<![CDATA[NOVA Self Defense - Blog]]>Sun, 25 Feb 2018 17:20:27 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Weak Link Assessment]]>Sun, 11 Feb 2018 22:53:52 GMThttp://novaselfdefense.com/blog/weak-link-assessment4838756The following are skills/attributes that I would consider good to have:

  • physical health
  • physical mobility: ability to walk, run, and perform normal physical functions and tasks
  • physical fitness: mobility plus putting in work
  • unarmed self-defense training
  • carry useful tools and have corresponding training on accessing and using said tools in context: (this could be ANY useful tool: knife, gun, pepper spray, automobile, first aid, tools to change a tire)
  • active awareness and understanding of personal safety
  • positive, capable mindset
  • verbal agility/persuasive verbal skills
  • emotional control of self
  • ability to swim
  • first aid/emergency medical knowledge

What are your weakest links?

What outside events could severely impact your quality of life in a negative manner by lacking or being weak in one of these bullet points?

For example, lets say you're well trained, fit, and have good awareness, but when somebody does something that rubs you the wrong way your temper takes over and you lose control of yourself and get into a road rage altercation that results in a fight. This resulting fight could have long-lasting negative effects on your freedom and quality of life if police, courts, and lawsuits become involved.  You could even be sacrificing your career! Now, is the fight to blame or was it your lack of emotional control that allowed you to engage in the fight that was root of the problem?

It takes being introspective to assess what you skills you are strong with and which ones are weaker or completely lacking, but assessing and working on your weakest links will make you stronger and capable of handling unknowable events.  Many of these skills can carry over positively into other aspects of your life or possibly help you assist someone else who is in need.

Know yourself. Know your weaknesses.  Work on your weakness.  Become a better you.

Evan D.
Owner/Lead Coach
NOVA Self Defense

We teach corporate and group self defense seminars in Seattle and Washington DC

<![CDATA[Training shortly after an emotionally traumatizing event?]]>Thu, 19 Oct 2017 15:45:57 GMThttp://novaselfdefense.com/blog/training-shortly-after-an-emotionally-traumatizing-eventThis situation has come up several times over the years, and it’s a delicate one. 

Something terrible and tragic happens to your significant other, kid, or family member, and it has a devastating emotional effect on the person, in an attempt to be helpful a family member intervenes and suggests getting self-defense training.

Should this person jump directly into self-defense training?
What I want to urge caution about is when I see a supportive person encouraging and pushing someone in an affected emotional state to get self-defense training shortly after something tragic happens without full consideration into whether they are emotionally ready for training.  You cannot be in the person’s head and fully know what they are going through and whether they are ready.

I am not a mental health professional, therefore my response to these situations when they are brought to me is, please get counseling/visit a mental health professional that can help you figure out what the best course of action is for you before jumping right into physical training. 

I want you to train and learn self-defense, but more importantly, I want to be in a mentally sound place before you start.  In my opinion, the impact of having something trigger you during training could be more detrimental than helpful to you, particularly if it makes you never want to visit the emotion you experienced, and therefore never train again.
Parents/husbands/boyfriends/friends/you-yourself: be sure that the person is emotionally ready for training and support them, just be there for them.  They might “want” to train but not be ready; they might want to train and be 100% motivated and fueled to better themselves.  I don’t know how soon is too soon, that is something that you will have talk about and figure out together.

Train smart, when you're ready,

Evan D.
Owner/Lead Coach
NOVA Self Defense

<![CDATA[Address the encroacher verbally or ignore?]]>Mon, 02 Oct 2017 19:54:52 GMThttp://novaselfdefense.com/blog/address-the-encroacher-verbally-or-ignoreYet another gray area that you have to feel out with respect to a stranger attempting to engage you is whether it is better to ignore them or verbally address them.  Both strategies have merit and situations where they will work and be ineffective.   Important factors in my opinion are:
  • What type of attempt is this?
  • How persistent is the person being?
  • Closing distance or being static?

I’ll breakdown a recent attempt that was more politely persistent than usual to the point that I almost stopped what I was doing an got drawn in.  

Walking back to my car right after a martial arts class and I hear a loudly projected, “excuse me, sir? Excuse me, sir? Sir hey! Sir!”

The man attempting to engage me was probably 75 feet away; we were on opposing sidewalks of a side-street in the downtown of the sometimes sketchy Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA.  For a second I thought maybe I dropped something important and this guy wanted to help me.  Quick pocket index: phone, wallet, keys, check.

I could tell by how he was dressed, his voice, and where in town we were that he was not a candidate for a future best friend and that I did not want to talk to him, though he was likely just asking for money.  My first strategy was ignoring him because of the distance; initially I pretended to not hear him, but I still had to walk closer to where he was to get to the parking lot where my car was parked.

He continued his attempt and started to cross the street towards me.  This required me to change tactics and engage him, so I acknowledged him with a loudly projected, “Sorry man!” and gave a polite wave as I walked through the parking lot towards my car.  I realized that I was parked in a blind spot from the street, so anyone nearby would not see either of us if he was to continue his approach.  Knowing my safe exit was not in a great place, my objective shifted to: Get in the car, get it locked, and get mobile.

Any further encroachment from where he was to in isolated area would require an assertive if not aggressive response to make it clear that I am not up for conversation-especially aggressive if his pace increases.

The way I see this unfold is I am either all in on the encroacher, or all in on my escape, no time to go slowly and be caught transitioning into the car, just in case.

While sometimes I would advocate avoiding engaging the person, this was a situation where I clearly wanted him to know that I was aware of his presence even from a distance because I did not want him to interpret my ignoring or lack of response as…this guy is not paying attention and is walking to a more secluded area, this is a opportunity to attack.

Takeaways from this example:

Learn to think strategically and analyze situations that you have been in, where the holes were, and how to make more direct, thought out decisions when confronted with something similar in the future. You personal experiences can be some of your best assets for teaching you how to be more aware and problem-solve more effectively in the moment. 

Train smart & stay safe,

Evan Dzierzynski
Owner/Lead Coach
NOVA Self Defense
<![CDATA[What actually comes out for you when startled?]]>Sun, 13 Aug 2017 21:37:59 GMThttp://novaselfdefense.com/blog/what-actually-comes-out-for-you-when-startled
Big Ruth's Tree- a landmark from the hike referenced in the story.
Most people that train for self-defense have some manner of preparing for the ambush attack, the surprise you were not anticipating.  If you have a trained response for this what is it and what really comes out for you when you are genuinely startled?

Earlier today I was solo hiking a trail on a mountain near Seattle on a fairly isolated trail.  I encountered several fairly large piles of bear scat concentrated in an area I was walking through near some berry patches, which is something that makes me uncomfortable, especially when I’m alone.  I continued hiking at my normal power walk pace, didn’t see or hear anything but I was approached quickly.  I heard fast steps on the ground behind me from about arms reach away, turned, and saw black  as it was right on me.

In this moment I perceived danger because of where I was and the cues I had been aware of, influenced by a fear of being in black bear territory.  My initial reaction was lighting fast, I was startled, shoulders shrugged, both hands started to come up as I oriented toward what I heard so I could see and gather more information- what happened after the hands coming up was a response I have cognitively trained many times: reaching my lead hand out to push away, grab, or otherwise touch what’s near me and get my rear hand into action for repeated strikes.
As I was extending my lead hand, my rear hand started to rise and began to clinch a fist, hands were still somewhat low since they were initially down at waist level.  I mostly train open-handed strikes, so it was interesting to see that a closed fist is was came out.

