The Police Will Not Be There
The reason why everyone should take self defence seriously, no matter what country you live in, or how “safe” you think your neighbourhood may be, is that criminals and malicious people exist everywhere. Criminals usually rely on ambush tactics, they deliberately choose a moment to attack which suits them, and not you. By definition therefore, the police will not be there, when most people are attacked by criminals! Even in well ordered countries with effective police forces, there is no way that the police can be everywhere, and it takes time for the police to arrive, even when you can call them, no matter how efficient they may be.
So you should accept the fact, in the event that you are attacked, you WILL be facing that attacker alone. It will be up to you to defend your life, and the life of your family. The police will only deal with the aftermath. That is usually all they ever do. They arrive after the fact. Whether you survive or not will be largely up to you, in most cases.
Don’t Be a Victim
For some reason, victimhood is almost exulted in modern society? People are encouraged to become more and more helpless and useless, and then when they inevitably become victims to some sort of misfortune as a result, their victimhood is almost celebrated as a virtue?
While this sort of thinking may appeal to some people, it seems to be an exercise in futility from the point of view of the actual victim. It’s almost like a mother deliberately teaching her children to be helpless, so that they remain forever dependent on her motherly protection. Which is obviously not a healthy relationship.
It is a fact that crime, criminals and bad, evil people will always be with us. Criminals prey on the weak and helpless. Criminals, by definition do not obey laws, while us ordinary people do. Which is perhaps why crime and violence tends to explode in regions where the broader society has been rendered helpless via excessive regulation (criminals act with impunity, as they always do, while ordinary people are denied the means to defend themselves and thus become easy prey, resulting in a proliferation of crime)? This is basic human behaviour, older than time. We cannot pretend that criminality and malicious people do not exist.
Helpless useless people become desperate people – which also leads to more conflict and violence, not less. Making everyone helpless does not therefore result in peace and goodwill – actually the reverse!
Acting and behaving like a victim makes you a more attractive target to a criminal. You are thus more likely to be attacked. In other words behaving like a victim is a potentially self fulfilling course of action!
Beware of people who would encourage you to behave like a victim, they do not necessarily have your best interests at heart! Their advice, even if it is based on naive good intentions, is not born out by reality. Naivety is not a virtue, it’s exactly the same thing as being stupid – which is a fault! Not something to emulate.
The core premise of this website is that it is helpful and useful to you, your family as well as broader society, that you are able to look after yourself. And once you can look after yourself, then you will also be in a position to extend help to others. That way you become an asset to society, instead of a liability.
Would it not add to the peace and stability of broader society, if ordinary people could be confident in their ability to keep themselves and their families safe, at least to a basic level?
So when you go about your everyday life, be vigilant against bad characters around you, don’t blunder stupidly or naively into dangerous situations – and where necessary, take the steps necessary to look after yourself and your friends and family. The less opportunity you give to criminals, the less active they will be.
The Objective of Self Defence
As always, action or training without any firm objective in mind, is ultimately an exercise in confusion. So before one starts down the road towards learning how to defend yourself and your family, one should spend some time thinking about what exactly it is you hope to achieve overall. And then one should hold that objective firmly in mind, making sure that all your actions and training works towards that core goal.
My self defence instructor articulates the primary objective of self defence as “the preservation of life”, specifically, preserving your life and the life of your family and friends. A secondary and subordinate objective, includes preserving even the life of your attacker/s, but only after the primary objective has been achieved (you have successfully preserved the lives of those dear to you).
This is a good core objective I think.
It provides one with a clear overall directive of what it is one is attempting to do.
Inherent in that statement are a number of important implications:
Legitimate self defence situations are all life-or-death situations. You need to be reasonably sure that there is a real threat to life, to warrant taking this sort of action. The key word here is DEFENCE, you should only be acting with the objective of defending your life, or the lives of others.
