02 April 2012

13 Commonly Believed Myths About Self Defence BUSTED!

Self Defence Myths
There are many Myths believed about self defence.

Some are absolutely WRONG. Others are not too bad but over simplify issues. These Myths try to get us to stop thinking for ourselves.

Some are more widespread than others. This largely comes down to people teaching who don’t know any better. It can come down to untrained people just spreading bad information.

There are simply too many Myths out there that need busting.

A key problem is the internet. Too often, poor ideas are taught to a large audience which gains traction and poor instruction spreads this way. McDojo’s are also a significant problem (see also here, here and here).

Who really knows how these 13 commonly believed Myths about self defence come from? The fact is, they are out there.

We are here to BUST them! Now let’s get busting!

1. Never walk around with your hands in your pockets

This idea comes from the opinion that you should always be ready to defend yourself, at all times. If your hands are in your pockets you cannot react quickly enough. Worse still, someone could come up behind you and get you in a bear hug with your hands trapped in your pockets. Now what?

But how likely is it really that you will be attacked suddenly when out shopping at the local mall in the middle of the day? When you are walking to the gym on a cold winters morning should you not put your hands in your pockets because you may be attacked at any moment?

The risk of attack is not enduring. It is not constant. It is not the same everywhere and at every place. There is a time and place for everything.

Saying that you should never have your hands in your pockets at any time is being extremely paranoid. That is being hyper alert. You simply cannot maintain such a level of alertness for too long without visiting the local psychologist.

There may be some times and some places where for a few moments or even an hour or just while you are moving through an area, that you should take your hands out of your pockets. That can be a smart thing to do.

But it does NOT mean we should always be on high alert for a violent attack. There are high risk times and places and low risk times and places. Simply act accordingly. So yes, feel free to slide your hands in your pockets when you feel the risk is low. When the risk of attack is higher, take them out. Simple.

Do not turn off your brain. Think for yourself. It is all a part of being aware of your surroundings.

Myth #1 BUSTED.

2. Never walk around with your earphones in

This is similar to the hands in pockets Myth. The theory goes that when you have ear phones in listening to music or a podcast, you are unaware of your surroundings. You could easily be marked and attacked.

But everywhere? What about on the bus in the morning and you know who everyone is? You see them every day. Same on the train. Ahh but what if someone from a rear carriage moves through? Possible. What if you sit at the back of the carriage so as anyone moves into the carriage you see them from the side? Could you just take them out then if necessary?

What about walking down the street? It would depend on the street and time of day. It all comes down to risk. If you spend time considering when and where is a higher risk for mugging type attacks, do not wear them then. Same thing for pickpocket type attacks. If you deem an area to be low risk, feel free to enjoy your music. It is just basic and rudimentary risk management. There is risk everywhere. But not high risk everywhere. Unless you live in a really bad area.

So maybe you choose to wear them on the bus, take them off as you go through the quiet area to the mall then put them back in as you walk through to work. There is no reason to never listen to music when out and about. Just be smart about it and at least consider the risk.

Again, just use your brain and consider these things. Do not let a stupid myth do your thinking for you.

Myth #2 BUSTED.

3. Don’t get eye contact with an attacker

The theory goes that you may antagonize a possible attacker. But what type of attacker? An Alpha Male or a Predator? For an Alpha Male you probably WOULD antagonize the situation. But for a Predator, you may just signal to him that he has lost the element of surprise and you are aware of his game.

Avoiding eye contact to a Predator will simply give off victim signals to him. It is not about staring the Predator down, it is just about noticing the Predator. This combined with looking around calmly and scanning your surroundings will likely result in the Predator seeing you as a difficult mark, so he will likely let you through his hunting ground.

So while staring at an Alpha Male can be a bad idea, avoiding eye contact with a Predator can also be a bad idea. So this rule is not a universal truth. Like most things, there is a time and place.

Another ill informed myth that tries to get people to stop thinking for themselves.

Myth #3 BUSTED.

4. Keys are an excellent improvised weapon

You’ve heard this one. On your way to your car in the car park, hold your keys a certain way so that if you are attacked, you can use them as a weapon. But just what do you think you are going to do with keys? You will probably cut an attacker open and cause a whole lot of their blood to cover you, that is for sure. Anyone think a mugger may have some blood borne diseases? Possible drug habit maybe?

But the aim of using physical force is to stop an attacker. Not cut them open with tiny flesh wounds. Fighting back at all may be enough to cause an attacker to cease his assault. In this case it doesn’t really matter too much what you use, as long as you fight back hard.

