SELF DEFENSE CONTINUUM Quick Reference Guide/Bookmark

This simple tool will help you understand how most attacks happen and what you can do about it.

Download the graphic, print it as a poster or fold and laminate it to make a bookmark. Some of
the most base, crucial and under-represented concepts of self defense are contained in this little graphic.

The Five Stages of Violent Crime was created by Marc MacYoung.
The Five Ds of Self Defense was created by Eric Kondo.
Self Defense Continuum and graphic design by Teja Van Wicklen.


The Self Defense Continuum (SDC) could also be called a crime timeline. It is a merging of the ideas of two self defense analysts who were, at the time, working separately.

Eric Kondo came up with The Five Ds of Self Defense – five options you have for avoiding, disrupting or escaping crime in one piece. Erik is a lifelong martial artist who because he also happens to be paraplegic, has an unusually enlightened insight into self-defense. Invisible to most people is the statistic that the handicapped are the group at highest risk for violence. Erik created the not-for-profit self-defense company His 5 Ds have been vetted and used by law enforcement for years now.  (You can find out more about Erik Kondo at

Marc Mac Young came up with The Five Stages of Violent Crime, which represent the stages a criminal goes through in order to commit a crime. Marc’s site (also is a veritable encyclopedia of self defense. Marc is author of a number of excellent books about violence and self defense. He is one of the key leaders in the movement for a new self-defense paradigm.

The fact that both men came up with five things that completed one another and formed a natural connection, was opportune and curious. When I looked closer I found they had come up separately and miraculously each with half of a whole.

In the above Graphic, between the 5 Ds of Self Defense and the 5 Stages of Violent Crime, is a black line marked BEFORE, DURING & AFTER. Each phase occurs at a specific point along that timeline or continuum.

The Five Stages of Violent Crime outline the steps a criminal must take in order to facilitate a violent altercation with you. They are: Intent, Interview, Positioning, Attack and Reaction. You may be thinking, why does a criminal need to prepare to grab me or hit me or grab my purse, and the answer is, because he does not want to be hurt or caught. If he picks the wrong person and you happen to be a cop or a citizen with a weapon, he may get into trouble. If he becomes injured, he is more likely to be caught. Criminals who turn up in hospitals have an unfortunate habit of ending up in court or prison. So one of the first things he has to do is observe you.

Now, some people are more impulsive than others or mentally deranged, so the first few stages of a crime – that is, Intent, Interview and Positioning – can happen pretty quickly. But if you know the signs and catch them, there will be more time for you to change locations, let him know you’re on to him, slam the door, get on the phone, hail a cab, whatever.


Intent is the first stage, where a criminal decides he needs something badly enough that he’s willing to take a risk for it. Intent is different than motive in that it is a completed decision. You can be motivated to do something but not be ready for it. Intent implies readiness and commitment.


Interview is what a criminal does in order to choose a victim. He may talk to you or just covet you from afar. There are internet interviews as well in which a criminal poses as someone he’s not and proceeds to ask questions beginning with the innocuous and becoming gradually more specific and personal. This is similar to how it can happen in person, though add in a good dose of anonymity. Online, a man can pose as a woman. Or, as Erik Kondo has blogged on his site, he can pose as a disabled woman. By posing as someone similar to the target or as someone non-threatening, he gains access to private lives and the confidence of vulnerable strangers.  Erik stared a group for disabled women prayed on by fetishists who are into that. These men masquerade as other disabled women. Friendships form, intimate secrets are shared. Reading the communications, you can see the incongruities, the odd lines of questioning, stories shored up with way too much detail. All clues to lying that our instincts often catch, but are even more likely to catch with a little awareness of how the lies and deceptions work. If we accept we are probably more at risk from someone we know than someone we don’t, we really do have the opportunity to catch him, or them, in the process of interviewing you.


Positioning is what a criminal does after the Interview. He decides you are a suitable target and plans to get closer or into a place where he can successfully Attack you. That can mean he asks for directions, offers you a ride home or pretends to be someone he’s not, like an exterminator so you will open your door. Or, again, it can mean he impersonates someone online to gain your confidence so the Interview and Positioning stages can blur. Positioning can also mean a criminal runs by you quickly and grabs your purse, in which case the positioning phase is very short. He spent all his time in Intent and Interview to determine if you were the type who would fight back and if you could run fast and then did a drive by but without the car. Because he was only in position for a split second, your options are diminished. The best option and one you should always be exercising is to appear to be a less than appetizing victim and fail criminal Interviews in general. By presenting a less appetizing victim I am of course referring to The 10 Target Traits and Signals which give you lots of ways to fail an interview, as do the Action Steps for the Alpha Attitude. By being aware of your surroundings and not looking down while on the phone and crossing a street; by wearing shoes he knew you could run in, having strong posture and looking like too much trouble to attack, you would have a good chance of deterring many types of attacks.


