Live To Fight Another Day: Strategic Self Defense

Live To Fight Another Day: Strategic Self Defense

Recent FBI statistics show that violent crimes in the United States including murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault occur at a rate of about 368 crimes per 100,000 inhabitants. Most of the victims of these crimes are ordinary citizens who lack expertise in self defense. Even fewer of these individuals have effective combat skills to ward off physical attacks by practiced criminals. These assaults tend to be surprise, violent, blitz attacks, and unlike competitive fighting arts, there are no rules, referees, tap outs or emergency medical care. The criminal’s goal is to steal your money, hijack your car, or assault you with the least effort possible. The victim’s goal is to be a survivor, and to do so without serious injury.

Here are a set of strategic guidelines designed for effective self defense based on my experience and research with violent criminals.

Prevention: “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle” Sun Tzu

Being alert and not isolating yourself are two important keys to preventing a criminal from targeting you for assault.

  • Avoid blighted, isolated, high crime areas, or engaging in high risk behaviors such as drinking alone in bars.
  • Move away from suspicious persons, toward trafficked public areas.
  • Walk with purpose and project an expression of self confidence.
  • Avoid the distractions of multi-tasking like phone calls, texting, or music when stopped in traffic, at intersections or when looking for a parking spot in an unfamiliar location.
  • When recreating and socializing away from home use a buddy system.
  • Travel to and from shopping in public areas with other shoppers.
  • Park in a lighted area near your destination.
  • Have security escort you to your car or arrange for a friend to meet you.

Preparation: “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace” George Washington

Mental and physical rehearsal will make self defense second nature by strengthening your “muscle memory.” Like a fire drill, your plan of escape or course of action will become conditioned responses.

Always make an attempt to de-escalate an assault or escape if given the opportunity.

  • Ignore, avoid or deflect meaningless insults or challenges and never “go outside” to settle an argument.
  • Be diplomatically assertive but not confrontational.
  • Empathize and apologize to de-escalate anger.
  • Do not fight unless injury is imminent.
  • Surrender your money or your car quickly with little eye contact. Flee in the opposite direction using a zigzag pattern or natural barriers for protection.

Engagement: “Everyone has a plan until they get hit in the mouth” Mike Tyson

That bit of wisdom applies equally to the perpetrator of an assault. You will be in a high adrenalin state, on auto pilot and your responses will depend on well rehearsed behavior. Simple, effective, moves requiring limited thinking or preparation work best in a crisis.

  • Remember, once you are physically attacked, there are no rules. This is not an athletic contest. No trophies or meaningful accolades will be awarded.
  • Always assume that your attacker intends to seriously injure or kill you.
  • Strike quickly and with full force in sets of three strikes until you can escape.
  • Use the palm or side of your hand, flat of your knuckles, elbows, knees, or feet to strike vital areas such as eyes, temple, throat, solar plexus, groin, and knees. If necessary scream, bite or gouge your attacker to escape.
  • Use simple effective self defense weapons such as pepper spray, a stun gun, taser, kubaton or a loud personal alarm. Practice with your chosen device until you can utilize it quickly and accurately.
  • Never allow yourself to be abducted which often ends in death.


Mentally rehearse the self defense credo “survive to fight another day.”

Remember, the best forms of self defense are prevention, de-escalation and escape. Fight only in the face of immanent injury. Practice a series of simple, three move, self defense counter attacks until they are well conditioned. Use a partner to simulate attack and defense strategies to improve your ability to respond to real life situations. If you are interested in training in a realistic style of self defense, I would recommend Krav Maga which was developed from a variety of fighting styles for the military in Israel.


James Siddall
Dr. Siddall is a Psychologist with over 30 years of experience in clinical and forensic psychology as a clinician, educator and consultant to business, industry, and the criminal justice system. He is Vietnam Era veteran who served with law enforcement. As a free lance writer he specializes in personal security, psychology and crime.