02 August 2011

Defending and Attacking the Rear

Animals fight with their armour and/or weapons facing their foe. A porcupine, with its spikes pointing to the rear will turn around when threatened and may actually charge at its enemeny, by reversing towards him. A stag, on the other hand, runs at its foe with its head lowered, since its weapons are situated on its head. Knowing this about these animals we know that its better to approach a porcupine from the front and a stag from the flank or rear. It seems obvious, then, that we approach our target from the angle it is least protected or least armed.

Red Deer Stags Sparring -- Image Source

Now, let's look at humans. Man is most vulnerable on its front where most of its vital spots are situated. For this reason, its weapons (arms and legs) are best at protecting it from frontal attacks. The arms can easily parry and guard frontal attacks. Human predators (violent criminals) know this all too well, that is why violent attacks are often ambush attacks coming from the side or rear. The victim seldom sees the attack coming and even if she did, there is not much she can do to protect herself from this angle. We do not have eyes in the back of our heads and even if we did, we do not have arms back there to guard and block and counter-attack.

There are three things, I think, that ought to be obvious from this observation.

"Ambush" -- Image Source

First, we ought to find and work on defensive strategies for surprise attacks coming from the rear or side-rear. Do you have any strategy for when you are attacked from the side or behind? If not, then you have a serious hole in your self-defence armour. I'm not suggesting that there is a sure way of escape from an ambush attack; I am saying that one should at least have some strategy or worst case scenario plan. (Here's one idea from eHow.)

Secondly, since attacking the rear is clearly the best place to attack from since your opponent is at his most vulnerable, martial artists ought to be very familiar with possible attacks from the rear. Since most martial artists are so conditioned to approach their opponents from the front, they are uncertain what to do when their opponent has his back turned to them. Tournament rules that consider attacks to the rear illegal, further strengthens this conditioning. Learning where and how to attack someone with his back turned to you is a very important skill.

Image Source

Lastly, seeing as attacking the rear is so effective, time should be spent on learning how to get to the back. Your opponent will always try to keep you in sight; in other words, in front of him. Learning strategies and footwork to quickly get to your opponent's back seems to me invaliable skills to acquire. Many martial arts admonish to 'never give your back'. While this is a crucial maxim for the defender, 'gaining the back' of ones opponent ought to be an equally important maxim for the attacker and is one exploited by grapplers often enough. There is no reason why stand-up fighters cannot employ the same mind-set. One argument against this might be that attacking your foe from behind is bad sportsmanship or unfair. This is true for sportsmen, but since my focus in this post is self-defence and not tournaments, I don't care too much for fair play and neither does the thug I'm training to defend myself against.

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