Self-Defense Move of the Month – Building the Platform

               When you start thinking about self-defense and ways to protect yourself, you may picture some kind of cool martial art flying sidekick, ala Bruce Lee.  However, the best self-defense move is very different.  Awareness is the #1 step to a good self-protection program or plan.  The best way to win a fight is to avoid it whenever possible.

               But we all drop our guard at some point or are caught off-guard by a surprise new move or tactic and could be thrown into a position where we physically have to defend ourselves.

               You do not have to be a martial art expert, but should know a few basic moves to protect yourself from common attacks.  Perhaps the most important first step is to develop a solid footing and balance that creates a platform for all other self-defense moves.      

               One of the biggest challenges new self-defense students face is getting their footing right.  Feet set too close together make for poor balance side-to-side.  Crossing the feet when shifting stances or moving creates an even weaker platform and it becomes almost impossible to use your body’s full strength and capability.

               Proper balance starts with putting your feet about shoulder width apart.  It sounds easy, but it is one of the first things people mess up when they start focusing on other techniques such as escapes or strikes.  Just like any other skill it takes practice.

               To avoid putting yourself on a narrow balance beam you’ll need a barrier to keep your feet apart to start your practice.  A rolled up towel or a piece of wood works (see photo 1).  Keep one foot on each side of that barrier.
Photo 1 - Setting your feet for balance is critical

               The next step is the position of the feet.  In Shotokan karate, Bushido karate or Tae Kwon Do there are different stances for different techniques.  The two most common are a front stance and a back stance.  Instead of trying to learn different stances, simplify.  Try a position in between.  Put one foot on one side of the barrier and the other on the opposite side and back a few inches.  The heel of the front foot should be further forward than the toes of the back foot.  Point your toes out at about 45 degrees, keeping your body turned slightly away from your opponent.  The front foot can point forward if you prefer.  This is similar to boxers and is also the stance taught to law enforcement. 

               With your feet positioned, bend your knees slightly.  This helps keep you light on your feet and ready to move or drop down to lower your center of gravity.  Your weight can be distributed evenly across both legs or put slightly more weight on your back leg. 

               Now to practice.  Take a few minutes a day to practice and build up your muscle memory.  This can be part of a warm up or cool down to a regular workout. 

Photo 2 - Move from the position in photo 1 to this stance
               First, place one foot on one side of the towel or centerline.  Move the other foot forward and plant it, rotating the fixed foot on the ball of the foot so it points outward at about 45 degrees.  Then move the front foot back to the starting point, rotating on the balls of the feet to keep your toes pointed in the same direction as your shoulders.  Switch feet, setting the other one and repeat.

Photo 3 - Shift your stance to face the side

               Next, keep both feet placed, but pivot on the balls of your feet to switch your stance.  If your left foot is forward, pivot to the right so your right foot is now forward and you are lined up with a target 90 degrees to your side from the original starting position.  Practice several times then switch, starting with the right foot forward.  Note – if you pivot the wrong way, you will end up with your feet on the same line as if standing on a balance beam and will have weak balance.

               Keep your knees bent slightly throughout all the practice exercises.  Throw in some lunges or squats to build up leg strength if needed.
Photo 4 - Shifting the wrong way will throw you off balance

               Once you have your balance or footing, you will be able to add strikes, escapes and kicks to your self-protection repertoire. 

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