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There is a simple, straight forward method of dealing with self-defense strategies; they are directly and relevantly transferable to life-defense instances.

In the martial arts, we have six steps or phases that we pass through in any situation requiring one to defend oneself. They are:

  1. Observation (awareness)
  2. Balance (preparation)
  3. Break up (pattern interrupt)
  4. Technique (application)
  5. Finish (completion)
  6. Observation (review)

Notice that the entire process begins and ends with observation; first by becoming aware, last by reviewing what happened.

These six phases are done before, during, and after a close quarter combative or potentially dangerous situation. Much of Winjitsu is about comparing the physical training aspects of martial arts to the mental training that is similar. Just as you would defeat a real opponent using these steps, they can also be applied with other types of challenges in the real world.

First, let me explain to you how they might work in the martial arts.

#1 Observation phase

This is the first step of self-defense; before we can take action we must look around and take a quick note of the threat, our options, possibilities, and environment. Examples of what we might notice in an environmental situation are:

  • The room
  • Location of doors or exits
  • Possible weapons
  • Ground or terrain
  • Light
  • Obstacles
  • Number of bystanders

Examples of what we might take note of in a close quarter situation in view of an opponent or opponents are:

  • Eyes
  • Hair
  • Clothes
  • Weapons
  • Boots
  • Size
  • Abilities
  • Condition
  • Demeanor

#2 Balance phase

This next phase is used to give you balance or preparation for the defense. In close quarters where an attack is immediate, you gain balance by lowering your center of gravity. This can be done by widening your stance, giving you more control and balance over your opponent. In a non-combative situation, let’s say you are in a restaurant eating lunch and a violent person enters the facility. You can gain balance by observing escape routes or by placing yourself in a logical position and maybe prepare some table items to use as weapons, such as a fork, knife, salt, drink, etc. Balance is gained by preparing and securing our position and possibilities.

#3 Break up phase

This phase is designed to control and thus alter the focus of our enemy. By distracting or changing their current focus, we can better handle the situation and set up for a technique (self-defense). There are four specific areas that we will cover in controlling another’s focus.

A. Indirect control: verbal use in combat

“Look, the police!”

“Do not think of your untied shoe!”

B. Direct control: use of pain or physical force

Punch assailant in the biceps

Strike opponent in the eyes

C. Visual control: use of changing visual focus

Throw an object

Fake a punch

D. Emotional control: use of a specific desire

Take advantage of the five desires

“Okay, I’ll tell you where the money is.”

By applying a break up technique, you create a diversion causing a loss of concentration in your opponent and giving you the chance to respond.

#4 Technique phase

This phase is where you take action toward your objective. Let’s take the following as an example:

You were punched, but you first observed that your attacker was drunk. You then gained balance by dropping your weight and lowering your center of gravity. You changed your opponent’s focus by slapping him in the eyes. Now your technique (response) is a duck and a side step to avoid the punch. What your goal or outcome in a situation is, will determine the type of technique you will need to employ to achieve that result. The technique is the main application and/or action that is applied for the purpose of defending yourself. You perform a rear leg sweep bringing your opponent to the ground.

#5 Finish phase

After applying the self-defense techniques, we need to choose from one of three options for a finish:

  • Exterminate the attack or attacker and fully remove the threat.
  • Control the attack or attacker until further help has arrived or the situation has ceased to be a threat.
  • Escape the situation altogether, usually by running away or broadening the distance between oneself and an attacker.

Using the example from phase four (technique phase), after you have avoided the punch, your finish might have been to attack from behind and apply a rear choke or sleeper hold (cutting off blood flow to the brain by applying pressure to the carotid arteries) to control your opponent and wait for your drunken assailant to pass out, ending the threat.

#6 Observation phase

Return to phase one and review your surroundings. Make sure that the situation is under control and be prepared for another attack.

One of the biggest mistakes I see practitioners of self-defense make is failing to maintain observation and/or continued heightened awareness after finishing a technique. After any challenge, it is important to review the situation and be prepared for another attack.

Okay, now let’s see how we might apply the same strategy for dealing with a mental or emotional enemy or situation. We can take almost any challenge life may throw at us and apply the same strategies or phases. Here are a few examples:

Dealing with an upcoming exam


First, we have to know what it is that we have to learn. We then review (observe) the strengths and weaknesses of the situation. What lessons, for example, did we miss?


We decide what tool or tools we need and where to study. In this case, we get an appropriate text book (tool) and make use of a library (context).

Break up

Most people fail to study properly because they are too occupied or distracted with other things in their life. So, in order to properly focus on the material at hand, we want to interrupt any patterns of behavior that limit our ability to learn.

Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, advocates selective ignorance (tuning out pointless communication and random interruptions) and suggests you “eliminate instead of just organize,” “create not-to-do lists,” and “eliminate distraction.” He also claims that “optimize” should mean removing the minimally important until you’re left with the bare essentials.


Since our goal is to prepare for an exam or test, we want to take this phase to apply all of our best strategies for getting information from the short term memory bank and into the long term memory bank. In this example we could research and apply Mnemonics. A mnemonic (pronounced /nəˈmɒnɪk/ nĭ-mŏn’ĭk) is a memory aid.


In combat, a finish is based on what we want our outcome to be. That is generally to control, extinguish, or escape the threat. In studying for a test you simply need to know what you must accomplish to consider your task complete. In this case, it could be the memorization of a specific amount of information. The idea of control would be to have a comfortable amount of the information memorized. To annihilate, you would have more than 90% of the study material in your long term memory (challenge no longer exists) and to escape, would be the process of deleting information that is not required in order to shorten the learning curve or help you to focus on the most important information. Consider applying the Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule which states that only about 20 percent of anything is vital and the other 80 percent is trivial.


