"Defense in Depth"
Military Principle and Personal Protection Reality

By Peter Siebert, Senior Instructor
WALKSAFE Personal Protection Systems and
Combat Dynamics WA
Too often martial art schools offer self-defense lessons with the associated image of some woman or child fending off an adult of dubious character. Many martial arts have become so sport oriented that their self-defense value has been seriously eroded. In some cases this has occurred to the point where they are actually placing the lives of practitioners in jeopardy through false confidence and poor understanding of the requirements for self-defense.

I would argue that physical confrontation is less than one third of the self-defense equation. In the close protection industry we are taught to look for trouble and avoid it before it impacts on the client. The close protection specialist is not only focused on saving the client from physical harm but also embarrassment and humiliation as well. This concept is equally of value in formulating our own self-defense profile.

Self-defense is much more than just physical combat; it is a mind-set: It is a combination of awareness, information gathering, good procedures and practices as well as the ability to apply these things in confrontation. It is the acknowledgement that the world can be a dangerous place; it is our acceptance of that fact and our preparation to minimize that risk. It is nor only looking to avoid a fight, it's knowing where the fire escape is, it's having a survivalist's view and being prepared for anything that may threaten life, limb or well-being.

Unfortunately, many of us do not have the time, will power or physique to emulate our martial arts heroes when it comes to gaining self-defense skills. The expectation planted in our brains by Hollywood is that a fight should be cleanly dealt with in an expert manner. I have been in and seen many altercations; I have yet to see one that looks as clean as a Hollywood fight scene. Self defense for the majority of us will be an all out-kicking, scratching, biting affair with no clear outcome.

If we are careful and use common sense, we may be able to avoid ever coming into conflict. The majority of people manage to do this for most of their lives without really knowing how they are doing so.  It is human impulse to avoid danger and it is this impulse that the WALKSAFE system exploits in building the foundations of good self-defense. 

The foundation concept for formulating our own personal protection profile is called "Defense in Depth". Whilst I was serving in the military we constantly made use of this principle to provide security for operations. The rationale behind the principle is that you should never depend on a single layer of defense to provide security for your operations (lifestyle), but rather layer your defenses so that you have many layers of protection.
This concept is extremely sound and battle tested. It is the same concept that is applied to corporate security applications.

By layering our defenses we build in time delay. Time is the critical component when reacting to any threat, regardless of whether it is real or imagined. Time allows us to identify the threat and apply the appropriate risk mitigation strategies. In doing so we apply the principle, "Identify the Threat, Manage the risk".

Information Gathering

Take two minutes out, right now! Look around; examine your location from a self-defense point of view. If you were faced with danger right now and had to escape to safety, where would you run to? What objects could you press into service as improvised weapons or escape tools? Are there other options? Which are the most appropriate? Where does your chosen escape route lead?

The vast majority of us know very little about the environment in which we live and work. How then can we move safely through life? The answer, of course, is we can't. The media is full of stories everyday about honest citizens that didn't.
Every one of you reading this will know someone that was robbed, burgled or worse. We spend our lives in a sea of ignorance relying on the false hope that if something happens to us someone will come to our aid.

The harsh reality of life is that in any crisis the only person you can rely on is YOURSELF!!!

Information gathering is your primary means of self-protection. Take time out to study the environment in which you intend to work and live. If you are overseas, check out the culture of the society in which you intend to work. What are their habits and customs? Do they clash with yours? How far are you prepared to compromise in order to fit in? What will that mean to your personal security? You should be asking yourself all of these questions and more. Be as well prepared as you possibly can. It doesn't matter if you traveling to the next town, interstate or to another country, research, research, research! Find out what is going on before you get there.

Once you are in the area become a skilled observer. Use your eyes and ears to fill in the blanks from your earlier research. Watch people, observe their mannerisms, and see how they interact with each other, how they dress and how they eat. Immerse yourself in the culture so that, if need be, you can become part of it and in doing so ensure your own protection.

A word of warning, be discriminating with any data you collect. Always try and gauge any information you receive against other data and then decide if it is true. We live in a world where information overload is common. Not everything you see or hear is true.


