How To Know If You Can Defend Yourself

How do you know if you can defend yourself in a real-world, street fight or mugging scenario?

There are really too many variables in a fight that would make it unpredictable. Of course, you can take several steps to ensure you are prepared to defend yourself. But, when you actually fight, the scenario may be completely different.

There could be weapons involved. There may be multiple attackers. You will likely not get to choose where the fight takes place.

Instead, here are a few key points to maybe help build up your skills to the point where you have confidence in your ability to defend yourself.

Avoiding A Fight

A fight should always be avoided if possible. That is the best way to defend yourself. If a fight never has a chance to start, you’re guaranteed a win. Anything you want to accomplish only gets better with practice. The same applies here.

Here are some ways you may be able to avoid a fight (in order of escalation):

  1. Manage your environment – stay out of sketchy areas. Hang out with good people. Travel in a group if possible.
  2. Exude confidence – generally, bullies will only attack people that look weaker, like victims or like prey they can take advantage of. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. If you throw your confidence around and get in people’s face, a fight situation will likely ensue.
  3. Open your eyes – if you’ve tried step 1 and you sense the situation escalating, take a quick scan of your surroundings. Where are you? Are there others around that may get involved in the fight? Are there potential weapons you could use? And, most importantly, where is the escape route?
  4. Check your ego – Apologize if you might have done something that may have set someone off even if they’re wrong. Further, there’s no shame in walking away if that’s an option. Most people who hurl insults and try to get under your skin do so because of their own insecurities. Don’t let them manipulate you. Simply walking away will work. Stay alert, however, as the fight may still be on. Try to walk backwards to a safe distance (before turning and running if that’s necessary).

If you’ve tried to avoid the fight with no success, then you will need to fight. You may be called upon to defend yourself in a mugging or robbery situation. Or, your job may put you in situations where it is more likely you’ll have to defend yourself.Below are some steps you can use to prepare.

Below are some steps you can use to prepare.

What To Expect

You can expect that nothing will go as expected in a fight situation. Anything can and will happen.

While you are looking for any advantage, so is your opponent.

  • Expect that you will be nervous as hell. Know that your opponent is nervous too.
  • You will likely forget anything during or after the fight.
  • Be prepared for anything.
  • If there are others around, expect them to jump in.

Watch this great video that explains what you can expect.

Speed, Mobility and Power

If you are concerned about having to defend yourself, work on speed, mobility and power in the gym.

Speed – Work on speed in the form of punch and kick quickness. Practice short, straight-forward combinations. Think jabs, crosses and front kicks. No spinning elbows. No twisting, jumping uppercuts. You’re not Ryu from Street Fighter. Work on sprinting. The better you run, the more likely you’ll be able to escape your assailants. Work on getting up off your back, turning and sprinting. If you are in a ground fight, this is what you’ll need to do once you’ve created the opportunity.

Mobility – Work on movement and flexibility. Practice getting in and out of range quickly.

Power – power isn’t really necessary. It’s certainly the last thing you should work on. Good technique is more important.


vital targets

Examine the above figures carefully. Most of the vital targets are on or around the centre line of the body. It is crucial to know where to strike to do the most damage in the as efficiently as possible.

In his book, Fighting Method: Skill in Techniques, Bruce Lee says this: “The meaning of ‘martial’ is ‘warlike’. We are not in a game; it’s your life or his (or hers, but more likely his). And since you only have one life, take care of it the best you can.”

Illustrated in the above figure are also nerve points. These may cause your attacker immense pain and disable them to some extent. This gives you and opportunity to escape.

Developing The Ground Game

If you find yourself on the ground, you’d better have a well-developed ground game. That is the ability to defend against, neutralize an opponent and escape.

Arguably the best method for this is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training. There you will learn how to get off your back without giving up your back.

Training in BJJ will allow you to have a level of confidence so that if you are taken down, you can remain calm and relaxed – to a certain extent.

Unlike in class, your number 1 objective is to get off the ground and either back to a fighting stance or a run.

Read this post for more details of how you can defend yourself if things go to the ground.

Dealing With Multiple Attackers

The best and safest solution when facing multiple attackers is to run. Standing and going toe-to-toe with many people is a battle you can’t win.

That’s if you’re a good runner. If you aren’t able to run, you must fight for your life by using any and all tactics available to you.

There is no single martial art that is best in a multiple-attacker scenario.

Check out this video for some tips when facing multiple opponents. Mind you, this is exceedingly more difficult depending on the number of attackers.

Practical Martial Arts

Good practical martial arts would be Jeet Kune Do (JKD) or Krav Maga. These in particular are the most realistic in terms of the comparison between training and real-world situation.

Kali/FMA would be good to help you learn how to handle knives or sticks.

That is by no means a slight against traditional martial arts. They can certainly be useful. And most militaries use a combination of traditional styles alone with newer ones.


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