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"The main theory behind the A.S.P. learning methodology is not to teach numerous techniques, but to teach elements of motion and few techniques with wide spread applicability to different situations. In addition, individual techniques from the program taken out of context, while quite effective, are not A.S.P. and the student will not benefit much in terms of ease of learning and degree of retention."

Evan S. Baltazzi


By Evan S. Baltazzi, D.Sc., D.Phil.

Writing today about a novel approach to the martial arts and sports is like bringing "coals to Newcastle". One becomes immediately suspect of "me too-ism" and empire-building, since there are many well known cases of people who generated new schools and systems, mainly for the purpose of bestowing upon themselves the highest possible ranks and a level of authority they were otherwise denied. Nothing more than some experience in the martial arts and the ability to read and write is needed. Books on the subject abound, and classifying selected techniques is easy enough. The only question is whether one would want to be bothered with this type of exercise. I would not. Then why was American Self-Protection (A.S.P.) developed?

Origins of A.S.P. Its Rationale

Anyone who, like myself, has been exposed for many years to the martial arts, with their rigorous training and respect for hierarchy and tradition, is at odds with himself when he starts questioning their methods and content. He is reluctant to voice his doubts and to break his allegiance. I have been in the martial arts since the age of thirteen when I took up fencing. After very considerable exposure to savate, Judo remained my main interest for many years. Together with it, I took up jujitsu, then Aikido, both of which I enjoyed. The more I delved into the martial arts, the more questions popped into my mind. While I never doubted the validity of their techniques, I became less and less convinced of the effectiveness of their systems, the relative permanence of the knowledge thus acquired and its accessibility to many who could otherwise benefit from it.

When I was captain of the Oxford University Judo team in England, our team beat Cambridge for three years in a row, the last time 5-0. This was in 1954 at Oxford, in the Albert Gymnasium. After the matches, I demonstrated jujitsu techniques, which were quite well received. Since we were the local boys, we were surrounded by our public, congratulated and asked a barrage of questions. It was then that my doubts crystallized, when it struck me bow little the public had understood how hard we had trained and how fugitive the results of our training were. At that very time, I decided that there must be a better way.

If the martial arts were to be modernized, a way should be found by which the student would:

(a) Develop mind—body coordination in a truly accessible, practical way.

(b) Gain a much higher yield for his efforts.

(c) Retain better what he has learned.

(d) Be able to progress at his own pace and get recognition for it.

(e) Acquire the ability to develop his own techniques with the elements he has learned.

(f) rind enough variety to suit his needs and inclination.

(g) Be able to apply his knowledge effectively within the law.

Since I am a research scientist by profession, I decided to use my rather unique experience in the martial arts and in scientific research. First, I had to find the key to the door which should be opened. Rather than looking for differences among the many combative techniques I was familiar with, I started looking for underlying principles. Soon, I became convinced that a high yield approach to useful training in terms of technical knowledge and mental conditioning could be devised by:

(a) Making systematic use of the common principles underlying all martial arts.

(b) Using selected techniques as a means to train the student in the application of such principles, rather than as a goal in themselves.

(c) Making use of elements of motion (kinesiological elements) with wide applicability. These elements, by constant repetitive use against a variety of attacks, would then become conditioned reflexes. Thus, not only would they be easier to acquire, but they would also be retained much longer by the student, and the type of a given attack would take secondary importance.

(d) Finally, devising a system which would appeal to the fighter as well as to the housewife, with something in it for both.

The task became clear. Keeping in mind the goals, a BASIC system had to be developed first. This task took me almost twelve years. (Drawing upon my background, it would have taken me only a few weeks had I thrown together "borrowed" techniques.) Then, in 1965, overcoming my reluctance to be known as another "new master" with "another school", I made it public. After much soul-searching, I called my systematic method American Self Protection* (A.S.P.) because I was aiming beyond mere self-defense. I also wished to give more than lip service to mind-body coordination, which I believed to be essential. Practice of A.S.P. truly imparts the ability to protect oneself mentally as well as physically.