There is significant risk in self defence situations, which may well result in someone dying, or serious injury, as well as other serious legal and financial consequences. So again, these are not actions to be taken lightly, or for insufficiently serious reasons. Be aware that the probability of legal action taken against you, if you survive an attack, in which you were forced to defend yourself, is almost certain. You need to use your very best judgement to ensure that you act correctly, even under extremely high stress, because the consequences are serious, and you will almost definitely be held to account afterwards, as you should be. You have to accept full responsibility for the consequences, and feel justified in your actions.
Because of the seriousness of the consequences of these type of situations, it is clearly best to avoid ever getting into such a situation, if at all possible. Remember your goal is to preserve life, not win an argument, or score a point.
Being aware of what is going on around you is probably the single most useful thing you can learn to do when practicing self defence. In addition, it doesn’t take a lot of effort or training to do. All you need to do is pay attention and adopt a specific mindset.
Criminals and bad characters tend to ambush their victims. If you go about your daily activities, oblivious to what is going on around you – you are advertising yourself as the perfect easy prey.
By being aware of what is happening around you, you are far more likely to spot a bad situation which is still developing, and thus avoid it, before anything bad happens. In addition, criminals can see that you are aware and might even leave you alone on that basis, because you have made their task that much harder.
Put your phone away and look around you.
Take notice of people’s behaviour. Watch their hands, are they hiding weapons? Can you see any bulges under their clothing that might mean they are carrying weapons? Are they shifting their weight in preparation for an attack? Are they avoiding eye contact, while shuffling closer? Are they filled with adrenaline, or drugs, and all jumpy? Are they behaving strangely in general? Does something not add up? Are they watching you too intently? Are they following you? Are they positioning themselves in preparation for an attack? Are they trying to get too close to you?
If you are in a car, take notice of the people in the cars around you. Three or four males in a car, taking more than usual interest in you, is a potential warning sign. Are they following you? When stopping at an intersection, take careful notice of the people hanging around in the vicinity. Is anyone approaching from behind your car? Check your mirrors. Keep your windows closed and doors locked.
Just stay alert and constantly scan what is going on around you. Stop focusing on your phone, you can do that at home or in the office, or some place where it is safe to do so.
Listen to that little inner voice inside us, which we all have. When it tells you something is wrong, and that it doesn’t like the situation, act on that message. It’s your subconscious speaking to you, which is not encumbered by formal apparent logic, it does not need to give you specific reasons, nor is it bound by political correctness, or any of the other learned behaviours we force ourselves to comply with. Your subconscious absorbs all the data it receives, even things you were not consciously aware of, and processes that data in ways which are more instinctive. That voice is literally evolution talking to you, it represents the survival lessons of all your ancestors, going right back to when those ancestors were wild animals fighting for survival in a much more dangerous world – so listen when it speaks!
Try to formulate the concept of a “safety compass” in your mind – think of a pointer inside your head which constantly points towards safety, so you always know where “safety” is, and how to get there, from where you are presently. You need to constantly look for, and note escape paths. Try adopt the habit of constantly formulating a Plan B, that will allow you to escape from any bad situation that might suddenly arise. If you go into a building, take notice of where all the exits are, and how to reach them, and just keep that information in the back of your mind. When you stop at an intersection with your car, leave some space so you can drive away if you have to. Try not to let yourself become boxed in. The idea is that if something bad happens, you are already aware of ways to get away and can use those options immediately, if necessary.
A very large number of bad situations can, or could have been avoided, if the people being attacked took notice of the developments in time, and then knew how to escape while they still could! All it takes is paying attention to what’s going on around you, as well as adopting that mindset, so that you are ready to act if necessary.
Practicing awareness is not the same thing as being paranoid. Simply be aware of what is happening around you, with the objective of not blundering into bad or dangerous situations that could have been detected beforehand, if only you had bothered to take notice.
Because self defence situations are all serious life-or-death situations, with potentially life-changing consequences, it is far far better to avoid getting into such a situation, than having to resort to fighting for your life and your family’s life.
