When defending yourself, you should also be on the offensive. To do this successfully, all you need are two-and-a-half shapes to counter any attack. You probably think I'm joking at this point, but bear with me. Remember, especially as a police officer, an attack could happen anywhere or at any time. You could be standing, sitting, on stairs, or in enclosed, tight surroundings. You could be in cold, hot, icy, rainy, or snowy weather. You might be totally caught by surprise or prepared. If you have the right technique, none of these things should matter.

The most important thing is your mindset: You're goal oriented, able to adapt under stress, and you're going to win. "Win first, fight later," as Yamamoto Tsunetomo wrote in "Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai." Second most important is that your techniques be minimal, that they use gross motor skills, and that they be easily called upon under stress. The third most important thing is that they can be done by anyone no matter what shape, size, or condition you're in. Most trainers and martial artists don't take this last requirement into consideration.

The Shapes

Here are the two-and-a-half shapes. The first is a position with both arms up, a defense against all high attacks (pic 1). The second position is one arm up, one down, a defense against all low attacks (pic 2). The third, or half, shape is one arm up, one down inside, a defense against a straight low attack (pic 3). This last shape is a variation used only for a specific type of attack, but it's an important one to know.

Using the backs of your arms in these techniques protects your arteries, veins, and tendons against any edged weapon. This doesn't just mean a knife. It could be spikes or razor blades sown into a jacket arm, which you can't anticipate. This position, both arms up, can also be used either high or low to defend yourself against a surprise attack. In addition, this shape allows you to deflect and strike with the double bones of your arms, which are strong. You can switch the striking arm to a palm strike, finger jab, elbow strike etc. But for the first action, the back of the arm is better because you don't know what kind of attack is coming.

Strike Quickly

The goal is to defend yourself while attacking immediately. Deflect and strike at the same time. Go straight for the attacker's face and center of his body with your body and the back of your arm. You're going to hit something.

By defending yourself like this, you ensure there will be no second strike from the assailant. This disrupts your assailant's game plan by turning the tables. Now he is on the defensive, his balance is disrupted, and he has been hit. Think of being the eye of the hurricane: calm on the inside but destructive on the outside. This is Bo Fung Do, "The Way of the Sudden Storm," founded by Phillip Messina. (Of course, always defend yourself within the parameters of the law).

Attacking immediately is the key. The shapes discussed above are vehicles for your follow-up techniques; i.e. arm bars, locks, throws, more strikes, etc. If you think about striking right away, your defense will be much better. It doesn't work the other way around.

Also by striking, you engage your hips, which makes your deflection (don't think of it as a block) more effective. Your hips move your arms, not your shoulders. Your arms should never go past your shoulders, and keep your wrists relatively even with your hips. This is a guide to perfect your body mechanics. Minimal movement, maximal results.


Here's a good training method to help you learn and employ this concept. Get a dodge ball and hold it high in front of your face with your elbows bent. Now have a partner throw a high punch (any type) while you turn 45 degrees, into the punch, and deflect it with one arm. Keep your eyes on your partner's shoulders. You should notice the other arm near your partner's face. Now, hold the ball low in front of your hips. Have your partner throw a low punch and do the same. Obviously, there will not be an arm to the face because you're holding the ball. That's OK. This drill is just to perfect your shapes.

The following are some offensively defensive counterattacks. For illustrative purposes, the pictures shown are one sided. It doesn't matter what foot you step in with and what direction you deflect/strike. Just don't step with your front leg!)

High attacks to counter include: straight strike, hook strike, overhead strike, uppercut (chin), attempted front choke, clothes grab followed by a strike, push, or grab.

Low attacks to counter include: straight strike, hook strike, uppercut (stomach), low tackle, and clothes grab and strike.

If someone attacks your legs with kicks, just lift your leg and counter. This is shape three, but because it's so specific and I don't have room to expound on it, we'll just call it a half.

All of these shapes have to work even when you have objects in your hands. As a police officer, you might be using defensive tactics while holding your gun. You could be defending against an edged-weapon or empty-hand attack when you feel you're not justified to shoot but the gun is in your hand. This is why I don't encourage fisted strikes and prefer open-handed, arm, or wrist strikes. If you always close your hand and make a fist under stress, using fist strikes increases the risk of an accidental firearm discharge.

A possible technique for this situation involves striking with your wrist while your gun is in your hand (pic 4). This replaces all palm and fisted strikes. It takes a little getting used to, but once you get it it's easy. Remember, when you have a gun in your hand striking with the back of your arm is easier.


In addition to arm and hand forms, don't forget to pay attention to your footwork. When training, step into your partner lightly with your rear leg, because your leg can attack by kicking, kneeing, or blocking against kicks. Bo Fung Do says, "Every step is a kick."

Use your leg to attack while at the same time using the two arm shapes discussed above. By stepping like this you will develop better balance and control. Try this on stairs, on uneven ground, uphill, downhill, on wet grass, and on icy pavement. Also, once you feel comfortable with your partner attacking from the front, have him or her attack you from the side, from behind, and with training weapons. Experiment and add your follow-up techniques afterwards.

You rarely get to pick and choose a fight, and it rarely occurs under ideal conditions. You need a simple concept and technique to bypass the startle/flinch response. Deflect, strike, and engage at the same time. You'll be amazed at what you achieve by being the Sudden Storm.

Alfred Giusto is president of Bo Fung Do Tactics, www.bfdtactics.com. He instructs officers and civilians in defensive tactics and has conducted classes at TREXPO.