Self Defense: How to Avoid Being Attacked

Don’t be a victim!

Every crime survey you read shows that being male makes you more likely to be involved in a physical altercation than if you were female. We’d estimate that a large proportion of those incidents are not muggings either, but rather the sort of unnecessary and stupid male-on-male violence that occurs late at night, usually when there’s alcohol involved.

It all comes down to what Rory Miller, in his seminal essay from 2011, coined the ‘monkey dance.’ Make sure you read the whole thing, because it’s a perfect description of how typical male-on-male violence begins.

The ritual is as follows: a hard, aggressive stare, a verbal challenge, a squaring off, finger pointing or a chest push and then followed by a big, looping overhand right. You can see this exact sequence played out in most real fights – just have a look on YouTube.

If you’re a man, then thousands of years of evolution has gone into making you want to engage in aggressive, face-saving behavior. In evolutionary terms there is an advantage to being a socially dominant alpha male and not looking like a wimp to your friends or other members of your tribe.

It can be very hard to not engage in this ‘monkey dance’ once it starts, since you’re going against your programming to a large extent; but it is entirely possible to do so. You just need to learn how to deprogram yourself and self defense.

Self Defense
Gang Of Youths Fighting In Street

Firstly, don’t worry – it won’t make you any less of a man. The key thing to realize is that the reality of fighting is dreadful and that you should do everything you can to avoid it. If you engage in a fight with another man in the street or in a bar then you risk your life, especially if there’s a weapon involved. It’s as simple as that.

Secondly, you need to learn how to remove combative energy from the situation, rather than add to it. If you find you’re in the early stages of the ‘monkey dance’ – for example, maybe another male has started to square up to you – then your every gesture, glance, and movement is critical. Don’t act aggressively.

Create a physical distance between you and the potential assailant. Put your hands up in an open, defensive posture and apologize, even if you’ve done nothing wrong – then get out of there.

Even a simple “I don’t want any trouble,” can give the message that you’re not a threat. Don’t put your hands up like a boxer does or clench your fists – that’s just adding more combative energy to the situation. For details on how to position your hands in a non-threatening manner watch this video:

Having your hands up like this enables you to manage the distance and therefore manage the damage.

It’s a good idea to find a friend to roleplay typical scenarios with you, so you get comfortable with handling them. Get your partner to come up to you with an aggressive “What you looking at, mate?” and get used to reacting in a non-confrontational way with your hands up. Let your partner give you feedback on how it felt and how your every action was perceived. Your body language may be giving off the wrong signals, and you need to know if it is.

Usually, this works, but if you do everything you can to appease the aggressor and you still can’t evade him, then you’re going to need some martial arts skills to deal with the situation. But remember, your martial arts training should be making you confident enough not to have to use it, not eager to try it out! Pride always comes before a fall.

While an understanding of the pre-fight ritual is key to avoiding confrontations, an even better solution is to simply not be there in the first place. Avoid alcohol and dangerous places altogether if you never want to be involved in a fight. Which brings us nicely onto self defense for women.

Self Defense
USA's Queen Underwood and Team GB's Natasha Jones in action
U.S. Embassy London,Flickr CC License. https://www.flickr.com/photos/usembassylondon/6399831711/

Self defense for women

There are far too many situations that fall under the category of women’s self defense to cover here, including things like stalking, domestic abuse, rape, psychological abuse, home invasion, and kidnapping. But all of these different threads converge at the point where actual violence occurs, and that’s what we want to address here.

As a woman facing a potentially violent predator, your first recourse should always be to get out of there. If you find a situation with a man is escalating out of control, and you’ve been isolated from other members of your group, then making yourself scarce is by far your safest option.

Don’t worry about hurting their feelings. Trust your intuition. If you don’t feel safe, get out of there, get to where other people are, and ask for help.

As before, if you are involved in a verbal argument that is getting physical then you need to defuse it rather than add to the levels of aggression. Don’t try to tell him off for his behavior, get the last word in, or “win” the argument. This might not sound like very PC advice, but it’s your personal safety we’re talking about here.

Self Defense
Learning self defense
Fort Bragg,Flickr CC License. https://www.flickr.com/photos/fortbraggnc/8660291671/in/photolist-echfZD-adkcBE-9sCGBE-9sCGB9-9szQrZ-9sCGBw-fPUxk1-fPUtU3-fPUwLC-fPC2h8-fPUumh-fPUuJb-fPUwfh-p6vQv5-ci5BKj-9yb6R5-2fqC2-9yb62b-igeQd-9y88gi-9yb6oo-kVUSH-ngZuXV-9y87u8-9y87bV-qtQUH1-9y86sa-8Mzbth-9jFU6e-cPvNh-8vBVL8-fPBYwz-fPUxZA-f5THfB-fPBWqn-fPBYfZ-9yb6bS-9yb6q1-4Rh2i3-S9gjcA-8CGPgU-aqVpAF-FHEhG9-nkZzpe-dcqoZg-pSLge-6hY63V-jXtiMZ-EwYUrQ-9qqRDd

If somebody wants your money then give it to them. Even better, throw it on the ground and run in the opposite direction. It’s only money, and it’s not worth risking your life over. Get to an area where there are other people or back to your group of friends and ask for help immediately.

I’ve used the word “predator” here, because that’s how you need to think of the damaged individuals who prey on women. And just like predatory animals, they are looking for the weakest members of the herd. If you’re seriously interested in not being a victim then you need to not look like a victim.

Our society tends to discourage women from being confident alpha females. If you walk around with your head down, looking fearful then you are giving off the sort of energy that invites predators. If this description sounds like you, then you might want to consider taking up martial arts classes.

It’s a great way to boost your confidence and get healthy, and you’ll be surprised how even a little knowledge of self defense can help stop you from becoming just another statistic.

Self Defense
Shot of a young couple going through some kickboxing routines outdoors on a bridge
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