At some point in a hostile encounter, the altercation could turn into one requiring fighting. For physical force, the methods used for protection are any human-powered engagements. This basically means striking, percussion, and some limited weaponry. Technically, all melee weapons fall into this category, but a distinction is made because of the legal ramifications of using some force. For instance, a punch and a baseball bat swing are both physical force, but the baseball bat represents a level of force which could prove lethal. For the ‘physical force’ portion of the spectrum, only force that does not carry a reasonable degree of lethality is included. There are several qualities that affect the effectiveness of physical force.
Dexterity is the ability to move precisely, or exactly as intended. There have been many fighters who are light on their feet, ducking and dodging attack. These are excellent displays of dexterity. However, dexterity is also very important in attack. The ability to move precisely into position to get the best angle for a strike, or to move into position to grab an aggressor to effect a grapple are both based on dexterity. Targeting is accomplished via dexterity. Martial practitioners train to target pressure points and weaknesses in the human anatomy to neutralize threat. This requires reasonably precise targeting.
Strength is the raw force with which a technique can be delivered. The ability to push or impart large amounts of force into a target is obviously beneficial because it will more likely incapacitate an aggressor. Training should include strength building so that martial technique is more optimized. The ability to deliver this force relies on dexterity for placement, and an optimized fighter will find a balance between litheness (the ability to move precisely), and pure strength (which adds bulk to the body).
Resilience is the body and mind’s ability to absorb physical damage. In most physical encounters, damage is dealt quickly. The 20-minute fights seen on Kung Fu Theatre are not realistic, where two opponents fight incessantly trying to land a single blow. In reality, strikes land with startling frequency, and resiliency is often the factor that determines the victor. The adage “It’s not about who’s right, it’s about who’s left” is an example promoting the importance of resiliency. Muscle adds to resiliency because the muscle tissue is dense and protects the weaker organs underneath. Dexterity can help mitigate some damage by deflecting and dodging. The mind is important because people have a different threshold for mentally dealing with physical damage. Experience in receiving pain (and controlled amounts of damage) is important to familiarize the mind with these sensations so the protector is not coping with new sensations at a critical time.
Stamina is important to be able to continue fighting. It is a measure of the body’s capability to continue before becoming fatigued. While real fights do not typically last more than about 30 seconds (or about two minutes if there is pre-fighting confrontation), stress and anxiety will affect stamina by altering breathing patterns. A high stamina will allow a person to retain fighting capability for longer periods of time.
Resiliency is staying power versus external factors. Stamina is staying power versus internal factors.
Weapons are multipliers of force. For the physical force portion of the Use of Force Spectrum, these are small weapons such as the tactical pen, flashlight, kubotan, tanbo, or other small form-factor that would not provide a reasonable likelihood of lethal force. These add to the damage capability of physical technique simply by imparting more damage than typical human structure would. As an example, a closed fist punch delivers some force into a target. Adding the artificial structure of a roll of nickles into the fist adds extra structure, creating extra damage. Using brass knuckles, for example, adds more damage because the characteristics of the striking surface have become more capable of transferring force to the target.
Proficiency is the skill-set of fighting. This could be through martial training, brawling experience, or other factors that have provided familiarization with being in a fight. All the above factors are augments for proficiency. Repeating that: All the above factors are augments for proficiency. Strength and dexterity are ineffective if a protector simply does not know what to do. Resiliency means it just takes longer for an untrained protector to get ‘beaten up’. The above traits can make up for some lack in proficiency, but training in the martial sciences helps ensure the protector can bring all the above traits to bear and maximize his chance to prevail. Of all these categories, proficiency is the one most lacking in the typical person, and raising to reasonable proficiency is relatively easy.
There are a number of training options available to the individual. Look beyond sport martial ‘arts’ and into training facilities that are protection intent. Training organizations such as the United States Martial Tactical Association and Martial Tactical Training of Michigan are two groups dedicated to this purposeful training. There are many others throughout the country.