22 March 2017

Putting the edge on self defence in South Africa – Part 4 – Risk and Resource Assessment

By Mike Smith
22nd of March 2017

Part of the self defence mindset is to create habits that become second nature. One such technique, as we have seen is called “Situational Awareness”.

Another one that forms part of situational awareness is called “Risk and Resource Assessment”. It is a continuous never ending process of scanning your environment for possible dangers, escape routes, cover, protection and weapons.

Sounds simple and easy, however very few people do this habitually. Most people supplant or suppress the thought of combat and a possible survival situation. Combat is the last thing they WANT to think of.

Having the right state of mind

A martial arts instructor can teach you a lot of self defence techniques, but all of them are useless without the right state of mind.

This state of mind nobody can give you, teach you or help you with. It is a very personal thing and as we have seen so far, surviving a life threatening attack is mostly a mental state and attitude.

It is a state of mind where you have chosen a long time ago that you are not going to be a victim. You are not going to die. You are not going to allow others to walk over you or injure you. You are not going to let evil get away with it.

You are going to fight back with everything you’ve got to the bitter end and by all means and…no matter how bad it gets; you can always make a plan.

In survival look for weapons – Unarmed combat is an absolute last resort

There are many situations where you should NOT use a weapon, but rather an unarmed restraining technique such as when you are slapped by a drunk in a bar. You cannot now plant a bullet between his eyes or smash his face in with an ashtray. However, when your life is threatened it is a different story.

The ancient Samurai had about 52 weapons that they had to master and the Katana (long sword) was probably the main one. The Samurai also practiced an unarmed combat system called Ju Jitsu (literally “The gentle art”). In Brazil it is spelled “Jiu Jitsu”.

Ju Jitsu was always a last resort for when the Samurai has lost his sword and lost his other weapons in battle.

A lot of these weapons “arts” have remained and are practiced as sports and recreation today and have become “ways” (Japanese word is “do”)...For instance the art of bow shooting, Kyūjitsu became the way of the bow Kyūdō. The art of sword fighting, Kenjitsu, became the way of the sword, Kendo and Ju Jitsu, the gentle art, became Judo, the gentle way.

Nevertheless, when it comes to unarmed combat in a life threatening situation, then any form of unarmed combat is, was always and should always be a last resort.

However, most Martial Arts and self defence courses teach this concept in reverse. You start off with unarmed combat and only later when you are highly skilled do you practice weapons. Weapon arts should be studied FIRST or in parallel with unarmed combat so that you can see where the unarmed technique comes from.

Besides it is simple common sense. Why break your fist against someone’s head when you can use an ashtray? Why use a Nukite (spear hand strike) when you can jab his throat with your cell phone or a pen?

Resource Assessment

You do not have to carry a lot of weapons around with you. All you need to do is scout your area for weapons. When you go into a restaurant see the possibility of converting anything and everything into a weapon. A plate, a glass, a flower vase. In the street look for rocks, bricks, pipes, anything that can be used as a weapon.

Also look for defensive item, such as wrapping a jacket or table cloth around your arm to block knife or panga shots.

Also study your environment. Is it narrow or broad? Is it inside or outside? Is it raining or does the sun shine? How can I position myself so that the sun blinds him?

In a restaurant never sit with your back to the door and always make sure where the possible escape routes are and how you can get out in a hurry, for instance throwing a chair through the window to get out. Make sure where you or your wife can hide in case bullets start to fly.

Classification of weapons

Firearms and exploding weapons we know, but you don’t always have a firearm or a few hand grenades ready. Besides you have weapons everywhere and they are far more than just clubbing or stabbing weapons.

Stabbing/cutting weapons (scissors, screwdrivers, knives, bottles, spades, garden forks, pens, a saw, a glass, pool cue)