But for a more committed attacker, keys do not have much stopping or destructive power. They do not really offer a length advantage either. I’ve said it before that it would probably be a better option to go for an open palm strike to the chin. Such a strike to a high chance knock out point has a better chance of stopping an attacker than a fist full of keys.

Keys simply do not offer enough advantages over empty hand options to be considered a worthwhile weapon. And this was discussed recently when I spoke about the 5 Best Improvised Weapons in the World.

Myth #4 BUSTED.

5. Grappling with a knife attacker is suicide

This myth sees people stating that you should never grapple with a knife attacker. Such a thing is suicide. But let’s think this through. A knife attacker wants to strike you with it. It could be either a stab or slash, but most likely a stab of some kind. To do this they need to thrust it into you. This is a striking movement.

What is a good option in an unarmed context against a skilled striker? Get inside their striking techniques and grapple with them. This minimizes their ability to use their strikes effectively. Everyone knows going toe to toe with a skilled boxer is a bad idea. They will clean you up. You are playing their game. Closing and grappling is what they want to avoid.

So how is grappling a knife wielding attacker bad? Would such a myth believer feel it is better to go toe to toe with a knife attacker? Crazy. But many people believe this myth. The only way to stop a knife attacker from stabbing you (beside running away or being too far away), is to control the knife bearing limb. This involves elements of grappling. See here, here, here and here for evidence of this.

So it is not suicide, it is actually the best option.

Myth #5 BUSTED.

6. Always run away from a mugger

Seems fair enough. But it depends. Running away is good because it gives you distance from them and any edged or impact weapons they may have. Legally, it is smart as well. But there are times when it can be dangerous.

The main time this would not be the best option is when two things happen. One, you are in an area with a high rate of firearms use. Or you see one. The other factor is if you try running without giving them what they want such as your wallet or iPhone.

If you try to run without giving them what they are after, you risk being shot in the back. These two cases happened within a couple of days of each other and demonstrate this point.



Not surprisingly, both cases were in the US. One was hit with one well aimed shot and the other one was shot at four times but they all missed.

Yes running can be a very smart thing to do. But if firearms are likely or confirmed, throw down whatever it is they want prior to running off. They will likely be happy they have what they are after and will not try to shoot you as the risk will not be worth the gain to them. But if you hold onto that wallet or iPhone and flee, it may well be worth the risk as those two cases demonstrate.

There is also the ethical and morale aspects of what do you do if there are more than one of you being mugged?

Do you abandon them and save yourself?

It all depends doesn’t it. Who are those you are with (wife, children, friend, acquaintance, stranger), how many attackers, are they armed, are you totally out gunned and outnumbered, is it better to get away and call the police etc.

So running can be a smart thing to do, but consider the other aspects to it. It is not a blanket rule. Again, another simplistic myth that ignores many aspects of smart self defence.

Myth #6 BUSTED.

7. An attacker on the street will attack you like your co-operating training partner

This one is obviously a terrible myth. Most people know attackers do not attack like what happens during one and three step sparring. But they train that way. They may also do free sparring. So it is two parties who are already fighting (a mutually agreed fight on the street is illegal in most places by the way). There is nothing in between. An attacker will not step forward and punch and then stop. But thousands of people train that way and claim it as self defence.

A knife attacker will not step forward and thrust a knife straight at your abdomen and then stop there. But that is how thousands of people train knife defence. An attacker will NOT wait until you are ready and then do an attack of which you know what it will be. But that is how thousands of people train. Tens or hundreds of thousands probably.

There is nothing wrong with training that way initially. Skills need to be developed. That is one way skills can be developed. But for the vast majority of people, the training never progresses beyond that. And that is what the real problem is. At least some of the time, towards the end of a training progression, students need to be attacked in similar ways as what a real attacker will attack them like. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It should gradually progress up to a point.

This is so important. It is vital.

An obvious myth but thousands around the world continue to believe this. It is evident in their actions.

Myth #7 BUSTED.

8. Two against one sparring is the best multiple attacker training

Many people see two on one sparring as very difficult and very useful multiple attack training. And it is difficult. No argument there. But I have news for you.

Three or four or more attackers are FAR more likely than just two attackers (see also here). Two on one attacks happen only rarely so it is almost a waste of time to prepare for them. Multiple attack situations are far more dynamic in real life than just two on one.

