I have taught Karate at Michigan State for a year shy of two decades now, been involved with Tai Chi, Judo, a little Aikido. I have taught many of the type of classes that you are speaking of. As a trained teacher and fighter I can usually pick out who will take any real benefit from the approaching clinic or seminar just from observing the demeanor and projected attitude of the individuals walking in the door. With rare exception, I'm almost always right. Anyone with my training is able to do this, I'm not blowing my horn at all. My point is that muggers and violent criminals are good at this as well, and it is almost always this instinct that yells "victim".
The people I spoke of earlier that could take some small useful amount of knowledge from these clinics are usually people that aren't afraid to become mad or to try to protect themselves or to honestly consider all the facets of the situation they're trying to deal with, including their own possible demise. Many people, men included, have not developed the tools to deal with aggression, fear, anger, etc. Until you become acquainted and comfortable with this aspect of yourself and the violence that others are capable of, you will not be very functional in those situations, regardless of your training. To deal with these types of scenarios you must be able to unleash fury and directed anger at the drop of a hat while not feeling a twinge of regret at hurting someone badly to save yourself. Most folks aren't good at this without real practice.
I'm not going to pick apart all of the "responses" to an attacker other than to say that there are times when all of these may work and a ton of times where they will not work at all. Some of the things written will only work if applied at the correct instant and only then. I guarantee that I can put a bear hug on all but the burliest men that you are not going to get out of. A real bear hug done correctly by someone of sufficient strength is immediately debilitating and if taken to extreme bone breaking. Knees are not that easy to break unless the person getting kicked stands unnaturally and lets you get a clean shot in. You can't back kick someone that is already grabbing you from behind. Most attackers don't grab you and hold you in a static position, they're tossing you around in the process of trying to immobilize or break you, that makes setting up your planned response very difficult to implement. A throat shot, if it's dead on, may put someone down, if it's not dead on run like hell. Sprinting away is usually the best first response you can have in almost any situation. The point is to end the encounter as fast as you can with as little interaction as possible. Always.
Hitting an attacker solidly that is moving with the speed and strength of one possessed and enraged is very difficult to successfully accomplish, much less strike a debilitating blow that will end the encounter. It's not reliable unless you've trained your ass off and trained in real encounters extensively, at which point that blind rage becomes a liability to the assailant.
Everybody missed fingers as superb targets for chokes and many grappling situations. grabbing the pinky and forcibly yanking/twisting it in the wrong direction can produce good results. Few can ignore breaking fingers. The back of the neck is vulnerable, jamming your nails or fingers into the ear canal is also effective. If you can get a smaller finger into the nostrils and yank, that is also disconcerting. Your jaws are incredibly strong, biting works if done with reckless abandon to most areas.Even these low skill responses have to be practiced until ingrained to be functional.
Yuki hinted at the real key to self defense. The big secret is awareness. You have to be aware of your surroundings all the time. You have to be aware of the people around you both in and out of your sphere of influence. You have to look around you. You have to look ahead of you to what situations are developing on your path, and change your path if necessary to avoid it. You have to listen around you. You have to listen to the voices inside of you, your instincts, your hunches, your feelings. Routine is obvious to criminals, change yours up often. Don't expect that wherever you are is safe because it's familiar or is supposed to be a good neighborhood. Don't trust people you don't really know. Don't think that being in a car is good protection. Survival is not about rights, being nice, fairness, justice, or socially "acceptable" behavior. It's about realizing that there are others that play by a totally different set of rules, and outsmarting them or making yourself a very undesirable target is the only way past them without taking a sidetrip into their world, which you might not survive.
In my experiance the best advice I can give to someone with no real training that finds themselves unintentionally in that 'other' world is to become as close to a maniac as you can. Scream NO at the top of your lungs, scream your name at the attacker(this has an amazing effect on some people), scream out whats happening to you, and don't stop. Roar the entire length of the encounter. Screaming kicks the adrenals into gear and makes your whole body chemistry change to deal with the approaching threat. It makes you stronger and blasts oxygen into your system as well as very directly telling the assailant that you for one will not be going quietly into the night. If it becomes physical, you must strike, claw, bite, elbow, knee, kick, punch, poke until it's over or you've been incapacitated. Good Luck.
I hope it is obvious that this is geared toward an encounter that becomes physical and can't be avoided. If someone wants your money and is armed with a gun or knife, keep your distance and throw out your money. Period. Money is never worth a chance of loss of life or the chance that by refusing you will spur a physical confrontation. Period. No matter how pissed off it makes you. Period.
Sorry I blatted so long, but, there are serious misperceptions and wives tales about "self defense" that can have sad consequences if not understood for what they are. Hope this lends another angle to view it from. I'd welcome more input, ski ski ski, it's wonderfully cathartic.
PEACE, Happy New Year
<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ January 04, 2002 01:48 AM: Message edited 1 time, by joel ]</font>