So if you see such a situation developing, the first thing you should obviously do is try avoid it.
Leave if you can. Just focus on getting away to safety.
If you are in a car and are attacked, drive away if you can. Reverse out if necessary. If you need to bash your attacker’s car, or drive into your attackers, to get away, do that. There is often a moment when getting away is still possible, if you are ready to take the opportunity.
When you arrive at your gate, or any other gate, in your car, take very careful note of what the other cars are doing in the road around you. You need to make this a habit, because attacking people when they arrive at gates in cars, is a very common method used by criminals. Did a car containing three or four males drive by slowly just after you stopped? Did a car do a U-turn and come back? Are there any dodgy people hanging around near the gate? Is there a suspicious car parked in the street? If you have any suspicions about any of the cars, or people, in the road or nearby, rather do not stop at your gate, but keep on going. Go round the block and try again, when you are certain it is safe. If you are already stopped, make it a habit to not get out, nor switch the car off immediately, keep scanning your surroundings and your mirrors for a few moments (this is the moment when they are most likely to accost you). If you see anything dodgy happening, get going straight away, reverse if you have to, push their car out of the way if necessary. Be ready to use the very brief moment, while they are still establishing their attack, to just drive away.
If you are on foot, your objective is to get as much distance between you and your potential attackers, as quickly as possible. Try not let them come within two meters, at the very least, (because within that distance you may have to resort to fighting them off). But preferably, you need much more distance between you and them. Cross to the other side of the street, leave the building, head towards other people who can help, where there is light, try move out of enclosed spaces, where you can become boxed in.
If you are sure that you can out-run them, run. But do not run blindly in panic, run towards safety with some sort of plan in mind. You should have been keeping note of where safety is. You should also be reasonably sure you can reach safety before they catch you. But do not run, only to get rugby tackled from behind, because then you will be in a much worse situation, on the ground, potentially dazed or hurt, with an attacker on top of you, thus you will have already lost the advantage in any attempt to fight them off. For this reason, it might be necessary to turn and face them, when they get within arm’s reach, with the objective of incapacitating them first, before you run, so they cannot chase you and run you down.
You need to stay as calm as you can, and think things through, while you still can, because once a real fight for your life starts, clear thinking becomes very difficult, if not impossible.
Of course avoidance also means avoiding bad people, bad areas where crime is rampant, bad situations that could have been foreseen beforehand. So do not go wandering around bad neighbourhoods unnecessarily. Stay away from dark alleys, deserted parking areas, and that sort of thing. Do not walk right in-between a bunch of dodgy men hanging around on the street corner, rather cross to the other side of the street beforehand. If you are in a some shop or pub or restaurant and some people come in that you think are up to no good, just leave. If you have to drive around late at night, make sure you have sufficient fuel etc, so you do not get stranded all alone in the middle of no-where. Plan your routes so you avoid driving through dangerous areas.
Do not let strange people into your car, home, or gates. Deal with them outside, with a barrier in-between you and them.
If you are in a road rage situation where someone is trying to have an argument with you, do not stop. Just ignore them and drive away to safety.
Avoidance is not the same thing as being scared of every little thing that might occur. Nor should you be constantly imaging bad situations, where none actually exist (although it is better to err on the side caution). It is just a matter of cool judgement, where your awareness has alerted you to a potentially bad situation developing, and then taking some measured steps to avoid blundering further into that situation, while it can still be avoided. You need to go on living your life as normally as possible – just with your eyes wide open and acknowledging the reality that bad things can, and sadly often do, happen. Your objective is avoid that happening to you, or your family if you could possibly see the situation developing beforehand. No-one else is going to keep you safe. It is up to you. So stay alert and exercise good judgement.
Being aware of your surroundings and trying hard to avoid potentially bad situations as you see them developing, can go a very long way towards defending yourself from the bad things that can happen in life. If you do nothing else, adopt these two techniques as daily habits.
