I get asked regularly, what is the first thing I teach brand new people who come into my self-defense school, and want to learn how to defend themselves. I used to bore them with a long sermon on the “Five Areas of Combat”, some of Bruce Lee’s secrets or the history of Krav Maga. What I found out over the last 26 years of teaching people of all different ages, backgrounds, experience and athletic levels is that it is important for them to first have some references points when starting to learn these different fighting strategies.
That is where I came up with the “Essential Cycle”, where I simply teach a number of self-defense moves in a particular sequence. I do this for a number of reasons. I’ll go over the moves at the end, because I want you to focus on “why” we teach them this way, and not get stuck on the techniques themselves.
First, the moves are extremely easy, and have I found that pretty much anyone can do them. If you make them too difficult, or even teach moves at an intermediate level, it is easy for people to shut down, and not even try, as they mumble “this is too hard…”.
Secondly, these moves in the “Essential Cycle” work. They are gross motor skill based, which work under stress, and are effective against bigger and stronger opponents, and that makes people feel powerful. People can use their common sense, and can tell if a move just isn’t going to work in real life most of the time.
Thirdly, these moves flow together and are interchangeable. This reason gets a little bit more into strategy, but the moves start in a longer range (kicking range), because that is where most altercations start. From there, it works into a mid and then close quarter range, to really use ballistic tools.
As a side note, if attacked in a cramped space or in close proximity to another, could you skip right to the last stage and use close range moves? Of course. Use all of the stages, or just one or two. That kind of flexibility is important, so our tactics can adapt to our scenario.
Where I see a light bulb go off in people is where I show that they are also interchangeable. Do you have to use the exact same moves? No, you can change them out given your training or situation. Is the opponent taller? Ok, use this move. Are they turned at an awkward angle? Good, you can use that move. What is important is that we have a game plan of three things: Inflicting pain, entering with pressure and then terminating the fight. Which tools you use, are completely up to you as long as they are efficient and effective.
The three moves I start everyone off with is a front kick to the groin, two punches to the high line (face), two to the low line (abdomen or groin) and then after clinching with them (locking our arms around their neck), we conclude with two knee strikes to their lower torso. Once again, these moves can change if need be, but they are a great simple starting point you can use, or even teach someone else.
Are there self-defense moves which you have seen or learned which can be burnt into your memory, where it is second nature to do them in a stressful and dangerous situation? Good! Then use those! Follow the points I made earlier in this article to make sure they are simple, effective and efficient. I have also included a video where I dive deeper into this topic. Remember, the focus here is the strategy, not as much as the techniques themselves. You can see a classroom clip of me teaching on this topic here: https://rapidfighting.com/ecycle/