By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved
While there is no question that violence can occur in many forms, again and again we find that there are a set number of ways that seem to be the favorite of those who regularly engage in violence. To this end I have compiled a top ten list of the top ten ways in which a person is likely to be attacked and that they should train for.
Number Ten: Having a gun pulled on you from within arm’s reach.
Criminals of all types love firearms because they are a great equalizer; with a firearm a person can commit acts of violence without having to be bigger, stronger, faster, more intelligent, or more skilled than his target. When a criminal does pull a gun they have a desire to get close with that weapon because they feel that the closer they can get to their victim the more control they have, and this is why most shootings happen within 5 feet.
The answer to this is of course to practice gun disarming techniques and be familiar with how to attack a person who has a gun without getting yourself or others shot and killed in the process.
Number Nine: Having a gun pulled on you from outside of arm’s reach.
While most often a criminal will want to be close when they commit their crimes they may not always feel comfortable enough to do so. Another possibility is you might have to engage them before they get to arm’s distance if they seem like they may start firing right away.
One should also be familiar with techniques to get off the line of fire and close the distance so they can attack the gun toting criminal without getting shot.
Number Eight: Getting stabbed for real.
What is meant by “getting stabbed for real” is that when it comes to defending against knife attacks most people practice with someone brandishing a knife just outside of arms reach and then stepping in and making this big movement to lunge forwards with the knife and then the person practices sidestepping the thrust while parrying and then perform some type of disarm or controlling technique. The problem is that police reports don’t support this narrative.
When it comes to actual police reports from actual stabbing victims we see the same thing over and over and that is the person almost never sees the knife that stabbed them. Nearly all reports from stabbing victims state that what happened is that they got attacked, thought that they were being punched in the stomach, and then felt a little weak and sleepy, noticed the blood, and then they realized that they’ve been stabbed instead of punched.
If you do get attacked with a knife it will most likely be by someone who holds the knife by their side so you have a hard time seeing it and then when they stab they’ll come in low and repeatedly punch the knife into your stomach from a very close distance. This sort of close in knife attack, consisting of very small and sharp arm movements, are nearly impossible to side step or deflect. To see this in action to a web search of videos of prison stabbings and you’ll see this method actually being used.
Number Seven: Having your collar grabbed.
Grabbing someone by the collar has long since been a main way of intimidating and trying to control another person. In studying reports of real acts of violence we see one and two handed collar grabs not only used in intimidation before the actual assault but even during the assault. Often while fists are flying someone will attempt to grab the other person by the collar and hold him while they strike him with their other hand
The good news here is if someone grabs you by the collar that means that they’re close enough to hit and that they’re tying up one or both of their hands. If you know how to capitalize on a collar grab you can turn this to your advantage. One should learn how to take advantage of a collar grab when it is statically holding onto your garment as well as when it is pulling you forwards and pushing you backwards and/or up against a wall or other object.
People seem to have an instinct that tells them to attack the throat of another person leading to strangulation being a widely used method of assaulting and killing. Being choked while standing up is a real possibility but also is being choked while you are on the ground. In many cases we see someone being knocked to the ground, or tripping, and another person climbing on top and using the opportunity to choke the other person into unconsciousness.
Defenses against single and double handed chokes should be practiced both while standing and on the ground. As with the lapel grab there are many benefits from getting choked in that the other person is both close enough to hit and has their hands tied up; being choked is a great opportunity to break someone’s arm.
Number Five: The sacrificial lamb.
The sacrificial lamb is a tactic used by many gangs and other types of criminals where one person will either distract an intended target from the front while others attack him from behind, or the person will attack the intended target from the front and if things go poorly then others will jump in and help him out. This is a very successful method for ambushing a target so anytime you’re approached while out and about you should always assume there is more than one attacker and you should position yourself so you can check around you to see if anyone else is approaching.
Learning to defend against multiple attackers is a must for anyone interested in learning to defend themselves. Also, this is a good example of why anyone engaged in self-defense training should take up running because if you detect that you’re about to be attacked by multiple attackers often running is the best defense. I was taught you should be able to sprint all out for at least 100 yards because most people can only sprint for maybe 40-50 yards so if you can go all out for 100 yards you should be able to outrun them over a distance.
Number Four: Being attacked from behind by surprise.
No criminal wants a fight so most will try to stack the deck in their favor as much as possible before they make their move. Attacking from behind and by surprise are both key elements in most criminal attacks. Since no one has eyes in the back of their heads these type of attacks can be very difficult to deal with.
Having a heightened state of awareness when you’re in areas where crimes are more statistically likely is always a good place to start. Areas like parking lots, gas stations, public bathrooms, elevators, hallways, and other areas where you’re with people you don’t fully know or trust are all areas where you should have your head up and be actively looking around.
Limiting distractions is another great method in preventing these attacks. Often people are walking around on their cell phone, listening to music, or engaged in some other task instead of paying attention to where they are going and what is around them. Not being alone is another great method; if you are with other people or even with a dog you have more eyes to detect when someone is approaching you and there is a degree of safety in numbers.