He realized the error; the runner apologized for approaching and passing me quickly without auditory cue; he was a big guy, I don’t know how he moved that quietly without me hearing him until right on me.   In the moment I did not see him at all and only heard him when he was 1-2 steps away as he startled me, as I oriented towards him saw just his black shorts, and wasn’t able to make out what the threat was until he had passed me.
I missed him with my index hand because of his speed, which is a good thing since he was not actually attacking me, but it was good knowing that a variant of something I have trained repeatedly was able to come out under an authentic surprise, and that I was able to control my cognitive response and not hit him (also, it’s not the first time I’ve almost clocked a runner).

Still keep in mind, the perceived threat ended when:
  • the jogger did not attack me
  • the bear did not maul me (because it wasn’t a bear)
Had it been one of these situations, the reaction would likely have been significantly more severe.

Homework:  What I want you to think about is cataloging the times in the future you are genuinely startled and flinch, see and pay attention to what actually comes out and how you move. I would only consider doing this for future perceived threats where you are startled, since the brain and imagination have are good at filing in the blanks if you are to consider past encounters.  You might think you will move a certain way, but experience something completely different; it is best to really know yourself and how your movement is biased, so that you can pair how you actually move under duress to your training and be sure that these can sync efficiently.  
Train smart, stay safe, and if you approach me running please give me some auditory cue so I don't hit you!

Evan D.
Owner/Lead Coach
NOVA Self Defense
<![CDATA[Level up your training: Safety Flaws & Training Scars]]>Tue, 25 Jul 2017 14:01:56 GMThttp://novaselfdefense.com/blog/level-up-your-training-safety-flaws-training-scars
The crowd murmured in anticipation as the instructor positioned his students for the next demo. Suddenly, he exploded into motion, striking them with blinding speed. They regained their composure as the instructor stared intensely at the crowd around him, basking in their adulation. If I had rolled my eyes any harder they would have fallen out of my head.

A wise old man once said your training ingrains flaws and skills equally. That instructor’s impressive display ingrained, in himself and his students, two things: ineffective striking (he incapacitated neither student) and standing, unresponsive, when attacked suddenly. Seems dumb, right? But self-defense and martial arts are rife with these suboptimal practices.

Your training partner puts you in a headlock; you drive his chin back, “attack” his groin, and drop him. Great job! But why’d you let him grab you? You spent just as many reps allowing yourself to get grabbed as you did “defending”. Moreover, if you’d counterattacked with serious contact or commitment he’d be curled up on the floor. And what did your partner get out of that rep, acting practice?

Physical self-defense is practicing for a worst-case scenario: being forced to protect yourself by breaking other people. Effective training requires partners, posing at least two problems. First, broken people can’t train which means we either purposefully injure training partners or train not to hurt people; neither works. Second, half the time you’re both practicing losing badly because training ingrains habits into all participants. As the attacker, you train to attack once, usually without power or intent, and then passively take a “beating.” Why? Because, almost invariably, you want the defender to succeed. You’re ingraining training scars: counterproductive habits that condition acting ineffectively in desperate situations. The solutions lie in making conscious adjustments to make training both safe and effective.

-Go Slow- First, improve efficacy and safety by changing your speed. Slowing down is a great safety flaw (a conscious adjustment that keeps training dangerous moves from injuring participants) that promotes perfect mechanics, precise targeting, and full follow through without injury. Moving slowly also limits training scars: predators don’t kill slowly so, when partners attack, you’re not training yourself to ignore a serious threat. In the headlock counter example: practice the initial attack unthreateningly slowly and, once you both feel comfortable with how headlocks work, start defending them. Still slowly, have your partner try to headlock and, as soon as you see a threatening motion, do something about it. Gradually, let your partner apply the headlock more and more so you train counters at every point.

-Use Equipment- Equipment like pads and armor allows for striking with power and intent without doing serious harm to your partner. This avoids frequently seen training scars like pulled punches or practicing missing. When practicing headlock counters with your partner, have them position a pad or focus mitt near their groin so you train to strike with power and follow through.

-Move with Intent- This isn’t so much an adjustment as a principle. Whatever moves you’re doing should do damage if it were not for the safety flaw you’re using. You should strike with full intent to do damage and happen to be stopped by the pad or your partners block, etc. Training with intent enhance realism and helps find potential holes in safety protocols. So when you’re counterattacking from the headlock, use full intent so your partner has to defend themselves and you avoid a training scar.

-Train from Surprise- Practicing from surprise involves restricting visual or audio cues. With this you can counter at every stage of an attack without the training scar of ignoring assault indicators. Coming back to headlock counters, have your partner set up close to you with a pad arranged to protect his groin. Close your eyes and have your partner randomly head lock at full speed. React immediately to the aggressive touch and counterattack his groin. If your training partner is fast, you’ll be forced to counter the headlock at different points.

-Use Safety Officers- Safety officers serve as a useful adjustment. During many drills; especially as intention, energy, and skill increase; it becomes difficult to participate and be conscious of safety simultaneously. Many adjust for this by unconsciously employing bad habits but safety officers can maintain safety protocols without those bad habits.

-Involve Resistance- Attackers shouldn’t be practicing losing while defenders practice winning; you should be retaliating or, at least, fending. For example: when you’re the attacker applying the headlock, push your hips back to avoid the groin attack and cover up to fend off follow up strikes. To heighten the resistance, use specific techniques or defenses as precursors to modified sparring. Using head lock defense as an example again, set up with restricted vision and armor or pads. Have your partner initiate a headlock at full speed and counter as soon as you feel an aggressive touch. Once you’ve responded, a very brief modified sparring session should begin, allowing both parties to practice attacking and defending. Fending and sparring have obvious value for the attacker but also keep the defender from creating unrealistic expectations of how fights will go.

-Keep it Quick- Limiting drills’ duration is a final useful adjustment. By limiting time, you can do three things: prevent injuries, avoid artificially induced safety, and keep participants from “winning” or “losing”. For you to win, your partner must lose creating training scars for at least one partner. If the drill ends quickly, however, partners are less likely to get hurt or have a definitive “win” and can develop intensity while maintaining good habits. Safety officers can help with limiting time appropriately.
So, is practicing headlocks the point? Absolutely not; the point is training thoughtfully. Notice that these safety flaws counterbalance each other, creating a robust training method without major holes and avoidant of training scars. Conscious adjustments and safety flaws should always exist but creativity can blend them to your advantage.

Be dangerous, train safely,

Coach Malcolm
NOVA Self Defense
<![CDATA[Thoughts on different approaches for martial arts schools]]>Sat, 22 Jul 2017 16:45:15 GMThttp://novaselfdefense.com/blog/thoughts-on-different-approaches-for-martial-arts-schoolsFinding what training regimen works best for you:

I wanted to give insight on two different lines of thought regarding skill training and conditioning within martial arts schools and classes.  I have experienced both sides of this as well as variations in-between.
  • Schools where conditioning is paramount and strongly incorporated into every single class.
  • Schools that are solely skill-based & sport specific that say you should be doing conditioning in your own time. With this option there is inherently conditioning built into sparring/live drills but no general conditioning.
Both have their benefit and reasons for doing what they do;  so, what is better for you and your situation?

