Do you know how to protect yourself or a loved one if on a Friday night you are walking down the street and someone wants to attack you? While it’s a scenario we can think about, sadly, all of us have either experienced, or know someone who has been in, a public assault or a street attack. Whether it’s a mugging, sexual predator, or just an outright bad person who has you in their targets, what is your mode of self-defense against an attacker?
You’ve done nothing wrong at all. They simply just don’t like you, they are suffering from a mental outbreak, or they are in desperation as a victim of a huge drug epidemic that the US, UK or Australia, is facing. The list of reasons as to why assault happens on the streets is endless. What makes it worse is that we don’t know when, where, or how it will happen. All we know is that at any time, we could be standing in the street, clouded with shock, and not knowing what to do. The only thing we can do is a little preparation with the following 9 things you need to know.
So what will you do when an attacker, or more, is standing in front of you?
1. Observe your attacker’s status, stance, motive, and health
Look. That’s the first thing you should always do in whatever scenario you are placed in, just look. What helps is the fact that your body has a certain way of responding to danger. Your heart rate picks up drastically and your eyes become wide open with adrenaline so that you can take in more of what is going on around you (aka situational awareness).
So what should you be looking for while you are under this jolt of shock and energy? The first thing is to observe what’s going on in front of you and the cues your attacker shows through any physical and verbal signs. These would be indicators that you can base your actions on as you estimate whether or not the situation will develop into a physical altercation, or if you might be able to keep the situation calm, and either talk your way out of it or comply with their demands without having to resort to self-defense.
It might be easier to talk someone down if you are in an argument in a bar, or if it’s just a misunderstanding on the street. But generally, if the person has approached you on the street, there’s a reason for it.
When you are using your powers of observation, these are the main things you are going to need to look for:
- Does the person have a weapon or not?
- Do they have friends with them?
- Do they look like an oversized gorilla that eats MMA fighters?
- Are they calm or shaking?
- Are their feet wide displaying a fighting-ready stance?
- Are they behaving drunk or drugged?
- Do they look like they can outrun you?
- Is there anyone around that will assist you?
In looking at these observations of the attacker, you can make a very valid judgment as to a number of self-defense issues such as if you are able to get away from the attacker, if you can defuse the situation, or the likelihood of an actual attack, in which you would need to make the first strike.
These are things you can practice every day just by looking at individuals and assessing their characteristics. You don’t need to have exemplary situational awareness skills like Sherlock Holmes in the boxing scene below, just enough of an observation to deem your level of safety and to determine what your next move should be.
2. Break contact and run, or if you have to, stand and fight
Running away from a fight is not cowardice. It’s smart and in the end, it’s probably more healthy for you. But only it is safe to do so.
In any given street attack scenario, a number of possibilities exist. Finding the best self-defense to use against your street attacker is by making a judgment on the observations you made about them. If your attacker appears unfit, or unable to chase you, then run like your life depends on it, and then when you are safe, report the crime immediately to the police so that it doesn’t happen to someone else.
If an attacker is demanding something such as your wallet, throw it on the ground and run. It’s a lot less painful to cancel and reissue bank cards and licenses than it is to walk around with stitches from a knife wound. As former Navy SEAL Commander Jocko Willink says, the best self-defense is to simply run. If they want to kick him or punch him, it’s still run. But if they grab you or take you to the ground, that’s when you show your magic and fight dirty.
There’s also a deeper reason that Jocko hits on that many of us seem to forget about, and that’s the law. Any of us that have done training know that if we go up against someone on the street who doesn’t like us, and then end up breaking his arm without receiving a hit, then it’s cuff time by the police. But when your life depends on it, it’s self-defense you need to use. For Jocko, the rule is, “break contact, you get away. If you have to stand and fight, you train yourself so that you are able to do it”.
3. Use the crazy headbutt if things get close
This one is for the close spaces, so if you’re in a crowded street, or it’s a bar and someone wants a piece of you and there is a close proximity between yourself and your attacker, then there’s probably going to be a confrontation in which you want to finish so you can leave safely.
