Understanding and Applying Self-Defense Strategies
Dr. Tammy Yard-McCracken is the owner and chief instructor of Kore Self-Defense & Krav Maga, a training center in Northern Virginia. She is a certified expert Krav Maga instructor with Krav Maga Global (KMG), and she holds a Bachelor of Science in Education from Illinois State University, a Master of Science in Professional Counseling (LPC) from the University of Houston-Clear Lake, and a Doctorate in Psychology (PsyD) from the Eisner Institute for Professional Studies. Dr. Yard-McCracken has been established as an expert witness in Virginia and Texas civil and criminal proceedings and has served as a professional consultant to legal counsel on issues of human behavior and violence. She has also served as an adjunct faculty member for Argosy University and Houston Community College, and she has authored numerous articles on conflict management, instructor development, and gender issues in self-defense. In addition to having more than 25 years as a practicing psychotherapist, Dr. Yard-McCracken is a certified conflict communication instructor and is credentialed as a self-defense instructor with Chiron Training. She is a board member for Conflict Research Group International and a core instructor with Violence Dynamics, which teaches seminars on self-defense. She has also provided training and instruction for private companies, international safety and security organizations, and nonprofit groups serving populations at high risk for violence.
01: Waking Up Your Natural Human Animal
At its core, self-defense means learning to understand violence and carry out decisions necessary to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. The great news is that you already have the ability to do this. In this first lesson, tap into your own body’s resources and access your inner animal.
02: Other Bodies as “Meat Puzzles”
Self-defense requires an understanding of our physical selves. Our bodies are essentially “meat puzzles”—blood, flesh, and bone assembled for optimal living, but with a variety of weaknesses. Practice drills of timing, balance, and more to learn how your body works, and how to identify weaknesses in others.
03: Natural Targets on the Human Body
Continue your study of the meat puzzle by reflecting on targets. Consider how bones line up to create strength, how to spot weak structures in opponents, and ways to maintain balance in yourself. Develop “targeting” as a skill through shadow boxing, combinations, and blindfold drills.
04: Weaponizing Your Body
Lunges, strikes, punches, kicks: Your body has numerous weapons at its disposal. Here, you will practice a number of drills to build the movements and ingrain patterns—a.k.a., muscle memory. Put it all together with combination patterns and environmental scenarios. Then, find out the best things to do after you disable your opponent in an attack.
05: Generating Power by Playing Smart
One important aspect of self-defense is understanding how your body will behave in an attack. Your “survival stress response,” or SSR, is the body’s natural alarm system—a flood of hormones that will change the way you think and act. Get to know your SSR as you study ways to generate power, from kinetic chains to exploiting gravity.
06: Expanding What You Are Willing to See and Do
In a self-defense encounter, you enter a decision cycle called the “OODA loop”—observe, orient, decide, act. Because every second counts, the quicker you can move from observe and orient to decisions and action, the better off you will be. In this lesson, you will explore ways to expand what you see—because how you see controls what you can do.
07: Responding to the Ambush
Round out your study of the body’s survival stress response and the OODA decision cycle. The term “reactionary gap” refers to the distance between the awareness that something is happening and the moment we take action; training and repetition are ways to close this gap. Learn responses to bear hugs and other ambush techniques, and practice your reps to condition yourself.
08: How Violence Occurs
Here, shift your attention from your own body’s physical reaction and reflect on the nature of violence. Although the experience of violence can be chaotic, the process of violence is somewhat logical. Think about the motivations and goals of predators, and unpack the six primary elements common in the process of violent attacks.
09: Predator Behavior and Violence
Continue your examination of predator motivations. Some predators, like muggers or carjackers, want resources, whereas others may simply enjoy violence. Delving into the ways they see the world can help you better understand your surroundings and avoid dangerous situations. Consider habitual areas, natural lines of drift, and the role of chance.
10: Social Conflict and Violence
The “asocial violence” of the previous lesson occurred wherever the predator is hunting. In this lesson, Dr. Yard-McCracken explores violence in social settings, from the primal chest-thumping of drunks in a bar, to the thirst for vengeance after a betrayal, to violence as a means to achieve social status. Learn “tactical breathing” to de-escalate yourself.
