How to Survive a Violent Attack
Violence can take many forms, and can come to us at any time. Sometimes it is completely random and without warning - just being in the wrong place at the wrong time can get us into trouble. Other times there is more background and history to a violent confrontation. We must do our best to avoid violence at all costs, as no matter what we know, or think we know, about self-defence, nothing can guarantee that you will come out unscathed if you enter into a violent confrontation. A single punch, kick, or knife stab may be enough to seriously injure you, or even end your life.
The attacker always has the advantage. He knows when, where, and how the attack will happen. The first you know of it may be a split second before it happens, or even after the first strike has hit you. How you deal with it from this point may be the difference between life and death.
For anybody serious about looking after their personal safety and learning how to defend themselves properly there is no substitute for training regularly in a reality-based, proven self-defence system with a good instructor, but there are some general guidelines which can be applied by anybody, even without training, that can greatly enhance your chances of fending off an attacker.
It is with this in mind that we present to you here our five rules for surviving a violent confrontation. From avoiding it completely, to fighting for your life if necessary, the advice given here should be taken seriously, as it might just save your life one day.
If things turn nasty, run
If things get violent, if the aggressor starts making it very clear that he intends to hurt you, then the best option here is to run away. As fast as you can, get to safety. Your house, a friend’s house, a public place etc. Anywhere you can, away from the danger.
Depending on what the attacker’s intentions are he may or may not decide to chase after you, but there’s a pretty good chance that he won’t. Of course running is not always an option, for example if you have people with you that you can’t just leave, or you are in a confined space (on a train, in a room, etc.)
Make a noise
If you can't escape, then start making a noise. Shout or scream but do it in an aggressive manner, not a fearful one. Don't let the attacker think you're scared.
Making a noise will attract attention and the last thing a would-be-attacker wants is attention.
If he thinks people are watching, he may decide that it's not worth the hassle and leave you alone. Then again he may not.
If all else fails, you're going to have to fight.
If somebody is trying to seriously hurt you, you're going to have to fight back with everything you’ve got. You need to match the attacker in terms of aggression and turn the tables on him as quickly as you can. Go from being the victim to the aggressor, from defending to attacking, until the attacker is unwilling or unable to continue attacking you.
The technical aspects of defending an attack are a huge subject in themselves, and the only way to really have a good chance of defending yourself is to train regularly in a proven self-defence system.
However, here's our advice on how to fight off an attacker if you absolutely have to:
Keep your hands up
If somebody decides to punch you and your hands are down, you have very little chance of being able to defend against it and will likely take the hit. Seeing as just one punch is all it takes sometimes to end the fight (or even your life), as soon as you realise there is a chance of things turning violent you should raise your hands.
Bring them up to about chin level, not too close to your face - about 12-15 inches or so in front. This will give you the best chance of defending against any kind of punch.
Deflect or block punches
Any punch that is coming straight towards you should be deflected to the side with one of your hands. Use the heel of your palm to deflect a high punch and use the forearm if the punch is lower.
Move the target out of the line of attack at the same time. So if the punch is aimed to your head, deflect the punch to one side using your hand, and move your head to the opposite side. This will maximise your chances of not getting hit.
Block circular attacks. If the punch is more circular, like a big, swinging right hand, then block the attack using your forearm against the attacker’s wrist.
Counterattack as soon as possible. Whichever type of punch you are defending against you need to counterattack as early as you can. This may even be simultaneously with the block or deflection, or very quickly afterwards. Turn from defending to attacking as soon as possible.
If the attacker has a knife and is trying to stab you, do your best to avoid getting cut, again using blocks and deflections. Counterattack at the earliest opportunity and try to get distance from the attacker as soon as you can. Don't worry about trying to disarm the knife, there is no reason to do so and you’ll likely get cut if you even attempt it. Just try and get away as soon as possible.
If attacker has a longer weapon like a stick or a baseball bat, try to close the distance as quickly as you can and get in close. This reduces the effectiveness of the weapon and will allow you to counterattack. If possible, try and grab hold of the weapon and disarm it by leveraging it out if the attacker’s hand once he is weakened by your counterattacks.
Avoid getting grabbed
If the attacker tries to grab you, such as in a choke or headlock, do your best to avoid getting caught. Use your arms to deflect his hands as he attempts to grab you and move your body in the opposite direction. If an attempt is made to choke you make sure you keep your chin tucked down to your chest or shoulder, in order to protect your throat. Counterattack when possible and move away.
If he manages to grab you, you need to decide whether the grab itself is dangerous - such as a choke, or if it's not, like a wrist grab.
If it's dangerous you need to deal with the grab itself first. If you're being choked, then you need to deal with that immediately. Try and strike the attackers groin if possible and then, using one or two hands depending in the situation, try and release the choke using an explosive motion, to remove the attackers grip. Continue with strong counterattacks and move away when possible.