Goals, time, and times per week:  Why are you training and what are your goals? Are you doing this for fitness in place of gym time because it is more fun or are you interested in gaining a deep learning of the sport/art/system?  Do you have enough free time to get to the gym in addition to getting into skill training?  If you have a family and demanding job you might not be able to do both regularly. Another factor is how many times per week do you intend to train or exercise and what will your body actually allow you to do?

I am pretty much always immersing myself in some form of martial arts.  I find it is a good way to improve movement, it’s fun, and it is a way for me to keep learning.  For the past year that art was exclusively Muay Thai, which was good for learning footwork and striking, but less of a fit for me personally because of the amount of conditioning placed into each class (general conditioning, push ups, sit-ups, abs, etc.) Let me explain that a bit.  Conditioning is important for fitness and extremely important for MT practitioners, but since I am someone who is motivated to do my own strength and conditioning separate from my 1-hour training class, it means less skill-work during that hour, and less general fitness training because of the amount of wear and tear from trying to do both in the same day (lifting weights or doing CrossFit the same day as Muay Thai was always a decision I regretted!).

I recently started training at a Sambo school that is nearly 100% skill-based training with their time (Sambo basically integrates throws, groundwork, and wrestling, with some different rules and emphasis) and completed 3 classes in the last week, as well as lifting weights three times.  For me, this means I am getting a ton of skill work per week on top of my general fitness training, which will likely mean greater gains over time.   

Think about what works for you and if you need to change it up.  I have changed martial arts schools now three times within the last 3 years, and not for dislike of any of the places, but mostly to try something new and keep learning, and to see if I can create an accelerated learning curve for myself.  There’s nothing wrong starting over and being a white belt somewhere new!

Train smart,

Evan D.
Owner/Lead Coach
NOVA Self Defense

I would be interested to hear what your experiences have been with respect to skill vs. conditioning training and what has worked best for you or what has not worked out as well as you would have hoped. Please comment below.
<![CDATA[Irregular Lines of Movement]]>Fri, 26 May 2017 13:00:04 GMThttp://novaselfdefense.com/blog/irregular-lines-of-movementWhen you look at the normal lines of movement in everyday life with people who are minding their own business, most paths are somewhat predictable and to not require further thought.  Think about what people are usually doing in the context of a target location such as a convenience store or gas station: coming, going, or passing through.  With those examples it’s either by foot or to/from a vehicle.  Sometimes you know someone is approaching you because they take an irregular line of movement, and it’s just different enough to register that how they are moving is not normal.

A few examples:
  • You see a change in trajectory towards you
  • You see an irregular line of motion to include you in the person’s intended path
  • You’re in a large parking lot and someone is taking a line towards you that is not in the direction of other vehicles or not towards the store(s). 
  • You pass by someone who was stationary (loitering) and he starts walking in your direction immediately after you pass

Let’s tie this into a recent teaching example:

While finishing up teaching a self defense lesson for 4 ladies in a park area, 3 guys walked up the stairs near where we were training: late teens/early 20s, baggy dark blue jeans, over-sized white t-shirts, styled in a conforming manner, they walked on a line parallel to our direction where there is only one path a trail to continue walking that leads to the street and some apartment buildings.  I could tell that the ladies in the group got really uncomfortable as the guys got closer to us.

The three guys minded their own business and passed without any incident or verbal interaction; after they cleared us I asked, “How many of you had a negative emotional response about those three guys that passed us?”  They all admitted to it and said it was the appearance of the individuals that made them feel uncomfortable. (I assume our conversation about how two gang-related bodies being recently found less than a mile away from the park have also contributed to them feeling uncomfortable).
I said to them, "that's one way you know that something requires more attention, if it makes you feel uncomfortable.”

A pairing of a bad vibe about someone in combination with an irregular line of movement = be alert, it might be time to do something.

I explained that given the layout of our landscape (see picture below), any deviation from them walking directly to the trail that passes through to the other apartments towards us would be an irregular line of movement and would require immediate thinking on your feet of what the situation is and what your options are based on what unfolds, particularly when the presence of the individual(s) approaching makes you feel uncomfortable.  I emphasized the need for an agile verbal skill-set, the utilization of tools for self defense if you are comfortable and have them accessible, and a vicious stun-and-run to facilitate your escape as training priorities.

Making it real: Tie this concept into a previous encroachment that you have experienced where something was “off” about the person’s trajectory, how they were moving, or changed direction.  If you can identify how this felt or looked with a previous encounter it should help you identify it sooner if it happens again, and buy you more time to do something proactive, if needed.
Train smart & stay safe,

Evan Dzierzynski 
Owner/Lead Coach
NOVA Self Defense
Blue: the only natural line of movement for persons passing through this direction given the impassable brush and drop off near the edge of the tennis courts, not shown clearly in aerial view.

Red: given the above, seeing anyone deviate off this path towards us would be a known encroachment, which can still be a gray area depending on what they say/don’t say, how they move, what they do, how you feel about all of the above, and how they respond to any verbal interception prior to closing distance.  
<![CDATA[Hands readied when passing someone that makes you uneasy]]>Wed, 05 Apr 2017 14:51:41 GMThttp://novaselfdefense.com/blog/hands-readied-when-passing-someone-that-makes-you-uneasy
This is a good explanation from Rob Pincus of something you can do to keep your hands readied when passing someone who maybe has not verbally engaged you or encroached into your space, but is either eyeing you or will be passing by you in close proximity. I've done this for years and years, but never actually had a name for it.

As mentioned by Rob, scratching the side of your head is very close to a covered position for a shielding elbow which covers your head, neck, eyes and face from someone on the side you are shielding.  

Incidentally, I also use this on people that I perceive to be careless, uncoordinated, or exhibit erratic movement, particularly when they have a ranged object in their hands that might poke me in the eye (walking stick, umbrella, pointy toys swung around by kids, martial artists swinging their bo/tambos). 

In the picture below I am isolating one element of a compressed cover I taught to the class, but you can see from this structure, that if Malcolm was to swing at me from where he's standing, having this shield up is an ideal position for me to take the hit or preferably slam into with a compressed structure, and it would be significantly easier to make this transition from an active grooming position with a readied hand/forearm than having my hands down, in my pockets, or clutching onto a phone.  On a related note, slamming through someone's face, neck, chest with all of your body-weight focused on the points of your elbows is a pretty awesome way to get them moving back and get you into launching forward with strikes and pressure!

It is unnatural and draws unwanted attention to be walking around with a shielded elbow locked in, but keep in mind the principles that except in situations where clutching a tool is appropriate, unencumbered hands are easier to use and active hands are more quickly put into action.