I always teach my students to adopt a 45 degree angle when at all possible. When they’re in line, ordering at a counter, standing by their car, using an ATM, or even using a urinal instead of standing flush to it where you cannot see behind you, you can turn to a 45 degree angle and now you can see what is in front of you, to the side, and even what is behind you with little effort. I also use this while sitting at a table or behind my desk. If you’re sitting squared up to the table or the desk you’re trapped by it to a certain degree but if you adopt a 45 degree angle you are freer to get up and move if you need to.
Number Three: The sucker punch
This is another great example of criminals, and bullies, not wanting a fight but rather a victim. To a certain degree a true sucker punch is very hard to defend against because it is very difficult to see coming. However, if you pay attention to when a sucker punch is normally thrown you can better your chances of avoiding it.
A sucker punch is often used during an “interview.” This is where a criminal approaches you and engages you in seemingly harmless conversation to test you to see if you’re a viable target and to distract you while they get closer to you. They often will do something like ask you what time it is and when you look down at your watch they’ll step in and sucker punch you. If you believe you’re being interviewed you should keep your distance, check the area for other potential attackers, and then never take your eye off the other person. If the person does come closer you should become assertive, aggressive if necessary, and be ready for the sucker punch.
If someone is approaching you they’ll often throw the sucker punch once they cross into “punching distance.” Generally when someone is about 4 feet away from you that is when they can step in and punch you with little difficulty so when someone crosses that 4 for 5 feet away from you zone that is when you should be looking for the sucker punch to come.
When someone is close to you already generally they will act like they’re disengaging you before throwing the punch. Often they will turn away from you and then turn back and throw the punch or they might step back like they’re backing off and throw the punch. Another common method is someone who is quite upset suddenly acting like they’ve magically calmed down; if a person who was very upset suddenly becomes calm and even tells you that they’re going to let things go then there is a good chance a sucker punch is seconds away. All these things are an attempt to lull you into a false sense of security first so that you won’t see the sucker punch coming.
Number Two: The right roundhouse punch.
World over most people are right handed so it makes sense that if they were to punch you it would be with their right hand. The roundhouse punch is a natural method of striking even seen in other primates, so if you combine these things together it is no wonder that the right roundhouse punch is statically the most common method of attack you will face.
The benefit of this is that if you know this is the probably method of attack you can be on the lookout for it. Plus, since this attack is wide and circular it is often telegraphed and easy to defend against simply by stepping in and getting inside the circular path.
While the right roundhouse punch is the most common method of being attacked this is also incredibly common and arguably the most effective. Whether it is during a robbery, home invasion, fight on the street, or even in the boxing or wrestleboxing ring this is one of the most effective ways of ending a fight and it is used by martial arts masters and professional bare-knuckle boxers as strategy and by common thugs and criminals by instinct.
The reason this is so effective is firstly that there are multiple punches to contend with rather than just one or two. Being attacked by continuous punches makes it very hard to protect or avoid them all plus since each punch generally comes at your face each punch is concealing the one behind it making them hard to see.
The second reason this is so effective is because the aggressor is not simply standing still allowing you room to maneuver, rather they are charging forward. By charging forwards they are throwing off your sense of distance and timing making the blows very hard to counter and this drives your weight backwards on your heels making it very hard to move. Even if you do manage to move, since they can move forward faster than you can move backwards it is very easy for them to just run you over.
I learned this when I was about 14 or 15 and my instructor called it the “Tiger Attack.” My instructor told me that as soon as I saw an opening, normally someone dropping their hands, getting distracted, or settling their weight more on one leg then the other, to suddenly charge forward with the goal of running over them, stepping on their foot if I could, and throwing repeated punches or tiger claw strikes at their face. This technique is fast, effective and very hard to defend against. Wing Chun had a similar method called the “straight blast” and supposedly it was even Bruce Lee’s go-to method.
This is more difficult to defend against but it is so incredibly common that it should be one of the major techniques we practice defending against. Some methods of defending against this are to bend your knees and drop down into a deep strong horse stance which puts your head under their shoulders. This will get you under their punches and if they do hit you they’ll glance of the curvature of your skull. Next you can step forward striking them under the armpit or under the chin with a nice powerful high block, palm strike, etc.
Another method would be to simply step forwards into their attack with a strike of your own. Since they’re coming forwards you should smother a couple of their punches and the force of their body coming forwards should make your strike all the more powerful.
You could also drop down low in a tackling technique if you feel comfortable with wrestling but wrestling during a real violence encounter is never advised. However, you could drop to a knee and strike upwards into the groin or grab their leg and do a takedown.
If you notice that attack early enough when you still have control over your balance you can sidestep or even step back with one foot and pivot your body towards them to counter in that manner.
You should never try to kick because you’ll have little power and will just probably fall over and if you do try to strike you should focus on soft tissue targets since your weight will most likely be pushed backwards and you’ll have little leverage. I’ve also had success during training with stepping forwards, grabbing them, and doing a “drop-back throw” or a “sacrifice throw” as it is called in Judo.
If you’re interested in the art of self-defense or you teach any self-defense discipline then these ten attacks should be what you focus a lot of your training on since they show up more often than not and have proven to be very effective when used against both the general public and trained fighters alike.