ARTICLE | SURVIVING THE FIGHT | by Orjan Pettersen
Here’s the bad news first. Optimising your personal protection and safety from violence is a lifestyle choice. It demands some changes from you.
Then the great news. Beyond keeping you much safer, all those changes are very positive for both your psychological and physical well-being.
Let’s look at the trade offs and some principles for maximising your chances of surviving a fight.
95% of self defence are actions you take before you are even able to see any violence. Indeed, many of them makes observing violence much more unlikely to happen in the first place.
To start with, analyse your current life choices to see if they aggregate or mitigate meeting violence in your daily life.
Check out your social circle. Does it take you to people, places or positions where violence can easily occur? Do your friends’ behaviour or big mouths put potential violence onto your doorstep? Do you belong to a group of maybe younger people who are often flirting with the law or beyond, including human conflict? Maybe it’s time to consider your social arena?
What about your girlfriend? Does she make you feel compelled to ‘fight for her honour’? If so, either ditch her or ditch your health or life insurance for a better one. Or indeed, is your partner an initiator of violence? Sadly, statistics show the extent of domestic violence and abuse is extensive in many cultures - and it can lead to serious injury or death. Decoupling from these relationships are - albeit not always emotionally, financially and culturally easy - maybe the only solution to avoiding violence in a domestic setting.
What about your neighbourhood or places you spend your leisure time? The former may be more challenging to change, the latter probably easier. If they see frequent violence, it’s probably time to swap for something calmer.
The social context you operate in is often the most decisive factor in meeting violence. That’s because most violence is social. It happens in a familiar group context. The predatory rapist, terrorist, murderer or mugger is much rarer, especially if you follow the advice later on in this article.
How you lead your life or accept to be led into a social context is therefore a fundamental factor in whether violence can be thrust upon you, simply because you choose to elevate the risk through the social environment around you. You may need to make some significant life choices here to be safer.
Even if you’re in this social environment by choice or not, a primary principle is to be prepared. Self defence lessons such as Krav Maga puts readiness - situationally, psychologically and physically - to avoid, evade and handle violence. Take up self defence training - or work even harder if you already have.
Maybe you’ve trained for a long time already? Achieved a high ranking? Are you keeping up with your own physical well-being and skills? What about your mindset? Do you still feel ready should violence come to call?
If you use a tactical tool such as a torch or a pen, or indeed a weapon where these are legally permissible, are your deployment and proficiency skills up to date? Do you still practice sufficiently? A weapon is only as good as its owner.
What about local law? Are you familiar with what you can do and not do? What are the legal principles that guide your self defence application? If you’re new to a region, state or nation, you especially need to update your knowledge. What about for holidays and business trips? Self defence laws vary and, accordingly, your permissible responses must too. Ignorance is not a legal defence.
If the worst happens, who’s your go-to legal person? Do you have your lawyer’s number or a selected firm’s details at hand? You will need professional advice once you’ve been involved in a violent conflict.
It’s great to be prepared. That said, violence can be delivered to you whatever level of precaution you’ve put in place. Facing it, are you ready to run away if you have to? Is everything set up for it - from your psychology to do so to the shoes you’re wearing? How’s your fitness level? Escaping violence is both a mental and physical thing to do.
What about your deescalation skills? Do you know about distance, movement, how to use your voice, body language and the messaging you want to act out? It’s a skill you must be prepared for.
It’s too late to put all the components together at the last moment, whinging it. How do you move away? At what distance? What should you look like? And sound like? It’s like theatre. You shouldn’t turn up to the premiere without having attended any rehearsals.
If things really go bad and a fight ensues, maybe you have self defence skills to apply. Hopefully. But are you prepared for the aggression, the pain and the surprises if you are hit? Most fights don’t end because someone is knocked out, they end because one party gives in. It’s a psychological defeat, not a physical one.
You need to learn to accept and deal with pain. Some of it can be taught in training, but not all as the full, unprotected blows of an attacker can’t be replicated in the dojo, not even in most competitions as protective gear or rules prevent it.
Pain reminds you that you’re alive. It also should tell you that you’re in trouble and if fighting to save life and limbs, who are you fighting for? Your spouse or partner? Your children? Others who rely on you? Having a bigger goal than yourself has many times been the catalyst to survival in life threatening situations. Neutralise the threat, escape to safety, then attend to the pain and medical needs. That’s the order of priority.
In a fight, always think multiple attackers and concealed weapons in order to survive. There’s never a guarantee that a weapon will not be applied at any stage, especially if the attacker is losing and any other person, whether connected to the attacker or not, may join the conflict. Even after the fight is finished, the danger is not over. The attacker may be returning to reset his ‘honour’, this time with a weapon or friends to rebalance the situation. Get away and don’t stay put.
Always scan people and the environment around you pre-, in-and post-fight for weapons and further attackers. Check out hands and clothing. Are body postures changing to facilitate drawing a weapon? Always consider this a possibility.
Don’t follow rules. Surviving is not a sport. There’s no referee, no point system, no social etiquette, no trophy at the end. Krav Maga is dirty and will teach you nasty and brutal attacks. Your only rule is the domestic law applicable to you. Legal systems protect citizens with a self defence provision. In principle, you must genuinely believe you are in real danger, the response must be proportionate and reasonable and you could not evade the conflict by choice. Beyond that, neutralise the threat.
Remember, whatever you’re capable of, so is your opponent. Never underestimate anyone. The skinny guy may be highly skilled, the overweight one only needs one lucky shot and the teenager may have a knife. Treat everyone as the hardest opponent you could ever face. Mostly, because anyone who’s attacking you has probably done it before. They’re used to it. It’s their home ground and probably not yours. This is not the time to underplay the danger in any way.
Lastly, there’s no time to reflect and analyse anything in a fight. Leave that for later. Your principal goal is to survive and escape. This especially applies to multiple attackers and weapons - or both. Don’t believe Hollywood. It’s raw. Attacks happen at once. You don’t easily recover after a hard blow. You’re in real danger here. Get out.
There’s a lot to consider and get right. Violence is complex. Self defence is therefore also as a wide topic with a lot of components. The more you think about these, apply them and practice them, the better your principles to survive violence become.