Self-Defense 101 – When Flight is NOT an Option

You may be the type of person to avoid conflict, and a physical confrontation is best avoided in most cases.

But sometimes, it could be your only option.


  • It's late in the evening, you are leaving a restaurant and heading to your car when you see someone aggressively approaching you.
  • You wake up and go to the kitchen to get a drink of water and find yourself face-to-face with an intruder.You are driving and have been forced off the road by another driver.
  • You are at the mall and someone has just grabbed your child or grandchild.

These are just a few examples of when you may be required to physically react to a situation. Where the only option is to fight.

My intent with this article is not to create an expert in hand-to-hand combat. My intention is to give some very basic and effective techniques that can be used if you have to fight to stay alive.

As with medical training, I highly recommend you take some form of self-defense training. It will not only help you should you find yourself in a life-threatening situation. It will increase your confidence, physical fitness and discipline.


The act of fighting is quite obviously a very violent physical battle. That said, before contact is made or the first strike lands, fighting is 100 percent mental. This goes back to a concept I often stress: the entire foundation of survival is a mindset.

Confidence and posture are two things that will mean the difference between walking away undeterred or taking a life-threatening beating. Attackers tend to prey on the weak; don't present this target.

The look of someone approaching with their chest out, shoulders back and a confident facial expression will not be nearly as alluring to an attacker as someone hunched over and staring at the ground.

Situational awareness is your best friend in pre-fight or even preventing a fight. Stay away from danger areas like alleys, dark parking lots or garages, high-crime sections of the city, and groups of people loitering.

Use situational awareness in your immediate area when you find yourself confronted by one or more individuals:

  1. Know how many there are and how they are positioning themselves.
  2. What is their condition: sick, under the influence, crazed?
  3. Do they have a weapon? Always look at the hands – this is where it will be.

Distance is key when it comes to avoiding a fight. Distance from dangerous areas and distance from potential attackers. Distance will give you options and the ability to see things unfold. You can create distance through your movement or create distance with an object like a pole, broom, large stick or even an extended arm (use caution not to get grabbed).

The Fight – Violence of Action: the unrestricted use of speed, strength, surprise and aggression to achieve total dominance against my enemy.

The techniques in this article will be useless unless you first totally commit to violence of action. Don't be afraid to hit first and when you do, hit hard. You could be in a battle for your life and the actions you take in the next few seconds may determine if you live or die. MAKE IT COUNT!

As with most things survival, fighting is a set of priorities that need to take effect at lightning speed.

  1. Protect your face
  2. Stay on your feet & Keep moving
  3. Hit hard
  4. Haul a** (aka – Get off the X)

#1 – Protect your face

On the human body, the greatest number of vulnerable points in the smallest area are from the clavicle or collarbones – up. This will be discussed more thoroughly later in this article but it is important to convey that you must protect these vulnerabilities, before you attack them.

  1. Make fists by curling the fingers tight to the palm with thumbs outside of the index fingers, gripping in.
  2. Bring arms up so that elbows are against your chest and fists are close to your face with thumbs a few inches forward from outer eye sockets.

This is the ideal position to protect much of your upper torso while creating a barrier around your neck, face and head. This will also allow you to strike and immediately return to this defensive/protective position.

#2 – Stay on your feet & Keep moving

Unless you are very good at wrestling or Jiu Jitsu, the best place to be in a fight is upright and on your feet. This is especially important if you are fighting more than one attacker because it will give you the ability to move around during the attack.

A moving target is much harder to hit than a static one, so stay mobile. Circle often and keep your attacker(s) in front of you. Don't allow them to surround you.

  1. Keep your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Lower your center of gravity by crouching slightly.
  3. Shuffle your feet; never cross them.

If you should fall to the ground, curl up on your side and cover your head while delivering kicks to your attacker's legs and knees. As soon as possible, get back to your feet.

#3 – Hit Hard

Again, back to violence of action. Make every blow count and you could walk away, or

be carried away. Punch, kick, elbow, gouge, bite, stab, rip, crush – you name it, you should do it, because this person is trying to take your life. The only rule in fighting is to live.

Vulnerable points exist all over the body but again, the greatest number of these are from the clavicle or collarbones – up.

Within this relatively small area of the neck you have:

  • 2 carotid arteries which feed blood to the brain.
  • The windpipe which is the airway for breathing.
  • The spinal cord which controls all motor skills for the body.

Your attacker may be three times your size but if you take away even one of these functions the fight is OVER. Even a 300-lb man will stop fighting if he can't breathe, which is why you must concentrate the full force of your attack on the face and neck area.

Hands will be your most effective tools in a fight. Make a fist as described above and

deliver a punch so you are ideally striking with the knuckles of the index and middle finger. Then immediately return the hand to the defensive position by the face. You will increase the power of a punch by twisting your mid-section in conjunction with the punch being thrown.