This statement situates all martial artists in relation to A.S.P. Once understood, it proves to be an ally rather than a competitor or a foe. U.S. Patent Office Registration Numbers: 865,959 (March 4, 1969) and 926,581 (January 4, 1972).

A martial artist who wishes to take up A.S.P. has only to condition himself to see beyond individual A.S.P. techniques. In passing, we count several martial artists in our ranks. It is now necessary to clarify certain aspects of the fighting arts and sports in order to situate A.S.P. in this context.

Considerations on the Fighting Arts and Sports

The origins of all fighting arts are survival and war. Man is deeply ingrained fighting spirit is such that, when strife subsides, he finds pleasure in duplicating fighting under more or less safe conditions. He cannot, however, easily dismiss the horror and the killing which are its integral parts. Rationalizing, he tries to guide his fighting instincts toward apparently worthwhile goals. Readiness against aggression is a time-honored subterfuge. Thus, the channeling of the fighting spirit and excess energy of youth are the origin of all combative sports. Through their practice, young people are benefited in the area of general physical fitness and appropriate mental attitudes, learning to accept challenge and face victory and defeat. Physical mental and even spiritual benefits derived from the practice of combative sports have been recognized through the ages, and young people of both sexes have been and are being encouraged to practice them. It is in this context that the various warlike arts in which one either uses his own body as a weapon, or weapons as such, became idealized into the various combative sports as we know them today.

Their practice has become safe to a large extent by the adoption of rules of more stringent nature. With the progress of civilization and man is increased concern for his fellow man, restrictions aiming toward greater safety were gradually introduced resulting in more or less stylized forms of fighting, with or without weapons. Typical examples of such evolution can be found in the comparison of modern fencing to ancient and medieval forms of sword fighting and or primitive all-out weaponless fighting to Graeco-Roman wrestling.

The main differences among various combative sports reside mainly in their systematic approach to the corresponding knowledge and in the rules adopted in order to make their practice safe. For instance, men have noticed from time immemorial that poking someone in the eyes or twisting his joints brought about spectacular results. Depending on a number of reasons, such dangerous practices were either eliminated or stylized for safety, according to the often arbitrary requirements of each particular fighting system. It would be naive to consider that any one person or people has invented such elements. For example, many Judo, jujitsu or Aikido holds are known in their fundamentals to free style wrestlers; however, much of this knowledge cannot be used in the practice of their sport because it happens to be prohibited by its rules. Many other such parallels exist. In actuality, it is hard to draw a sharp distinction between a safely practiced fighting art and a so—called combative sport. Much confusion exists in the use of these terms. Such nomenclature should be understood as a distinction in the extent of potential danger.

In recent years, particularly after World War II, many oriental martial arts were introduced to the Western World, mainly because of the impression they made on members of the Allied Forces stationed in Japan. These arts known hitherto under the inappropriately exclusive name of "martial" were transplanted to Europe, Australia and the Americas where they quickly met with great popularity. In view of this historic development, systems of fighting knowledge imported from Japan were generally considered by the non-initiated as an exclusively Japanese invention. Later, when it was realized that the Japanese did not have the monopoly on such knowledge, Chinese and generally oriental martial arts were incorporated under the "martial" denomination. Today, the word "martial" (pertaining to the Graeco-Roman god of war Aries, or Mars) is almost exclusively used in connection with oriental martial arts and sports. Few will accept this term as applicable to e.g., fencing, savate, free style, Graeco-Roman, Swiss and Turkish forms of wrestling, cornubreton or any other non—oriental combative system. This state of affairs is unfortunate because it creates the wrong impression.

Since the bulk of the population in Australia and the Americas is descended from European immigrants, we shall briefly consider the evolution of fighting arts in Europe. Even the most superficial student of European history will be amazed by the incredible number of fighting arts and weapons used by Europeans since earliest recorded times.

Ample evidence of this may be seen by any casual visitor to European historical museums. The student of European history will also notice that the intermingling of essentially all the European peoples through wars and invasions, and their astounding technological advances, tended to destroy traditions related to various forms of fighting as soon as these became of questionable usefulness. Furthermore, the interpretation of ideas and fighting methods, and the slow disintegration of the rigid feudal structure prevalent in the Middle Ages, led Europeans toward new fighting arts and sports better adapted to their needs. Where tradition was somehow maintained, as for instance in the case of fencing, unexcelled mastery was the result.