Two on one sparring is not enough. It should only be used as a progression to three or four or more attacker scenarios. Maybe sparring is not the best idea. It is likely too difficult. But realistic scenarios involving many people would probably be a good idea.

Two on one sparring is not really of much use. That is the cold hard truth of multiple attacks in real life.

Myth #8 BUSTED.

9. The most dangerous knife attacker will hold the knife out in front and threaten you with it in a menacing manner

Systems that mostly teach knife defence with an attacking student displaying the knife out in front are mimicking what could be termed as the least lethal knife attacker. Generally when a person displays a knife to threaten, they only intend to threaten with it.

Just give them what they want and they will likely go on their way. It is unlikely they will attack you from there unless you say or do something very stupid. So practicing to defend against a knife attacker in this way is almost a complete waste of time.

The most lethal type of knife attack is one where the victim never sees the knife, at least until after they have already been stabbed. This usually occurs during an argument. The victim will usually think they have just peen punched. Often, the victim will be stabbed by a knife and not realize it because they do not feel any pain beyond feeling like they were punched.

So training to watch peoples hands during an escalating encounter is smart. Look for reaching under the shirt, behind the back etc. This is the most dangerous form of knife user. If they are being sneaky about pulling it out it is because they want to stab you with it without you realizing. They will not flash it around so you know they have it.

Myth #9 BUSTED.

10. You need to know two or three different counters to each type of attacking technique

This myth is usually born out of systems with a very large repertoire of techniques or a large syllabus. They need to justify all of their flashy moves with using different counters for each attacking technique. It looks good in a class but does nothing for developing a students ability to apply an effective technique against an attacker under stress and possibly being surprised and overwhelmed.

The best approach is to use one or two counter techniques for as many attacking techniques as possible. This is so that under pressure, there is less to think about. Not just logical conscious thinking but for the reflexes and muscle memory. Hicks Law states that the fewer actions to process the quicker and more appropriate the response is likely to be. A persons reaction to an attack takes longer when one possible counter belongs to a large set of possibilities rather than a smaller set.

Although some respected instructors debate the relevancy of Hicks Law, the fact is fewer options from a smaller bank is better. I think even Hock would agree with that. This also frees up our ‘bandwidth’ to deal with new unexpected information as this would leave us less likely to be overwhelmed than it would if we had a large selection of techniques that needed considering.

Although those hundreds of different scripted techniques may look good and impressive to new students, they are largely a waste; Especially when it comes to being able to apply techniques against a resisting attacker under stress.

Myth #10 BUSTED.

11. You will perform better under stress due to the increase in adrenaline and quicker responses etc.

This is largely the belief of younger students. They think that under the stress of the real thing, they will perform better and be stronger and quicker because of adrenaline. It makes sense in theory but does not work in the real world. We do not rise to the occasion, we sink below our abilities of even our training level.

There are no shortcuts or excuses for poor training or conditioning. In a real encounter, you will not think clearly, you will tire quicker, you will not move as well, you will not be as clean and smooth.

Ask any fighter about this. They will tell you the same. Fights are always harder than training, unless you have a great match against someone who you were simply an overmatch for. And a ring fight is organised and the fighters know it is coming. Add to that stress a surprise real life and death self defence situation and our abilities will further deteriorate.

You may initially have more strength than normal but this will quickly pump out and you will have hands and feet of concrete. I hope for believers of this myth that all of your encounters are very short and are broken up quickly.

About the only thing that will serve you well, is your resistance to pain. Most other effects will be more pronounced and will drop your ability to think and perform fine motor skills.

Luckily this myth is dying off but there are still many who believe this. It is simply wrong.

Myth # 11 BUSTED.

12. You should ‘finish’ an attacker after you have taken them down.

So you have taken your attacker down so you finish them off with an arm break or a few punches to the face and head. After all, that is what you do in training right?

Except someone walked around the corner mid encounter and began videoing it with their smart phone. They didn’t see how it all began. What will the video see? You beating someone down and assaulting them while they were held to the ground.

You can explain yourself. It won’t matter.

When that person was on the ground, they were no longer a threat to you. You continued to use force after the threat had stopped.

This is important. Do not use finishing moves in training. Especially after doing a knife disarm. Cutting a throat is murder. If you continue to use ‘finishing’ moves, please say hello to my cousin Bubba for me when you meet him. Sooner or later, you will.

Myth #12 BUSTED.

