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How to Defend Yourself Against the 5 Most Common Attacks

by
author image Marcus Kowal
Marcus Kowal is the owner of Systems Training Center in Los Angeles and CEO and co-founder of Fitnesscenter.com. He earned his Master’s degree in sports management at Cal State Long Beach and worked at Krav Maga Worldwide Headquarters in Los Angeles where he completed his Krav Maga instructor courses.
How to Defend Yourself Against the 5 Most Common Attacks
Knowing how to defend yourself is life-saving information. Photo Credit: Travis McCoy/LIVESTRONG.COM

Knowing what to do if you’re attacked: It’s knowledge you’d rather not put into practice. But that knowledge is power, and equipping yourself with the know-how to defend yourself against someone who means you harm makes you that much more likely to escape unscathed.

Here are five of the most common types of attacks — from a simple wrist hold to a stranger wielding a knife — and how to defend yourself and get away safely. The most important thing you can do with these tactics is to PRACTICE! Attacks happen very quickly, and there's often little time to react. Practice these moves until they become instinct.

It's a fairly simple attack, but you can quickly de-escalate the situation.
It's a fairly simple attack, but you can quickly de-escalate the situation. Photo Credit: Travis McCoy/LIVESTRONG.COM

1. Arm Grab From Behind

When someone grabs both arms from behind and lifts up, they control your upper body. If they continue to yank your arms upward (especially if they're taller), it'll put a lot of pressure on the shoulders and force your upper body forward.

Although the attacker is controlling your upper body, they're not controlling your lower body. Use that strength for leverage.

HOW TO ESCAPE: Turn the narrow part of your wrist toward the opening of their grip (between the thumb and fingers), and then drive your elbow downward, toward their elbow. By doing so, you use the web between their thumb and index finger as a point of leverage to pry their hand open and to free your own hand.

Once your hand is free, throw an elbow backwards, in order to do as much damage as possible and to free your other arm. If they still don't let go, continue to strike until they do.

Speed is everything when you're grabbed by the neck.
Speed is everything when you're grabbed by the neck. Photo Credit: Travis McCoy/LIVESTRONG.COM

2. Choke From Behind

If someone has grabbed you around the neck from behind, you need to quickly get his hands off your throat. It’s the thumbs causing the choke, although it may look like it is the fingers. Once you’re out of the initial choke, it’s likely that you’ll need to strike back to get away.

HOW TO ESCAPE: Bring your chin to your chest as much as you can. Step one foot backward at about a 45 degree angle and bring your upper body down, simultaneously bringing your arms up as high as you can.

Cup your hands as if you were trying to create little hooks. Bring your arms down explosively to rip the attacker’s hands off your throat. Strike the attacker’s groin with your nearest hand, and then use the elbow of the same arm to thrust upward toward the attacker’s chin and nose.

Do whatever you can to avoid getting hit.
Do whatever you can to avoid getting hit. Photo Credit: Travis McCoy/LIVESTRONG.COM

3. Punch

There are many ways a punch can be thrown and a few different ways it can be blocked. This self-defense technique is best used against a swinging punch (hook) for a street situation. When a punch comes flying at you, you don’t have time to see if there’s something in the person’s hand, such as a sharp object. So you have to react as if there could be something in that hand.

HOW TO ESCAPE: Any time you find yourself in a fight, bite down, keep your eyes open and keep your chin tucked. That will better enable you to withstand the impact of strikes. Block the strike with your forearm. Keep your elbow at a 90-degree angle, and don’t let it straighten out or collapse.

Show the bullies you have what it takes to defend yourself.
Show the bullies you have what it takes to defend yourself. Photo Credit: Travis McCoy/LIVESTRONG.COM

4. Headlock From the Side

From schoolyard brawls to bar fights, a headlock from the side is a very common type of an attack. It’s a bad position to be in, but it doesn’t present much of a problem to get out of if you know how.

HOW TO ESCAPE: Turn your head into the attacker’s body to keep his arm from sliding under your chin. Step around their leg with your leg, ending up in a perpendicular stance to your attacker. (If they’re holding you with their right arm, you step with your left foot and vice versa.)

Strike the groin with one hand as the other hand comes up between your faces. Gouge the eyes and let your index finger slide down under the nose. Dig your index finger in hard under the nose. Once they release, run away.

Practice, practice, practice until it's second nature.
Practice, practice, practice until it's second nature. Photo Credit: Travis McCoy/LIVESTRONG.COM

5. Knife Attack

There are many ways a knife (or a similar weapon) can be used to attack someone. With all your self-defense tactics, you should aim to keep movements simple. So you can implement the same defense that you would use to block a hook punch. A knife attack can come from any angle, and that’s why we call them 360 defenses: You can defend 360 degrees.

HOW TO ESCAPE: Follow the previous steps on how to block a hook punch: a 90 degree bend at the elbow, block wrist to wrist and keep the bladed side outward. Make sure you bend at the waist to ensure increase the distance between the blade and the internal organs. “Catch” the knife arm and bring it up your chest for full control. Keeping the weapon in tight control is of the utmost importance.

Bring your other hand to the side of the attacker’s neck and grab ahold of anything you can, including clothing or skin. Keep your elbow down so the attacker can’t get close. Throw knee strikes, groin kicks and even head butts in order to subdue the attacker.

Keep striking until you find an opportunity to get away safely or the person is no longer posing a threat. If the knife drops from their hand, continue doing damage until you feel it is safe to pick up the knife. Remember: When it comes to knife attacks, one mistake can be fatal. It takes lots of practice to perfect the movements, especially under stress.

What Do YOU Think?

Have you ever taken a self-defense class? Have you ever wondered what you would do if you were attacked? Ever had to put your self-defense skills into practice? Join the conversation in the comments below!

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