Functional Techniques

Conditioned Response

The MMA Base

Physical training in FSD begins with the MMA Base. The first techniques every self defense practitioner should learn come from boxing, Thai boxing, stand up wrestling, and Brazilian jiu jitsu, and you can see the techniques we use in each of those styles by clicking on the corresponding pages. This MMA Base training will prepare students for the realities of unarmed fighting, and give them the best base from which to apply the techniques below. For more information on the purpose of the MMA Base see our training section.


Default Responses & The Fundamental Five

After or along with the MMA Base I introduce practitioners to fundamental default responses. A default response is a response or technique you drill over and over again, such that when provoked, you do it without thought. Most attackers will attempt to take you by surprise. Therefore it's important to have quick, effective, conditioned default responses to different types of unexpected attacks. Our Fundamental Five is a group of five default responses against threats, striking attacks, and grappling/tackle/take-down attempts that follow the theory of the Covered Blast.

Fundamental Five


What Makes an Effective Technique

All techniques are not created equal. Many, if not most of those you'll find in martial art schools and movies are entirely ineffective, unrealistic, or downright dangerous. Take a simple punch to the face for example. It's more likely the person doing the punch will break their hand than it is that the person getting punched will be knocked unconscious. The way strikes are thrown is also extremely important, and all strikes are not created equal.

Effective self defense techniques and combinations need to work in reality, be safe for you to apply, have applications in a wide range of situations, limit the opponent's ability to counter, and do maximum physical damage.

1. It Works In the Real World

This should be unnecessary to mention, but unfortunately it's not. Many, many techniques taught in martial arts schools around the world will not work against a real human being attacking or threatening in a realistic manner. Because training partners are often taught to cooperate and respond in certain ways, techniques that are utterly useless seem to work, but only in training. Make sure you've tested your techniques against a fully resisting, completely uncooperative opponent.

2. It's Safe For You To Apply

Many techniques trained in martial arts schools either with low intensity or protective gear would injure you if you attempted to apply them with full power in a real environment. Punches to the head will likely leave you with a broken hand. High kicks may cause you to slip and fall when done on uneven/slippery surfaces. And many techniques expose you to serious damage. Consider how your techniques will work when done with full power, no protective gear, and in the real world.

3. It Can Be Applied In a Range of Situations

Techniques (particularly defenses against striking attacks) that must be matched to a specific attack are highly likely to fail. Real attacks are fast, chaotic, and generally unexpected. You won't know if your opponent is throwing a straight right or a left hook. If your defense requires you to guess right, good luck. Effective counters are such that they work regardless of the particular attack being used. You'll see this principle applied in our conditioned responses above, for example.

4. It Limits Your Opponent's Options

Your techniques need to limit your opponent's ability to simultaneously hit or counter attack. Attacking with a karate style punch with one hand on your hip and your face wide open is a recipe for disaster, as your opponent can punch you as you're punching him. Effective self defense techniques should combine footwork, blocking/parrying/controling, and covering to limit your opponents options via distance and position, while maximizing yours.

5. It Does Maximum Physical Damage

There's no point in making a perfectly timed and covered counter or attack but using a technique that does nothing to stop your opponent, yet many techniques people teach and train do just that. A good self defense technique should cause maximum damage to targets that are effective on both big and small opponents. Pain isn't likely to be felt in the chaos of an attack. You need to do something that makes your opponent unable to continue. While punches (and palm strikes to hard targets) do have their place, they're probably the least effective technique you can use. Elbows, knees, hacks, breaks, and chokes, not to mention the use of weapons, are far, far more effective.


Other Techniques

Here are a few additional examples of techniques and combinations that follow the above principles:


Techniques for Multiple Opponents

Generally, strategy should be the differentiating factor in self defense against one vs. multiple opponents. But some techniques are better than others when you're facing more than one attacker. Techniques that allow you to get and briefly maintain an outside position so you can't be nailed by multiple opponents at once are better than those that require you to attack straight from the front. Specific techniques designed to take out and get past an opponent, pivoting to face the rest, are also more valuable against two or more, as are techniques that allow you to hit and run. And of course, using weapons can make a tremendous difference.


Unarmed vs. Weapons

Attempting to fight an armed attacker without a weapon is a very bad idea. Prevention should always be your first choice, escape second, and using a weapon of your own third. However, it is a good idea to train unarmed vs. armed self defense techniques in case you ever find yourself facing an attacker with a weapon when you have none. Even if you do carry a weapon, unarmed self defense is often necessary in a surprise attack, serving to allow you to access your weapon if nothing else. Below are unarmed vs. armed techniques and training methods we've found to be effective:

Against Knife Attacks:

Against Gun Threats:


Using Weapons for Self Defense

Learning to use weapons in self defense is something every serious practitioner should do. They dramatically increase your chance of survival, teach you to better defend against them if they're used against you, and may be your only chance against armed, multiple, or bigger and stronger opponents. You'll learn much more about weapons on our weapons page, but here are a few examples of techniques and combinations using weapons for self defense.


Training Methods and Strategies

Techniques are only one part of complete, functional self defense. Be sure to see our sections on awareness and prevention, training methods, strategies, and weapons.


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