Ideally, after you have judged that your attacker is actually going to make a move, make enough space to get some forehead on nose action (when I say that, I mean your forehead on their nose, it’s not a sniffing competition). Doing this is going to blow your opponent back and most likely disorient them to the point where you can either run away, or subdue your attacker further.
This style of ‘dirty fighting’ is recommended to females where there is more than one male attackers in a bar or on the street as it gives the ‘crazy deterrence’ effect. This same move is what former UFC Champion Bas Rutten said he taught his daughters their protection.
4. Self-defense equipment exists for a reason, use it!
Whether you are male or female, personal defense gear, such as spray, taser, or light, is made for exactly what this scenario needs, a way to subdue an attacker so that you can get away safely.
In 99 percent of situations, you are safe if you can subdue a person in a non-lethal way and escape. Of course, when it comes to things such as home invasions there are a number of considerations to consider as your life and that of your family might be in danger. But in a street fight, if you were to use pepper spray on an attacker, they will be incapacitated for enough time for you to clear out from that scenario.
And that’s exactly what pepper spray is for, non-lethal subduing of an attacker. Some people may argue that pepper spray does not work that well. I can reassure you, even if there is no instant effect, the moment your attacker gets their heart rate up and starts breathing heavily, the spray will travel to the lungs where they will feel a strong burning, let alone the effect it has on the eyes and the burning sensation on the skin.
Pepper spray is a popular item carried by females who find that they might regularly walk home in the dark, to their car at night, or live in a bad neighborhood. And while it seems like a burden to carry, pepper spray has been made to adapt to the lifestyles of young women, or men who wish to carry it, so it comes in very small canisters designed to not look out-of-place on keys, or in a handbag, and also exist in wristbands for runners.
Stun guns are another type of self-defense item that is widely popular with both males and females because of its direct and instant power. For what they are these devices can send enough volts to make a large man pass out.
These are preferred by some over pepper spray as there is no risk of affecting others as there is with the pepper spray. They also come in different styles, with new types being developed as a type of ‘brass knuckles’ stun gun as well as a stun gun phone case.
Both the stun guns and the pepper spray have a number of areas that outlaw there use, or require a license to held with it. In those circumstances, some have resorted to using high beam flashlights, which also act as a very good deterrent and a way to temporarily blind someone so as to escape.
I actually really like these for two reasons, they are legal for everyone to use and can be 100% effective in temporarily blinding an attacker at night so that you can get away from them.
What is often referred to as a ‘tactical flashlight’, for those gear junkies out there, the flashlight needs to have two things in order to be effectively blinding and shock an attacker. First, they need to be a high lumens, which is effectively the brightness and strength of the light. For a good lumens, it should be more than 1000. Second, you should have a focus on the light to be able to narrow the light into a fine beam, this concentrates the light into a straight line to use against would-be attackers.
The best thing about these sort of lights is that they are very affordable to pick up for what is actually a high quality, high strength item. For instance, this Didakay flashlight is able to shoot out a beam of 2000 lumens, which would cause blindness for at least a few minutes, and it a great option for the wallet (or purse).
But of course, if someone was to bring a gun to the fight, well that just makes for a whole other ball game.
5. When the push comes to shove, counter it
Fights usually start with a push to the chest right? Especially if it’s a Friday night, you’re at a bar or dinner and someone has decided that they want to connect their bones to yours.
So when they come in for that stereotypically macho push, let them, only counter it with a sidestep and a nice palm slide up the face. The chest push is generally a male thing to do in confrontations, and you will find the aggressor puts a lot of effort into it to try and throw you off. So countering the effort with a palm slide up the face and through the nose, as shown in the Krav Maga video below, will likely throw your attacker off balance leaving them on their back.
If you are actually thinking about learning any type of self-defense course, grappling schools such as Brazilian ju-jitsu or Krav Maga teach self-defense work with opponents, not how to hit a boxing bag, so in that sense, they are very practical.