  • Jab – straight in from lead leg side, not as powerful but great for maintaining distance.
  • Cross – straight in from opposite lead leg – very powerful.
  • Hook – outward arcing punch delivered by either fist – great for targeting the ear.
  • Upper cut – upward arching punch delivered by either fist – great for targeting chin = good night.

In addition to the above punches, your hands can also be very effective when clawing or jabbing with fingers. An open palm strike can be devastating.

Feet can be used in a variety of ways during a fight. There are numerous kicking techniques that can stop a fight before it even starts. But for the purpose of this article, I would strongly recommend that you use your feet to stay upright and move. Save the spinning back roundhouse kick to the ear hole for the professionals.

Elbows are very effective and can be used when tight against your attacker. If performed properly, not only will you strike when slashing in, but you can deliver a second and equally devastating blow by back slashing (returning the elbow to the original position).

Knees, like elbows, can inflict great damage while tight against an attacker. The very best method for employing knee strikes is to grab the back of your attacker's neck with both hands, drawing them toward you each time you deliver a knee strike. Be aware that using this technique may cause you to sacrifice some stability because you will only have one foot planted on the ground during each strike.

Chokehold (aka – "sleeper") is a compression grip applied to the throat to disrupt circulation (carotid arteries) and breathing (windpipe), which ultimately causes the person to lose consciousness.

  1. It is best applied from behind the attacker by wrapping an arm around the throat with the person's windpipe in the crook of the arm and with bicep and forearm on each side of the neck. The positioning of this arm is the key to this technique so remember the deeper the better.
  2. With the other arm behind the neck, grab the opposite shoulder.
  3. Then with the forward arm, grab the rear arm bicep and squeeze.

#4 – Haul A**

Although this is the last step in fighting, it needs to be your first priority. Get off the "X." You may have struck first and hardest, and potentially be winning the fight. But don't stay engaged if you can escape. The moment you have an opening – take it and leave the scene because fights can change instantly and drastically.

Final note

As I have aged (matured), I have learned many valuable lessons. One of which is when big kids get in fights, three things can happen:

  1. Go to hospital
  2. Go to morgue
  3. Go to jail

I would NEVER tell someone not to defend themselves. I do, however, subscribe to the following policies:

  1. Don't start a fight; finish a fight.
  2. If you see a guy with ears that look like chewed up bubble gum... keep walking.

Follow these rules, get some professional self-defense training, avoid being a target, and you'll be confident to defend yourself when confronted with a life threatening situation.


  • Mike Andrews - January 09, 2023

    Thank you very much. The recommendations made in your article are outstanding.

    As you know recommendations alone are no substitute for in-person professional training coupled with common sense. Such as the common sense suggestions you presented in this excellent article.

    The following are my personal suggestions. I am not a professional Martial Arts instructor, nor am I a Policeman or Military. Haven’t had those honors. I have studied different Martial Arts for a total of 19+ years. But I am only a student.

    Some may think a few of these ideas are “over the top.” You won’t think that after you, a loved one or a friend is senselessly attacked. But as always, use what works for you.

    Check your local “Where to go for …” publications for one, two or three evening or all-day personal defense training sessions. Maybe signup for a week or a month’s worth of evening personal defense lessons.

    But don’t just sign up with anyone. Take your time to look around at different gyms, different styles. Ask others for suggestions, personally visit the gyms or dojos. Get a feel for the instructors, their approach to self-defense, and the atmosphere of the gym and the other students.

    No two Coaches or Senseis are the same in their demeanor or in what they are willing to teach. Find a gym or dojo where the instructor’s focus is on making you personally the best you can be, and where the other students are all taught and follow that same philosophy, encouraging each other. Avoid any gym that teaches one-upmanship, win at all costs against the other students while training. You are there to train. Not to hurt others or to be hurt by others.

    As a bonus the training will help you get and stay in shape, too. Provided of course you eat right. The best part is you’ll likely find you enjoy the vital information and tactics you are taught and get to personally test, your amazing teachers, and the wonderful people you are training with. Stick with it!

    Self-defense training can also help you grow mentally – concentration, focus, determination. And be a source of humble-pride in yourself which you will want to encourage and build in others.


    #1: Avoid a fight if you can - walk away if you can from name callers, rude, loud, obnoxious people. Avoid demonstrations unless you are part of the demonstration by choice.

    As mentioned in this article don’t make yourself a target by walking while:

    Reading on your phone or a book Playing with your watch or phone Talking on your phone Looking down as you walk Looking down as you stand or sit maybe waiting for say a bus or taxi

    By showing you are not paying attention to your surroundings you have made yourself a target - a large target. With your head up, looking alert, scan around yourself, front and back, as you head to your car or destination. Or as you wait for transportation or someone to drop by. Be alert even when walking with your friends or group. Show potential attackers you are paying attention because they are paying attention to you.

