People always think that learning how to defend themselves in a survival situation means that I am going to teach them how to fight. Sorry, that is simply not the case. Actually, what I am going to do, is teach you how to avoid fighting whenever you can, and then give you some basic tips on how to survive a fight if you have to. I can give you tips and basics, but nothing is a substitute for real training. I encourage you to take classes in any martial art, doesn’t matter which, any style can save your life.
You need to understand that knowing how to fight and defend yourself is crucially important — but fighting should always be a last resort when all other options have been exhausted. Avoidance, on the other hand, is the first best option. Remember the easiest life-threatening confrontation to walk away from, is the one you never encounter! More than any move or technique you can learn in this article, the main lesson you need to take away from it is this: In a Survival Situation Self-Defense is About Using Your Wits – Not Your Fists!
There are many different ways to defend yourself, ranging from the use of firearms, non-lethal weapons such as Stun-guns or Pepper Sprays, hand weapons such as knives, swords and batons, improvised weapons, to hand-to-hand combat. But no matter how you choose to defend yourself, all Self Defense starts with the same two concepts:
- You need to understand your limitations.
- You need to be able to assess the threat level to you and have the skill set and the mind set to react accordingly.
When alone, it is important to ensure that you display an air of confidence that others can see. By not backing down from a confrontation, by keeping up an air of confidence, you may cause your aggressor to be the one to back down. Always maintain direct eye contact. This can intimidate your opponent, and also allows you to look for signs that he or she is about to make the first move.
When confronted by a potentially violent adversary, the first thing you need to do is literally “size-up” the situation. Is the aggressor much larger or stronger looking than you are? Does he or she appear to be armed? Look for baggy pants or other loose clothing — this is usually a sign that they are concealing a weapon of some sort. Is the aggressor wearing clothes like heavy or steel-toed boots, or spikes and chains that can cause you serious injuries? Now is the time to look for anything that you can use to your advantage, if violence erupts. Look for:
- Long hair and clothing you could grab.
- Friends–yours or the attackers–who may come to your defense or become otherwise involved.
- A red face, flushed with blood, implies that the attacker is not ready for fighting; otherwise the blood would be diverted to the muscles.
- A white, thin-lipped face and ‘tight’ voice imply that violence is imminent.
If You Have to Fight
Sometimes despite your best efforts to escape or avoid a confrontation, violence is inevitable. Only you will know when that line has been crossed and there is no other alternative but to fight to survive. But understand this, once you have made that decision, there is no turning back, and no holding back. It is you, or your attacker. When you do fight back, get angry and give it everything you have. Do not even think of fighting fairly, your attacker won’t!
Kick, bite, scratch, gouge, do anything you can; with anything you have to disable your opponent. Don’t think twice about grabbing a handful of dirt, gravel or sand and throwing it into your attacker’s face, or using your keys to thrust into his eyes. Sounds harsh? Too bad, he is trying to kill you!
Again, if you want to really know how to come out on top, you need to get some training. I cannot give you in a brief article, what you can get from a class. But in a pinch and if you have not had any training here is what I recommend.
FEET and LEGS– You probably instinctively know and it is 100% true, the most effective technique for putting down a male opponent is a kick or knee to the groin. When finding yourself in a conflict scenario, immediately assess your opponent’s defensive capabilities. If your attacker is without a knife, gun or other weapon, make a quick attempt to distract your opponent while kicking his groin. If the blow connects and your attacker becomes temporarily immobilized, take the opportunity to run away or seek help. Do not waste vital time taunting your attacker, or trying to deliver a “finishing blow.” If the groin region is not a clear target, use your kicks to maintain distance between you and your attacker while maintaining balance and bodily equilibrium. Use easy and stable kicks such as the front kick (jabbing your heel waist-level at an opponent directly in front of you) or the shin scrape (kicking down at your opponent’s shins and scraping down the leg) to maintain balance while causing as much damage as possible.
ARMS and HANDS – If you are untrained you can do far more damage with something in your hand, then with your fist or open hand. One of the primary instructions I teach in self-defense workshops is using your keys as a weapon. Quickly grab your keys and position them within your fist so that two keys jut out directly between your knuckles, with a key between your pointer and middle, as well as middle and ring finger, respectively. This creates a small weapon from your hand that will cause your punches to be more damaging. When punching your opponent, pivot your hips as if you were throwing a baseball. Forget the cowboy stuff and don’t go for the jaw. Aim for the nose instead. Punches to the bridge of the nose can easily break your opponent’s nose, stunning him and cause bleeding. If you cannot reach your opponent’s face, aim instead for the solar plexus region immediately below where your attacker’s ribs end down the center of his body — a blow to the solar plexus can render him disabled through loss of breath.
I also teach about the use of improvised weapons. In a street attack be prepared to use anything and everything you have at your disposal to defend yourself. The following can all be used very effectively against any opponent:
- Coins from your pocket can be thrown in an attacker’s face, or you can wrap them up in a handkerchief or sock and use as a club.
- Use your bag, purse, briefcase, aim for the head.
- Umbrellas and walking sticks can be used as clubs or jabbed into feet or stomach, or brought up between the legs to an attacker’s groin.
- Hard-soled shoes are essential to be able to kick effectively. Aim for the groin. Scrape your shoe down a shin.
- High heels should be aimed at an attacker’s foot or hand. Putting all her weight on a thin heel means an average woman can exert a pressure of nearly three-quarters of a ton! But, you cannot run in high heels. Take them off and throw them, or use them to strike the attacker.
- Roll up a newspaper and jab it end first into the face or stomach.
- Jab a credit card, comb, hairbrush, anything into the upper lip below the nose.
- Scrape a comb across the attacker’s face or back of the hand.
- Dig a pen or pencil into the attacker’s hand or face, the attacker’s impulse may be to defend the eyes.
- Powder from a compact may temporarily blind an attacker.
- Perfume, hairspray or deodorant can be sprayed into an attacker’s eyes.
When Your Opponent Is Armed
In situations where your opponent has a gun, it is ill-advised for you to attempt to fight or disarm your opponent unless you have received considerable training in doing so. In cases where you are held at gunpoint with a firearm, the safest and smartest strategy is to simply follow your attacker’s commands unless he puts the firearm down, in which case you kick him in the groin.
If you have a sense that a mugger with a firearm is going to shoot, even if you cooperate, your best option is to run in the opposite direction, very fast, in a zig-zag pattern – very few street thugs have the skills or training to hit a moving target.
If your opponent is attacking you with a knife, pipe or other weapon, keep him at bay with kicks until he moves into close range. A cane or a stick gives you reach over a knife. When dealing with an opponent armed with a weapon other than a firearm, and you feel that cooperation is not an option — disarming his weapon is your number one priority.
Again this is not easy without proper self-defense or martial arts training, but it can be done with careful grabs to the wrist and wrist-locks initiated on the hand holding the weapon. Wait until your opponent leads with an attack, and grab his wrist with one hand while either kicking him in the groin or striking his nose or solar plexus. If the pain of your blow has not weakened his grip on his weapon, use two hands to twist his wrist until you cause enough pain to disarm him.
In future posts we will discuss how to survive an encounter against multiple attackers, non-lethal weapons you can carry, and the best firearms for protection and self-defense.
Written by Mike F. Strong