Article on Self-Defense for People with Disabilities

Discussion in 'Disabled Martial Artists' started by FYI, Aug 30, 2008.

  1. FYI

    FYI Valued Member


    I just wrote this article. I appreciate any constructive comments.

    Thank you.

    Self-Defense for People with Disabilities –
    It's Not What Most People Think

    I've been a paraplegic for the past twenty-three years. I know what it is like to be at a physical disadvantage. As a martial arts practitioner for the past thirteen years, my goal is to improve self-defense for people with disabilities.

    Close your eyes and visualize a training session of handicapped self-defense. Do you have visions of men and women in wheelchairs throwing their attackers to the ground, while others defend against attackers with armrests and footrests? Are the visually impaired expertly wielding their canes as deadly weapons, as amputees batter attackers with metal and plastic limbs?

    This politically correct and empowering vision makes self-defense for people with disabilities appear to be simply a matter of adapting able-bodied physical self-defense techniques to account for the disabilities. As appealing as that idea may sound, it has significant flaws.

    Self-defense for anyone at a physical disadvantage relative to his or her attacker must be about emphasizing the mental and emotional components of self defense. In addition, for physical techniques to be effective, they must be powered by raw emotion and executed with a mindset focused on survival.

    A physical disadvantage is any circumstance where, relative to your attacker, you have less physical ability. This means that, besides having a physical disability, you could be smaller, slower, weaker, or much younger or older than your attacker. The use of a weapon by the attacker, or if there are multiple attackers, also puts you at a physical disadvantage.

    Self-defense must be understood as a complete strategy that takes into consideration all aspects of human aggression and methods of defense. That entails dividing the preparation for, and response to assaults, into four sequential stages. When these stages are converted into individual steps, a self-defense strategy is created. This strategy is used to highlight the importance of self-defense via preparation and prevention. Most importantly, it is an action plan for self-defense.

    Here are the steps:

    DECIDE is the preparation step. It is the foundation of self-defense. It is made of education, acceptance, training, conditioning, avoidance, and strategy.
    Education: about crime, criminal behavior, and methods of self-defense.
    Acceptance: the realization that you are responsible for protecting yourself, and accepting the reality of the violence involved in self-defense.
    Training: learning and practicing techniques of verbal and physical self-defense
    Conditioning: subjecting yourself to stress and adrenaline to pattern an effective response.
    Avoidance: abstaining from behaviors, actions, or situations that are potentially dangerous.
    Strategy: utilizing a plan of action

    DETER is the prevention step. It begins when you leave an area of safety and continues until the moment of the actions of DISRUPT. It involves repelling all potential aggressors and building your readiness for a physical assault. It is characterized by awareness, intuition, attitude and appearance, assertiveness, body language, boundary setting, and deception.

    Awareness: knowing what is happening in your immediate environment.
    Intuition: listening and responding to your inner voice.
    Attitude and Appearance: projecting conviction and confidence.
    Body Language: if you are physically and emotionally prepared, it shows.
    Assertiveness: conveying to others that you are not a victim.
    Boundary Setting: the method by which you determine possible bad intention and if necessary prepare for imminent attack.
    Deception: conveying misinformation to your attacker to gain advantage.

    DISRUPT is the violent and most physical step of self-defense. Its sole purpose is to create the Opportunity to Escape. It begins with the Trigger to Act and involves the concept of attacking the attacker to surprise, shock, or cause injury to your attacker.

    Trigger to Act: the event that propels you into physical violence against your attacker.
    Attacking the Attacker: invoking violent mode and using any means available to disrupt and interrupt his plan.
    Opportunity to Escape: the moment when you transition from attacking to escaping your attacker.

    DISENGAGE is the goal of self-defense. It involves your complete commitment to get away from your attacker. Alternatively, it is the sum of your actions that has caused your aggressor to discontinue the attack. It is characterized by your flight to safety, or the aggressor's unwillingness or inability to continue his actions.Flight to Safety: getting to an area where your aggressor is no longer able to harm you.
    Aggressor's Unwillingness to Continue: your actions have changed your aggressor’s mind. He is now fearful of pain, injury or discovery.
    Aggressor's Inability to Continue: your aggressor is no longer a threat. He is unable to continue his actions due to physical injury or to other circumstances.

    All of the four steps maybe further defined by the emotions and mindset that accompany each step of the strategy.

    The strategy provides a plan of action for self-defense. This plan begins by emphasizing the non-physical aspects of self-defense, DECIDE and DETER. Utilizing DETER will also improve the execution of DISRUPT by building physical and mental readiness. DISRUPT must be maximized by raw emotion. It is like an explosion. An explosion could be the pop of a fire cracker, or it could be the roar of a stick of dynamite. The amount of emotion determines the size of the explosion. DISENGAGE exploits the opportunity to escape created by DISRUPT. It is decisive and done without hesitation.

