Size Matters- IKF April 2007

Inside Kung-Fu

“Size Matters”

ikf-april-2007By Addy Hernandez

April 2007

Pg. 24

Let’s fact it: in self-defense, size does matter. Like it or not, your size, your attacker’s size and the relative difference between the two have a tremendous effect on how much damage you can inflict on each other.

This problem affects all martial artists, but it is of particular concern to women, because most of our attackers will be larger and stronger than we are. Understanding, accepting and preparing for this disadvantage is critical to any sound women’s self-defense plan.

Many martial arts claim that their technique, combined with only minimal force, can help a small person overcome a much larger one. For example, it is often said that to perform aikido technique, the practitioner only needs the strength to life 16 pounds. In theory, that sounds great. The problem is that it takes years of practice and training to develop the reflexes, timing and finesse to know exactly how to apply those 16 pounds of force in the chaos of a real attack.

Some simple techniques – like eye strikes and kicks to the knee – can allow a smaller defender to cause serious damage and can help compensate for a disparity of size or strength. However, these techniques are target specific and still require a significant degree of speed and strength to deliver.

The ultimate weapon for women’s self-defense is something that requires little skill, almost no strength and can literally destroy any body part it touches. The ultimate women’s weapon – and the ultimate self-defense equalizer – is the knife.

According to a medical study conducted by the Welsh National School of Medicine, a sharply pointed knife blade can penetrate human skin with as little as half a kilogram (1.1 pounds) of pressure. They determined this figure by using a specially designed knife with a scale built into it to perform penetration tests on actual human cadavers. While clothing will create some additional resistance, the sharp edge and point of a knife still offer a tremendous amount of destructive power when applied with only minimal force. And, as previously noted, this destructive power applies to literally any body part that the blade touches.

Although any cut you deliver to an attacker can help keep you safe, the best tactic for applying the knife in self-defense is based on the Filipino martial arts strategy of “defanging the snake” – targeting the attacker’s attacking limbs. Normally, this is interpreted as cutting the wrist or forearm to disarm his weapon, but its functional application goes well beyond that. The key is to understand basic human anatomy.

The human body moves because muscles contract. When muscles contract they pull on tendons that are attached to bones. Cutting a tendon – which is similar to a cable – immediately detaches the muscle from the bone, disabling or completely crippling the motor function normally provided by that muscle. Cutting the muscle itself can also produce the same result by destroying the integrity of the muscle and preventing it form contracting. Either way, the result is an immediate loss of the motor function of the joints powered by those muscles and tendons. This happens instantly and is not dependent upon blood loss, pain or any reaction-based effects.

Let’s say an attacker attempts to strike you with a weapon. As he extends his arm toward you, you simply evade and cut the muscles or flexor tendons on the inside of his wrist. The result is an immediate loss of his ability to grip anything with that hand. This same tactic could be used against any type of grabbing attack or attempted abduction. Assuming that your attacker is physically larger and stronger, and that you are justified in using a knife for self-defense, a single cut to his inner wrist offers and immediate release from any choking or grabbing attack.

Similarly, any deep cut to the quadriceps muscle just above the knee immediately destroys an attacker’s ability to support weight on that leg, typically dropping him to one knee and offering an excellent opportunity to escape.

One common criticism of the knife as a defensive weapon for women is that an attacker can disarm you and use it against you. If you introduce a knife into a self-defense situation, you are doing so because you are in fear of suffering death or serious bodily injury. To keep yourself safe in such a situation, anything you do must be done with conviction and ruthless self-confidence. Develop that attitude and combine it with the destructive power of a sharp knife, and you have a solution for the ultimate self-defense equalizer.


1 Response to “Size Matters- IKF April 2007”

  1. 1 Landarr
    November 22, 2010 at 11:31 am


    I have to agree with this: the knife has the destructive power to equalize any difference in size.

    However I have issues about the use of the knife: in my country the simple act of carrying a knife is a serious offence, so if a knife is used, even in defense, the user may incur in penal responsibility for the injuries given to the aggressor.

    That’s why I’m looking for another way to equalize.

    With little success till now.


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