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Fight, or Flight? Basic Self-Defense Tips

This is very, very basic instruction on what to do in any given situation involving an unwanted intruder at home or an attacker on the street.


An emergency situation triggers what is called the fight or flight response. Adrenaline flows, increasing one’s heart rate and the amount of blood flowing to the muscles; a caffeine-free performance boost, if you will. In a face-to-face meeting with an intruder or criminal, this normal physiological reaction is advantageous. The important thing to remember is to make a decision. Rather than freeze, paralyzed by fear, use this natural chemical response to respond. For this entry, we’ll say that “fight” is the most realistic of the two options.

Focus on disabling the opponent long enough to: 1) allow for an escape and 2) call for the authorities. Heroics lead to trouble; find a moderate balance between speed and strength, as the old saying lies appropriate: float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee. Keep moving, and move quickly. Combine this with some basic technical knowledge, and you’ll have a fighting chance.

The further away the opponent, the more time he has to dodge. Trying to punch or kick from too far away will likely result in a miss or weakly-landed contact, and loss of balance. Any combination of these will set them up for an even stronger counter-move. While this distance doesn’t seem like much, a hand length or two in hand-to-hand combat makes a big difference. So, how does one make up the distance quickly without losing their balance? Footwork. Basically, keep your body mass centered between the feet and slide-step, quickly. It may look (and feel) comical, but it works wonders with stability as well as agility. Maintaining both in a fight is very important, and using this “skip” to move will help with that.

Elbows, knees, fists, feet. . . Fortunately, the body has built-in self defense mechanisms. Use these to your advantage. Try targeting areas of the body more sensitive or prone to injury. Joints are major weak spots; striking them, or even more sensitive areas, provide the best chance of disabling the attacker. This will buy the time needed to get to safety or to call for help.

  • Elbows and knees: These parts of the body are hard, dense, and can deliver a ton of force to a small area. Their reach is very limited, but their effectiveness is heightened in uncomfortably-close quarters.
  • Fists and feet: More range, more precision, and more ability to defend. Use these to hit points of vulnerability more accurately, and from further away than possible with just elbows or knees.

This is very, very basic instruction on what to do in any given situation involving an unwanted intruder at home or an attacker on the street. However, there are many other articles and videos online that go into much greater detail on self-defense. Watch, study, and remember the techniques shown in the videos (MMA fighters and military personnel often provide great instruction), and may the best of luck be on your side if any such incident may befall you or your family.

Frequent highlights from the videos:

  • Keep moving; stay active with stomps, elbows, and chops
  • Distract the opponent by swatting at their face/eyes, then make a move to get free
  • Get out any way you can; there’s no such thing as dirty when you’re on the defensive


This article was originally published at Ready Nutrition™ on September 1st, 2014

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