Dealing with multiple attackers
There is a high chance that there will be more than one person involved in attacking you. If this is the case, you need to keep moving so that you only have to deal with one attacker at a time.
If there are 2 attackers try and keep '3 heads in one line' by circling around one of them. This way the other attacker stays out of reach until you are ready to deal with him. Don't spend too much time on either. Do enough to stop the first one, move on to the second and then move away.
If there are more than 2 attackers the same principle applies but it is harder to keep them lined up. Instead think more of a triangle, but always keep moving, never go through the middle and never turn your back on any of them.
Even if you are only aware of one attacker, you should be constantly scanning for other threats. If you get too caught up on dealing with one person, you may miss his friend coming round the corner to sneak up behind you. So keep your eyes open and look around the whole time.
Stay off the ground
Going to the ground in a real attack can be the worst thing you can do. Movement is severely limited when you're on the ground so if there is more than one attacker you'll be in serious trouble. So do your best to avoid ending up in the ground.
Having said that, it is fairly likely that at some point you will end up on the ground. If this happens you should make it your goal to get back on to your feet as soon as possible.
If you find yourself on the ground with the attacker on top of you, first you need to defend whatever attack is happening - so if he is trying to punch or stab you deflect or block the punches. If he is choking you, release the choke. Then try to throw them off of you by strongly raising your hips up and to one side. Continue by rolling to that side, counterattacking strongly all the time. As soon as you are able to, get up and leave.
Counterattack to vulnerable targets
In order to turn the tables on the attacker and get away you will need to counterattack, strongly and repeatedly until he is weak enough for you to escape. In order to do this all of your attacks should be aimed at the most vulnerable points of the attacker’s body. These include the eyes, nose, chin (basically anywhere on the face), the throat, back of the head, groin, and knees.
Every attack should be done with full commitment and the intention should not be to try and hurt your attacker, but to injure him. Pain is very subjective, and an attacker fuelled by alcohol, drugs, and adrenaline, may feel no pain. However, if you do actual damage to him he is far more likely to be unable to continue. Attack the eyes and he won’t be able to see, at least temporarily. If he can’t see, he can’t fight, giving you time to escape. If he can’t run, can’t walk, can’t breathe, etc. then he can’t fight. Do as much damage as possible in the shortest possible time then get away.
Use anything you can
To give yourself the best chance of surviving, and to swing the odds in your favour, use any objects that may by lying around, whether to attack with or to defend with.
Examples of common objects could be using your bag to block a punch, then using it to hit with. Picking up a chair and using it as a shield, or finding a stick or a stone on the ground.
Smaller objects such as coins, or even sand, can be effective as a means of distraction, by throwing them at the attackers face in order to open up opportunities either to escape or to further counterattack.
Keep the fighting spirit
A very large part of your chances of survival has more to do with your mentality than any technique or skill. You have to be prepared to fight to the end. You may get hurt, you may get injured, but as long as you are still conscious you must continue fighting. Even if you get cut or stabbed with a knife, you are still in the fight as long as you can still move. If you give up it could cost you your life.
Remember the goal of self-defence for a civilian is simply to get away from the danger safely. It's important that whatever you do in self-defence you must act within the law. This means only doing enough to get away. As soon as the attacker no longer poses a threat you must not continue. If you do you may be liable for prosecution. Just do what you have to do to stop the threat then leave.
After the incident it is important that you check yourself for any injuries. The effects of adrenaline and stress can mask the pain of a stab wound or a broken bone, and there are many documented cases of people being injured in attacks and not realising until it's too late. So as soon as you are in a safe place, check yourself thoroughly for injuries and get to a hospital if necessary. If you have injured your attacker, then you should phone an ambulance and inform the police about what’s happened.
The advice in this article could genuinely help you if you ever find yourself faced with a violent situation. However, as mentioned before, if you are serious about learning to defend yourself then you need to find a self-defence system that works (not one of the many that don’t), get a good instructor, and train regularly.
It is my opinion that one of the most effective and proven self-defence systems around today is Krav Maga.
Krav Maga was developed and is used by the Israeli military, and has also been adopted by many other military and law enforcement agencies around the world.
In recent years it has become very popular among civilians for the purposes of self-defence, and with good reason.
It is based on the body’s natural reactions, it has been refined and proven over decades of conflict, and it is very easy to learn and retain.
Direct Defence Krav Maga offers training in authentic Krav Maga in classes around West Sussex.
If you are interested in learning how to protect yourself and your loved ones from real violence, training in a fun, friendly, and safe environment, then you should consider training with us. We offer 3 weekly classes and as well as learning effective, practical self-defence, you’ll also see huge benefits in fitness and increased confidence.
Click below to find out how to get started training with us