Attack speaks for itself. If you have reached this stage you will have to think and act as quickly and calmly as you are capable of. Attacks take many forms so analyzing all of them isn’t really an option. What we can do is observer ourselves under pressure and hack into our own reaction behavior and OODA loop. If you have to fight you want to know a bit about that, have some educated options and perhaps some practice at least playing hard so the first hit isn’t so shocking you can’t recover.


The criminal Reaction happens After the main attack when emotions or previous decisions catch up with the him and he decides what to do next. He has your wallet and wants to leave but you’re mouthing off and he’s having flashbacks of his abusive mother so now his finger is on the trigger. Don’t laugh, it’s more common than you think. This can be a very important stage since a criminal’s erratic and unpredictable behavior – and yours – can leave you alive or dead. Adrenaline and cortisol are powerful drugs. He may have the intention of killing you and decide not too because he feels guilty, or it could go the other way. When you have more than one assailant you have that many more emotions in the room. If your assailants disagree about what to do you can have an aftershock that rivals the original attack. If you get away or the criminal takes off, you may still be so flustered that you walk into an oncoming truck. So there is a lot to consider. As they say, it isn’t over until it’s over.

Erik Kondo’s 5 D’s of Self Defense give you the action steps to take along the crime time line to counter Marc’s Five Stages.


Decide is first in the Before area of the continuum. Prior to a series of moments becoming a crime or emergency you can Decide to educate yourself and to be aware of your own behavior, of your surroundings and the people you spend the most time with. Until something goes wrong it is always Before. The Before Stage of the Self-defense Continuum is the most important because it is the longest. Every minute before something goes wrong is time you can spend preparing and getter smarter, becoming more aware of your own behavior, observing others, making your house safer, becoming a better driver. Decide is what you do well before an emergency. You Decided to read this book, you can Decide to get better locks on your doors. I hope you Decide to become more self-aware. You can Decide any number of things Before anything goes wrong. Deciding is preparation. When you decide to do your homework you get good grades. When you decide to bring an umbrella you don’t get wet. Therefore the Before phase of the SDC is the most important if also the most boring area. Doesn’t it always work out that way. No fireworks here, just learning, observing and improving your decision-making abilities, though those things have far reaching value, which is why I call them low-level superpowers. You would be surprised (or maybe not) at how few people think things out well and make educated decisions with the future in mind.

With regards to the SDC we will be discussing Decide as it relates to its counter part on the criminal side, Intent, which again can be described as the visible signs someone has decided to focus negative attention on you. When we Decide to Spot Criminal Intent, we are first and foremost admitting that crime is part of life and removing our blinders. Then we are Deciding to learn about the signs of Intent and create bookmarks in our brain when we see them.


The next step is to Deter. We can Deter an incident in many ways. Boundary Setting is a good example. Boundaries, contrary to popular thought, are for us as much or more than they are for others. If you don’t know where your line is, how do others? If you don’t let others know how far they can go with a discussion or a physical relationship or how much extra work you are willing to take on, then no one knows and communication breaks down. Setting your own boundaries alerts others when to stop, but even more importantly they give you guidelines to the behavior of those who are comfortable pushing your boundaries. That is important information. A person who disregards your clearly set boundaries is disregarding you and needs to be watched or avoided altogether if possible. Boundary setting is a crucially important tool and it will help you distinguish between someone who abides by social rules and someone who doesn’t. A person who steps over your boundaries, for example by repetitively touching your shoulder when it’s a business relationship that perhaps doesn’t call for that, is telling you they either don’t understand boundaries, are disregarding yours outright, or are interested in a closer relationship with you. This gives you valuable information about that person so you can make decisions accordingly. Do you want to step past the business relationship in to something closer or more intimate with this person? Do you need to step back? Is he a danger to you?

With regards to the SDC we will cover a number of ways you can Deter a criminal’s Interview and cause his resolve to faulter. What you want is for him to have second thoughts about you as a potential victim. You want him to see you as aware of his intentions and therefore dangerous or at least no longer fun to pursue.


Disrupt and Disengage are for use During the emergency, with the goal of getting out as quickly as possible with little or no damage to yourself or anyone you are responsible for.  With regards to the SDC we will be discussing Disrupt and Disengage as they relate to Positioning and Attack. This is the During phase of the attack or crime in which emotions are high and decisions need to be made quickly under stress. These chapters will be called, respectively, Disrupt his Position and Disengage the Attack. To Disrupt is to keep a criminal from getting into a Position where he can successfully grab or attack you. This many mean you run faster than him, or you see the police and yell to get their attention. Disengage is to physically break his grip and escape. Disengage is where you may have to get really physical if that’s your last and best chance of survival.