13. Your attacker on the street is going to be untrained and easy to beat

Here is our final myth. This was recently discussed by Iain Abernethy and Wim. Let us first look at the two components that make a threat. One is capability, the other is intent. And I will get back to this point soon enough. Now let’s look at the likely attacker. He may or may not have had some ‘fight’ training. Considering the circles an attacker would likely surround himself in, there would probably be some type of ‘corporate knowledge’ of what type of attacks work and what do not. They would also know some ‘tricks’ of the trade.

The other thing to consider is that your attacker is not going to walk up to you and ask you to fight and then wait for you to agree and you both take up fighting stances and crack on. His form of attack is not ring fighting. It is attacking. And there are two main types of attack as I am sure everyone who reads Low Tech Combat would know.

One is an Alpha Male who starts off very emotional and does not attempt to hide his intent to start a fight with you. Things will start verbal. Adrenalisation will occur. In this state, the attacker will probably have one or two key ‘street moves’ that only he and a few friends will know about.

I remember one tough street fighter acquaintance from my younger days who had a secret move he would always do. He was left handed. He would stand in a right handed stance with right arm back. Most people would assume he was right handed. As things evolved during the argument and posturing leading up to a fight, he would wind back his right arm slightly in an apparent wind up to punch with his right. He would make it slightly obvious so people would fixate on that right hand. As he seemed to be launching that right hand he was in fact winding up his left, strong side. Just prior to landing that right which people would fixate, flinch and react to, he would launch his heavy left hand and in most cases drop the person . Either way he would continue on with a massive flurry of punches. Very difficult to come back from for the other person.

The other is the Predator. He will hide his intent. He will not try to pick a fight with you. He may want to mug you of your wallet or phone. He will be in his area and he will be scanning for prey. When you go through his area, you will probably not be ready for it. He has set the scene. He will be judging and assessing you. You will be unaware of this. He may ask you a question. You may be surprised. He will see this and pull out his knife as you are looking at your watch to tell him the time.

So in both of these instances, who is REALLY the biggest threat for the most likely real violent encounter? I would say the other guy is. You may be better at ring fighting but this is not the ring. This is their arena.

The other guy has probably been in more of these situations. They know what happens. They initiate the scripts used. They have the initiative. They are controlling the situation. They may have armed themselves prior. This increases their capability. They may have friends with them. This increases their capability.

They have also been the ones who have decided to target you. They have made that decision to attack you. They have selected you for a reason. They believe they can beat you. They want to beat you down or they want what you have. It may seriously be a case of survival for them. They NEED your wallet or phone so they can sell it to buy drugs and maybe a bit of food as well. You will be under pressure. They will be less so.

The untrained attacker will likely have higher capability and intent for their game in their arena. This is why they do not walk into boxing gyms and challenge fighters there. They know they will be outclassed. Likewise, we shouldn’t claim we have more capability at their game. When we understand this, we can better prepare ourselves and increase our own capabilities and intent in their game.

Until then, it will be a tough ask. Hopefully you get some weak unarmed loner who made a poor decision.

A career criminal will not be easy. Just another reason to use awareness, avoidance and de-escalation yeah?

Myth #13 BUSTED.


So there we have it. 13 Myths about Self Defence BUSTED. The aim of this article was to highlight to you that there are few blanket rules that we should follow blindly. Any instructor who espouses such Myths has simply stopped thinking for themselves and wants their students to stop thinking as well.

There are few easy blanket rules. In this game of Low Tech Combat you will need to keep your mind open and keep thinking. Rules should not do your thinking for you.

If you come across others who are pushing these Myths you may want to let them know that things are not so easy.

What are some other Self Defence Myths you want to BUST? Let us know in the comments below.

Disagree with what you have read here? Let the world know by adding your thoughts in the comments below.



Image by Dan Finnen

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  1. Good article. I agree at most and disagree at some but all these 'myths' are worth researching.

    1. Hi Jared. If we all agreed on everything the world would be a boring place!

      Are you saying you are not blindly following what others say? Excellent! hehe

      For the purposes of discussion and conversation, what areas do you disagree with?

    2. Cheers for your reply Adam. I'd say myth number 5 is my area of concern. This is mostly because of a knife incident that occurred in my hometown months ago.

      The attacker pulled a knife out and tried stabbing his victim multiple times but failed as the victim kept jumping backwards until he realised he was now pinned to the wall. The victim tried grappling and did momentarily grab his knife arm and started striking the attacker back. Sadly however, this gave the attacker the need to use his free hand to reach for his pocket, bring out yet another knife and stab the victim at dead close range due to grappling.