Train smart & stay safe,
​Evan D
Owner/Lead Coach
NOVA Self Defense

This picture shows a shielding elbow; in this class we taught a cover position that utilizes both forearms and elbows creating a frame.
<![CDATA[Breaking your own street smart rules]]>Sat, 11 Mar 2017 19:34:57 GMThttp://novaselfdefense.com/blog/breaking-your-own-street-smart-rules
How many awareness/street smart blunders can you find in this photo? Comment & describe them in the comment section.
I did a women’s self defense corporate seminar in DC for a proactively-thinking street-smart group.  Several of the ladies shared some of their experiences with how they live day-to-day, head on a swivel, maneuvering to avoid individuals that seem sketchy, and for them it is a lifestyle they have already taken to heart.
I was talking about awareness and I asked them, “how many of you talk on the phone or text regularly when you are commuting?” Very few hands went up. How many of you KNOW that it’s not a great idea to be on the phone texting, somewhat distracted while commuting?  All hands went up.

Then I asked them a follow-up, “what about when you don’t know where you’re going and are trying to get your bearings straight?  How many of you will pull out your phone and GPS where you’re going while walking?”  Most of them raised their hands, sheepishly.

Those of us who take our responsibility to safety seriously need to take a look at holes in our game.  We need to analyze where our safety-gaps are and look for patterns of behavior where we break our own personal safety rules and exhibit less-aware tourist-like behavior.
To look at it from another angle, do you feel more or less vulnerable to something bad happening to you when you don’t know where you are going? For most people I would say more vulnerable, particularly in that you are focusing on an additional stressor, where am I and where is my destination?

Compound that with switching critical focus between your phone in-hand and looking at your surroundings trying to follow where to go and you are significantly more distracted and not likely to see someone assess or approach you.
There are always times when you will have to improvise and deal with things on the fly, but for many situations, a little work up-front can make you capable of being more aware and less fixated on figuring out where you are or where you are headed.

Do your homework upfront.
One way to compensate for that is by looking things up ahead of time.   You can use Google maps and get a street view of exactly where you are heading-before you get in the car to go there.  Even better would be to identify the close landmarks on both sides of your destination using the street-view, so that you know where you are without relying on just your GPS. 

As an example, I frequently travel to places in DC that have never been to when I do corporate self defense seminars for office employees.  I can be near my destination and still have no idea where it is relative to the best location for parking. 

For me, pre-planning my commute means less stress, and less stress across the board means more brain-computing power for other stuff.

Train smart & stay safe,

Evan D.
Owner/Lead Coach
NOVA Self Defense

How many street-smart blunders do you find in this photo? Comment below on the ones you can identify- you'll have to think outside the box for a few.  I'll post the answer key after I get a few responses.

<![CDATA[ 3E's: also works for odd encounters that weird you out]]>Thu, 09 Mar 2017 18:46:05 GMThttp://novaselfdefense.com/blog/whats-the-weirdest-encroachment-attempt-youve-experienced
Photo from the park referenced in this article. Imagine how much more sketched out she would be if I approached shirtless and shoe-less.
Today I was able to practice what I preach while teaching an outdoor private lesson in the park near my house.

Empathy-Excuse-Exit- is a template I teach for disengaging from someone on the street that you do not want to talk to.  It also works for non-threatening people that just plain weird you out.

While my client and were taking turns back and forth trying to punch each other in the face, practicing covering up with our forearms a man approached us.  This guy gets much closer than I would have usually allowed without addressing him first; my vision was tunneled and most of my focus was on the known threat, a punch to the face, which was occupying my awareness, so I didn’t see him approach.

The way he’s dressed is an outlier that requires immediate attention, he’s shirtless and shoe-less, and walked a pretty long ways through dirt and gravel to approach us.  It’s super weird. There are little kids everywhere on recess in this park, my client and I are attempting to punch each other in the face and he and I are no longer the weirdest person in the park.

He asks, “Can either of you do a woman’s voice for me?”

Mentally I check to make sure I’m not on the set of the movie Deliverance.

Empathy: Me: “Sorry man.”
Excuse: “I can’t”
My client John also says no.

He asks again, & attempts to explain why: I’m trying to bla, bla, something about pretending to be his wife for his mobile phone company confirmation…sounds like committing fraud, to explain why he wants a woman’s voice.  

I don’t know this guy, though he doesn’t seem threatening to me because he’s being super friendly about what he’s asking for, but he's not fully dressed and asking for something weird and uncomfortable to me.  Regardless of what he’s asking, I do not want him to get any closer & certainly don’t want to help him with his weird, ethically questionable request.  Fortunately, he does not encroach closer and maintains about 10 feet away with conversation attempts continuing.

Sometimes individuals will utilize guilt as a way of getting what they want.  He attempts again and tries to use guilt to bait us to comply with his request:

“Come on, help me out. You just have to say a couple words.”

I attempt my 3’E’s again- escape isn’t needed yet because of space and proximity.

Empathy: Me:” Sorry man, I can’t do a woman’s voice.”
Excuse, strengthened: “I’m getting over a cold and my voice is raspy and deeper than usual.” (As a subtly manipulate my voice and make it sound more raspy).

He finally leaves.  My objective is complete.

Changing a few variables in this situation could have drastically changed the perceived threat and response from someone else. If this man had approached a woman who was by herself or one of the caretakers of the many 3-5 year olds running around, she would have probably been significantly more on-edge and freaked out by a shirtless shoe-less man making a strange request and encroaching into her personal space.

Reflection on why I manage encounters this way:

What do I have to gain from this encounter?
  • Committing fraud for someone else
  • Letting someone I do not know get super close to me
  • Helping a shirtless-shoe-less stranger with an odd reques
Compare that with: what could I be putting at risk by letting my guard down and having this person get really close to me  given that I don’t really know their full intent?

Key point: It’s not your duty to be everybody’s hero.  When in doubt, be selfish and cautious when it comes to your personal space and strangers.
Be smart & stay safe,
Evan Dzierzynski
Owner/Lead Coach
NOVA Self Defense

I would be interested to hear about some of your encounters and how you have managed attempts from someone to engage you or ask something of you.  Please comment below or on the FB post!

<![CDATA[Excited about our new self-defense seminar format]]>Thu, 05 Jan 2017 01:15:27 GMThttp://novaselfdefense.com/blog/excited-about-our-new-self-defense-seminar-format
Feedback from today's corporate self defense seminar
Getting a refresher training and high level perspective from one of the most real and experienced experts in the industry a few weeks ago, Lee Morrison, was an excellent opportunity that was well worth the trip.  Whenever I get to learn hands-on from a high level coach, I always come back recharged with energy and creativity.

Really excited about the new format of how I'm running myself-defense seminars. I had the opportunity to run two 2-hour self-defense courses today with my newly organized format, a coprporate sessions and a women's only course saw awesome results and got some great feedback from both groups.  Huge improvements in how they were moving and how they were attacking the drills: giving them skills prioritizing preventing the bad from occuring, managing it is a gray-area, and smashing the person if the fight is on!

I'll be doing this new run through in my upcoming women's session on January 9th and 16th- session two will build on the skills and intruduce other varibles.  Come out & train!

Registration info here

Train smart & stay safe,

Evan D.
Owner/Lead Coach
NOVA Self Defense

<![CDATA[Acquaintance Stranger Dangers]]>Tue, 15 Nov 2016 18:40:22 GMThttp://novaselfdefense.com/blog/acquaintance-stranger-dangers
Teaching dealing with encroachment from strangers at a self defense seminar for employees of a law firm in DC.
A girl that attended one of my self defense classes has an issue with man that lives in the same building as her. He always attempts to interact with her and ask questions almost like he is fishing for information as she comes and goes; she is usually alone when this happens and it makes her uncomfortable.  He’s not exactly a stranger; he is kind of an acquaintance-stranger.

