Despite what you see in the movies or what you saw in the schoolyard as a child, most adult fights are over in seconds, and leave at least one victim with serious injuries or worse, not to mention the psychological aftermath. There is nothing flash or sexy about it â€“ itâ€™s an uncontrolled, unattractive mess, and one you want to avoid at all costs. Assuming you are not the violent type (if you are, this article isnâ€™t for you â€¦ and please donâ€™t bother signing for our course), and you are not intentionally offering any provocation, then it might seem like an attack came out of nowhere and that there was nothing you could do to avoid it. In reality, there is usually a â€œreasonâ€ for the attack, that boils down to the attacker wanting to get something from you â€“ not always material. Here are 5 basic self-defence tips that might help you when confronted with unwanted aggression.
Tip #1: Create A Fence
Put your hands out in front, as if to gesture the word “stop!”. This is a passive gesture (I said hands, not fists!) and looks almost weak, but don’t be fooled – it’s an extremely useful tool in defending yourself. Under threat, we will in fact make this gesture quite naturally, though are probably not consciously aware why. Although subtle, it gives you the following 3 advantages:
- Guards Your Personal Space -Â Â You are effectively putting up a â€œfenceâ€ between you and your potential attacker Â (a term credited to self-defence author and bouncer, Geoff Thompson). This will give you the space to see any threatening movements. Typically an aggressor will try to close off this space as much as possible, perhaps even pushing his chest right up against you and putting his face to yours. Keeping your hands out in front opens the distance by putting an obstacle (your hands) between you and your attacker. It also communicates subconsciously to the attacker to stay put!
- Closes Your Striking Distance – Every boxer knows to keep his hands up to protect his face. In the old days when fighting bare-knuckled they even kept one hand out close to their opponent to allow for fast jabs. All martial arts have some version of a “ready” stance to optimize their ability to attack without telegraphing. By putting your hands up you are effectively doing the same thing, but in a much less confrontational or detectable way. Sneaky, huh?!
- You can better assess intent – There is noÂ guarantee of course that they will not try to break this fence, but if they do you at least have a better understanding of their intent.Â If for example they are persistent on closing distance by physically moving your hands by pushing them away, or pressing against them with their body, then they are displaying physical, not just verbal, aggression.
Ever talk to a bouncer in a club and notice he keeps his hands up, maybe as if arms are folded or stroking his chin as if ‘thinking’ – now you know why.
Tip #2: Avoid The Interview
A typical behavior an aggressor will use is to engage in some kind of “conversation”, often justÂ asking a bunch of disorienting questions. You know the kind â€“ â€œwhat are you looking at?â€, â€œdo you have a problem?â€, etc. This is what is called the interview. Donâ€™t take part in it! There are many reasons that interviewing is a common strategy, most of them working at a subconscious level. An important one is that the aggressor is trying to justify an attack. Attacking someone whoâ€™s at a disadvantage in some way (smaller, weaker, unarmed, alone etc) is always cowardly and wrong, yet rather than acknowledge this an attacker will usually find some way to justify his actions. You have to understand that at a deeper level there is something else inside him that is triggering the behavior, not you, and so he will look for ways to convince himself, and often other people too, that an attack was justified. Interviewing is a great way for him to find that excuse! It is his way of leading you into looking like the aggressor, who â€œdeservedâ€ to be attacked, thus justifying (in his head) his actions. Donâ€™t engage in this conversation! Every time you answer an interview question you open up a new line of questioning.Â Whatâ€™s more, the unexpected shock to the unsuspecting victim will cause him to become adrenalized, which limits our ability to think at a high level and can make the whole process very confusing and disorientating â€“ hardly an optimum condition to defend yourself. A good self-defence to the interview is to â€œshut downâ€ communication. Donâ€™t answer his questions â€“ donâ€™t even try to internalize them â€“ just be clear to him that you are not comfortable and want him to go away. How to tell him this? â€œLeave me alone!â€ would be an obvious way! If a person is genuinely not out to harm you, then he will do as you ask. Otherwise, heâ€™ll refuse to hear the word â€œnoâ€ and continue with the interview.