If the first two steps (Awareness and Avoidance) have failed, and you have been unfortunate (or stupid) enough to find yourself in a bad situation, where there are definitely bad people trying to attack you, or threatening to harm you or your family in some way, you still may be able to avoid violence by de-escalating the situation.
But be aware – in the de-escalation phase you need to be ready to revert to the last phase (attack) at a moment’s notice, so you need to treat the de-escalation phase as also the preparation for having to physically defend yourself, because things tend to happen very fast from here on out. So while half your mind is focused on trying to talk/manoeuvre your way out of the situation, the other half of your mind should be positioning yourself to physically defend and/or attack as necessary.
If the bad guys approach within arms reach, or produce weapons and are clearly intent on harming you, or your family, then you need to be ready to immediately dispense with de-escalation attempts and switch to actual self defence.
If you can actually de-escalate the situation, then get out of there as quickly as possible!
Remember, Risk = Danger multiplied by Time.
In the de-escalation phase you are already in a significantly dangerous state. The longer you spend in that state, the higher the probability of you, or your family, suffering serious injury or death.
Obviously exactly what you say and do will depend very much on the situation.
You want to try become a sideshow to them, someone who is unimportant, not worth their while or effort, as you edge out towards an exit.
You should try to give your antagonists the opportunity to back-off without losing face.
Try keep at least a two meter gap between you and those threatening you, more if you can.
Your body language is important. It should not be shrinking, inviting them to dominate you, because they probably will, if you give them the chance. But you also should not be aggressive. Your body language and speech should be telling them as politely as possible to back off, but without inviting them to fight you either.
It is extremely important to get your hands up near your neck and head with your arms in front of your chest, to be in a position to protect yourself if they take a sudden swing, or try to stab you, or something. You are also able to strike more quickly and easily from that position. But bring your hands up casually. Your movements should be slow and controlled and should not cause them alarm. Hold your hands out in placating gesture, close to your chest, up near your head. Form a sort of “fence” with your hands and forearms to signal you want them to keep their distance, but also don’t let your hands and arms get too close to them, to prevent them easily grabbing you. Stand neutrally, be flexible, relaxed and light on your feet. Be ready to move quickly. Don’t tense up, or start showing signs of preparing to strike or block, but be mentally ready to do exactly that. Drop your chin down towards your chest, this protects your throat and jaw.
If they are very aggressive, do not look them directly in the eyes, because that can inflame the situation by being interpreted as a challenge. Look at their chest, because that way you can see their whole body, including their feet usually. Monitor movement in their shoulders and hips, as well as shifting of their weight on their feet, for warning of any sudden blows.
Be very aware that bad people often hunt in packs, so there may be more of them than you first realise. Look around you casually as much as you can, to see what is going on around you. Also look for exits, walls, possible weapons etc that can be used to help you survive and get away, if necessary. But do that without losing sight of the immediate danger closest to you. Use your peripheral vision as much as you can.
Edge your way steadily towards an exit, if you can, and preferably get a wall behind you, so you cannot be attacked suddenly from behind.
Your throat, jaw, eyes, groin, head and neck are your most vulnerable spots, try keep them protected against sudden strikes. Try avoid becoming surrounded or boxed in. Keep your hands up near your head. If there are more than one of them, try position yourself so that they are in a line, with only one person able to reach you directly at a time.
You need to use your judgement and experience on how to get out of the situation.
If it is a robbery and you are reasonably sure that just handing over the goods will end the danger, then do that!
If a simple apology will end the situation, do that!
If an offer to buy a drink for an aggressive drunk will make him leave you alone, then do that!
If you are armed, you need to use your judgement about when you produce a weapon. But be aware that when you produce a weapon, the de-escalation phase ends immediately, you are then in attack mode, so you better mean it, and be prepared to follow through completely immediately. Do not produce a weapon and wave it around, without really meaning to use it, in the hope that it will frighten people off. The chances are just as likely, especially if your attacker is experienced (remember that these people often literally do this for a living every day), that you will just have your weapon taken off you in that case, or perhaps they draw their own weapons and just kill you, while you are waving your weapon around! In any event, by producing a weapon and then not using it, you have given away all advantage you would have had, if your attackers never knew you had it.