The other day when she was on her way back to her apartment he said, “Ah, coming back from class?”

So she asked, what can I do about this guy?  He gives her a creepy vibe but has never said anything vulgar, crossed any physical boundaries, threatened or attacked her, so it becomes a bit tricky, because until and unless he does something requiring an assertive response, she’s in a situation where she has a proximity issue with a man who has a right to there, since he lives in the same complex.

I explained to her that this can be somewhat different than the normal scope of the 3E’s of being Elusive: Empathy Excuse Exit, which I taught her for dealing with strangers approaching, though it can be modified to fit the situation. Quick re-cap of 3E's:
Empathy  hands addressing the person, “Sorry man…
Excuse: “…I can’t”
Exit  keep moving if you have mobility

The difference is that he is someone who does not believe he is a stranger to you because you have something in common, therefore his attempts and questions could be different from the norm and drawn out over time, particularly if he is asking about personal information.

Action points: Avoidance and variation of your movement patterns would be preferred.  Does the building have multiple entrances and exits where security cameras, other tenants, or a concierge will be present?

If contact is inevitable any conversation with this person should be engage-to-disengage with the intent of projecting that you are not an interesting person to talk to, you do not engage in small talk, and you don’t divulge personal information.   

*Please note- I am not advocating to be unfriendly to your neighbors, having good neighbors that you communicate with is a great thing and can be beneficial for the safety of the whole community; however, this scenario is different in that she feels particularly uncomfortable about this individual

Back to her example, “Ah, coming back from class?"  Though he can deduce patterns from when he sees you, do NOT say anything that would divulge information about your occupation or schedule.  He does not need to know when you will be home, away, or what floor and room you live in (if he does not already know).

We role-played an example response to this where she got to be the creepy man, and I role-played as her:

Her:  “Ah, coming back from class?”
Me:  “Nah same old shit,” spoken in a disgruntled manner with a disinterested look on my face, as put one hand up like a half-shrug as I walked by her. 
Her: “Whoa, okay.” 

It was odd to her what I said and how I said it.  In this example, what I set forth with my word-choice, tone, and body language that I am not big on small-talk and not interested in talking (concerns me how natural that was for me).  My response also was not a yes or no to the fishing-for-information question.

What you say and how you say it are important.  How you speak to this person should be something that flows naturally with your language pattern so that it is interpreted as authentic.  If you have trouble with this, practice it with a friend.

The feedback and response you get after this type of encounter can illuminate whether this person picks up on social cues and personal space, this is important since you will likely see him again.

If seemly creepy guy downgrades from an attempted conversation or fishing for information to an awkward “Hi” or a hand-wave, that’s great, we’re moving in the right direction!  If he continues pressing for information, you have still learned information about this person, maybe that he does not pick up on social cues or does not care.  You still might have to address things more directly or more assertively to make sure it is clear that you are not interested in talking to him.  Regardless, priority would be avoidance, not divulging information, and not hanging around for small talk with the person you do not want to talk to.

Train smart, stay safe, and manage the weird, socially-awkward gray-areas with confidence,
Evan D.
Owner/Lead Coach
NOVA Self Defense

We strongly advocate learning in a hands-on environment where you can get exposure to improve your awareness, mindset, and confidence in handling situations that occur in the real-world.  Not every situation is an outright physical assault, so in addition to having the physical skills to defend yourself, having the skills and confidence to manage the social situations can go a long way to improve your confidence and quality of life.  If you are near the DC or Northern Virginia area, come train with us!

Sign up for one of our introductory self defense courses here

For corporate self-defense training or customized violence prevention training email novaselfdefense@gmail.com
<![CDATA[“Hey, what do you do when someone approaches your car?”]]>Tue, 11 Oct 2016 16:48:21 GMThttp://novaselfdefense.com/blog/hey-what-do-you-do-when-someone-approaches-your-car
Note the body language as I am approaching the vehicle, leaning into the open window (which is open just to reduce glare for the picture). Preferably, keep the windows up if someone is approaching.
Girlfriend: “Hey, what do you do when you’re at a stoplight and someone approaches your car?”

Me: (sigh, preparing to enter lecture mode) “What happened?”

Girlfriend: “A guy came up and started knocking on my window, pointing at his wrist like he was asking for the time when I was at a stoplight.”

Me: “OK… what’d you do?”

Girlfriend: “I shrugged my shoulders & shook my head like I didn’t know what he was talking about.  He wanted me to roll down the window but I didn’t.  He stayed there & kept knocking but I just kept acting confused until the light turned green and I could go, even though I was wearing a watch & my phone was in plain sight.”

Me:  “Nice!  That’s awesome!”

Dealing with an unknown pedestrian approaching your car when you are in or transitioning into it:

What I particularly dislike is when individuals do this type of approach when you have the least amount of mobility, as you are entering your car.   I just find it sketchy and I do not engage with them or care what they are asking for. 
As a guy, it’s probably just that they are asking for money, for a girl you could add to that option the possibility of sexual interest, either way: car door shuts, doors lock, windows up, safely get/continue moving.

I’m not waiting around to allow an unnecessary encounter that could be a setup for an attack, and I’m not going to take money out in front of someone I do not know.  There are plenty of good ways to help people in need that can be done without fixating on your money by digging through your wallet/purse in a stationary, seated, non-mobile configuration (car parked or stopped at a stoplight) in front of a stranger.

Making the message clear:

My body language make the message clear that I am not interested and not open to further communication as I safely make my exit.
My “NO, NOT INTERESTED” gift basket comes packed with the following items:
  • hand signal of no or not interested: shaking hand or finger
  • head shaking NO
  • clear lip-readable mouthing of the word NO
  • clear verbal articulation of the word “NO/ NO, I CAN’T”
  • not waiting around for rebuttals or a continued approach

​The way I look at this, if you include the verbal and non-verbal ways I have communicated, I have said NO four times. If someone persists after four clear messages of NO when you are in a mobility compromised position, be prepared to take action, verbal escalation or even physical action could be required depending on the circumstances and what has developed.

If the person persists, well, usually my car is in careful motion so that it does not matter.  It is much harder to get robbed, assaulted or carjacked if your car is moving. If I am not in-action yet, I am ready to escalate or enforce my personal space boundaries- if breached, and make my message very clear.

There are a few incontrovertible rules of self defense.  One of them is to avoid interacting with approaching strangers when you are in a vulnerable position; being seated and strapped into a vehicle puts you at risk.  Rolling down your window and engaging heightens the risk exponentially.  When I get in my car, my goal is to get from Point A to Point B as safely as possible.  No texting and no striking up conversations with people at stoplights or loiterers in parking lots.  You have nothing to gain from these encounters; it’s just not worth the risk.

Train smart & be safe! 

Evan Dzierzynski
Owner/Lead Coach
NOVA Self Defense
<![CDATA[Safety for runners]]>Sun, 09 Oct 2016 21:16:08 GMThttp://novaselfdefense.com/blog/safety-for-runners
Every year horrid stories of women getting attacked while running trails get lit up by the media and usually all that results from this usually is fear tactics rather than advice on what to do about it.  "Women urged to be cautious." -Great advice.  I’m writing this post to give readers some useful insight on the problem and some solutions.

