Self-defense>Mental aspects>Facing a self-defense situation

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Facing a self-defense situation


No one wants to be faced with a self-defense situation, but when it occurs, it must be dealt with, and usually, the only one available to deal with it is you. 

Ways to deal with a self-defense situation

  • Avoid
  • De-escalate
  • Escape
  • Stun and run
  • Stun and control
  • Stun and use deadly force
When confronted by a self-defense situation, the first thing you should do is assess the facts. For you to prevail and escape with little or no injury, this assessment must be done quickly.


Think of the acronym SWOT to assess the situation and the opponent: 
  • Strengths. Take a quick look at the perceived strengths of the opponent, both physically and mentally. Such things as the opponent's build, mental aggression level, determination, etc. may provide insight into the kind of opponent with which you are dealing.
  • Weaknesses. Take a quick look at the perceived weaknesses of the opponent, both physically and mentally. Is the attacker scared, is this his or her first time committing a crime, or is he or she on drugs? If you recognize weaknesses, you may exploit them to your advantage.
  • Opportunities. Be aware of and take advantage of any opportunities, such as escape routes, access to makeshift weapons, friendly bystanders, or a passive attacker that may be grabbed and used as a human shield.
  • Threats Be aware of anything that may help the opponent, such as hidden weapons, backup on the way, or the opponent knowing the territory better than me.

Use your head

Once the action starts and your adrenaline kicks in, your brain will race and process thoughts so quickly that everything will seem to happen in slow motion. So, try to stay calm and make the correct decisions. 

Also, you can use your head as a weapon. Bash it into the attacker's nose using your forehead, or, if you are held from behind, slam your head back into the attacker's face. Similarly, women, if you are grabbed in a  bear hug from behind, do not waste time trying to step on his toes, or elbow his ribs, or kick your heel up into his groin, these moves will do little besides anger your attacker. Instead, bash his face with the back of your head. All you need to do is connect once or twice with your attacker's face or collarbone. 

Look for Weapons

Since most people do not carry weapons for self-defense, be aware of anything around you that may be used as a weapon. Use hard objects to attack bone and pointed objects against soft tissue. When you use an object, use it to finish the fight, not to merely discourage the attacker. A weak attack will make the attacker angrier and fiercer in his or her attacks. Also, remember the same objects are available to the attacker to use as weapons.

Wait until last moment

Do not tip your hand by starting a defensive move too early. If the defense is detected, the attacker may then change the attack to avoid the defense. Wait until the last possible moment, and then block and counterattack with ruthless power and determination. This requires patience and confidence in your abilities. These qualities are developed through lots of practice.

Move along a triangle

Do not move in straight lines, either forward and backward or side-to-side. Attackers usually commit to a straight-line attack toward a target located at a certain distance in a certain direction. So, one of the most dangerous mistakes the average person makes during a fight is to move in straight lines, either forward and backward, or side-to-side where you only change one of these parameters. 

An attacker may be able to adjust for a change in target distance or direction alone but changing both will either cancel the attack or weaken its effects. Moving in a straight line either backward or forward changes the target distance but does not effectively change its location since it is still in the path of attack. Moving laterally changes the location of the target and takes it out of the path of attack, but the distance stays relatively the same.

Imagine a vertical dividing line along your body, dividing your body into left and right halves. The aggressor is probably going to attack some point along or around that line: your face, your throat, your heart, or your groin. Your goal is to move that line out of the path of the attack and change the distance of the target from the attacker.  

Moving in a straight line backward and forward changes the distance but does not move your centerline out of the attack path. Moving laterally changes the location of the centerline, but not the distance. Moving along an imaginary triangle changes both. Imagine standing with both feet on the point of a triangle and facing the bad guy. The other two points of the triangle can either be in front of you or behind you. Each of the other triangle points is about one medium-large step away. Step one foot onto either of the two available triangle points. Now you have changed both the distance and target location and placed yourself beside the attacker from where you can launch an effective counterattack.

Bring your other foot back to the stepping foot, and you are now at the starting point of another triangle. 

Do the unexpected

Attackers expect you to react in a certain way when they attack, usually the way most people would react. If they push, they expect you to resist. If they rush you, they expect you to back up. If you do the unexpected, attackers are confused. Even if the confusion is only for a second, that is enough time for you to counterattack and end the confrontation.

Advance, not retreat

During a fight, as during a game of chess, the experienced player is already planning the second or third move before the first one is ever completed. Many of an experienced fighter's moves are used solely to get the opponent to react in a predetermined manner. 

Fight your instinct and do not back up. For example, imagine you are throwing a flurry of jabs at me. You expect me to backpedal to escape your jabs, so you charge in. If I step forward along my triangle, I avoid the attack and I am set up for a counterattack.


  • Thompson, Geoff. [Online]. Available: http://www.geoffthompson.com
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