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ARTICLE | DEFENDING A COVID SPITTING OR COUGHING ATTACK | by Orjan Pettersen

Updated: Dec 15, 2021


Once simply an insult, the global pandemic has weaponised spitting (or coughing) into an actual physical attack or violent threat. This has especially been targeted at law enforcement officials in many areas, but has also been directed at civilians.


The threat of delivering respiratory fluids that can cause harm will be covered in law in many jurisdictions to be akin to an actual physical threat or attack and has indeed already lead to convictions and prison sentences (including in the UK).


This top tip covers a suitable Krav Maga response to this type of threat, where the potential incident cannot be avoided through extracting yourself, deescalation or maintaining a safe distance.


For example, you can train and follow these five steps (other self defence options are also available):

Keep hands up, with elbows close together to cover your torso, away from your face, slightly overlapping palms for support, keeping arms in a rigid frame to protect against any straight punches. Stay out of reach if you can’t escape the situation (e.g. no exits available, need to protect third party).


Move in any direction where your peripheral vision permits line of sight, away from aggressor, with smaller steps, avoiding crossing legs, to optimise time to respond with a new action and to maintain balance. Verbalise instructions to aggressor to not get close and move so they are forced to change direction if they want to follow you, legally enabling your later self defence claim for a preemptive strike as at this point you’ve verbally expressed that you feel under threat, have attempted to keep a safe distance and revealed that the aggressor has the intent to harm you through their persistent pursuit against your de-escalation messaging and manoeuvring.


Dependent on distance, burst in with open palm strikes towards the aggressor’s face in a direct line between your face and theirs, striking with elbows low. (SEE MASTERCLASS: DOUBLE STRAIGHT OPEN PALM STRIKE). Or if closer, burst in with a double elbow strike to face (or chest if height difference). Make sure your palms are connected to your head, elbows are close together in front of your eyes and protecting your face against respiratory fluids. (SEE MASTERCLASS: DOUBLE ELBOW STRIKE). The double elbow strike is particularly applicable in this scenario as the arms in front of your face will protect and cover your airways against any direct respiratory fluids being expelled towards you.


Dependent on force application and movement of aggressor on impact, if close; follow up with a forward horizontal elbow strike to the side of the head (SEE MASTERCLASS: ELBOW STRIKES), immediately moving to the side of the aggressor and strike with a rigid frame forearm (inside, bony part) to the aggressor’s face (SEE MASTERCLASS PRO: INWARD FORWARD FOREARM STRIKE) . Or if not close; follow up with a groin kick (medium range) (SEE MASTERCLASS: GROIN KICK) or front kick (longer range) (SEE MASTERCLASS: FRONT KICK) or both in sequence, the latter by possibly having to step back. (SEE MASTERCLASS PRO: FRONT KICK, GROIN KICK).


Scan around you, extract yourself and call the Police and report the incident as the victim of a crime. Clean your face, arms, hands and phone at the earliest opportunity. Do not touch your face.


If you have a common object for extra protection, use it. A bag, jacket, even removal of a t-shirt or a chair would provide extra protection as shields if a Covid-19 spitting or coughing threat is stated upfront. Then proceed to use the softer objects as facial shields as you initially rely on kicks as your primary weapon, or chairs or other more robust items as offensive extensions of your attacks, whilst simultaneously offering a level of shielding.


Remember, staying safe is always best achieved by prevention. Avoid the bad neighbourhood, venue or circle of acquaintances. If in the wrong place, leave. If you can’t leave, deescalate. If you can’t extract yourself, keep distance and verbalise your intent not to to fight. If you are then forced to fight, start first and don’t stop until the threat is neutralised.

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