5. When they are ready to fight, strike first
It’s pretty easy to tell if someone is about to fight you. I personally have come across people like this that just have it out for you and might be fuelled up on alcohol or whatever else and are ready to go to town.
So if you’re staring down the barrel of some idiot who has his (or her in some cases), shoulders back, chest puffed out, stance wide and is taunting you, it’s probably still a good idea just to walk away, as they’re looking for something that results in your harm. Yes it takes a bit of self-discipline to walk away, but when they’re acting like a caged up rooster there’s no point. But if you’re trapped and they just keep coming back for more and you feel like your life is in danger, then get aggressive.
Generally, a shot to the face is one sure way to subdue them and deter any would-be assailants. However, as you can see in this video, it’s not always the case as sometimes they just seem to line up. The bouncer in this video had the upper hand of being sober, in comparison to the three musketeers here who were pent up on alcohol, but still, here gave them the respect of leaving and not instigating an altercation.
6. Don’t act like prey and don’t let an attacker be predator
If you are unable to run away from an attacker, the priority rule is to not let them think they are a predator. You need to shift the balance in that respect, otherwise, they think they are in control of the situation and will feel more in control of you. Instead, shift the role of prey and predator to predator and predator, it sounds a lot better already doesn’t it?
So how do you do that exactly? This carries on from Number 5’s first strike in that you need to take the lead and run the course of the confrontation. Do not let them have control. Part of this is to show utmost confidence in whatever you do, showing any fear will make the attacker feel even more powerful than they already do. Another way to make sure that you change the balance is by matching your attacker’s aggression to show them that you are going to stand up to them.
7. Maintain your personal safe space
When someone is barking words at you and trying to provoke a response from you, there’s a likelihood that they’re going to get inside of your personal space. Don’t let this happen. This opens up a good opportunity for someone to strike you with a headbutt, or blocks your vision away from their hands that might be carrying a weapon.
Maintaining your personal space in self-defense is all about not getting up close and controlling how close they get to you. It’s also a way of letting them know, if you come near me, I will consider it a threat. If they do, get aggressive and put them away as if your life depended on it.
In the video below you can see this kid, who has already received a failed headbutt from his attacker, is keeping his personal space to let his attacker know where not to step. Obviously, his attacker doesn’t like him. He did make the mistake of using one hand and not two hands, and received a nice slap because of it.
8. What to do in a knife attack (everything with run)
So he’s pointing a knife at you? That should spell run. No matter what you think, it is safer to run than to stay and tackle a knife offender. However, if you’re cornered and need to down the guy before you bounce, we turn to none other than the teachings of Krav Maga yet again to answer our aggressive and streetfight tactics.
I see Krav Maga as a dirty street fight tactic, which for attackers, is the perfect thing. It’s fast, simple and dirty in its face pulling, eye gouging moves. For knife disarming, it’s a simple tip for men and women, pay attention to the knife hand, run your hand in an upward slap, kick the groin and run.
9. Don’t get in one, but if you do, be aggressive.
Remember how we mentioned situational awareness at the start? Well that’s something very important here, so use it. If you are consistently aware of the situation you are in, you wouldn’t be in a dark alley, or on the street at night alone in the first place.
If you are on that street alone, you would have already spotted this gangster looking guy who is on the hunt for trouble when you first turned the corner. Cross the road, don’t let yourself near the trouble. This is common sense but it’s also the reason why we end up in these scenarios.
If you have to regularly walk home at night, consider getting a bicycle, or a car, and most importantly, one of the self-defense items such as pepper spray, a stun gun or a blinding flashlight. When you are walking home, get it on the ready for the walk, so that you are not fumbling around in your bag when it’s too late.
These things are ways to stun a predator in self-defense so that you can run away, which is the primary purpose of all forms of self-defense, whether it be your lessons in fighting, or the items you carry, they provide a way to take out your attacker so that you can run to safety. But when you do go in for the strike, be hard, be dirty and be aggressive.