Being a smaller woman, I’ve had to practice my Jiu-jitsu/self-defense techniques with a different mindset throughout my martial arts career of nearly 20 years. I’ve had to learn to compensate for my inherent physical disadvantages while making the most of my advantages. When it comes to self-defense though, I’ve identified 4 key principles that help provide the greatest efficiency when defending against larger sized attackers with greater strength when unarmed.
1. Evasion. When I say evasion, I don’t simply mean running away, while this isn’t a bad idea if you have the option. What I mean by evasion is using body movements to minimize the impact of your assailants attacks. As one of my old instructors used to say, “What do you do when a train is coming straight for you? You get off the track!” This means getting off the line of attack of strikes, whether you’re blocking them or not. In striking arts like boxing, this is known as slipping, as featured in the video below. It can also be reacting to a body grab before it’s fully applied, by staying on step ahead of the attack and getting your own back before they can restrain you.
2. Well-Targeted Striking. All technique being equal, someone stronger with a lot of body mass usually hits harder. And while it’s important for smaller people to develop great technique, making full use of body mechanics to get the most power they can from their strikes, targeting is even more important. A strike is more likely to affect an attacker if made accurately on a point that is known to have greater effect. You could aim generally for the head area and end up hitting them in the forehead for little effect. Or you could hit them square in the nose, breaking their nose causing sever pain and blinding them temporarily as their tear ducts let loose. If your power is limited, it’s a good idea to train yourself to strike out at the most vulnerable targets of a larger attacker as accurately as possible. The video shows how targeting can give a person the edge in the fight (in this case, targeting the brachial plexus origin causing knock-out).
3. Redirection of Energy. This point follows from evasion, but goes further by using your attacker’s energy against them. This is especially useful against someone who is committing to their attack completely. If someone much larger is charging at you with all their force, you are better not trying to meet them with force. Their momentum combined with their larger size will probably take you down. The use of evasion at just the right moment combined with a redirection of the attacker’s energy is a safer option. Techniques like the sprawl or the rice bale throw are examples of this. Or you could just side-step their all-out attack and let them run into your arm like in this crazy MMA fight:
4. Intention. When you’ve got no other choice but to use force to defend yourself, you want to make your intention to do so stronger than your aggressor’s intention to do you harm. You want to have a positive mental attitude, a form of spirit that’s also referred to as the ‘will to win’ as referenced in my blog post ‘How Will to Win Affects Martial Artists‘. In my post, ‘The Power of Intention in Self-Defense, I used the following analogy: “A doberman is a big dog that could easily rip a cat to shreds in terms of a physical contest. But have you ever seen an alley cat fight? An alley cat also hisses and squeals an awful high-pitched noise while it fights. So sure, the doberman could make short work of the cat, if it wanted to. But the doberman isn’t stupid. It realizes that if it did go in for the kill, it would take many scratches in the process. It could lose an eye or it could take one on the nose, damaging its sense of smell that it relies on for survival. Seeing the risk, the doberman shies away, because it simply isn’t worth it.”
In addition to the above 4 principles involving technique and spirit, there are a number of other factors that affect your ability to practice them if you spend time developing them, things like speed, reflexes, timing, sense of distance, etc. What would you add to the list of things that help you overcome size disadvantages?