      I guess what I'm trying to say is... there is no right/wrong way when dealing with knife attackers. Maybe this is my strategy of self-defence but if I was to carry a weapon out with me, I'd make sure i'd take more than one should the original fail. I think any knife wielding maniac would do the same. This is, in my opinion, one reason why I'd like to stay the hell away from grappling against an armed attacker, especially if we've got each other pinned to the ground after attempts of disarming.

      I've never been in a knife situation before and so I can't justify my words above but my gut feeling tells me I do not want to get anywhere near physical contact with the attacker whatsoever.

    3. Your comments reflect what many people feel. Everyone wants to stay away from a knife. And that is only natural. If you can run away from the scene, do so.

      But if you cannot leave for whatever reason, how can keeping on stepping back stop the knife attack? Eventually, like you said in your example, you will not be able to step back any further and the attacker will close the distance.

      You said the defender was able to stop the knife attacker by grabbing hold of the knife bearing limb. This is good. Though the attacker had another knife. This is bad. I am not sure anyone has solved the issue of an unarmed defender countering an attacker with two knives. Even defending against one is hard. That is why leaving, running and even screaming if necessary is the best option.

      Just because a defender had issues with an attacker with two knives does mean what he did was a bad approach to knife defence. Perhaps his execution could have been better. Once he was at clinch range and was controlling the knife bearing limb, he could have spun the attacker even just 90 degrees. He could then have disengaged and left if the attacker was previously blocking his escape route. This is just one simple example. Simple to say, difficult to do in the moment.

      I have not seen anything about an effective means to defend against a knife attacker that does not involve either running away or controlling the knife bearing limb. Though I am open to ideas. I fully accept that closing against a knife attacker (if we cannot leave) can be intimidating but it seems to be the best approach.

      STAB, Redzone and other effective knife defence training providers (as detailed in the above article) all close and control the knife bearing limb as an overall approach.

      It can seem illogical to close against a knife attacker at first but the alternative of going toe to toe is even worse. You are then playing the knife attackers game. And he has a sharp tool and a reach advantage.

      But your story Jarod of the second knife coming is important to consider in any knife defence. I hadn't heard of an actual knife attack happening this way before, just seen it a bit in training scenarios.



    4. Jared, Adam addressed this well but if he doesn't mind I will throw in a few comments...

      Research into hundreds of knife assaults has shown that besides running away or using an environmental barrier, or deploying your own weapon, there are only two empty-hand options for dealing with a knife-wielding attacker. 1) close, secure the weapon-bearing limb and strike viciously or 2) strike or block the weapon-bearing limb (without securing) and strike viciously. There are currently proponents of both options out there but statistically #1 has been shown to be the most successful for both trained and untrained victims. People often do this without any training and walk away to tell about it. That's the important part. Now, with that said the situation you mentioned is an exception to these types of attacks. We can't honestly say what was done well and was was done wrong during that attack, because we weren't there. However, the intended victim of such an encounter must understand that a knife attack is a lethal force situation. If he/she doesn't treat it in a lethal force manner the chances of being severely injured or killed is pretty high. By securing the weapon-bearing limb we temporarily reduce the amount of damage that can be inflicted with that weapon (not the word 'temporarily') but we have done nothing to stop the threat. So, upon securing the limb we must immediately focus on vital targets. In this case, we focus on targets that have the highest potential for slowing or immediately stopping the threat. Random strikes to non-vital areas will do nothing for us here.

      Regardless of how well our response goes there are still no guarantees that we won't be injured or worse. The key is to prepare ourselves in advance through proper training, hope we never have to use these skills, but be willing to do whatever is necessary if we do. Another important factor regarding knife attacks is proper mental preparation. Without the proper mind-set all of the best techniques in the world will do us no good. We must have the mind-set and the willingness to do whatever it takes to survive.

      Develop the mind-set, train realistically with those tactics that have the highest success rate, and we greatly increase our survival odds.


    5. I have been in this situation twice and I believe that securing then striking then grappling. The strikes should open up a disarm. Be prepared to be cut it is very difficult not to sustain some injury all they have to do is barely touch you and you're cut but don't freak out because its probably not bad. Mindset is very important attack keep attacking ruthlessly never expect a one or two hit ko. Secure the arm strike to throat eyes headbutt is effective, knee to groin, axe hand to carotid, palm to chin or throat a good palm strike can hit both, elbow to throat, biting the knife hand very effective. In life or death I would rather take chance on what disease attacker may or may not have die twenty years from now than die that second with his knife in my heart.