    The follow up to the previously mentioned four steps is the concept of DEBRIEF. DEBRIEF involves dealing with the aftermath and consequences of an assault. These consequences could be physical, emotional, ethical, legal, and more. The reality of self-defense is that not every assault can be prevented, not every attacker can either be DETERRED, or successfully DISRUPTED. But the goal of self-defense is to DISENGAGE with the least amount of injury in whatever form the injury may take. The education, training, and conditioning of the DECIDE step is an important aspect of the emotional and physical healing of DEBRIEF.

    Now that self-defense has been broken down into these steps, it is a matter of applying it to a person with a physical disadvantage relative to an attacker. For example, people with mobility impairments need to be better at DECIDE and DETER due to their lesser ability to DISRUPT and DISENGAGE. Techniques of DISRUPT should not be half-measures or be intended to control attackers. Their focus should be on causing an injury that takes away the attacker's motivation or ability to continue the assault. Examples are eye and throat strikes, or unrelenting biting.

    Fortunately, by focusing on the importance of deciding not to be a victim, and on deterring aggressors, a majority of assaults can be avoided and/or prevented.

    Copyright (c) 2008 Erik P. Kondo. All rights reserved.
  2. memmek10k

    memmek10k Valued Member

    thanks for posting this
  3. Remi Lessore

    Remi Lessore Valued Member

    self defence and disability

    This is a fascinating subject and your article is excellent
    My father is in a wheelchair and I feel very concerned for his safety in the street.
    While I agree that much can be done in the pre-physical stage, sometimes you will be taken by surprise - as he was when someone came up behind him...
    While I agree with your views on the PC stuff about cane wielding blind people, there is much that paraplegics, hemeplegics, blind people and others can accomplish technically which will make them less vulnerable if they have not avoided an attack.
    Do you teach martial arts?
    What style?
    What sort of syllabus do you follow?
    - I would be very interested in following this line of thought with you, either in MAP or privately.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 2, 2008
  4. FYI

    FYI Valued Member

    Thanks for your comments Remi,

    Regarding you questions. I am the founder of a non-profit called NOT-ME! ( which provides education and instruction on self-defense for at-risk populations. All our instruction is provided without a fee.

    I have created a number of videos that demonstrate various self-defense concepts for paraplegics and wheelchair users. They are:

    Paraplegic Self-Defense #1: Takedowns
    [ame=""][/ame]Paraplegic Self-

    Defense #2: Striking Drills


    Paraplegic Self-Defense #3: Stopping the Ground and Pound [ame=""][/ame]

    Paraplegic Self-Defense #4: Techniques on Your Back[ame=""][/ame]

    Paraplegic Self-Defense #5: Stick Fighting Strategies

    Paraplegic Self-Defense #6 Drills: Learning to Fall

    Paraplegic Self-Defense #7 Drills: Sticking & Sensitivity

    Paraplegic Self-Defense #8 Drills: Knife Flow

    Paraplegic Self Defense #10- News Clip

    The purposes of the videos is not to instruct self-defense but rather to demonstrate some of the DISRUPT of martial arts and self-defense for paraplegics and similiar.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 2, 2008
  5. CosmicFish

    CosmicFish Aleprechaunist

    I hate to disrupt an excellent thread, but I've had to remove a couple of email addresses from posts. We have a policy of not allowing members to post personal contact details on the open forum (ToS 1.4). This is for your own protection, sorry! You are of course more than welcome to contact each other by PM.
  6. mike.Budo

    mike.Budo Valued Member

    Greetings . i had the honour of teaching two sensei at our last summer camp one in a wheel chair and the other had limited use of one arm .how difficult it was .one has to cast aside normality and think differently .i saw it as a challange .it took me an hour to modify 5 basic techniques . my reward at the end ?...two smiling faces thanks for thier patients . our clubs' philosiphy is that EVERYONE is entitled to achieve. And it us up to us as instructors to find a way to teach such people . yes it is hard is is life. you have my support if you wish it ..yours in the spirit of Budo..MIke
  7. FYI

    FYI Valued Member

    Weapons for self-defense

    The use of a weapon in a self-defense situation creates a potential tactical advantage for DISRUPTION (if the attacker has a similar or more powerful weapon, the advantage is nullified). Regardless of whether the weapon is a firearm, knife, taser, club, chemical spray, flashlight, etc, the five stages of self-defense still apply.

    For example, a firearm has tremendous ability to DISRUPT an attacker, and cause him to DISENGAGE by creating his inability to continue the attack. But in order to successfully DISRUPT an attacker, is it first necessary to receive and respond to the Trigger to Act (the event which causes you to actually pull the trigger). The Trigger to Act must be preceded by Confirmation of Bad Intention (before shooting someone in self-defense you need to be convinced that they intend to cause you harm). Except in a situation of complete clarity (don't underestimate the Fog of War) Confirmation of Bad Intention is obtained by violation of the verbal boundary setting of DETER (ex. STAY BACK OR I WILL SHOOT!).
    Having the conviction to follow through on the "I WILL SHOOT" is the result of the education, training, acknowledgement of responsibility, and decision to not be a victim of the DECIDE step.

