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Our feature ASK THE EXPERT covers a key self defence topic you’ve asked us about.

QUESTION: ‘If someone is already intent on harming me, and I can’t avoid the conflict, how can I fight back with an element of surprise?’

The legendary ancient warrior Sun Tzu once wrote these famous words: ‘Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak’.

If you want to fight from the former part of this adage, what we call Krav Maga ‘camouflage stance and movement’ has a triple goal.

Firstly, it is aimed at not revealing your intent to fight (for example, when facing a monkey-dancing opponent) and to disguise your skills in doing so (so if you need to fight, you can start from a position of surprise).

Secondly, it is aimed at optimising your protection against your opponent striking you first but setting yourself up to preemptively strike if needed, whilst trying to keep you safe through distance and scanning the area around you.

Thirdly, it is part of your legal protection post-fight to help you claim self defence through how you appeared to be non-aggressive, how you moved away and the way you spoke, before actually striking preemptively.

The body posture looks like this: Drop chin slightly down with shoulders slightly raised to help protect your face. Arms are put up and far away from your face in a line with the opponent’s face with bent elbows (around 90°-120° or so) closer together with palms open and fingers spread. This will help prevent a direct hand strike towards your face or an edged weapon attack towards your heart and lungs. See through and over your spread fingers. Keep abdominals tight as you slightly bend forward from the solar plexus and up. Knees are just slightly bent with legs ready to move as feet are shoulder width apart and toes pointed forward. Feet are flat on the floor. This position should make you look non-aggressive and intent to avoid a confrontation, but ready to strike at any point.

The movement should be with small steps sideways (not backwards as you can’t see) as you move further away in a spiral fashion getting a wider peripheral view of your blind spots. The small steps enable quicker change in direction or explosive kicking or movement action to any offensive or defensive needs. Never cross your legs when you move as this will put you in an unbalanced stance.

You should look theatrically compliant and seeking to avoid any aggression during this movement. Simple verbal commands such as ‘Go back, don’t hurt me’, repeated loudly (to the attention of witnesses, even if not necessarily immediately in view) combined with the sideways movement forcing the aggressor to change direction to pursue you to get close will be your basis for a legal defence when you strike preemptively from the camouflage position.

The camouflage stance and movement is aimed at protecting you. Not just physically through setting up barriers between you and the attacker, but also psychologically by lowering their expectation of your ability and intent to fight. Finally, it protects you legally by appearing to be seeking through body language, movement and verbalisation to do everything to avoid violence, but setting yourself up to strike hard, fast and non-stop if you have to.

Camouflage stance and movement is applicable where you consider avoidance of conflict to be your primary goal and where there are witnesses present, such as in social violence or monkey-dances. It may be less applicable as a strategy in predatory attacks done in an isolated social setting, although it may be useful in psychological deception in such scenarios.

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