On the contrary, isolation and social thought patterns of an essentially feudalistic society helped many oriental nations such as China and particularly Japan to maintain their traditional combative systems and to develop from them sports suited to local needs. However, there is no doubt that the elements in Judo, Aikido, etc., were known since ancient times. They have only been put together in a way to yield systems best suited to local needs at the time of their inception. Their novelty then resided precisely and uniquely in the system and not in its elements. The foregoing should not be misconstrued as an attempt to detract anything from the many merits of the oriental martial arts - far from it. Let us repeat, oriental martial arts introduced to the West have many merits which, however, are neither unique nor novel.

Principles of the Fighting Arts Explained

All fighting arts, whether shooting a gun, using a knife or one s bare hands, are based on five principles. These principles are neither six nor four, they are five and five only. They are also universal, and should not be confused with the attributes, the qualities, such as good balance, coordination, speed, accuracy and so on, that one must develop in order to be successful in any form of combat.

(1) Distance: The ability of judging accurately the distance from which an attack can be successfully landed, or evaded, is so important as to be an absolute necessity. Obviously, if you are out of the range of an attack, you do not have to worry about it. On the other hand, if you do not judge accurately the proper distance, you will reach your opponent, or will foil his attacks, only by chance.

(2) Direction: When an opponent attacks in your direction and after he is committed to that direction, if you change your position, dodging his attack, you may be able to unbalance him and find an opening for counter-attacking. For instance, suppose you face an opponent when he attacks and, as the attack is about to reach you, you change to a perpendicular position by stepping back and around with the right foot, which you bring behind the left. The attack will miss, and you may be able to disturb your opponent’s balance, in order to throw him, or to deliver a blow. Also, you should be able to judge your opponent s position at the time your attaŕk will reach him, exactly as if you were shooting at a moving target.

(3) Timing: No attack, or defense, can be successful without proper timing. Speed is important for timing. Occasionally, appropriate timing gives the impression of speed. A good sense of distance, direction and timing is necessary for accuracy in attack and in defense.

(4) Momentum* and (5) Leverage: Both serve to develop power, either for delivering a blow or a kick, or for breaking a hold. Gathering momentum in order to swiftly transfer it onto a small area of your opponent s body develops penetrating power and is the principle behind focused blows and kicks.


A.S.P. is a self-protection system concerned with man as a whole, since self-protection of the mind, as well as the body, is by far more important than self-defense per se. In order to te practical, A.S.P. is simple and contains little that is vague or esoteric in nature. Since modern man thinks along pragmatic lines and, being solicited by many activities, has little time to devote to any one field, his efforts must be guided toward high yields.

*More accurately, kinetic energy. For this reason, the techniques developed for basic A.S.P. are simple, versatile, yet efficacious: they build conditioned reflexes through the repetition of a small number of simple motions. A.S.P. also teaches to work with principles rather than with a large number of individual techniques: thus, the kind of a given threat becomes relatively unimportant. Furthermore, the defender is given a very real choice to proportion the severity of his defense to that of a given attack. Many of the recently imported arts hardly take into consideration the legal aspects of self-defense; one may well win a fight, but land in jail and have to face lengthy and very, very costly legal procedures.

The movements of the human body and their combinations are almost infinite in number. Developing intricate and complex systems is, therefore, much easier than developing a simple yet efficient one. This is particularly true if such a system is well rounded and aimed at developing appropriate motor skills, while at the same time being accessible to a broad cross-section of students.

To this effect, the techniques selected for A.S.P. had to combine efficacy, versatility, simplicity and completeness. A.S.P. comprises two essential parts:

(1) "Somatic A.S.P.", which studies means of protection against physical attacks; and (2) "Psychosomatic A.S.P.", dealing with the mind—body relationship and appropriate practical knowledge and exercises. In its basic form, "somatic A.S.P." comprises fifty defensive techniques against fifty different armed and unarmed attacks selected on a basis of their frequency in the modern world. Defensive techniques of limited applicability are discarded since basic A.S.P. aims at the development of conditioned reflexed by repetition of a few versatile elements of great effectiveness.

