Safety Tactics: “Stances” and the “Assessment L”

Safety Tactic: Stances

We have all heard the quotes regarding prevention, you know, never having to do something like “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” –Ben Franklin and of course Sun Tzu said that “the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without even fighting.”

But one of my favorite quotes about a safety tactic comes from Miyamoto Musashi, clearly one of the most prolific Japanese swordsmen, who in his Book of Five Rings said “Make your fighting stance your everyday stance, make your everyday stance your fighting stance.”

Now, I know what you must be thinking…. “Kip, what does a stance have to do with prevention?” Let me explain. The stance is a tactic not a technique. The stance can prevent an assault from taking place.

Let me preface the following by stating, I love martial arts. I love different aspects from all that I have trained in. With that said, it is important to understand not every piece of an “art” translates into escaping a violent encounter on the street. I am just making a point to those who don’t train and practice regularly with this post to focus on tactics not just techniques.

Every martial art I ever trained in taught stances. Some spent more time than others focusing on their respective stances. Every punch, kick or block was practiced from different stances. But the whole, feet exactly here, hand exactly there is for testing and rank promotion, not reality. All of us can imagine Daniel from the Karate Kid practicing his techniques from a stance or preparing to kick from one.

Even if we take the first three stances someone learns in a traditional martial art like say Karate, Tae Kwon Do etc a Forward/Front Stance, a Back Stance and a Horse Stance….which one would they chose during a spontaneous attack? If you refer to our RACE2REACT, your brain has to process information in steps. Thinking about which stance to get into is a step thereby increasing the time it takes for you to react. When was the last time you were in a store and saw someone in the check-out line in a martial arts style stance? Do they get into a Horse-Stance or Forward Stance while asking if the store still takes a check? Let’s refer back to Musashi. His point was simply stand like how YOU stand and to learn to move/defend from there. Because remember, the attacker is not going to let you get into your favorite stance before he/she attacks.

With the stances we teach in our DT4EMS Escaping Violent Encounters, we build on the principle taught by Musashi. We want the stance; coupled with initial minimum safe distance (6-8 feet) to become a routine “tactic” not a “technique. The stance is truly a tactic of being able to help prevent the attack from ever taking place or deflecting/defending the attack if necessary.

In DT4EMS’ EVE class we only teach two stances. One is known as the “Surveying Stance” used when initially arriving in the immediate patient area and surveying the scene. Then we teach the “Defensive Stance” for when the provider believes the attack is imminent.

Below is an example of the Surveying Stance. The provider is keeping the minimum safe distance while keeping his hands out of his pockets and above his waist. Notice how it looks as if the provider has taken a small, comfortable step forward with his feet. This simple, non-threatening posture allows the provider  to assess the scene for hazards.

Surveying Stance

In the next image, the Defensive Stance is demonstrated. The provider simply raises his hands and places them in the “UP and OPEN” position. It’s that simple.

Defensive stance

Emphasis must be placed NOT to appear like a “fighter” as in the image below. (clenched fist, fighting stance etc.) as seen here:

Fighting stance

If we look like a fighter, people who witness the event will say we were fighting, not “defending”.




In the video below, notice how Stances are used with our “Assessment L”. Again, stances and the Assessment L are TACTICS not techniques. These tactics can buy you a moment in time to REACT to a given stimulus.

Check out this ASSESSMENT L video we did for EMS1