How Self Defense Improves Awareness

I’ve been practicing Kenpo Karate for many years now. One of the principles taught in the system, originally professed by Grandmaster Ed Parker, is that of the three viewpoints of a fight.

To understand self-defense and fighting, you must be conscious of three things: Your perspective, your opponent’s perspective and the by-stander’s perspective.

It can’t just be all about you. It can’t just be “I’m going to do this technique no matter what else is happening around me or with the opponent.”

You must be aware of the attacker’s responses to your counters and follow-ups. You must understand how he reacts and what to do about it and how to set up your next move. You must be aware of yourself, too, of course. What on you is open, what you can do from your position.

But you have to see beyond you and your opponent’s perspectives too. The by-stander can see even more. He sees the cliff you might fall off of. He sees that obscure angle you came from with that strike, though your opponent didn’t see it coming. The by-stander sees both of you at once, and can see the whole environment. It certainly can be cause for gasps and surprise.

This lends you a whole awareness of the situation. Like with all things we must take in a lot all at once, to be fully aware. We can’t just narrow down and limit our focus.

Working self-defense techniques helps us to train our brain and body to be aware in this manner; to consider many possibilities and scenarios, to be conscious of the three view-points.

Let us use a technique as illustration. This technique is a Kenpo technique known as Grasping Eagle. Behind you and off-set toward your right, an attacker has grabbed your shoulder as his friend in front tries to punch you. You must be aware of two people at once, their reactions, but continuously conscious of both of them.

Let’s examine.

You can feel the guy behind you and you might see some of him in your periphery vision.

Dan punches, Joe blocks and kicks Dan at the same time while hammer-fisting James in the groin.

As you respond to the punch from the front by blocking it and kicking the attacker in the groin, you simultaneously strike the guy to the rear in the groin; a shot he is unlikely to see, though you know you threw it and a by-stander can see it. You know too, that this strike to the groin will phase the attacker at least for a split second, buying you some time.

So, meantime, you strike the guy in front, which knocks him back a tad, but you know that guy in the rear is still there. You’ve hurt the guy in front and created some space between you and him.

But for good measure, and now you have more space for it, you give him another kick. You still know that guy is in back of you.

The guy in the rear receives a back kick.

So, it is important to note that while striking the guy in front, you could be using your other hand to feel the position and movement of the guy behind you. In addition, you could have your head turned so that you can see both attackers in your periphery vision. Sight and touch are good senses and allies to use in a fight. They become necessary, and they are heightened during a real confrontation, part of our flight or fight response we’ve inherited from our more animal days of evolutionary history.

Also, be aware of the reaction your opponent has to your attacks. In this technique there is a diversification of targets, another principle important in Kenpo. The rule is, Never hit the same zone twice. The opponent may cover. He may move. It is best to change targets with successive strikes. Also the opponent will involuntarily react. For instance, a kick to the groin will usually bend him over, leaving his face open for you to then strike high. This is done, in fact, in this technique to the attacker in the front.


So, it is important to be fully conscious of the whole situation: What you are doing, what your opponent is doing and what is happening around you. It is equally important to make use of your senses, which are heightened during a fight, to use vision and touch, to be sensitive to movement of the opponent and to know their position.

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