The human brain is like a slightly slow computer. When something unexpected happens it takes a little time for the brain to compute, assess and then act on the data. In a normal day to day situation, say you spill your coffee for example the delay effect results in you cursing your clumsiness as you set about clearing up. In a combat situation there’s no time to clear up, you have to catch every single droplet of that coffee before it hits the desk or every droplet will cause you some degree of pain.
Imagine you’re following your sat nav and you miss your turn, your brain is always ‘calculating new route’. But in a real life combat situation why wait to spill your hot brew or miss your junction. With Glíma we give our attacker something to compute to give us an edge, an opportunity, and in that opportunity comes another something; an attack or our escape.
Watch this video, preferably with the sound up, and listen for the slap. This technique is used in Sport Glima to distract and disorent your oponent.
In rules based, friendly Sport Glíma a simple feint or friendly but stinging slap to the cheek gets the job done, it causes a distraction and creates an opening. In Combat Glíma however there are no rules.
“If it has rules it is a sport, if there are no rules it is combat.”
Let’s take a look at some of the techniques which are banned in MMA:
❌ Eye poking and gouging
❌ Fish hooking
❌ Throat strikes
❌ Small joint manipulation (breaking fingers)
❌ Blows below the belt
All of this and more is not only acceptable but actively encouraged in a combat situation. Why? Because there are no rules. Combat Glíma is a self defence system and in a self defence situation you can be assured your attacker, or attackers will not be limited by rules or laws, there’s no referee, no bell, no safe corner to go to, you are the only one responsible for your safety. If you are attacked you must run or fight, this response is built in, it’s instinctive, it is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. If you run, run fast and run far. There is no shame in running, that’s the smart move particularly if your attacker is armed. But if you are forced to fight be first, be fast but never ever be fair.
200 millionths of a second
It takes the average human 0.2 seconds for a reaction without thinking. If you have to think first and then react that time doubles to 0.4, almost half a second. This means your odds of seeing, thinking about and then successfully moving a part of your body to dodge or block an attack are never as high as you may think they are. Everything you’ve ever seen in a Hollywood movie, lies. Even the fastest martial artists will still have a reduced chance of blocking an unexpected attack.
So if our reaction to an attack is slower than the attack how are we supposed to defend ourselves?
Well the first and most obvious way is to practice the ancient and often underestimated art of ‘Gone-Fu’. Just get gone, run away or simply don’t be there, don’t be close enough for a strike to make contact. Keeping your distance with linear or circular movement to make sure your attacker is never close enough to strike is one very good option. However if there’s more than one attacker or you are in a small space like in an alleyway or backed against a wall this option may not be available to you and in this caseyou must become the aggressor.
Safety, not Sympathy
Pre-emptive striking is your next option. Now, I have to be careful here because although we aren’t playing by any rules, ultimately there are still a bunch of laws in the UK and we’ve all read or heard news stories of folks being attacked, causing injury to their attacker and then ending up being the ones charged with assault. Even if that attack happens in the sanctity of your own home, attacking an attacker can have potential legal consequences so I will say above all else, do only what is absolutely necessary in the situation to ensure your safety, in legal terms use only ‘Reasonable Force’.
According to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) a person has no duty to retreat and may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances for the purposes of:
Defence of another; or
Defence of property; or
Prevention of crime; or
But the situation and circumstances will always be different and so the debate as to whether you were at fault or used excessive force will usually only be a subjective one with little to no actual evidence.
This is ‘Self Defence’, defending yourself, another person or your property is the only ‘right’ thing to do here.
A pre-emptive strike means you strike first as soon as a threat becomes apparent. This doesn’t have to be a big finishing knockout blow, those banned MMA moves; a thumb to the eye, a strike to the throat a kick in the nuts, use them, none will cause a permanent injury, they are in this instance entirely ‘reasonable’. Move your normal day-to-day ethics, kindness, empathy and sympathy safely to one side. This is ‘Self defence’, defending yourself, another person or your property is the only ‘right’ thing to do here. Use any tactic no matter how unethical to give your attacker something to think about, something for their brain to calculate giving you an opening and in that opening you choose; fight or flight. Strike again to increase your opening or run. And that is how you get and keep the upper hand. Strike and assess, escape at the first opportunity.
Hit and Move
This technique of course is not new and not solely a practice of Glíma. It is effective in the first instance but can also come in handy during an attack. Let’s say you are overpowered, you’ve been grabbed or you find yourself grappling. Bites, eye gouges, attacks on soft tissue areas with fingers (pinches), knees, elbows anything at all which gives you added split seconds to escape can and should be utilised at any and all times to improve your chances. We aren’t looking to continue a fight with our attacker, we’re not taking them to the ground and aiming for a tap out, a submission, we are creating an opening for our safe escape. In fact the ground is the last place you want to be.
Floor is Lava!
Remember that game we played as kids where we pretend the floor is lava and you have to hop about on anything and everything to avoid it. Similar rules, floor is lava but you have lava proof shoes now it’s just the rest of your body which is at risk so staying upright is your priority. Concrete, is hard, it can cause you significantly more injury than any fist or foot, what’s more while on the ground your defence strategy is compromised, your escape options diminish and you are at risk from further attackers; kicks, strikes with weapons. Stay on your feet at all costs!
Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. - Mike Tyson.
We’ve looked at reaction times, instinctive response, basic tactics, escape over fighting, the law and the ethics of self defence here and I hope it’s given you something to think about. I would point out that without practice any theory will remain just that, a theory. And without training or exposure to these types of situations even the best plans - theoretical or practical, can fail. in the words of Mike Tyson, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”.
I personally advocate the practice of not fighting, not being there, avoiding trouble at all costs and especially not being punched in the face. But it is wise to learn how to defend yourself, learn techniques which can enable your escape and to learn in an environment which can give you some insight into just how stressful the chaos of combat is to prepare you should you run out of avoidance options and find yourself in a threatening situation.
Of course Glíma for self defence has many more practical techniques and tactics than just a pre-emptive strikes and escapes. Find an accredited Glíma Instructor for regular training or attend a masterclass to learn some fundamental skills and learn to protect yourself, your family and your property.