Self Defense Striking 101
Straight-Line Attacks
by Jesse Seal and James Bullock

Self defense striking is one of the first things you will learn if you ever attend one of our Personal Protection Seminars, and nothing matches the beauty and simplicity of the straight-line attack. These aren't fancy moves that take hours of practice every day in order to remember. They're basic and easy to remember, and that's the point.

Something that sets self-defense striking apart from martial arts striking is that it is not about form, it's about survival. Personal protection cannot be complicated, because it's something everyone should be able to grasp, not just the few dedicated martial artists who devote hours of their day studying the principles of their discipline.

With that said, I'm going to introduce some very basic straight-line attacks and their purpose, but first I'm going to explain the setup and some very basic principles. I know, you're probably thinking I'm contradicting myself by introducing principles, but the two I'm going to talk about are very simple and applicable to every self defense strike you'll ever need to learn.

The Deceptive Posture

We do most, if not all of our self defense striking from this stance. It's a very simple, bladed stance, like most fighting stances. The difference, however, is in the hand positions. Instead of balling your fists or looking aggressive in any way, you're palms are facing your opponent. Allan and Barbara Pease explain in their book, The Definitive Book of Body Language, talking with your palms facing out expresses sincerity.

This makes the deceptive posture a fantastic de-escalation tool. De-escalating and/or escaping the situation should be the primary goal of every potentially violent confrontation. This isn't about you proving yourself or defending your ego. This is about getting home to your family.

Since your hands are up in front of you, you're still able to protect yourself if the situation escalates. What's even more useful, however, is the fact that you look passive to witnesses. This works well in your defense when you have to explain to the Johnny Law why you had to lay someone out; you were defending yourself, and even those who were outside of earshot will still be able to say that you "looked" like you didn't want to fight.

Remember These Two Basic Principles

There are two things you need to remember during your training or practice of these movements:

  1. Closest weapon, closest target
  2. Economy of movement

"Closest weapon, closest target" is your striking hand and your opponent. If you're right foot forward, you're right hand will be closer to your attacker. It wouldn't make sense to strike with your rear hand since it has to travel farther, thus taking more time to reach its target. Ultimately this would give your attacker more time to react. With closest weapon, closest target in mind, you reduce the time it takes to strike your attacker, giving you the upper hand with timing and speed.

With economy of movement, you're looking for similar results. You want to reduce the amount of movement you make during your strike in order to hit faster. The best example is pulling back, or loading the strike. It's common for people to think that a shot will be more powerful if they have more distance to "build up" the power of the shot. The truth is, you're just telegraphing your movement and telling your oppressor what you plan on doing.

Don't fool yourself into thinking that this doesn't take practice. Just because I mentioned earlier that you shouldn't have to train hours upon hours every day doesn't mean there isn't some practice involved. Even if you just do five to ten reps a day in the mirror you'll be more prepared than most, but as always, the more training the better.

Straight-Line Shotes

Straight-line shots are most successful when the above principles are applied. Remember, there is really no right or wrong way to strike your opponent as long as you come out of it breathing. Survivability is the ultimate goal.

There are five straight-line attacks we're going to show you in the videos below.

  1. The Palm Strike
  2. The Hammer Fist
  3. The Finger Jab
  4. The Basic Eye Gouge
  5. The Double Straight-Line Attack

The Palm Strike

This is the first self defense strike we teach our students. It is one of the most basic open hand strikes, and most of the other straight-line attacks are predicated on the palm strike. If you could only learn one self defense strike, this would be it. We like to think of it as high-fiving someone's face.

The Hammer Fist

The hammer fist is different than the palm strike. As you see in the video, the setup is also a little different. While we maintain our deceptive posture, we let our hands gravitate slightly above our heads in a passive manner. This sets the shot up nicely without telegraphing the movement. Like the palm strike, the hammer fist can be a devastating. 

The Finger Jab

The finger jab is the same trajectory as the palm strike. The major difference is that this is not necessarily damaging; it's used more as a distraction. This one is great for females, especially those with longer nails. Keeping your fingers loose, just throw your fingers in your attacker’s eyes. This causes them to react the same way someone would if they got sand in their eyes. You now have the opportunity to escape or set up a more powerful shot.

The Basic Eye Gouge

In this variation of the eye gouge, you're not grabbing your attacker’s skull and plunging both thumbs as deep as you can into their eye sockets until you tickle their noggin. This variation can be used in conjunction with a palm strike. By pointing the thumb in during a palm strike, you increase the chance if it entering one of the eyes.

Double Straight-Line Attacks

This is another great attack for someone facing a larger opponent. Aside from the hammer fist, you can use any of the above straight-line attacks for this variation. Simply stated, a palm strike is now a double palm strike. As with the other self defense strikes, your target is anywhere on the face. Ideally, you would hit under the chin and drive the head backwards. This also forces your opponent backwards, giving you an avenue of escape if they were blocking the only exit.

So there you have it; five self-defense striking options. If you found these videos helpful, then please subscribe to our YouTube channel. We have new personal protection videos every Saturday.


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About the Author

Jesse Seal is the assistance Combatives Instructor, and has been training in Combative Sciences since 2008. He has also been training and learning through Bullock's Irondom Performance Systems since 2010.

About the Author

James Bullock is the head coach for Irondom Performance Systems and Combative Sciences. He's written programs for athletes and non-athletes alike, including numerous world record holders in various sports. Combative Sciences was found in 1999 and is the culmination of decades of martial arts training. 

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