  2. Adam! I cannot believe you beat me to the punch on No. 4! I wrote an entire article about why using car keys for a SD weapon is a terrible idea! Incidently, I agree with each point you made on why they are ineffective.

    I half disagree with you in regards to finishing moves, though. It all comes down to context. Even if I am caught on 8 seconds of iphone footage issuing a finisher to the assailant before fleeing for my life and I am dragged before my local PD for questioning, who will they believe? The mugger with a long history of criminal activity? Or me, the upstanding citizen? (I do agree that a fishinger DOES place you in more murky water when it comes to legality. And it is a big no-no to slit the other guys throat if you get the knife away from him).

    Overall, great list you've got here. I enjoyed reading it.

    1. haha glad I could beat you to it.

      hmmm, finishing moves. Plenty of good upstanding people have gone to prison. Plenty of criminals have gotten off charges. If I have defended myself and was able to throw or sweep or otherwise outbalance an attacker to the ground, I wil use that as an opportunity to disengage and leave the area. The attacker will likely be suffering from sensory overload a little as they have initiated an attack and ended up on the deck. They will likely be slow to respond and slow to pursue once you leave as they just got controlled.

      Getting out of the mindset of 'finishing' has been a big shift for me as I used to always do one in training. It was only natural. It was encouraged and everyone else was doing it too. It doesn't make it any less bad of an idea though. It's up to you, though I will not do one unless I absolutely have to.

      We cannot and should not ignore the realities of legalities. Not a bad ring to it hey? hehe

      Thanks for popping by and commenting.

  3. What people don't seem to realize about adrenaline is that it will drop your blood sugar fast, and once the sugar is too low, it may be some time before you get a chance to stabalize it. Without an appropriate level of sugar in your blood stream, you will start getting light headed, shaky/weak, and unable to properly draw upon fat stores for energy. You are no longer fighting fit.

    1. Good point anon. This effect can be most evident after an incident. The best time to attack an enemy is soon after they have just conducted an offensive action. They will be coming down off the effects of adrenaline.

  4. Thank you. I was robbed at gunpoint a few years ago walking down the street and have always thought ever since if I were in a similar situation I should run as soon as I see the threat. However, as you note, running from a man with a gun who wants something from me might not be as smart as I thought. Thanks for debunking that myth for me. I really love your site and find it really informative with real-world knowledge. Thanks again

  5. Hi Samuel. Don't get me wrong. If you are walking along a street and see trouble up ahead, turn around and leave the area. Always. This is how you avoid violent encounters by winning without fighting.

    If you are unable to detect the threat ahead and find yourself being mugged (again unfortunately for you Samuel), and they have a firearm, co-operate with them. Give them what they want. If they want you to go witth them or they want to turn it violent anyway (which is very rare by the way) then try to flee or use force if you need to so you can flee. Of course you can try fleeing straight away. The choice is yours. Just consider the unique risk a firearm poses. The further the distance the better.

    For a mugging without a firearm, it is much safer to simply flee straight away if you can.

    Hey Samuel, how did your mugging go? What happened? Did you co-operate? Did they take their "winnings" then leve you unharmed?

  6. Great article, as I've come to expect from you.

    Some thoughts.

    I guess the purpose of heuristics is to help you choose and establish habits that are more likely to help you survive than make you more vulnerable. That is, rather than to be universal laws of nature as we tend to like to look at such things.

    So things like avoiding keeping your hands in your pockets I think is a reasonable guideline so long as you realize it is a reminder that getting caught with your hands in your pockets is common in some kinds of violence. You can establish the habit without being "on alert" all the time. The habit isn't to go into hypervigilance, the habit is just situational awareness, to remember to look around you and if you aren't alone, to keep yourself reasonably prepared for the unexpected by being aware of your surroundings. If we don't distinguish between hypervigiliance and situational awareness, then everything we do to try to be aware ends up indistinguishable from "paranoia" and I think that's counter-productive.

    Regarding keys, the only way that makes sense to use them for defense is if your keyring also has a legitimate weapon on it such as a knife or pepper spray and you have training to use those effectively. Or I've found that THROWING the keys at someone can give you a quick flinch time advantage to close the distance. Of course you risk a really quick attacker catching them, saying thank you and driving off with your car. This might work best with an impaired person.