Before looking at some safety tips, let’s take a look at the possible opportunities from an attacker’s perspective:
  • His victims are alone, running through isolated areas that provide him with cover (trees, buildings, brush)
  • His victims are usually unarmed and untrained- most people do not have any self-defense training or carry anything that can be used as a weapon that they know how to access and use
  • His victims run at night or early morning-when it is cooler and darker outside
  • His victims wear headphones so he knows they’re not likely to hear him approach
When you look at the problem from the perspective of the opportunity that is presented it illuminates why women are frequently attacked while running trails.
You should be able to feel safe enough to run by yourself without having to worry about something bad happening to you.  Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in, even in safe places.  You can do little to make the world safer on your own, but you can do a lot to make yourself safer in an unsafe world.

If a criminal has the intent to abduct someone and take them to an isolated area to rape or murder them, what could possibly make it easier for him than a woman running by herself when it’s dark out, through an isolated area with headphones on?

So how can you avoid this?  You’re not going to like the answer.

Do not fit the perfect victim profile of running alone, unarmed and untrained, wearing headphones, especially in isolated areas at night.  

The best protection is to be more proactive with your planning by running with a friend or acquaintance.
Don’t have any friends? Make a friend. Go to a local running club meet up and run with a group.  Local running shoe stores like Pacers have groups that go out on evening runs together.  If you like the group find somebody in that group that runs as good or poorly as you do and get their contact information and run with them. 

“But that’s inconvenient! I don’t want to have to text somebody and plan to run with them.”
Running with someone is the safest option and there is no easy substitute for accepting responsibility for your own personal safety.  Something bad is more likely to happen to you when you are by yourself because you are simply an easier target.

Ultimately it comes down to the cost-benefit analysis you make with any life choice.  What level of risk are you willing accept for the decisions you make? 

Assuming you are running to improve your health, doesn’t it just make sense to take the ultimate step in protecting your health by taking precautions that promote your own safety?

If you are still willing to risk running by yourself these are some considerations
  • Ear-buds- consider wearing only one ear bud so that you can still hear background noise- on several occasions while running I have almost slugged someone who brushed up behind me briskly because it startled me since I did not hear them. This was why I switched to 1-bud in.
  • Do you run ‘till you flop on the ground like a dying fish? I surely don’t.  I always leave enough in the tank to still be able to move explosively.  On a side note, some great self-defense drills involve sprinting, then striking or doing your skills while fatigued or with a spiked heart-rate
  • If you carry a weapon while running- pepper spray, knife, etc., make sure it is something that is actually useful and carried in a manner that you can access it easily.  Knowing how to access it is one level of understanding; having practice and drilling accessing it under stress is on a completely higher level. Side note: if you do choose to carry something that can be used as a weapon- know that it could be used against you, particularly if you pull the weapon and are not willing and capable of using it.
  • Get some hands-on self-defense training and an understanding of how to defend the most common types of attacks. 
Under the best circumstances: you are highly trained, you carry a (legal) weapon and are competent with how to use it, you are still betting on your ability to utilize your skills under stress and get your tools on target with an attacker who likely already has the jump on you when your physical state could be diminished (if you’re on the brink of exhaustion from a hard run).

No matter how many people get attacked while running trails, there is logistically, financially and physically no possible way to place a police officer on every mile of every trail to ensure the safety of people running alone, so take ownership of your personal safety by being street smart and reducing opportunities for an attack when you are at higher risk can go a long ways to help keep you safe, as well as help to put those who care about you at ease.

Train smart and stay safe,

Evan D
Owner/Lead Coach
​NOVA Self Defense
<![CDATA[Comparing two scenarios of attacks]]>Mon, 26 Sep 2016 17:51:34 GMThttp://novaselfdefense.com/blog/dont-start-it-but-if-it-kicks-off-end-it-quickly-get-out-of-there​This first video shows illustrates some important lessons and shows the lack of some important concepts.  First off, avoidable violence should be avoided at all costs.  Do not let your ego make bad decisions for you and get into altercations with people willing to engage in violence.
Videos not safe for work:
(youtube took down the first video, can't find a replacement as of yet)

First video: you see what appears start as an altercation or posturing, and then the man on the left punches the guy on the right, so as to put him in his place, teach him a lesson, or possibly portray some type of dominance. The guy on the left staggers a few steps back, pulls out a gun and shoots the man in the face who punched him.  (I don’t know what he got shot with and couldn’t find any back story).

Another important point of any fight that ends up going physical is you must stop the threat and get to safety as soon as possible. Stopping the threat in the context of unarmed self-defense means you are striking the person overwhelmingly until you know that you are safe to remove yourself.  Attacking until person does not have the will or ability to continue their attack or pursue you and you are preferably no longer in proximity for any new variables to be introduced (such as friends of the bad guy or weapons that you were not aware of).

When I analyze these self-defense situations I look at them with my core values in mind to see what can be learned:

If I remove myself when something is sketchy and manage my encounters so as to prevent avoidable violence at all costs, those instances I am forced to go physical should be fewer and when they happen I KNOW I am all-in because going physical was my only or safest option at the time.

You cannot afford to wait around and see if the person has a weapon, friend, or both.  In this case, this guy who participated and possibly instigated the ego-based violence paid the price of getting shot in the face.
​To show an example of someone finishing the fight & getting to safety, check out this video:
*There are context differences here in that the back story for this girl apparently was an ongoing bullying situation where she had enough and attacked the boy whereas the video with the two men it was unclear if they had any previous contact with each other. 

Important take-aways from her actions:
  • Excellent use of a knee to the face/head. Probably the best knees I've seen in a street fight video.
  • When she did enough damage she removed herself and got to safety-sprinting as fast as she could

When the fight was over, she was GONE.  Sprinting to safety in this situation means leaving less possibility for other kids to jump in and come to the aid of their buddy who got mauled; she also outran the frantic staff member that was chasing her and angrily yelling, “Get that girl right now!” 

Running away-would running mean she would get in more trouble? Sure, probably, but place yourself in her shoes… running in my opinion would be safer than allowing an enraged adult who yelled “Get that girl!” to tackle her on concrete.

Train smart, keep your ego on a leash, & stay safe.

Evan Dzierzynski
Owner/Lead Coach
NOVA Self Defense

<![CDATA[Staying safe on the Metro]]>Thu, 11 Aug 2016 16:58:36 GMThttp://novaselfdefense.com/blog/staying-safe-on-the-metroPicture
DC news radio WTOP recently interviewed me for personal safety advice because of a rape that occurred on a DC Metro Red Line train at 10:00am on a weekday in April.  The attack involved a man approaching a woman who was sleeping on the train and allegedly asked her, "Do you have a boyfriend?" and "Are you going to Glenmont?" Then the assailant grabbed her, forced her to another part of the train and raped her at knife point. Click here for Washington Post’s report of the incident.  

During the interview I talked about the importance of having awareness and some concepts for managing your personal space, however, there were some things I did not have time to mention about transportation safety that I wanted to address.