    Show as little cash as necessary while paying for items in the mall, restaurant, wherever. Just pull out only what you need, not everything bill you have. As for $100 bills – not highly recommended. :-)

    Walk in groups in a mall, big or small. Invite a friend to shop or just to walk with you. More fun anyway. Make a mental note of where exits are as you move through wherever you are, and where security personnel are. Note where the fire extinguishers are. If you’re strong enough (if you’re not strong enough I recommend against this) fire extinguishers also make a self-defense weapon. Not the best weapon but any weapon is often better than no weapon. Nearby rocks, bricks, boards, even the bags you’re carrying can be weapons The knife provided at the restaurant for you to eat with. Do not get in a knife fight unless you are trained in knife fighting! It’s a very different world. But if it’s all you have and you or your family are under direct attack, anything goes. Including kicking, punching, screaming, throwing whatever is nearby. Then there is the option of a Concealed Carry Permit coupled with professional gun handling and gun usage training, with practice visits to the gun range. Our daughter is a better shot than I am. Drat! If the “politicians” take away the gun rights of law-abiding citizens, only the criminals who by definition do not abide by laws will have guns. Except for the gun-carrying protection paid for those same politicians by our taxes, and the dwindling number of grossly overburdened police who daily risk their lives for each of us in our cities, counties, and states. Say a sincere thank you to a policeman or policewoman today. Why wait? Whenever possible walk as group to your car or destination at any time of day or night when at the mall, a restaurant, school, basically wherever you are. Request a mall security officer walk you to your car or destination, or at the very least have them watch you until you arrive safely at your car or destination. Drive a friend or follow them in your car as they are walking back to their car. Do this with each person in your group until everyone is safely in their cars and with their engines running. Thumbs up for “engine running” works great.


    If a potential assailant is approaching, look briefly at their hands to see what they may be carrying. But focus on the entire area. Don’t zero in on one item. USE YOUR PERIPHERAL VISION.

    People who attack others are cowards, on drugs, mentally ill, or all three. They will often make sure to have backup, others to attack you from other angles.

    Once they are within your “personal safety zone” do not wait for them to throw the first punch, kick you, or hit you with anything. Your personal safety zone depends on:

    a) How far the potential assailant(s) are from you
    b) Are they carrying weapons or are their hands hidden, possibly hiding weapons
    c) Your striking distance – arm and leg length, any weapons you may have
    d) How many are approaching you and from what angles
    e) Your capabilities – how accurately, how hard, and how quickly can you strike, kick, knee, elbow, headbutt, use your weapon(s).
    f) How quickly you can step away at an angle and strike again. Do not remain in-line with the assailant’s line of attack. Make him or her adjust into your new direction from which you are already prepared to attack/defend.

    DO NOT ASSUME you know the capabilities of your attacker(s) by looking at them. He or she may be really bad or intentionally shockingly good at attacking you. Some are high on drugs that allow them to absorb a lot of pain. And as mentioned above they likely have others to back themselves up.


    Comments – again, I am not a professional Martial Arts instructor, Policeman, nor Military (all of whom I hold great respect and gratitude for)
    1. Ask God for help and guidance at all times, in all things
    2. When you kick, if in your bare feet, curl your toes back. Trust me on thin one. :-)
    3. When you hit someone with your fist keep you hand, wrist and arm in-line so you don’t hurt your wrist. And keep your thumb tucked in.
    4. When you strike an attacker stay in personal control. Don’t fight angry or fearful – fight!
    5. Hitting hard doesn’t mean anything if you miss the important targets, say just hitting someone in the shoulder. This is one reason I highly recommend receiving training from professional instructors.
    6. There’s a LOT more – all the reason to take professional training


    My background – I studied:
    1. Judo very briefly as a kid (9 months)
    2. Shito-Ryu Karate (total of 6-1/2 years with a major break in the middle:
    a. Graduate school
    b. Marriage [proof God has a sense of humor]
    c. Kids [proof God has a slightly warped sense of humor]
    3. MMA, kickboxing, and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu which I still study today (13 years)

    If you do choose to take professional training in Martial Arts, I suggest you don’t do what I did – I married a Nurse. No sympathy whatsoever! Even our daughter started charging me $5 for every broken bone and $2.50 for each black eye. She made out pretty well I’m sad to say.

  • Andrea Hopkins - February 10, 2021

    Very helpful advice. I’m going to forward it to all my kids. And I better do more to stay in shape and be on the offensive. Thanks for your expert advice and for your service❣️

  • David Johannsen - February 09, 2021

    Great article !

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