There is no doubt about it, Technology steals Awareness! We live in a convenience society where, ever increasingly, technology does the work. As a result we often neglect the very human machine we need, our brain! Our survival instinct is "inbuilt". It is a left over from much more primitive times and often doesn't manifest itself unless we find our selves in immediate danger.
At this time it results in what is called "Flight or Fight" syndrome. Like any muscle, if it is not exercised on a regular basis it atrophies. Awareness is that impending sense of danger or that something is happening. In order to rebuild our awareness to a workable level for self-defense it is necessary to exercise the function.

Look around while you are out, try to take notice of your surroundings, you will be amazed at what you see. As a means of training this ability try these simple exercises:

Set your watch so that it chimes every hour. When it chimes take a few minutes out and look around. Check out you immediate environment! You will be amazed at what you see and what you haven't been seeing. Once you have gotten used to looking around, think about the safety and security aspects. Where are the escape routes, where do the corridors lead to, are there any objects around that you could use to escape or defend yourself with?

Become a student of the time-honored art of "People Watching". Look at the people around you, how they interact with each other, the warning signs that something is wrong. Learn to catalogue your observations so that they become the benchmark against which you apply your day-to-day observations. The advantage of this exercise is that it also gives you good insight into body language. They may be saying one thing but giving you a totally different message with their body. Learn to recognize these signs.

Procedures and Practices

The development of personal procedures and practices is yet another facet of the self-protection profile. Gathering information on its own is not enough, honing our awareness on its own is not enough. We need to take the information that we are gathering through observation and awareness ad use it to develop our own personal procedures and practices to ensure we reduce the opportunity for danger to strike at us.
What sort of things are we talking about here?  Suppose there is a knock at the door at night. How do you answer it? The majority of us would get up, turn on every light in the house and open the door to find out what damn fool was knocking on our door.

If, however, we had developed a series of safety and security procedures for ourselves we would get up and leave the lights inside off. We would turn the outside lights on so our "caller" was in the light. We would look through the "spyhole" before we opened the door. We might even ask through the door who is there. We would make sure that our door was fitted with a security screen, which we always keep locked so we had an additional barrier.

Physical Security

Determining the level of threat in the areas that you live and work will allow you to determine the level of physical security you require at your residence or workplace. Check the crime statistics, most of the local law enforcement personnel will be able to assist you in determining the trends in your area. If break and enter is a problem then you obviously need to think about burglar proofing your establishment.

Good quality locks fitted to solid core doors. Spyholes, door limiters and security screens are all part of a simple upgrade that will prevent all but the most determined attempt to access your property.

Detailed lists of fittings and procedures are located in later sections of this booklet.

Don't become complacent though. Just because you fit all these security applications doesn't mean that you won't become a target. Criminals know that you will be feeling safe inside of all of your security systems, they also know that you are likely to become complacent and forget to use your own personal procedures and practices. There have been numerous examples of rich people that have been kidnapped, killed or robbed despite the fact that they had extremely sophisticated electronic security systems in place.


We have now reached the realm of Self-Defense, the physical confrontation! Over the next few pages we will examine those aspects that directly relate to a physical confrontation. It is important to remember that no matter how well prepared we are there may be that occasion when our various layers of defense are breached. It may be by someone close to us or simply because we provided an opportunity that was exploited. Whatever the reason we are now about to face physical danger.

Within the realm of physical confrontation our defenses continue to be layered. The first layer and one that I consider to extremely important is intuition.

When our ancestors were still living in caves their intuition was finely honed by the day-to-day struggle for survival. They were living in an environment where a wrong step or bad judgment meant death. Over the years we have become civilized and advances in technology have made us feel safer. But are we really?

Daily I read about home invasions, muggings robbery and murder. I can't help thinking different time but the same old story; the struggle for survival goes on. How does intuition help us through this?

We have all walked into situations where "the air was so thick you could cut it with a knife". Either there has been a fight or tension between parties has been such that it left a palpable presence in the room. It is our intuition that lets us feel these things. The close presence of danger sends alarm bells ringing.