Public transportation offers some unique challenges to personal safety in that people you do not know have a justified reason for being close to or within your personal space.  Also, while you are riding or waiting for a subway train or bus you are stationary in a transitional space- a space where people move to and from regularly.  Criminals often take advantage of transitional spaces because of the ease of access to victims and general lack of awareness people have of their surroundings.
Preemptive safety tips:

Maintain mobility: select a position, whether seated or standing, in an arrangement that allows the greatest number of exits and movement directions.  Sure the seat in the back corner of the car seems comfortable because there will be less people around you, but it also means that you are boxed in with only one way out if something happens. 

Is there an emergency button/pull that will contact authorities? This does not make help materialize, but it can potentially draw attention and help get someone to your aid eventually, and should be pulled early if something is escalating.

Some of the problematic encounters with public transportation:

Incidental and intentional unwanted contact- trains can be crowded and incidental contact can occur between passengers in close proximity.  There will be those that will deliberately touch others, particularly women. Someone might take advantage of close proximity and touch you. If you feel that someone is taking advantage of the close proximity in order to touch you, or if  you feel uncomfortable about a certain person being near you, consider removing yourself and moving to a different part of the train.  Depending on the circumstances you might need to say something assertively to get the person to back off- the severity of what they do can justify more aggressive actions as well.

Getting people acclimated to the social element of attacks is an important focus of my self defense classes.  Get comfortable with using your voice and being loud and assertive in situations where it is not an outright assault, but a violation of your space in an unacceptable manner.

A belligerent or aggravated passenger harassing  others but not particularly targeting you- options:
  • STAY UNDER THE RADAR- do not give the aggressor a reason to antagonize you. If possible, try to maintain or increase your distance from him.   
  • GET OUT. Consider if relocating is feasible then call security or the police once you are in a safer place.  If a fight breaks out and you are situated between the combative parties, you be incidentally at risk of getting hit or injured for an altercation that you were not a part of. 
  • DE-ESCALATE/INTERVENE. This is a judgment call since there are risks to your safety for getting involved in someone else’s aggression, and I would not recommend it, especially if you do not have the mindset and skills to handle it if it goes physical.  That said, sometimes you don’t have a choice, but if things go physical, you must always be prepared to FIGHT.

If you feel unsafe about someone specifically targeting you that has not attacked you yet:

Prioritize having mobility- standing rather than sitting; this could mean moving to another area where you can stand up. Keep in mind, movement can range from difficult to impossible when a train is packed like sardines.

Get to relative safety- away from the potential attacker where more people are around then contact security or the police.  If you are completely freaked out by someone’s behavior, better to be early than late, after he attacks.
Relative safety could mean getting off the train or bus, but in some cases exiting could also be a risk if you are in a bad area of town or moving to a more isolated area. 

Getting off the train at a stop and re-entering the same train 1-2 cars down or the next train could work if the person does not follow you.  If you relocate and someone follows you, you KNOW you have a problem. Get your head right and ready to fight or run.  If you have training and are carrying force-multiplier (pepper spray or other self defense weapon) having it in hand and readied prior to contact is ideal.

Being isolated is always a red-flag-your alertness should be at a higher level when you are isolated.  You should be paying close attention to anyone else getting on the train, especially if their presence or anything they are doing makes you uncomfortable.  It doesn’t matter if it’s 9am on a weekday.

Alerted safety tips
  • Can I remove myself or stand in a manner that I am readied if I have to defend an attack?
  • Both hands free, senses clear, body unencumbered
  • No newspaper or phone in hand, no headphones-no backpack on my back/shoulder.

A recent student told me about an encounter she had on the metro when she was the only one on the train and a man approached her, sat down next to her, exposed and started touching himself.  She immediately left and called security- fortunately before anything worse happened. 

For example, another passenger boards the empty train and takes a seat uncomfortably close to you or after getting settled in, moves closer to you. There could still be a natural hesitation in these cases, since this person could be doing so without malicious intent and has a legitimate reason for being on the train with you- to get to his destination-but why would he come closer to you? Is he oblivious to personal space/doesn’t care? Does he want to talk to you? Is he physically attracted to you? Or is this an opportunity because nobody else is around?

There is no catch-all for any self-defense situation; the proximity of the aggressor to you, your circumstances, your options: observe, remove/assert yourself, de-escalate, intervene, fight, etc., will always require analyzing what has lead up to the moment you are in and thinking on your feet to determine your best course of action.

If you found this article useful please share it with others.

Train smart & stay safe,

Evan Dzierzynski
Owner/Lead Coach
NOVA Self Defense

<![CDATA[Women’s self defense vs self defense for men and women]]>Mon, 18 Jul 2016 23:45:04 GMThttp://novaselfdefense.com/blog/womens-self-defense-vs-self-defense-for-men-and-womenI am frequently asked, what’s the difference between a self defense class for women and one that is open to men and women? 

For the most part I am teaching many of the same concepts in a similar format.  There will be some differences in scope and emphasis, but both are aimed to address situations that men and women are likely to encounter.  In women’s self defense classes I am going to give some specific instruction that will be covered particularly for women- wrist grabs and variations of understanding encroachment and how to escalate and use your voice, when appropriate.  

However, time permitting- I also introduce these concepts in the classes for men and women.  Is it likely that a man will have to deal with a wrist grab? No.  Is it likely that a man will have to deal with the creepy encounters that women constantly face? Not likely, but I explain it from the point of view of, here is something you can easily teach to your friend, sister, girlfriend, etc.  It is of value for you to be able to understand something and pass that information on to someone you care about.

Concerned women- but training with men is scary, right?  I know it may seem uncomfortable but my main goal is providing a safe, a positive learning environment for everyone in my sessions. I would prefer women be paired up with men for some of the drills, so that they can work with someone potentially bigger, stronger/taller, and get a  better imprint of what targets are available, and learn how size and build can affect movement, mechanics, and your options.

In an introductory self-defense seminar my intent is not to crank the intensity dial to a 10 and see who stays standing.  There will be opportunities for you to push harder and work at a faster pace if you want, and I will push your comfort zone, but I have to push comfort zone intelligently and safely. This means that our drills can be scaled up or scaled down to the intensity that you need in order to make you safer and more effective at defending yourself.

Regardless of this, there are still women who are more comfortable training in an environment of only other women, so women-only classes will still be a regular offering, and currently my women’s only classes are now open to girls age 13-16 if an adult registers and also attends the session.

Train smart, stay safe, & sign up early!

Evan Dzierzynski
Owner/Lead Coach
NOVA Self Defense
<![CDATA[Martial arts and Self defense training –what’s better for me?]]>Wed, 15 Jun 2016 14:27:50 GMThttp://novaselfdefense.com/blog/martial-arts-and-self-defense-training-whats-better-for-mePictureMy first white belt, earned from Cuong Nhu Oriental Martial Arts
That largely depends on your short and long-term goals.  If you are purely interested in self-defense and not looking for a long-term training plan, try to find a professional with a broad background that can teach you a mental, physical, and social skill-set in a compressed amount of time that covers the types of attacks you are likely to encounter- encroachment, aggression, grabs, punches, and the social behaviors that occur prior to these assaults. If you enjoy training, find a martial art that engages and challenges you that also teaches beneficial self-defense skills.

What about martial arts training-isn’t that self-defense?