"Psychosomatic A.S.P." includes exercises for mental and physical balance, for breathing, relaxation and emotional control. Basic A.S.P. does not make use of chokes and joint twisting techniques. In spite of their spectacular results when properly applied, they are hard to master and harder to apply successfully in actual fighting. Versatility and efficacy are obtained with body positioning and leverage. Blocking techniques are not used since they require strength and destroy relaxation. Rather, basic A.S.P. makes use of deflections. Throwing and striking techniques and attacks on pressure points are simple and kept to a strict minimum. Indeed, efficient self-defense requires only a few techniques mastered to perfection. Complexity generates confusion and, therefore, inefficiency. Chokes and locks are dealt with in intermediate and advanced A.S.P. Defense against multi-opponent attacks, attacks from certain animals and techniques for giving help to others are also part of intermediate and advanced A.S.P., which also includes many other aspects of self-protection.

There is no question that A.S.P. includes techniques common to other fighting arts and no attempt is made to conceal this fact. This is perfectly normal and to be expected. When the founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano, put his system together, he borrowed freely from existing arts; even the name "Judo" was not new. The same is true for other "arts" or sports, for example Aikido, karate and savate.

The progression of human knowledge is based on previous human knowledge in a continuous sequence. In the field of the fighting arts, one can always say by watching a technique supposedly "belonging" to one art that it really belongs to another. Examples: Judo and free style wrestling; karate and French boxing; Aikido and jujitsu; sabre fencing and kendo. The truth is that a so-called new art is really a new systematic approach to a given type knowledge, nothing more.

In the fighting arts, as in warfare, one has to adopt a strategy. A.S.P. has adopted that of working with principles rather than with individual techniques. Its unified approach to all fighting arts and sports is based on the guided application of the common underlying principles of distance, direction, timing, leverage and momentum. A practical, technical let us say, attempt to "normalize" the approach to the fighting arts must also rely on judiciously selected training methods aiming at developing the desired understanding and attributes. Because A.S.P. has either developed or selected specific, simple and versatile techniques along these lines, when said techniques are viewed individually and out of the context of its master plan, the whole point of A.S.P. is missed. This is what some martial artists fail to grab.

A.S.P. Guidelines and Progression


Any form of self-protection must consider man as a whole, otherwise it becomes not only incomplete, but also inefficient. Most of us will, fortunately, never have to face the brunt of a physical attack. All of us have to live with ourselves and others every day of our lines. As mentioned, A.S.P. is geared to self-protection, including physical fitness and mind-body coordination. Confidence and skill go hand in hand. Practice is essential in developing any skill. However, such practice must be consistent with the proper understanding and application of the principles involved. Only then will it result in applying the appropriate techniques instinctively, without much forethought.

Practice according to the Five Principles develops balance besides other important attributes. One cannot perform at his full physical potential when even slightly off balance. Balance should not be achieved to the detriment of mobility. It is true that balance is improved when one lowers his center of gravity by bending the knees, while spreading and staggering the feet to increase the base of support. Such position, however, invariably results in some loss of mobility and must be taken only to brace momentarily against an attack threatening one s balance. The natural erect posture, or one close to it, is best for balance and mobility and should be adopted whenever possible.

Efficient use of leverage, particularly in lifting, requires one to be quite close to the object be is about to lift. The resulting favorable lever arm ratio helps lifting with minimum expenditure of energy. On the contrary, developing momentum (kinetic energy) through the use of centripetal force requires the longest radius possible and, therefore, the greatest distance from the axis of the body to the point where this momentum is to be applied. Power developed via leverage or momentum is best used against one of the many weak areas of the opponent, or for directing and guiding his movements, rather than opposing them.

In A.S.P., smooth flowing motions are emphasized. We shy away from blocking, not only because it is not accessible to weaker persons without extensive training, but also because we believe that it has an adverse effect on relaxation and coordination. Instead, we make extensive use of dodging techniques and deflections which we believe to be essential for "somatic" self-protection.