    As far as grappling with a knife, it is a desperation strategy but being attacked with a knife is already a desperate situation. I agree with the principle of not CHOOSING to close on someone with a knife unless you know you have a serious advantage of some kind or find yourself being trapped anyway. There's a lot that can go wrong if they turn out to have unexpected reflexes or knife retention skills. That said, it does make sense in some cases when you are trapped and it can be effective if you have robust training. Especially if you don't get so caught up in grabbing the knife that it captures your mind and you forget you can also strike and even bite sometimes.

    I think there's a lot of meat in the rest of the points and I agree more than disagree with them. Tim Larkin would have some contention with your point about finishers, but I tend to side more with you on that count. Unless I'm feeling like I'm still in danger after taking someone down, I don't want to "finish" them generally, certainly nothing that is likely to cause paralysis or death. The worst I want to do to someone is choke them out or break something that makes them think twice and impairs them if they decide to get up and continue. Discretion being the better part of valor in most cases I think.

    kind regards,


  7. Gday Todd!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Always interesting. I agree that generally, having your hands out of your pockets is a good guide. But there is nothing wrong with putting your hands in your pockets when it is safe to do so. That's all. When the risk goes up, take them out.

    Having a proper weapon on your key ring can be good, but can raise certain legal consequences if you use it. In the eyes of the law, it can seem premeditated if you use a weapon you previously armed yourself with. Especially if that weapon is banned or illegal. I wrote about this at this recent post,

    That's why I like 'improvised weapons'.

    I would also not want to throw my keys but I like where you are going. Perhaps throwing some shopping items such as a can of soup or bottle of pasta sauce or spare change or a rock or something else you could improvise. Like you say, throwing will probably force a flinch response which could provide time to flee or provide a good opportunity to launch a counter attack and then flee.

    As far as grappling with a knife attacker goes... I am all open to suggestions and further information on this. But I have seen numerous workable solutions for dealing with a knife attacker that involve elements of grappling. This does not necessarily mean going to ground. I have seen NO workable solutions that involve no grappling besides fleeing. Could anyone please leave a youtube link or something in the comments here so I can check it out if you do know of something good? Be prepared for me to think critically about it. But fair also.

    And you are bang on Todd about not getting stuck in the mindset of latching onto the knife bearing limb then doing nothing. That is just the first step. Follow it up!

    Good points Todd and I guess there are no hard and fast rules. There are exceptions to almost everything. As long as we do not switch off our minds and follow a rule or myth blindly, all will be well and progress will probably be made.



  8. While I will agree when one employs universals - one is often wrong and in self-defense - the situation can be very fluid.

    I would say that they are "myth busted" is just as wrong.

    For instance - a girl walking to her car with her keys in between her knuckles does not have more of an advantage then if she is not ready? By that logic mace or a stun gun would not make much of a difference either.

    You see where I am going. As soon as you argue against a defense because you don't see it as an advantage - you are discounting all reasonable defenses if you don't agree with the flavor.

    I don't think anyone is the "authority" on this (with the possible exception of one that has used it).

    Just for clarification of my viewpoint - I think improvised weapons have a place in self defense - especially for lesser trained fighters. The idea is to strike, confuse, and run.

    I would argue that is the ideal assuming avoidance did not work in any self defense situation.

    Most people that cannot rely on martial arts training have to depend on some limited self defense training that arguably is not complete.

    Sorry for taking you to task on this Adam and I understand if I cannot sway you to my way of thinking but if one keeps an open mind and understands that martial artists like anything else are going to disagree on tactics - students will have the best basis to try and deal with fluid defense situations I think.

    Best regards

    1. I have to agree with Adam...

      Keys are not effective tools when used as you describe. I have interviewed women that have severely injured their hands when using them in that fashion. If you teach this tactic I suggest you avoid doing so in the future, for the safety of your students. Now, that said...there is absolutely nothing wrong with being prepared in advance but this comes down to awareness and mind-set, not the what tool a person chooses to use or whether or not it's in the hand and ready to go.

      "Most people that cannot rely on martial arts training have to depend on some limited self defense training that arguably is not complete."

      I am not sure what you mean by this statement. The fact is that there is a huge difference between martial arts and self-defense. Many martial arts systems do not focus on self-defense and so would make the student incomplete in regards to this subject anyway. Any good self-defense instructor will be able to address the necessary aspects that will help anyone survive a heated verbal argument, a potentially violent situation, and a life-or-death altercation without limiting anything. The end result is a person that can protect themselves or their loved one in various situations...what would be incomplete about that?