Debrief is what you do After a crime to heal and mitigate any further physical or emotional damage. It’s a part of the time line that is rarely discussed, so we’re going to discuss it. Debrief is also where we learn from our mistakes, a very important part of life. Chapter ? will be called Debrief before during and after his Reaction and will discuss short and long term debriefing including some tips, further reading and help for working through the aftermath of violent encounter.

Devices like The Self-defense Continuum help us speak the language of crime and see it evolving so we can affect it before it affects us. If you have ever been in a foreign country where you didn’t speak the language you know what it’s like to be in the dark about what is going on around you. And that sometimes causes you to just shut out what you don’t understand. You just stop worrying about what is being said or what’s going on around you as a mechanism to lessen the stress of not understanding. When you don’t speak the language of crime, you often ignore it, pretend it isn’t there, work around it or translate improperly. We are using self-defense as an example, because this is a self-defense course. But you could just as easily say this of another social group or process. Say a group of people at your job who are a level up from you. If you aren’t fluent in their social or technical language, you’ll be unable to comprehend and strategically navigate the group – which is to say, the process of getting into the group, getting something you need or climbing the business ladder.

The Self Defense Continuum is not an exact science it is a model. The combing of the 5 Ds of Self Defense and the 5 Stages of Violent Crime along a designated continuum is a way of articulating and giving a framework to something that we normally think of as random and surprising. Like the 5 Stages of Grief, which most people know as: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, the Self Defense Continuum helps us see patterns and interject solutions.

The 5 Stages don’t always happen cleanly and separately, sometimes they overlap or happen simultaneously – though they do pretty much happen in that order. You have to have the Intent in order to progress to the Interview, and so on.

The SDC is a way for you to start seeing a potential crime at its earliest possible stage and for you to then have a series of decision points where you can act. Obviously crime is not this neat and obliging, violence is messy stuff, but we need mechanisms to helps us understand the big picture. Simplified mechanisms have their place in learning. Practice fleshes out the mechanisms and gives them complexity and life.

To see crime as a process and not just a sudden occurrence is to demystify it. Moments come together to form events. In naming and understanding the individual moments of a given crime, and examining how one moment follows the next, we can gain a bit more insight and potential control over circumstances. The less familiar a situation the more sudden and jarring it can feel. Unfamiliar events seem to occur out of the blue or too quickly for our reaction time. When we are blind to a process we are unable to comprehend it, let alone, change it. How much time or notice there is before and even during an event has an enormous amount to do with what we perceive to be important information. We only hear or take in that which makes sense to us, and that expands or contracts the feeling of time. The process of crime or event prediction is very much about seeing more than we thought was there.

Let’s use baseball as an analogy. Imagine, you’re at the batting cage for the first time. That ball is coming at you at 65 or more miles per hour and if you’ve never been in a batting cage before, that can be reasonably hard core. How are you supposed to put a bat on a tiny thing headed directly at your head like that?

So you start with a formula. Where is the ball coming from? And where is it aiming at? Once you begin to understand the trajectory, you start hitting the ball. This is an intuitive process for some, and a calculation for others. Either way, you have to get it embedded into your reflexes somehow because you won’t have time to consciously tell your arms to tense up and swing. It has to just happen.

After you’ve had a bit of practice, you start to get the hang of it and you find you have time to dig in and get comfortable. Now that you know how it works, there seems magically to be plenty of time and you start hitting a lot more balls than you miss. Hitting them well is another phase of learning, but hitting them at least means they’re not hitting you.

(Military personnel talk about the O.O.D.A. loop, a concept discovered and expounded on by Colonel John Boyd. O.O.D.A. stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act and refers to the process the brain undergoes as it takes in unfamiliar information and moves towards action. This process takes time and is one part of the explanation for the freeze response – that deer-in-the-headlights – moment many of us have had when something happens that we are not prepared for. It is our hard drive spinning and trying to take hold and come up with an acceptable next move.)

We can learn to use all our senses and knowledge to perceive the spaces between things and to have more choices. We can be Wait-and-Seers, that is, Prey, or we can be Doers and Deciders. The fact is that people who make well-thought-out decisions are generally in better shape across the board – in safety and in life.

I worry that it’s depressing or cumbersome or at least not as much fun as a book on Hawaii or how to have a better orgasm. But I hope ultimately you will get a real kick out of learning how to handle yourself. The idea of becoming someone capable of managing large and small emergencies gracefully has to be at least a bit exciting.