A. Our first concern is to develop coordination, and particularly with the kicks, balance.

B. After this goal is reached, kicking and striking are further studied with the fullest use of the body. The so-called "focusing" is studied only at later stages, so that A.S.P. exponents may kick or strike adding the extra dimension of "focusing" only when the situation calls for it.  There are several parts of the body which can be used to deliver blows in self-defense as well as in retaliation. In order to develop skill in their use, one has to learn not only where to strike, but also how to strike.

We said earlier that, for effective self-defense, retaliation is secondary to body positioning and shifting. In keeping with this emphasis, we study initially means to retaliate only as related to specific techniques.

This does not mean that we neglect kicking and striking. However, our approach is a radical departure from the well-publicized karate methods. We believe that teaching students the so-called "focusing" at the early stages of their training is unnecessary, besides being dangerous. When called for, a well-placed kick in one of the many vulnerable areas of the human body does not have to be "focused" to be damaging. Qn the other hand, a "focused" kick will cause unnecessarily severe damage, entailing considerable liability on the part of its user. Anyone initially conditioned to use only "focused" kicks and blows will use such when the opportunity presents itself. Should he attempt to pull his blows or kicks too soon, these will be ineffective and, if he does not pull them, they may be unnecessarily damaging and even lethal. Against a moving target such as the human body, "focusing" affords little control. If one, however, has learned first to use ordinary kicks and punches in full balance and, after he has mastered this he is trained in "focusing", he then has the choice not only of the target, but also to the type of kick or blow he is going to use. We in A.S.P. believe that this degree of freedom is invaluable.

Striking and kicking techniques are studied systematically only after body shifting has been mastered, also for another reason. If they were studied first, they would invariably create a wrong impression of security in the mind of the student. He may be led to believe that he can handle well a given situation with striking and kicking techniques alone, little realizing that this can be achieved only with long and arduous training and, even then, with very impermanent results. Getting out of the way of an attack first, by appropriate motion of the body, is the essence of self-protection. Retaliation should follow, only when necessary. Many more people can be taught to evade an attack than to retaliate efficiently. While some would not want to retaliate, even if they knew how, all would want to evade an attack.

C. Means of controlling an opponent with joint twisting techniques, chokes and pins are gradually introduced. Grappling is studied initially with a view of getting back to the standing position, or making the opponent give up by appropriate application of controlling techniques. At a later stage, stickfighting is introduced because, besides its didactic value, it deals with one of the simplest and most accessible weapons. It is of particular value to older and weaker persons.

D. An A.S.P. system of physical fitness is incorporated from the beginning. Other aspects of self-protection are studied later, and special emphasis is placed on practical exercises for keeping the mind-body relationship in good order. Means of recognizing people who are potentially dangerous on other accounts than bodily harm are also dealt with.

E. In the Black Belt A.S.P. First Degree program, neither locks nor chokes are used, for two reasons:

(a) They are not necessary for efficient self-defense.

(b) They require lengthy training in order to be mastered enough so that they can be applied against an opponent, who is bound to be less cooperative than a training partner. Their study is part of advanced A.S.P. programs, where every basic technique is shown to lead to controlling locks and chokes if desired. Variations are kept to an absolute minimum, in order not to confuse the student with many alternatives. Besides, with the elements he learns, be will have no difficulty devising his own. Promotional requirements do not include technique variations.

Competitive aspects of A.S.P.

Because it includes essentially all facets of self-protection, A.S.P. comprises several kinds of competition: (1) technical sparring (a) without and (b) with controlling techniques*; (2) combination kicking and striking forms, or "comsek"; (3) free style kicking and striking (kickboxing); (4) grappling; (5) stickfighting.

*locks and chokes

Perfectly safe and accessible to any whole and healthy individual, A.S.P. technical sparring is the basic form of competition and an integral part of every training session. At this first stage, the speed of reaction is all important and retaliation per se is de-emphasized, and explained above. This is the utilitarian aspect of A.S.P. accessible to the majority. A.S.P. technical competition aims to duplicate under safe conditions encountered in real life, and to develop in the contestants the capability to react instantly to various attacks. This must be achieved in a sportsmanlike manner and without any injuries. To achieve this, all attacks must be clearly executed and all defenses must be carried out without brutality. The attacker must desist from his attack once it has been foiled, and the defender must desist from his retaliation once it has achieved its defensive purpose. Inconclusive and/or vague situations must be discontinued at once by common accord of all contestants. Any departure from the above guidelines is penalized. The contestant with the least penalty points wins.

