Hello, 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.