distracting in a fight

Martial-Arts Distractions and The Ways of Attack

This article will teach you a response to a lapel grab, why spitting might not be your best course of action … and some solid principles of two of the five ways of attack.

Are you ready to jump in? 😉

Recently, a martial artist from thousands of miles away has taken “an interest” in me. Actually, I think he is on the right track for self-defense principles. (And sometimes, he’s even nice when he writes.)

He’s making what he knows work for him. Kudos in that respect.

Unfortunately, he makes all sorts of assumptions about what I do or don’t teach. (Not sure if he has read any of my paid materials.)

Here’s one letter where I feel that he missed the boat.

Keith, I teach principles.  You teach techniques.  Example: if someone grabbed you by the lapel with one hand, I know you have a ton of techniques you could employ.

“My opening move would not be a technique; it would be a principle–the distraction principle.  I would spit in his face–the quintessential distraction principle, then I would palm strike his jaw, nose and eyes simultaneously with one hand as I grabbed the wrist of the arm he grabbed me with using my other arm.  I don’t know my next move after this because it depends on his reaction to what I just did.  I may miss the shot and the grab!  Therein lies our differences.

“You teach techniques and let’s hope they work!  I teach principles which tell me what to do no matter what happens during the fight!”

Fighting Principle vs Techniques

Let’s start with his first two sentences….

“I teach principles.  You teach techniques.”

Really? I think that about 20,000+ martial artists would beg to differ with you. They are thankful that the “principles” taught by Keith Pascal, yours truly, apply to the “techniques” that they already know.

Of course, you have to provide some techniques as concrete examples, but the true test of a martial-arts writer is to get the reader to go beyond technique. I hope I have accomplished that in ALL of my writing.

Let’s keep going….


Good Distraction?

I hope you find the next part of his letter as humorous as I did. He claims that he is going to do a principle and not techniques … then what does he do? He describes in detail exactly what TECHNIQUES he’s going to employ. Here, read what he wrote:

“My opening move would not be a technique; it would be a principle–the distraction principle.  I would spit in his face–the quintessential distraction principle, then I would palm strike his jaw, nose and eyes simultaneously with one hand as I grabbed the wrist of the arm he grabbed me with using my other arm.”

Technique, technique, technique.

    By the way, Bruce Lee found fault with these pat answers. Bruce would have asked:

  • How is he grabbing you?
  • Is it palm up or down?
  • Which hand has which lapel?
  • Which of your weapons (left or right hand, left or right foot, elbow, etc.) is closest to a potential target?
  • Is this a serious situation, or a drunk uncle grabbing you at a birthday party?
  • Then you practice the snot out of all variations, so you can “react” with the best choice automatically in the situation.


We could go on about him accusing me of “hoping my techniques work,” or compliment him in knowing that he can’t predict what’s going to follow his opening response.

His point really is important.


The Ways of Attack

But his idea of “principles” interests me. Let’s explore those:

Remember, all attacks (and counterattacks) can fit into one of five categories. (Here’s a free video on the five ways of attack.)

Let’s explore his chosen technique in terms of distraction and the ways to attack.

Hmm. Which of the five ways of attack is spitting?

He’s going to spit, first. Is that spit going to cause damage?

No? Then it’s not a Single Direct Attack. (One possibility down.)

Does it carry the equally damaging potential as the following moves in the series?

No? The it’s not Attack By Combination, either. (Two down.)

I think we can safely assume that the spit is not going to immobilize one of your attacker’s limbs. So, it’s not Attack By Trapping either. (Third one, out.)

Let’s see …

Does spitting fit into a category of Fakes, Feints, and Distractions? In other words, will the first move distract, so that the following techniques do damage?



It’s a Progressive Indirect Attack (PIA). (We have a winner.)


So, what do we know about distractions in a fight?

My first piece of advice is that a PIA has to … well … distract. If its intent is to create a distraction, then it must actually and truly distract your attacker. So …

Here’s a question for you the reader: Do you think that spitting would be a distraction, so that the aggressor wouldn’t see a palm strike coming?

I am a little doubtful. I certainly wouldn’t call it the “quintessential distraction.”

Note: I have always taught my students to hit or kick on any movement. Start to punch, and they hit or kick. If you start to comb your hair while attacking, and they’d instantly strike, before you could get the comb up to your hair. (Oops, it wasn’t an attack? Then they shouldn’t lapel grab and comb at the same time.)

And if someone were to spit at them, I think they (we) would kick out the knee before the spit even made it across the open space between faces.

If you’d like to learn this type of no-pause response, check out The Punch eCourse.


That above note brings up a very important point:

He said, “I would spit, THEN I would palm strike.”

Too late. According to the principle of true PIA, you can’t do one move and THEN do another. That’s too slow. Those who have gone through the Punch eCourse know the timing that I am talking about.

End Thoughts (Before a Conclusion)

It’s curious that this martial artist chose Distraction as his principle response to a lapel grab. (By the way, he hates the term martial artist. He thinks martial artists are woosies; he’s a “fighter.” He needs a … dictionary.)

Distraction, eh?


So, Keith, how would you respond to an aggressive lapel grab?

Probably with something very direct:

  • A shin kick
  • An eye jab
  • ######## (you don’t want me to tell all my secrets, do you?)
  • ######## (another, “not for public posting”)

or even a ….

  • PALM STRIKE (his secondary move).

I would strike even before the grab was solidly locked on. No waiting.

And after the hit (or three or four), it might just be time for a Wrist Lock.


The Conclusion

Comparing and contrasting principles and techniques can be fun. Principles are so very important, but so is precise execution of technique.

The discussion can be fun … if you know the difference between the two, and all the ins and outs of the principle you are defending.

Thanks all … for the chance to do a little venting … and hopefully a little instruction.

Have a great day!

PS I’d like to thank the anonymous “dude” who has taken an interest in me. This was good brain candy; I hope he learned a thing or two.

Remember, without proper timing, you don’t have a distraction; instead, you have a combination, where the first move is “as weak as spit.”

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Comments (2)


  1. I had a student (police) come to study with me several years back, Seeing that he already had two black belts I asked why??? He said their are three types of ‘teachers’, most just talk about others or the ‘past’, others just teach tech, while others teach the concepts. He had heard that I taught the concepts! I started in ’67 and enjoy how you use the techs to teach the concepts, it gives me more ammo to teach with, thanks for all you do for us/society. M. Jacks 6th dan

  2. kerwinbe says:

    I love to talk about the past … 🙂

    But I am also eager to add more precision to my latest learning 🙂

    Thanks for sharing; I know exactly what you are talking about,


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