Trust these instincts, if you don't feel that alley is safe to walk down, don't try and convince yourself you are being stupid. Trust your instincts, walk the extra block or so to get where you are going.

It is important to exercise our intuition as well. A good exercise (besides people watching) to develop your intuition is to be able to identify the components of a situation that cause fear. Try taking quick glances at people as you are going about your day-to-day business.  Based on that quick glance I want you to raise a self defense scenario in your head. I'm talking seconds here. Based on that glance if they were to attack me now, what attack could I logically expect and how would I react? If you find someone that scares you after a glance check them out again. Take note of their appearance, physical build and the circumstances under which you saw them.

What was it the scared you? Were they wearing a leather jacket or had a tattoo? Did they give you a hard look or was their body language aggressive? Dissemble the situation and examine the components, find out what gave you cause for alarm. If we do this on a regular basis not only does our intuition become more honed but our perceptions are better as well.

Self Defense Skills

No matter how hard we try it is inevitable that sooner or later some form of physical threat will confront us. Many people, either in panic or through lack of experience, simply can't identify that a situation is starting to become dangerous.

The key to success in being able to deal with these situations is training. Find yourself a good school that you think will cater for your needs, talk to the instructor about your specific requirements and do some training. Don't be afraid to shop around, there are many schools that teach sport martial arts and while these are excellent at raising your fitness levels they do little to equip you with workable skills that can be employed on the street. Recently I even heard that you could gain self-defense ability from practicing "kickboxercise". These claims are dangerous!

Don't be scared to try different styles and courses. Over time you will develop a set of basic maneuvers that work for you. Train these relentlessly each day so that they become instinctive. Don't bother with fancy moves just develop a simple straightforward set that is yours. Under stress these are the actions that you will employ.
Wherever possible try and get yourself some exposure to scenario based training.  This style of training puts you in controlled situations where you are under stress, this is excellent self defense conditioning.

A Final Word

There are very few things in life that are worth your life! If you are held up and they want your wallet or jewelry, then give it to them. Despite the indignity and perhaps embarrassment or whatever feelings of outrage you may have, money, credit cards and photos of the family are not worth dying for.

We fight only when we believe that there is a serious threat to personal safety or life. When this happens you must fight without thought of the consequences, you must fight as if your life depends on it, because it does!!!!!

There is a famous martial arts story that I would like to relate to you in closing that will bring all of the information that I have presented in this booklet together. In feudal Japan there was a Warlord who decided that his time in the world was nearly past. He called his three sons to give them his final instructions before dying. When they had gathered in his presence he lectured them concerning allies to the clan and enemies and the importance of keeping the clan lands together. He detected some dissent amongst them and so instructed the oldest boy to fetch a quiver full of arrows.

The Warlord then instructed the eldest boy to select an arrow and break it in half. This he did. The Warlord then instructed the youngest boy to take three arrows and bind them together with thonging. The arrows were then handed to the middle ranked son and he was told to break them. He could not.

Self-protection is like a bundle of arrows, a single arrow will never be as strong as three bound together. Remember, layer your defenses, keep trouble from impacting on your life by identifying the threat and managing the risk.  Above all apply common sense and use the concepts.

Good luck and stay safe!

The Author

Peter Siebert, is a 21-year veteran of the Australian Army with extensive service with the Australian Special Air Service Regiment. Peter holds several senior martial arts qualifications including black belts in Kenjutsu and Arnis De Mano and is a fully qualified WALKSAFE instructor.

Peter is a highly trained close protection operative and close quarter fighting instructor.  His extensive special operations background and martial arts experience lends credibility to self-protection/self defense training that is difficult to match.

Employed as a Security Advisor by a number of leading international business risk consultancies in Indonesia, Peter advises on and assists multi-national clients across South East Asia with their security. He has run the WALKSAFE for these clients, particularly expatriate families living abroad.

Should you have any inquires about the WALKSAFE program, Peter can be reached at Combat Dynamics or via email on the following address:  p_siebert@hotmail .com

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Peter Siebert (right) with Peter James
This page was last updated on: January 26, 2009