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Unexpected attacks


Sometimes, an attack may come unexpectedly. You are surprised, totally unprepared, and may be limited in your response due to circumstances, such as children being present or restrictive clothing.
These types of attacks are usually over in a matter of seconds, one way or the other. The best defense to avoid places or situations where this type of attack may occur. The next best defense is to escape as quickly as possible, possibly by using diversionary tactics.
If there is time, you may try using submissive dialogue to deescalate the aggressor's hostility or to give the aggressor an "honorable" way out of the situation. During this verbal exchange, you should keep your guard up, but in a non-aggressive manner. Talk with your hands with them in front of your chest. This is like a fighting guard except the hands are open and are moving expressively. Although the action is not threatening, the aggressor is at least subconsciously aware of the barrier between you and him or her.


Guards may take several configurations, but they all have the same foot placement: a compact 45-degree angled stance with the nondominant-side in front (a basic fighting stance).
  • One configuration is where both hands are placed in front of you, palms facing the aggressor. This guard looks submissive but presents a solid physical barrier that keeps a safe gap between you and your adversary, and it positions the fingers for an eye attack if needed.
  • Another configuration is where the palms are held up, facing forward with the hands 12 inches apart (like an open-handed fighting guard).
  • Another configuration is where the palms are facing upward with the lead hand forward and rear hand ready to strike.
The guard alerts you to your aggressor's intentions. The aggressor should not touch the guard unless you are making a forward movement to bridge the gap. Any forward movement by the aggressor should be checked by the lead hand to maintain a safe gap because it is usually a precursor to an attack. Use the three-strike rule. At one touch you issue a warning, at two touches you issue a stern warning, on a third touch you execute a preemptive attack since the aggressor has demonstrated the intent to do you harm. 


When the situation has reached an impasse and you think it is going to become physical, use posturing to psych out the aggressor using aggressive physical gestures and verbal reprimands. This step may be left out if circumstances warrant it, but posturing should be used since it does not involve physical violence.
When the aggressor is trying to bridge the gap and take down your guard, shove the person away with your lead hand while simultaneously stepping back to create a big gap. The shove is used to trigger an adrenaline release in your adversary making him or her feel the urge to run away (flight response). Reinforce your shove with a commanding verbal warning, such as "Stay there and do NOT move!" This is a direct order; it does not give an option, whereas "Stay there or else!" gives an option that you may not be willing to or able to back up.
Once you have created the gap, begin aggressively pacing side to side, back and forth without taking your eyes off the aggressor, while reinforcing the movements with verbal reprimands and finger-pointing. This tactic often causes indecision. Your adversary wants to move forward because of peer pressure to fight, but, as his or her body lurches forward, the feet will not move because his or her natural fear instinct is telling him or her to run away.
Even if the aggressor does not run away, the fact that he or she feels like doing so will create more confusion and self-doubt. This may be a good time for you to escape.
A problem with posturing is that you give up the elements of deception and surprise should you decide to attack or if your adversary is not psyched out by this tactic. You are giving up the element of using a surprise attack.

Rituals of violence

Most attacks involve the "rituals of violence," which are the precursors to an attack. If you can identify them, you can stop your adversary's imminent attack with a preemptive attack of your own. These rituals are the movements and verbal cues that an aggressor will telegraph preceding an attack. These rituals involve the four D's of entrapment: dialogue (trash talk), deception (acting apologetic), distraction (diverting your eyes), and destruction (pounding on surrounding objects). These actions are used to lead you into action or inaction that will make you vulnerable.
Before an attack, your adversary's dialogue will probably be aggressive and used to deceive and distract you before the attack. Some of the bodily actions are aggressive staring with the eyes bulging, chest expanding, arms splaying, fingers beckoning, head nodding, neck pecking, eyebrows dropping, standing up in a fighting position, and gradually closing the gap. Verbally, the aggressor may start using single-syllable words such as "yeah," "and," or "so." 

 Attack unexpectedly

Just as you may be attacked unexpectedly, you can unexpectedly attack your adversary. Aggressors usually do not expect a surprise attack from their victims.

Sound a verbal action trigger

When a preemptive attack is necessary, attack from your guard with ferocity and power, preceded by a verbal action trigger, which is a word or sentence that you can use to initiate your attack. When facing an intimidating aggressor, it is difficult to know exactly when to initiate your attack. A verbal action trigger will take away your indecisiveness and automatically initiate your attack. It may be saying something like “It’s time!” or asking an out-of-context question, such as "Do you ride a motorcycle?" that may engage the person's brain in thought and fool him or her into thinking you are engaging in conversation. Once you state the trigger, attack with one or two of your most powerful techniques that are appropriate for the range and then make your escape.
If by some chance your preemptive attack fails, the situation will enter a combat stage. Use all your defenses and attack with a frenzy until you can escape. Self-protection and escape are the primary reasons for the preemptive strike, but preemptive strikes may open you to criminal charges or civil liability.


Escape is not "running from a fight." If the adversary is not sufficiently stunned, he or she will recover in a few seconds and may attack you. Your adversary might have or may obtain a weapon to use against you or he or she may have friends who may gang up on you. Once you are at a safe location, you can call the paramedics if you are concerned about the welfare of your adversary and notify the police to report the incident.

Sun Tzu in the Art of War wrote, "Attack is the secret to defense. Defense is the planning of an attack." Once an attack is inevitable, make a preemptive strike to gain the advantage. You are not in a fight where each person tries to block and counter the others’ attacks. You are protecting yourself from harm. It does not have to be pretty; it only needs to be effective. Sir Winston Churchill once said, "Many people stumble upon the truth and then get back up and wander off as though nothing happened." A preemptive attack may seem to be counter to your martial arts training, but it is the most effective way to end a threatening situation.


  • Thompson, Geoff. [Online]. Available:
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