1. Clubbing weapons (broom, spade, umbrella, wheel spanner, rock, pipe, piece of wood, bottles, etc)

2. Ramming weapons (trolley, bicycle, pram, wheelbarrow, chair, etc)
3. Blinding weapons (flashlight, sand, fire extinguisher, bleach, acid, pepper spray, hot tea or coffee...)
4. Throwing weapons (just about any object can be thrown as a distraction or direct assault)
5. Electrocution (Tazer, bare wires plugged into a socket, etc.)
Anything is a weapon
6. Fire (flares, fuels like petrol, diesel or Zippo fluid, gasses, spray cans, etc)
7. Slipping/stepping weapons (oil on the floor, ball bearings, broken glass, caltrops, thorns, even blood is very slippery)
8. Choking/suffocation weapons (towel, rope, scarf, electro cord, belt, collar on shirt or jacket, plastic bag, smoke, chemical fumes, etc)
9. Animals ( Don’t forget that your dog is your best friend, but also a weapon. Other loose animals are also dangerous, such as snakes, scorpions, spiders, bees, ants, rats, even stampeding cattle, elephants or buffalo, etc. Throw a snake or a spider on your attacker and see what he does.)
10. Defensive weapons (jacket, towel or tablecloth wrapped around the arm, dustbin lid, briefcase, notepad, handbag...all can be used to block blows. Also a wet cloth can be used to escape from smoke, but water will aggravate the effects of teargas. It burns your skin and eyes more. )

Know the strengths and weaknesses of your terrain and weapons

Ever tried to wield a baseball bat in a shower or toilet cubicle? Ever tried to throw a rock inside there?

Some weapons require lots of space to be effective. If you are being attacked by someone wielding such a weapon, you don’t want to give him space. Box him in. Take him out of his comfort zone and neutralize his ability to attack. If you know he can kick well but cannot grapple and fight on the ground, take him there. If you know he cannot swim, go into the pool with him. If you know he cannot shoot well in the dark, switch the lights off. Break the lamp. If you know he is scared of heights, escape to a terrain where he will not be able to follow. If you know he is superstitious, use his fears against him. I already mentioned the sun. Position yourself so that the sun is towards your back. If it is raining don’t fight on a slippery surface.


Know the limitations and restrictions your clothing sets on you and dress accordingly. Tight jeans won’t allow you to run or move fast or kick high. Heavy boots will slow down your kicking. High heels will compromise balance. Tight skirt or dress will restrict movement. A big belt buckle can be used as a weapon. A loose jacket with pockets can be used to conceal weapons.


You should develop a habit of constantly scouting your environment for possible risks and resources. Think worst case scenario and ask yourself, “What if...?”

“Where will I go? What will I do? What can I use to defend myself? What can I use to attack?”

That means these four things...“Go, Do, Defend and Attack”, should always be going through your mind doesn’t matter if you are in the church, restaurant, in your car at the traffic light, shopping at Pick&Pay or at a kiddies party. Look around, always think: “What if...?” Where will I go? What will I do? What can I use to defend myself? What can I use to attack?

The resources (mental and physical) determine the tactics used and the outcome to be achieved.

In the beginning it is a bit difficult and your mind will try to block all these negative thoughts, but force your mind to think and eventually you will see it will become all automatic. Eventually you won’t even notice that you are subconsciously doing it all the time.


  1. By now in SA, you would think, that situational awareness is already built in and programmed in the mind, seeing that SA is such a dangerous country...alas.

    I saw a 9 min video doing the rounds on fb and whatsapp last week of a guy pleading and explaining the same as what you have been doing Mike. Now that it has been going around on social media, hopefully more people will be aware, think and remove the element of surprise from the criminals and increase the timespan before confrontation

    1. Please post the link to the video so we can see it too.

    2. Will do, have it on my phone. Will upload it somewhere and share the link :)


    3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3vU2Y96ef0

    4. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8G21GYrfmQwMU1QcEtULUZRaWM/view?usp=drivesdk

  2. Thanks Mike.

    Your motorcar is also a good weapon. If you're aware of your surroundings in a hijacking you can use your car in many ways to kill or injure an attacker and make space to escape..

    Not the best weapon but a bullwhip when you know how to use one, and obvioulsy with some space around you.. If you ever want to see a tough guy cry like a girl watch him try and crack a whip for the first 5 times..

    1. Anonymous12:05 pm

      Boere what about a 30 ton 360° catapillar excavator, a loading shovel or a (my favorite d8 dozer. Also good for pushing squater cammos flat, thereby making area safe.

    2. A D8 is good yes. Rather opt for a D11 Military.. Safety cabin with bulletproof glass. You can make a lot of kak that thing..

  3. Anonymous10:02 am

    Mike i can send to jp's wattsapp group. Will that help?

  4. Mike, this is an excellent article in a very worthwhile series on self defence. I might include insecticide (in aerosol spray cans) in the "blinding weapons" category. Wasp spray is particularly effective; it can shoot up to twenty feet, and it is much more accurate than pepper spray. It temporarily blinds an attacker.

  5. Anonymous4:01 pm

    Mike can you do a post on the most vulnerable or sensitive points and parts of the human body for unarmed and armed combat if possible, to take out an assailant asap, something like that please.