    Since there are significant consequences to shooting someone whether in self-defense or by accident, the DEBRIEF step is inescapable.

    Therefore, regardless of whether an weapon is utilized or not, the steps of strategy of self-defense still are:

    Confirmation of Bad Intention
    Trigger to Act
  8. Remi Lessore

    Remi Lessore Valued Member

    Excellent clips - I particularly like the finger and wrist locks, and the general can-do mentality of it all.
    Is there room for development
    - in using the pullback hand to generate power for strikes
    - using a walking stick type cane - the hook of the cane would provide possibilities, I think. It would also provide a 'weapon of opprotunity' rather than risk running foul of the off. weap. laws we have in the UK by carrying a purpose-made stick as the ones shown.
    Do you have representatives in the UK?
  9. BentMonk

    BentMonk Valued Member


    Great stuff FYI! The article and videos are superb. You have articulated many of the concerns I have had for years regarding self defense and those with special needs. I'd love to get together and trade techniques some time. What types of conditioning do you do? I'm a fan of kettlebells, and BWE. Here's a link to my instructors site:
  10. FYI

    FYI Valued Member

    The Four Stages of Violent Assault

    The Four Stages of Violent Assault

    The Four Stages of Violent Assault represents a model for understanding the predatory mind in stranger assault situations. The model is used to make the concepts of assault easier to comprehend and defend against.

    Motivation to Commit a Crime: The predator makes the decision to commit a particular crime.

    Selection of Victim: The predator actively chooses a victim for his crime.
    - A common part of this stage is the interview process where the predator interacts with a potential victim to determine suitability for attack.
    - This stage is foiled by the DECIDE & DETER step of self-defense.

    Physical Assault: The predator initiates a physical attack on the victim.
    - The physical attack requires the opportunity to attack in the form of close proximity to the target.
    - This stage is foiled by the DETER & DISRUPT step of self-defense.

    Completion of the Crime: The physical attack enables the predator to complete the crime originally planned and/or additional crimes of opportunity.
    -This stage is foiled by the DISRUPT & DISENGAGE step of self-defense.

    Every situation of assault is different. The above model is a flexible guide intended to provide insight into the mind of a predator, and how the self-defense steps of DECIDE DETER DISRUPT DISENGAGE may be used to foil the predator during each stage of the assault.
  11. FYI

    FYI Valued Member

    Assault on a paraplegic

    The story.

    "John" is a complete T7 paraplegic". His sister tells us the story.

    He was waiting at a bus stop to get to the doctors, (we lived in Long Beach at the time) and from what he has told me a group of guys started making jokes and hassling him. He just ignored it, because ya know, why bother with those kinds of people? One of the guys must have gotten mad or something that my brother wasn't responding, so he walked up to him and pushed him out of his chair from behind. He almost landed in the street. The guy started kicking him and grabbed his wallet, calling him an "F-ing cripple" and much worse things. My brother was trying to grab his feet but he couldn't because he had landed face first, really. That's when the old lady started screaming and whacking on the mugger with her purse. The group of guys and mugger took off running because she had attracted a lot of attention.
    My brother gave a police report and was taken to the hospital for 3 broken ribs. None of the people who saw this happening (there were about 10 people at the bus stop) did anything except the little old lady.

    There of the Four Stages of Violent Assault are outlined below:

    - a group of guys started making jokes and hassling him (Selection of Victim)
    - he walked up to him [victim] and pushed him out of his chair from behind (Physical Attack)
    - the guy started kicking him and grabbed his wallet... the group of guys and mugger took off running (Completion of the Crime)

    The Five Stages of Self-Defense are outlined below:

    - None of the people who saw this happening (there were about 10 people at the bus stop) did anything except the little old lady
    - why bother with those kinds of people? (Understanding the DECIDE stage explains why this type of response is typical behavior, and the importance of having a pre-formed plan of action)

    - my brother wasn't responding (The DETER stage is designed to prevent and repel aggression)

    - old lady started screaming and whacking on the mugger with her purse ... she had attracted a lot of attention (The DISRUPT stage is any action intended to disrupt the attacker)

    - The group of guys and mugger took off running (The DISENGAGE stage is initiated by the attacker due to his fear of discovery)

    - My brother gave a police report and was taken to the hospital for 3 broken ribs (The DEBRIEF stage is the aftermath of the assault)


    The purpose of relating and analyzing this story is to learn, not judge. With the benefit of hindsight we are able to see what did not work, what did work, and formulate opinions on what may have worked.
  12. FYI

    FYI Valued Member

    The above clip titled : Stick Fighting Strategies has the incorrect link. The correct link is below:

    Paraplegic Self-Defense #5: Stick Fighting Strategies

    [ame=""]Paraplegic Self-Defense #5: Stick Fighting Strategies - YouTube[/ame]

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