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Responding to confrontation


When confronted with a threat, you must decide on how you are going to respond to the threat. After the initial decision, as the confrontation progresses, you may need to reassess the situation and modify your decision.


Available response choices are:
  • Submit to the threat.
  • Escape or run away
  • Ignore the threat and hope it goes away or attempt to verbally defuse the situation
  • Use your voice or posture to threaten to make the threat go away
  • Escalate the situation until it leads to a fight or self-defense situation
Two unacceptable choices are to:
  • Freeze and do nothing.
  • Panic and do the wrong things.

Skills needed to respond

Once a threat response is chosen, you must have the skills required to carry out the response. These skills include:


You need the ability to link all the other skills so you may make the correct response to a specific threat.
  • You must have a clear understanding of the true nature of confrontations: the ambiguity, confusion, heightened emotional state, and stress, coupled with their impact upon cognitive and psychomotor capabilities. This may come from hearing the experiences of others, reading true accounts, seeing videos of violent confrontations, or reflecting upon your own direct or observed experiences.
  • You should understand the phases of confrontations, and how they progress.
  • Verbal and non-verbal indicators from the aggressor(s) precede almost all attacks. You should develop the ability to read and interpret these indicators to give yourself advance warning of an attack.
  • You should be aware of the laws of self-defense in your jurisdiction.
  • Be aware of the impact of alcohol and drugs on the ability to perform physical actions, on pain tolerance, and on the ability to reason


You need an understanding of threat response strategy and tactics, so you may select the proper strategy for a threat response and then use the correct tactics to carry out the tactics.
  • Your strategy should be to understand the legal threat response options available in given circumstances. Then you should train in individual tactics that would allow you to carry out your strategy.
  • You should train in situational awareness and situation assessment so you may be aware of any situation and be able to evaluate it for a potential threat. You should be able to quickly scan and identify elements of the environment, objects, and people that may either be of assistance or pose an additional threat.
  • You must train in drills that provide an automatic response to a surprise attack so they will give you enough time to assess the situation and decide on your overall response.
  • Train to use objects in the environment, including other people, to your advantage. Specifically look for objects that may be used as weapons, barriers, or constraints against the attacker(s).
  • Train to surprise and deceive your attacker(s).


You need to understand the psychological tactics attackers use and how to counter them. You also need to be able to use these same tactics in your favor and be able to think and perform under adverse conditions.
  • You need an understanding and acceptance of fear as part of any confrontation.
  • Your training should include role-playing scenarios to allow you to experience the dynamics of a confrontation in a controlled setting. Such role plays must, within reason and safely, include all elements of a real confrontation, such as foul language, yelling, hand and body actions, environmental factors, etc. Role-playing will allow you to practice situational awareness and situation assessment skills as well as tactical decision making in situations of controlled stress.
  • Realistic training will accustom you to the pain and confusion of street combat.
  • Increase your verbal and non-verbal skills so you may de-escalate a confrontation.
  • Develop continuous alertness. If you are alert, many confrontations may be prevented or at least managed.
  • Learn to deal with pain.


You need to know and be able to perform the techniques required by your chosen strategy and tactics.
  • Train in techniques that cover a full spectrum of confrontations, including standing striking, standing grappling, ground defense (them up, you down), ground fighting (both on the ground), weapon threat, weapon attack, multiple opponents, control and restraint techniques, and use of common objects as weapons.
  • Since your heightened emotional state will adversely affect your fine motor skills, train in simple movements that use gross motor skills.
  • Time for responding to an attack is brief, so heavily train on a few techniques that you may use quickly. Simple techniques that are adaptable to many situations are best.
  • Train to use your body's natural reactions to attacks.
  • Train for defenses against weapons and multiple opponents. Although weapons and multiple opponents are not necessarily present at the beginning of a confrontation, they may appear at any time, so train for the possible introduction of a weapon or other opponents during mid-fight. Practitioners of close-range grappling and ground fighting are particularly vulnerable to this possibility. Additionally, in conditions of poor visibility, all hand attacks should be treated as though they are weapon attacks.
  • Train for response against low-level threats that do not warrant a striking response.


You need to possess the speed, strength, endurance, etc. required to perform the chosen tactics and techniques.
  • Develop your anaerobic fitness. As most fights are short and intense, so you need anaerobic fitness rather than aerobic fitness.
  • Develop your combat fitness. The energy systems and muscular actions required in combat are different than those used in friendly sparring.
  • Learn pain management techniques so you may fight even when injured.
  • Train to manage the combat shock of full power strikes, falls, or violent grabs.


  • Bachman, L. Street Defensive Tactics.
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