quite let me leave my feet there because he knows better, but that second I can take to push makes all the difference. I could also do a variation of this technique to get to my feet instead.

In the second video below, we’re simulating what happens if the defender already has some sort of weapon out. It…doesn’t go so well for me. Even in trying to go through the steps I used in the first video, Bad Guy 1 is able to maintain control of my arm and gets very close to taking my gun away from me. It’s an illustration of why it’s important to get out of a bad position before worrying about anything else. Even if you are able to get a weapon in hand, it’s not going to help you. Better, I’d suggest, to put all of your initial focus and energy into improving your position and control in the fight. The order of operations is important to give you the best chance of success and survival. I think this video gives some hope too, though. The techniques from the other video are enough, more than enough, without having to worry about whether or not you have weapons. It’s all you, and you can become capable of doing what I did in that first video even if you choose not to or are not able to carry guns, knives, or whatever else with you all the time.

I realize there are a lot of terms and details here that might be a little confusing at first. Concepts like inferior, neutral, and superior positions between two people and what it means to have control of a fight are from the martial arts world, and refer to who is more likely to win the fight at the fleeting moments when they occur. They’re sometimes complex to show and explain, though I think the terms themselves give you a pretty good clue if you don’t overthink them. Either way, this is where it’s useful to get in-person, hands-on training with a reputable instructor. Having someone physically guide you through the techniques, and having the opportunity to personally experience how they work and what they feel like, can’t be replaced with even the best videos and explanations in the world.

The fortunate part is that that kind of training is something that you’re already ready for, even if all you’re doing is reading along here. You don’t need to be particularly physically talented to be able to learn how to perform these skills, even against people who are bigger and stronger than you. Being fit helps, it’s true, but you can start as soon as you find a good class you can get to. You know how I know? Just about three years ago, I went to my very first combatives class with nothing more than a year of strip mall karate as a kid, 25 odd years before. I’m not terribly good at learning new physical skills and frankly, I was terrified. I was lucky enough to have friends in class with me, but it turns out that even the complete strangers were kind and helpful. The experience was still difficult on multiple levels, not the least of which was realizing how unprepared I was to truly fight for my life. That part was horrible. The next part? Well, it turns out that even someone such as me can learn and improve. Even just that class gave me the beginnings of the skills I demonstrate in these videos.

So when will you start?

Hi, I'm Annette.

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