11: Escape and Evasion
Because getting home safely is the primary goal of self-defense, escape and evasion are critical tools for personal safety. The four elements of a violent encounter are the target (i.e., you), the threat, the environment, and luck. See how escape and evasion tools apply to each of these elements.
12: How and Why Conflict Escalates to Violence
Why do conflicts escalate to violence? From a psychological standpoint, we all have a hierarchy of needs, with survival and security at the base of the pyramid, and belonging and esteem toward the top. Reflect on the nature of tribal behavior, how humans “other” people outside their group, and the connection between “othering” and violence.
13: De-escalating Your Monkey Brain
One way of thinking about humans is that we have a lizard brain (focused on survival), a monkey brain (focused on emotion and tribal behavior), and a rational brain. The “monkey brain” is an evolutionary survival mechanism that can get us into trouble by escalating conflicts. Learn to control this part of your brain to prevent violence.
14: When and How to De-escalate Threats
In the moments before an attack, you won’t have much time to reflect on the threat. In this lesson, examine ways to read nonverbal communication and practice what law enforcement professionals call “intelligence gathering.” Listen to what someone says, watch how they move, and recognize threats in the making.
15: Verbal Boundary Setting and Predator Test
Physical training is about winning in a conflict, but the real win is to avoid the conflict altogether. “Boundary setting” is a strategy for bridging the gap, helping you ward off threats before they turn into violence. Gain a few insights into how to set boundaries with potential threats—and how to recognize predators.
16: Physical Boundary Setting and Defenses
If verbal boundary setting doesn’t work, physical boundary setting may help you defend yourself without coming to blows. Find out how to get “tactical ready”—a guard-up fighting stance that shows you know what you’re doing, without escalating the conflict. Explore basic parries and positions that will help you play defense.
17: Ethical Articulation Skills in Self-Defense
What are the legal and ethical implications of self-defense? This course is not about the legal term “self-defense,” but rather is about understanding how to make decisions to keep yourself safe. Here, Dr. Yard-McCracken offers a few rules of thumb for understanding the ethical parameters of defending yourself.
18: Physical Cheats in Self-Defense
The rules of fair play are ingrained in all of us from an early age, but self-defense is about getting home safely by any means necessary. You don’t have to (and likely shouldn’t) fight fair to get away from a violent attack. Examine a variety of creative ways to attack the threat’s body, moving from pain to injury to damage.
19: Joint Locks in Self-Defense
Joint locks are an unconventional but potentially effective way to fight. Apply what you know about the body’s physical structure to practice locks on hinging joints (elbows and knees), ball and socket joints (shoulders and hips), and gliding joints (wrists and ankles). See full demonstrations of each lock as you learn them.
20: Preparing for Defense on the Ground
The game of defense is different if you are on the ground. You have less time, and will more quickly run out of energy, strength, and opportunity. As you’ll see in this lesson, ground work is something of a paradox: It’s seriously uncomfortable, but the more comfortable you get with it, you’ll find it’s also a seriously fun way to play with the meat puzzle.
21: The Ground Problem from Start to Finish
Continue your study of defense from the ground. Success on the ground means surviving to your feet, so follow the process of defense from start to finish. Unpack issues of mobility, flexibility, pass-throughs, controlled falls, and more, and look at techniques from wrestlers and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
22: Weapons in Self-Defense
Guns and knives are obvious weapons for defense, but they are bound by laws of Every Day Carry (EDC). When it comes to defense, improvised weapons such as pens, keychains, and coin purses can be just as helpful. Survey potential stabbing weapons, blunt-force objects, and other tools at your disposal.
23: Protecting Your Very Important People
Avoiding a conflict can be as simple as running away, but this becomes challenging if you have a partner or children with you. As someone who has studied self-defense, you become the person capable of taking and maintaining control of the situation. Enhance your skills of observation, prevention—and physical defense.
24: Adapt Your Self-Defense to the Environment
Now that you’ve reached the end of the course, you are your own bodyguard, armed with a toolkit of ways to de-escalate conflicts and defend yourself if a physical threat presents itself. Watch a few final demonstrations to help you put together everything you’ve learned in different environments, and then consider the arsenal you have developed and what you can continue to learn.
25: Bonus: Extended Warm-Up, with Adaptations
Full warm-up session with adaptations and modifications.