Never produce a weapon unless you definitely intend to use it.
To further labour that point, be aware that if you produce a weapon before the situation is clearly life threatening towards you, or someone else, then you may appear to be the aggressor, and may be deemed as such by bystanders, and the law. Remember that the police, lawyers and judge are not there to see the incident for themselves. They have all heard every story under the sun. Your story will mean very little to them. They don’t really care about the nuances of the situation and will just go on the obvious evidence in the docket presented to them.
Lastly, while it will seem weird, you may want to talk to your family about what they should do if you ever all get caught in such a situation. You need them to follow your lead without question, keep quiet, avoid eye contact, bunch tightly together, link elbows to prevent individuals being dragged away, and they should all huddle up behind you. They should keep their hands up near their heads for protection from blows.
When All Else Fails, Attack is the Best Defence
When absolutely all other steps have failed (Awareness, Avoidance and De-Escalation, in that order), and you are reasonably sure that your attackers intend to harm you or your family, then you need to change your approach completely.
Instead of trying everything you could to avoid escalating the situation, you now need to explode like a hand grenade in your attacker’s face, preferably without warning, when they least expect it. Your objective is to attack them so unexpectedly, and so violently that you defeat them both physically and psychologically in the shortest time possible, in a few seconds ideally.
Your objective is to render them incapable of presenting any further risk of harming you, or your family, or at least create a chance for you to get away from them, without them being able to catch you again.
Remember that Risk = Danger multiplied by Time.
Also remember that this is not a game or a sport. There is only one objective—get home alive. There are no other rules.
There are not many more dangerous situations that you can ever be in! The risk of death or severe injury are very high.
For all those reasons, you cannot take half measures.
You can expect no mercy, so you simply cannot afford to lose.
But at the same time, your actions have to stand up to the scrutiny of the law, and have to be reasonable with respect to the level of threat you faced.
So the concept of minimum force necessary is still applicable.
You need to exercise your judgement, but in this case you need to err on the side of doing what ever you need to, to end the danger as quickly and certainly as possible. This is especially true if you are fighting without weapons. You cannot afford a prolonged bout with someone who might be more experienced at this sort of stuff than you are, and who might be stronger, fitter, more skilled etc. Obviously if there are more than one of them, then the need to incapacitate each attacker the moment you can, is even more necessary – you must not give them the opportunity to mob you all at once. You will almost certainly lose any sort of prolonged bout against multiple attackers.
So be sure to first solve your immediate problem, which is getting home alive. If you survive, you will have the luxury of worrying about the legal implications later.
It is important that you choose your moment wisely. You will probably not get another chance, and you will obviously lose the element of surprise after that.
You need to pick a moment that gives you the best possible chance, when they are distracted or off-guard, or look away. A good tactic is ask them a stupid question and then launch as soon as they start answering, because most people cannot do two things at once, so while they are processing your question and their answer, you take your chance. Milliseconds count!
Do not try and attack them when they obviously are ready and are in a much better position to respond than you are. Wait for your chance. Pretend that you are still in de-escalation mode while you wait.
Exactly how you should do that is a far bigger topic, beyond the scope of this article, and which requires professional training, as well as frequent practice.
If you carry a weapon, that is obviously the time to use it! You should know how to use it and be well practiced, so you do not fumble under pressure (again professional training is a good idea in most cases). You may be able to see from the points made above, that being armed in a bad situation like this could make a massive difference, it could well make THE difference. Although carrying a weapon in everyday polite company has it’s draw backs as well. And depending on the type of weapon, carrying a weapon can be a heavy responsibility. Most self defence instructors recommend carrying something that can be used as a weapon, especially for women and smaller framed people.