Technical sparring and competition are mainly concerned with speed of reaction and with developing coordination and body motion management. They are easily accessible to both sexes: male and female students practice together and co-ed classes are the rule. Children may also participate, thus making A.S.P. a true family sport. As the student progresses, he is expected to react faster and faster, and to follow up on a given defensive technique. For this reason, graduates of basic A.S.P. spar and compete against two or more opponents and may also use technique combinations.

A.S.P.A. Structure and Ranking

The A.S.P. Association, A.S.P.A., a not for profit corporation, is structured to include, under the main A.S.P. body, several divisions with vice presidents responsible for them. Typical divisions are related to kickboxing and law enforcement.  Recognizing the value of the belt ranking system, A.S.P. has adopted one specific to its needs, because it sets short term goals for the student and affords recognition after these have been successfully reached.  The A.S.P. student must choose, after having mastered the basic system, whether he wants to become an expert or be content with knowledge adequate for self-protection. Becoming an expert requires complete dedication and constant effort. On the other hand, useful practical knowledge can be maintained and improved with moderate practice. There are ten black belt A.S.P. ranks. Specialized ranks in kickboxing and law enforcement also exist.

Martial Artists and A.S.P.

The A.S.P. Association (A.S.P.A.) welcomes martial artists and, upon adequate proof, awards equivalence, provisional and full-fledged A.S.P. ranks. The following points must be kept in mind:

If A.S.P. is to be true to itself, it must maintain its integrity. It follows that A.S.P. must be taught separately as an entity. Gleaning A.S.P. techniques and incorporating them into "self-defense" programs is counterproductive and negates the very purpose for which A.S.P. was developed. As stated earlier, A.S.P. techniques must be studied within their context, else they lose much of their meaning and the student misses the very point for which A.S.P. was developed. Naturally, this does not mean that a martial artist joining the A.S.P.A. should drop out of his earlier art. It just means that he should not mix it up with A.S.P. If he is sincere and stays with A.S.P., be will find in fact that it will help him considerably in refining his martial art techniques, while progressing in A.S.P. rank at the same time.

Martial artists joining the A.S.P.A. will also discover that essentially all their previous knowledge is relevant. However, they are expected to make a conscious effort to:

(a) Consider A.S.P. as a whole and see beyond its individual techniques.

(b) Master at least the basic program leading to Black Belt

A.S.P. First Degree. Even martial artists with moderate experience may accomplish this with limited study, because of its effective approach to teaching.

There is a great need for qualified A.S.P. instructors. Upon application, bona fide black belts may be awarded a provisional black belt A.S.P. rank to enable them to start instructing. They are also allowed two years to qualify for a full-fledged A.S.P. rank. Mastering the basic program is essential, because it not only establishes one’s understanding of A.S.P. philosophy, but also his sincere intention to give A.S.P. a fair try. We do not expect anyone to take our word about the benefits of A.S.P. Trial yields proof. But it must be meaningful and fair.

The General Public and A.S.P.

Even at the basic level, the person who has no inclination to become an expert will get a well-rounded body of self-defense and body-mind coordination knowledge with a superior yield in terms of his investment in time and effort. For the reasons stated above, he will also retain the acquired knowledge much longer. This is true even for retarded and handicapped persons. However, we do not wish to mislead anyone into expecting miracles without training, which in its simplest form (after some techniques have been mastered) involves mental conditioning and constant awareness.

The best system in the world can give anyone only a fighting chance, which is directly proportional to his age, physical condition and degree of training. There are simply no panaceas and no miracles. One must be prepared to expend a minimal effort, at least to the point of developing some vital conditioned responses to common attacks. A.S.P. does this with better efficiency than any other system. A.S.P. is now known in several countries.

Evan S. Baltazzi, D.Sc., D.Phil.



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