And finally upon completion of the study period, we have to review and determine where we stand and whether or not we need to continue with another session, prepare for another exam, or speak with our teacher.

Dealing with a divorce


We need to take a look at our situation and try to determine what our challenge really is. Is it dealing with depression or moving on alone? Maybe both, but we want to tackle one mental opponent at a time. So the observational step is finding the real and/or key issue to deal with, and if there are more, then dealing with them one at a time.


Before diving into any emotional re-programming we want to consider securing ourselves with an environment that supports us. Perhaps doing so with the collaboration of family, friends, or people dealing with the same issues and challenges (support groups, e.g.). We want to prepare for the challenge by determining what process we are planning to take. Perhaps this will be something as simple as picking up a few books related to your issue or a more complicated situation that requires us to visit a facility specializing in supporting and preparing one for these specific challenges (counseling).

Break up

When dealing with emotions, we have to learn to control them. Since we are discussing a serious break up as the problem, we can use a serious break up as part of the cure. This is best done by INTERRUPTING negative emotions whenever they begin to play out. If, for example, you are beginning to feel bad and replaying past experiences in your head, you can interrupt this event by doing something that would force you to change your thought process. This might range from going for a run to attending an inspirational seminar. I explain this in more detail in NRG – Book 4 of Winjitsu.


When we are ready to take action and not in a current state of depression or negativity, we can apply the strategies learned from the books, counseling, or classes dealing with our particular situation. We want to pay particular attention to finding key strategies, one of which would be the concept of matching your solution to your problem. If you have a simple problem, it might require a simple solution and maybe a simple change. But if you have a drastic change that in turn creates a drastic problem, you may need to consider applying an equal level of change.

Perhaps in the past you were able to deal with emotional issues of the day with a few books, some meditation, and a couple of distractions. Small problems require relatively small solutions. But when you have a much larger event that dramatically changes the way you perceive life, you very well may have to consider doing something that is going to take more than a few books and/or meditations to change your perspective. When a negative situation reveals itself, you will need to respond with (at the very least), an equal level of positive change.

For example, if your significant other of 15 years leaves you, heading to your home and locking the door isn’t going to work, even if you have training in emotional and/or mental control. The event is too big and trying to deal with it the same way you have dealt with smaller problems isn’t going to work unless you drastically increase the size of these solutions. If you used to take a small hike to deal with a day of stress, you may want to consider taking a trip to a foreign country and join in an activity that keeps you constantly focused on a new thought, skill, challenge, or task.

The technique used to deal with the “threat” must be proportional to the level of the “threat.”


Again, we want to determine if we want to completely annihilate this feeling (remove it completely), simply gain control, or find a way to escape. It might seem odd to want to just control or escape a problem as it is likely to return in the future. However, many of us might not be in the position to deal with the issue completely at this point in time – whether this is an external issue (work for example) or a personal one (not being ready). In any case, knowing our desired outcome and/or what it will look like when it is complete, is key.


And finally we review what we have done and what we have accomplished in order to determine the next steps we need to take.

Setting a New Goal


A person decides s/he would like to learn self-defense. First, s/he must take note of his/her own personal strengths and weaknesses in order to determine what exactly must be done to plan out the achievement of his goal. Ask yourself, “What’s the challenge?”


After learning that size, strength, and speed are determining factors for self-defense, they decide to prepare by signing up at the gym to help assist them with the physical requirements. They also sign up with a local realistic martial arts program that will help them to prepare for a situation that requires self-defense.

Break up

Although it can seem rather drastic, s/he will have to review his/her current lifestyle and cut out some things in the current schedule to free up time to train at the gym and attend regular classes in the martial arts. The idea is to develop a “prepare for it” mentality. The status quo must be “broken up.”


In determining when this goal has been reached the student will ask if s/he wants to reach a level of beginner (escape), intermediate (control) or advanced (annihilate) in the martial arts or self-defense. This can be gauged by time and training.


Once a certain amount of time has been spent on this task, it is time to review the progress, decide if objectives are met, and determine if the process must continue with yet another review and application of the steps.

The above examples are just some simple ways to apply a basic strategy for self-defense as a basic strategy for life-defense. For the most part, it is a question and answer period, and when you have trained in the concepts of the Mental Martial Arts (Winjitsu) completely, you will see how these steps can be applied.

Winjitsu Work Out

Try this example now, by filling out the following form to get started. As you read further you will better understand the process.

Take a look at where you are now; look around and observe your environment and imagine what you could do or use if a threat were to enter the environment.



What is the challenge?


What are my strengths?


What are my weaknesses?



What tools do I have or need to get?


What can I do to prepare for this challenge?


What problems do I foresee in the future?



How can I interrupt the challenge when it arrives?


What can I do to free up time to deal with this challenge?


What are the most important areas I should focus on first?



What can I do mentally to defeat this challenge?


What can I do physically to defeat this challenge?


What can I do spiritually to defeat this challenge?



What is my desired outcome?


Is this step one of many steps?


What will it look like when I have accomplished my goal?



What is the next challenge?


What are my strengths and how did they improve?


What are my weaknesses and how did they improve?

These questions can and will change depending upon the challenge at hand, and you will understand more about the process when you have finished reading the concepts of the Mental Martial Arts. However, as an introduction and warm up, it will serve you in laying a very basic foundation for dealing with your mental foes.

About the Author RICK TEW

I will do the splits for you too. I provide edutainment events that help you to be a Ninja in what you do. I offer Martial Arts Therapy Retreats on Samui Island in Thailand. My unique Winjitsu Mind-Body system of coaching inspires you to BE more fulfilled and to DO more to KickStart your ideas.

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