Self-Defense>Techniques>Options for action

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Options for action


During a self-defense situation that is brewing, occurring, or just ended, you are always considering your options for action.

Options for action to consider

In a self-defense situation, you have five possible choices of action: you can fight, surrender, posture, talk, or flee.


  • Fight. You may choose to fight the aggressor and accept the consequences of the fight. These consequences include:
  • Winning by the aggressor surrendering, with or without serious injury to yourself or the aggressor.
  • Winning by incapacitating the aggressor .
  • Winning by killing the aggressor.
  • Losing by submitting to the aggressor with or without serious injury to yourself.
  • Losing by being incapacitated by the aggressor.
  • Losing by dying.
  • Surrender. You can surrender and accept the consequences.
  • Posture. You and the aggressor can posture, act tough, yell, beat your chests, etc., and hopefully, the aggressor will feel overwhelmed and back off.
  • Talk. It may be possible to talk yourself out of the situation, but don't expect it to work. Talking is primarily a delaying tactic used in hope that help may come, or to give you time to decide which other option to use.
  • Flee. You can turn and run away as fast as you can.

Fleeing as an option

First off, there’s no shame in running away from a confrontation, if it is a part of your fighting strategy and not because you are a coward that runs away from every problem. Running away is not the same as quitting. Quitting means you give up and just let things happen. In a self-defense situation, quitting means you are surrendering.

Fleeing is a type of tactical withdrawal. You are moving to a more advantageous position. Sometimes, you have the option of choosing your fights and/or the time and place to fight.  You may decide this is not a fight you can win at this moment, so you need to tactically withdraw, regroup, and wait for circumstances that are more beneficial for you. Anytime fleeing becomes a viable option, it should be considered.

Sometimes your options in a self-defense situation may be limited by the circumstance and they may change one or more times during the confrontation. For example, if you are suddenly attacked by another passenger on a moving elevator, it’s too late to posture and fleeing is not an option. However, when the doors open, fleeing now becomes an option again.

Survival first

You aren't looking for a fight in a self-defense situation and you don’t want a fight, you want to leave, but the fight is being forced on you. Your primary concern is your survival, getting out of the situation relatively unscathed, and getting to a safe place.

If you must fight, then you must fight like your life depends on it–since it might. Once you are attacked or an attack is inevitable, you must immediately attack first and put the aggressor on the defense. You then maintain the onslaught until the aggressor flees, surrenders, or is incapacitated. When either is achieved, then you flee.

Sometimes, circumstances may make fleeing a priority, such as when there is more than one aggressor. In this case, you flee at the first opportunity.

Things to consider when deciding whether to flee

  • Are you a fast runner? Can you run fast, or at least faster and for a longer duration than you think the aggressor can run?
  • Do you know the area? If you flee, to where will you flee. If you don’t know the area, you may run into a dark, sparsely populated area, a dead-end alley, or the aggressor's neighborhood. Fleeing may put you at greater risk than staying.
  • Do you have a safe destination? If you know the area, is there a reachable destination that will offer safety or protection? When you flee, you should run toward something. When running toward something, you have a goal, and you gain confidence as you get nearer to the goal. Without a goal, you are just running until you drop.
  • Fleeing affects your mindset. When faced with a dangerous situation, even considering fleeing affects your mindset. Instead of preparing yourself to defend or attack, you are thinking about the possibility of doing neither. The longer you wait to act, even if you decide to stay and fight, the less chance you have of success.
  • Fleeing changes your aggressor's mindset. Your aggressor may have some apprehension and trepidation about the confrontation. They are not aware of your fighting skills, your mindset, or whether you have a weapon, so they may be leery about attacking you.  However, once you turn and run, this changes. Now they feel empowered and confident they can beat you and now they are eager to engage.
  • Your other choices are now limited. Once you look around like you are considering fleeing, you have lost the opportunity to posture. Once you show fear, you can no longer convincingly act brave and confident. Also, when you look around, you lose eye contact with your aggressor; a lot can happen during that moment.

    Once you start running and the aggressor follows, it is difficult for you to stop running, turn aground, and engage the aggressor. And, if you do, the aggressor will now be confident in winning and will attack with a vengeance. Also, once you turn and run, you are no longer a person in the mind of the aggressor, you are now prey. If the aggressor had any empathy for you at all as a fellow human, it is now gone.
  • Fleeing can become a habit. Even if fleeing was the best choice in a given situation, having done it once makes it easier to do it again.
  • What’s happening behind you as you are running? Once you decide to run, you may turn around and find the gate to the park is closed or there is a group of the aggressor’s friends standing there. If this happens, your aggressor gains even more confidence in winning. Also, when running, you must look in the direction where you are going, not behind you. If you fall, it’s over.
  • What if I want to stay and fight? If you do, then you better have a good reason–one you are prepared to die for. You don’t know what the aggressor is capable of or what weapons they may have. You may get shot, stabbed, maimed, or killed. And, even if you take out the aggressor without being injured, you may face arrest, incarceration, and/or years in civil courts and the loss of all you own.

Deciding to flee

When it’s time to flee

If there is a time to flee, it is usually when you first sense danger. When you sense danger, trust your instincts and leave. It’s better to sit at home and look back wondering if you needed to flee than it is to lie in your hospital bed wondering why you didn’t flee. Once a confrontation has occurred, fleeing is still an option, but it becomes more difficult to choose it and for it to be successful.

First actions

If you flee at the first sign of trouble, you usually only need to calmly walk away in a safe direction.  If a confrontation has started, consider preceding your escape attempt with an attack that may limit the aggressor's mobility, such as a punch, knee, or kick to the groin, a kick to the down the shin, or side of a knee, or a powerful stomp to afoot.

A powerful well-placed punch or kick may stun the aggressor for a few seconds to give you a head start. And, it may cause the aggressor to have second thoughts about pursuing you.

You can also attempt to divert the aggressor's attention, such as looking past the aggressor and using facial expressions or words to indicate someone may be there. You can throw a nearby object or something you may have in your hands at the aggressor's face. You may grab a nearby object to use as an improvised weapon. You can tip over garbage cans or other objects to create obstacles as you begin your escape.

Once you have begun your escape, then you just run and fast as you can toward your chosen safe destination while yelling and screaming.

Is fleeing a good option?

It’s an option. Whether it is a good or bad option to choose depends on the situation and the circumstances. As with any of the other options, if it works or if it doesn’t work and you survive, you are alive and will have to live with the results of the choice. In the case of fleeing, no matter what others may think, you have labeled yourself as someone who runs from problems and you must deal with that. Keep fleeing as an option, just don’t make a habit of it.

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