By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved
Regardless of where you live or what circles you travel in, most attacks occur by surprise. If someone is going to attack you they're not going to slap you across the face with a glove, state that they demand satisfaction, and then put their hands up and start dancing. What is far more likely to happen is that an attacker jumps you from behind. What I'm going to go over in this article is two simple maneuvers that will allow you to thwart common surprise attacks.
The first common surprise attack is widely used by criminals and is known as "bait and switch" as well as several other names. The way this is done is an attacker will walk up to you from the front and try to distract you by either asking for something or by becoming aggressive. While the first attacker is distracting you another attacker(s) comes up behind you and either attacks you from behind or holds you so the first attacker and repeatedly strike you. This method works very well because few people see it coming.
The best way to counter this is to not stop when the first attacker trys to distract you. When you see him you can simply change directions and walk across the street or start running and push past him. If you cannot do that, when you see someone come up to you from the front you should immediately assume a second individual is present and turn and look for him. It is how you turn and look at them that is important.
When you see the first attacker come up to you, you should first look and see where his hands are to see if he is making fists, cupping his hands (concealing a weapon), has his hand in a pocket, has one of his hands behind his back, or has one arm held stiff while the other one swings naturally. All of these things are signs that he has a weapon and dark intentions. Next you want to make sure that you have some distance between the two of you. Try to keep at least 6 feet between you and him. Don't be afraid to become aggressive if he attempts to encroach upon your space.
After that, scan the area in front of you, at least 180 degrees, for an accomplice. Then take a big step to the left or right (preferably towards a wall) and turn to the side while keeping your eyes on him. For the purposes of this article lets say that you have a building on your right side so you took a big step to your right and then turned 90 degrees counter-clockwise so you're standing with him in front of you and on your rights side. Now just turn your head to the left and scan the area behind you for an accomplice. Done this way you can look around you 360 degrees without ever turning your back on a potential attacker.
If possible try to keep moving. Look around and clear the 180 degrees in front of you, then take your big step to the side, turn counter-clockwise and then keep walking backwards as you scan around you. Or...you can just run like hell.
I'm a big fan of pretending to have a weapon. While I always carry pepper spray and I'm prepared to use it, on many occasions I've looked someone right in the eye while putting my right hand on my hip as if I'm placing my hand on a concealed firearm. There have been a few occasions where someone appeared threatening so I've locked eye contact with them, put my hand on my fake gun, then circled to the other side of him, without breaking eye contact, and slowly backed away. I don't really consider this bluffing because I had pepper spray in my left hand (the one they're not paying attention to) and if they would have so much as took a step towards me or put their hand in their pocket they would have gotten a face full of OC.
The second method of surprise attacks that people commonly use is to tap you on the shoulder then punch you when you turn. This happens quite a bit in bars but it is also prevalent in other areas. To thwart this you never turn around when someone taps you on the shoulder. If you feel someone tap you on your shoulder you should take two steps forewords first and then turn. That way if someone does try to sucker punch you they'll miss. I prefer to raise my arm as I turn just in case they came forwards with me. So if I turned to the right I would rise my right arm and scratch my cheek or cover my mouth or do some other natural movement. To someone watching it would look like I just burped and was covering my mouth to be polite when if actuality I'm getting my arm up so I can put my elbow into an oncoming attack.
If you cannot step forwards when someone taps you then you should always turn with your arm raised as describe above. Or if someone grabs your shoulder and spins you I'd bring my arm up and then step right in to them, preferably with my foot going between their feet and behind them. Anytime someone taps you be prepared for the sucker punch.