Tip #3: Use Your Voice
I said â€œdonâ€™t converseâ€, not â€œdonâ€™t speakâ€. Conversing means what it says â€“ donâ€™t get into a conversation, but you absolutely should make your wishes clear. â€œGo Awayâ€ is a pretty clear instruction, donâ€™t you think? â€œLeave me aloneâ€, or â€œstay backâ€ are others. Whatever you choose, say it clearly and with authority. Authority, not aggression! Remember you are giving instruction of your wishes â€“ that the aggressor leaves you alone â€“ you are not threatening or reciprocating aggression, as this will just elevate the situation even faster. For example, saying â€œGo Awayâ€ is acceptable, but â€œGo Away, Iâ€™m warning you!â€ is an implied threat. The whole point here is to diffuse the attack, not to escalate it by adding threats or insults (intentional or not) to your own language. Donâ€™t use insulting or provocative language either, such as telling them to â€œf- offâ€. Language such as that may be enough for him to skip the interview altogether! If your instruction to go away is falling on deaf ears, raise your voice and repeat it, as often as you need to. Apart from shutting down communication, it might even bring enough attention to the situation at hand that the attacker looses interest. Furthermore, you have made your wishes clear so there is no room for confusion as to whether or not you were defending yourself if the situation degenerates, to both yourself, your attacker, and any potential witnesses.
Tip #4: Hit First!!!
Are you shocked by that? I am not suggesting you punch everyone you feel uncomfortable with. That is not self-defence and will land you in jail! But if you are cornered or unable to escape, find yourself being aggressively interviewed, and have been very clear to the aggressor that you want him to leave you alone â€“ yet still he is continuing with his threatening behavior, then all indications are that the attack has already begun. Are you going to wait until it escalates into the physical to your disadvantage? Fights are very often won or lost on the first blow, and if youâ€™ve ever experienced a disorientating punch youâ€™ll realize how difficult it is to recover and defend against an onslaught of further attacks, especially when your attacker is fully orientated and adrenalized. For this reason, I would say in a situation like this it is better for you to hit first. Bearing in mind that I am not a solicitor(!), I would rather take my chances in a hopefully rational courtroom than against a crazed and irrational violent attacker. My â€œcodeâ€ for this situation is basically â€“ if you genuinely feel that you are about to be physically assaulted, and have no way to escape or diffuse the attack, then a pre-emptive attack is justified self-defence. It may sound like a lot of thinking under such a stressful situation, but it will be pretty clear in the moment and the decision can be reached very quickly. Of course this is all assuming that you are a normal and law-abiding citizen without any psychological condition that might lead to unjustified paranoia, and without a “habit” of attacking people who annoy you. If you are finding yourself in these situations very often then you need to ask yourself why â€¦ and probably not resort to pre-emptive striking! Really a dose of common sense is needed with this self-defence tip.
Tip #5: Escape
This applies to before, during and after any confrontation. Run if you need to! Donâ€™t let your ego get in the way of your safety. Some people actually think that suddenly running or leaving might cause anger and provoke an attack, but it is extremely unlikely. If the person/people didnâ€™t mean you any harm, nothing will happen. You wonâ€™t provoke violent behavior in them by escaping if they didnâ€™t already have that intention. Other times people, particularly men, don’t want to run away because it’s “cowardly”. The fact is however that sticking around a hostile and potentially life threatening situation to “save face” is foolish, not brave. In actuality, it is the sensible thing to escape, and an ironic act of fear to stay – you have allowed the fear of social rejection take presedence over your basic survival instinct. Does that sound like a smart move to you?! Real fights are an uncontrolled and unpredictable beast that you donâ€™t want to be involved in. If you have the choice to escape and you do not, then what you do is not an act of self defence! Get somewhere safe, away from the site of attack. Be smart, be safe.
And there you have it! I did say “simple self-defence tips” but guess what – it’s the simple stuff that works most often! Of course the majority of time in our training coursesÂ is spent learning how to actually deal with the physical side of self-defence, and working out at high energy, because this is the most “technical” (and fun!) part – but it’s also the last resort part. Without the proper groundwork and a realistic self-defence game plan, it falls flat.
Paul Duffy, krav.ie
If you liked this self-defence article and think others can benefit from it, why not share it with your friends on facebook. Just click the like button below. You may also rate the article by clicking “Submit Review” button below.
Hi Paul its Jason I trained wid u last year. Gr8 article hope everything is good let me know if any courses coming in Kildare. Thanks, Jay.
Response: Hi Jay,
Yes I remember you - hope all is well with you too. I\'m not running in Kildare but have a 2 day in Dublin next month!!! Give me a shout for details.