Martial arts can compliment, improve, or steer you away from solid self-defense skills, depending on what you are learning, how it is presented, and if delineations are made between the katas, competitive sport applications, and personal defense skills, and whether or not the skills learned can apply to real world attacks.  I am an advocate of martial arts training because of the positive affect it has had on my life: friendships I have made, learning movement and exercise, the foundation of skills I have built, and continuously being challenged are great things. Though, I have learned to take a step back and analyze what I am learning and where it fits in with respect to real-world self-defense.

A problem on both sides
I’ve seen self-defense instructors that neglect learning martial art fundamentals: lack foundational striking skills, grappling, footwork, and head movement, and do not have a desire to learn martial art because they think their reality based self defense training is all-encompassing.

I’ve also seen martial arts instructors that lack self-defense skills-they are unfamiliar or have unrealistic expectations of what attacks really look like and how they occur, they may have technical proficiency in movement, but do not have a grasp on what skills to use in the street, and in some cases do not seek out new concepts specifically addressing self-defense because they think their training is all-encompassing.

BOTH OF THESE situations are problematic.

My recommendation for those who enjoy training is that you can do both.  For martial artists- I suggest immersing yourself in some type of broad, self-defense training that covers assaults (see the points above), then go back to your martial arts training and re-discover what skills will be useful to you in an attack.  For self-defense practitioners- I suggest immersing yourself in martial arts that will give you a foundation of skills in multiple disciplines: try out a school that has multiple offerings or that integrates stand-up, grappling, and fighting from the ground and take what is useful for you- find something that you enjoy that engages you. I was fortunate that Cuong Nhu, where I started training martial arts, was based on multiple different disciplines and integrated these skills, so I had early access to many aspects of training.

At this point in my training career, I’m not really seeing new movement, just new ways of presenting and practicing or training with movement.  I approach training with other professionals with the mindset of what are the best things I can take away from this training to better relate to my audience and make them safer.
When I do this I find great bits of information ALL of in the trainings I attend from other instructors, even if I don’t 100% agree with them.

A few correlations of useful bits of training from martial arts that I have experienced:

Wrestling/jiu-jitsu: I used to feel that training jiu-jitsu was giving me bad street-defense habits because 95% of the training I was doing started and stayed on the ground, but now the place I am training always starts their grappling standing up, so you have to either take the person down or get taken down to work your non-vertical ground game.  This is a great opportunity for me to work my takedown defense under pressure with my personal focus being working skills that would translate better to the street: working to get to the back, flanking, arm-drags, and no slamming my knees on the mat on a takedown because in the street that will be concrete.

Boxing: footwork, head movement, angling, combinations, defense, and generating striking power. What's not to like!

Point sparring in traditional martial arts- barely making contact, more of a game of timing and speed- seems really impractical at face value but change the scenario to there being two guys trying to close distance on you and you have a small knife in-hand. Your understanding of movement and timing could help keep them off you.

Aikido: seems really complex and for the most part; the joint-locks and finesse are not something I would advocate during an attack-but the concept of redirecting someone into a wall could be very handy.

In conclusion, there are useful things you can take away from almost every martial art.  Sometimes you have to be open-minded and re-discover them as an eager white belt.

Train smart & stay safe,

Evan Dzierzynski
Owner/Lead Coach
NOVA Self Defense

<![CDATA[Mismanaged Unknown Contact- cell phone ruse]]>Mon, 18 Apr 2016 19:29:03 GMThttp://novaselfdefense.com/blog/mismanaged-unknown-contact-cell-phone-rusePictureGianni uses the 3E's as Scott encroaches into his space.
Would you let someone you do not know use your phone to make a call if they had a compelling reason to do so?Read this story, then ask your significant other/friend what they would do if someone asked to borrow their phone. Then tell them what happened to this guy:

A recent report from Arlington County Police Department reads:

At approximately 2:45 p.m. as a male victim was walking down the street he was approached by a male suspect who requested to use his cellphone. The victim complied and the suspect began walking away from the victim with his cellphone. The victim followed the subject in an attempt to regain his cellphone at which point two additional male suspects approached the victim. Two of the suspects brandished handguns and robbed the victim of his personal belongings. 

How could this have potentially have been avoided? If you have trained with me you know that the first drill I teach is for dealing with encroachment from someone you don’t know:

The 3E’s of being Elusive: Empathy, Excuse, Exit. 

Hands up, -sorry man, I can't- and keep walking-keeping an eye on the person, making sure they are not following or closing distance on you.

This seems like an easy example to dismiss and say, of course I'd never do that, but under what circumstances would you be more likely to comply and help a stranger?  
  • What if the person asking was a woman?
  • What if the person had a compelling story about how they can't find their kid but their phone is dead?
  • What if they sold you on their story or emotionally drew you in?

My goal is for you to be well on your way before allowing the scenario to unfold- before getting to hear the story and feeling bad about the person's situation, if in fact it is a ruse.

You do not owe anyone your time, money, use of your phone, or any other favors-especially when you do not know them.

Another bit of food for thought- following the man who has your phone to another location- where his armed accomplices are located, is essentially allowing yourself to be abducted- never do this.

Make yourself a harder target-  It's OK to say no, address the person to disengage, and be in a hurry and on your way.  If the encroachment persists- you have other options.

Train smart & stay safe,

Evan D.
Owner/Lead Coach
NOVA Self Defense

<![CDATA[Edged Weapon Overview- training with Craig Douglas ]]>Sat, 16 Apr 2016 17:57:47 GMThttp://novaselfdefense.com/blog/edged-weapon-overview-training-with-craig-douglas
Training "Evolution"- both participants are attempting to land jabs with the training knife to each other's head/face.
A couple weeks ago I attended an Edged Weapon Overview with Craig Douglas, owner/creator of Shivworks.  This class is a broad overview of close-range knife skills.  The class was split about 50/50 with training for controlling the person and mitigating the knife attack in grappling range as well as accessing and utilizing your own knife if you carry one and using it in close range or at keep-him-off-me-range.

What I appreciated from this course was how much it implicitly stressed the need for broad fundamentals.  The base skill set in which the drills were introduced were movements derived from Greco-Roman wrestling.  What I found extremely helpful from this course is that you learn a lot from the variations in the training modalities and constantly changing of training partners.  With a group of 20+ people of varying sizes, athleticism, training backgrounds, and “go-speeds” you get a better feel for who you are with the drills and what you can make your own, even more so in the “competitive” iterations of the drills, where both participants are trying to competitively win the drill- the drills still had boundaries and particular focus points, rather than a free-for-all, but this is method of training, which I would prefer to differentiate from the word “sparring" was task specific, mostly with a particular skill-focus under the stress and pressure of somebody not letting you technically perform the task. 

This class also did an excellent job of pushing comfort zones during the "Evos," which are competitive training scenarios with high intensity that last for an unknown amount of time (maybe 30-60 seconds... felt like an eternity), with the participants wearing minimal gear- big padded helmets (which were thankfully pretty good at absorbing strikes) and either training knives or boxing gloves.  

All and all it was a very good experience and illuminated how crucial distance, time and movement when you are within arms-reach and someone is attempting to attack you with a knife.  If you are serious about carrying a gun or knife and need skills for accessing it under stress, I highly recommend checking into training with Shivworks.

Train smart & stay safe,

Evan D.
Owner/Lead Coach
NOVA Self Defense