  9. Hi John. No problems at all with your points. Feel free to disagree. I like that! I do think we actually agree here overall but I did not put my point across clear enough. I too LOVE improvised weapons. My recent post about 5 of the best improvised weapons goes into the reasons why I like them and the best ones.

    However, while I love improvised weapons, I feel that keys are a poor choice of improvised weapon. There are much better options. Indeed, a good empty hand response can be much more effective at stopping a threat. Like you say too John, if avoidance has not worked.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts John! Good to hear from you again :)

  10. It's as John says, self defence situations are very fluid. What may be a no no for one situation might work out in another one. I tend to refrain from giving out hard and fast rules on self defence because I have enough experience to know that every situation is different and should be evaluated on its own terms. As guidelines though, those were very good and well written as usual.

  11. Low Tech...that's brilliant! I agree with every point here except for number 8. Is there any such thing as a 'best' training method in anything? A best way to study, a best drill? Hardly. You seem to be suggesting at the very least, that while there is no best way training multiple, 3 or 4v1 is better than 2. But at the point where you are numerically overrun doesn't retreat become the clear priority? So why then would you train to fight 4 people when you'd be better served jogging every morning?

    So much TMA and MMA is concerned exclusively with dealing with one attacker. The point of training against two attackers is not dealing with two people. The point is to develop the versatility to be aware of more than one thing at a time and to gain sensitivity to whether you are about to be overwhelmed. When you have to fight and when you have to bail. That is the most important part of multiple attacker training and 2v1 work can give you that if you're looking. To suggest that somehow being able to defend and compromise two aggressors is somehow going to make you worse, or handicap you when you're up against 3 or more people...If two people come hard at you and you come out breathing, I'd think that should be cause for confidence.

    1. Hi Kamil,what I meant was that two on one sparring is not enough. When I suggest three or four or more against one I don't mean sparring, I mean scenarios. There are many good training providers out there who run scenarios in bars, house parties etc where there may be four or five people hanging around, talking to the trainee. Then an argument ensues and the trainee needs to respond. This develops 360 observation, threat detection, quick assessment of situation, use of force and a quick response and then go. This is far more valuable training than two on one sterile sparring.

      Thanks for raising that and letting me expand on it here.

      Kind regards,


  12. Another good article. I would say that I agree with most of them for the most part. However, #11 is a bit iffy. I would agree if we are talking about an average joe with little to no training. Although, there have been hundreds of cases where average joes under duress were able to successfully overcome bigger and stronger attackers due to the physiological aspects as well as a proper mind-set. That said, those combatives students that incorporate adrenal response drills into their training will definitely have a performance edge over those that don't. Testing of adrenal response training has shown that training under conditions that invoke an adrenal response will improve retention of the desired combat responses, as long as the training is conducted properly.


    1. Hi Steve, another interesting comment. I agree that adrenal response training is very beneficial and can take training to new levels. But I still believe that we perform worse in the real thing than in training.

      Consider that in training, we warm up, we know we are going to training on the way there, we mentally prepare, we know what is coming we are not surprised when our training partner attacks us.

      Compare that to a real encounter. No warm up, no getting into the groove, surprise, appreciation of the situation and more adrenaline than is normally dumped in training.

      Yes training helps a LOT (especially adrenal stress conditioning within realistic scenarios) but in the real deal, we perform worse. All the more reason to train harder but also smarter.

  13. Sehr guter Artikel, nicht nur ein gutes Gefühl, ich in der Nähe von all den Freunden alles sagen, dies ist ein sehr guter Artikel, der Inhalt des Romans, klare Sicht, voll zeigen die Verfasser reich schriftlich Fähigkeit und Lebenserfahrung, hoffen, mehr von dem sehen guter Artikel zu teilen.

  14. Wow, great article. #9 and #13 were really eye opening. I always think of myself as a pretty tough guy. I work out and study martial arts so I figure I can take on most guys but career criminals likely work out too and have their dirty street moves that aren't legal in martial arts classes. Now I would think twice before trying to take on a mugger.

  15. Fantastic article! Thanks for putting this together.

  16. I think what he meant by "Most people that cannot rely on martial arts training have to depend on some limited self defense training that arguably is not complete." is that if a person with NO training were to find themselves in a position where they needed to defend themselves, then they would be relying on a limited knowledge of self-defense, like me for example...I've never studied a martial art but we did have a two-day class on self-defense in high school.

    The self defense knowledge that I would be relying on is limited and incomplete.

    I think that's what he means.


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