Hungarian-born musician and martial artist Zoltan Bathory arrived in the United States with a guitar on his back and little ability to converse in English. Now, he’s a rock star—literally—as one of the founders of the successful Las Vegas-based heavy metal band, Five Finger Death Punch. The music of FFDP is nearly perfect training music, and they are a band who stands behind law enforcement officers and military personnel through their support in a number of organizations.
“Playing guitar, playing music, and being a warrior – all these things are seemingly unrelated, but in my opinion, they are very much connected,” Bathory says. “Being a martial artist and musician is all about proportion, harmony, timing. These are the same things.”
And perhaps this is why Bathory explains how warriors in ancient history were also artists: “You will find that a lot of ancient warriors, the great ones, were all musicians and poets.”
Bathory is also a highly trained fighter in Judo and Jiu Jitsu who understands the need for everyday civilians to know simple movements for defense and escape.
He is one of several warriors who, our friend and former U.S. Navy SEAL Clint Emerson, met with to break down the defensive practices of highly-trained military operators and martial arts practitioners. Emerson is the New York Times Bestselling author of 100 Deadly Skills: Combat Edition, and Escape the Wolf.
Here are a few key principles Bathory encourages to defend ourselves and the people around us:
Don’t Be Eager to Fight. De-Escalate.
To attempt de-escalation, Bathory uses a non-aggressive ready stance using “prayer hands.” For his non-aggressive stance, he places his palms together, extended slightly out from the chin. This signals neither aggression nor submission to a would-be assailant, and this position keeps your hands ready for whatever action follows.
Block and Close the Distance
From the ready stance, you’re more prepared to employ big blocking moves as you close the distance, which essentially means moving in closer toward an aggressor. Though this might seem counterintuitive, it actually accomplishes a number of important defensive objectives. Closing the distance removes your adversary’s ability to land a punch with maximum force as you move inside his strike radius. It increases your ability to deflect and control their attacking appendages. It sets you up for some close-in counter measures like elbow strikes, palm strikes, and takedowns.
Don’t Attempt the Five Finger Death Punch
Bathory recommends that for everyday defensive tactics, you should save your fingers and knuckles to fight another day. As a guitarist he can’t afford broken or mangled digits. That’s why he discourages most people from using straight punches. Here are three strikes that Bathory recommends instead:
- Palm Strikes. Utilize the heel of the palm for strikes to the face, jaw, throat, or any other vulnerable area. Palm strikes provide you with greater control and fewer moving pieces to break in your hand, as you’re seeking to neutralize an adversary.
- Elbow Strikes. With surprising power in those close situations, elbow strikes provide you with a larger surface area (sharp elbow and forearm) against their vulnerable areas.
- Hammer Fists. This pretty much looks how it sounds: a fist that strikes like a hammer instead of deploying as a punch. This will still pack a punch while saving your fingers from the potential damage of an actual punch against an aggressor’s face.
Move and Strike at an Angle. Instead of facing an aggressor head-on, move diagonally and strike from that position. This decreases their target size and their ability to guard against your strikes.
Keep Striking. When you land a blow in a vulnerable area, don’t quit. You don’t quit until the assailant concedes and stops his aggression.
Set Your Hooks. Bathory says this is especially important when an aggressor grabs you. Hooking an elbow with a hand or a leg behind a knee leverages your strength and weight against the adversary’s weak points. With this mindset, the attacker’s grab becomes a trap unto themself, as you learn to take control of their movements.
Understand Your Instruments
Bathory speaks of defensive techniques in the language he understands best—music. “You have to put in the time to know and understand your instrument,” he says. In other words, whatever series of moves, strategies, and techniques you adopt to defend yourself and the people around you, it’s critical to practice them in a non-critical situation. Then, these tools will be readily available to you when the critical situations arise.
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