When it comes to responding to extreme physical violence, a few guidelines can help keep you out of the hospital and on a victory track.

Certain combative concepts applied mentally or physically can afford you the tactical advantage should you find yourself in a real-world close quarters combat scenario.

One of these combative concepts is that fighting isn’t easy. Forget those fight scenes you’ve seen in the movies. The choreography for each of those seemingly organic fight scenes can take months of long hard hours of practice and repetition to get it right. To make it appear realistic, actors must rehearse the same choreographed steps hundreds or even thousands of times. The more complex the fight scene, the more steps and the longer it takes.

In the real world, there is no choreography. If anything can go wrong, it will. There are no referees or rules in the street. You cannot count on the cavalry to ride over the hill and save your ass at the last minute unless you brought one with you. The bad guy can bring a gun or a knife to the fistfight and twenty of his closest friends. There’s no such thing as a fair fight when it’s for blood, and you run an excellent chance of incurring severe physical injury or worse. The best defensive measures are proactive to include the fine art of avoidance.


Although related, martial arts, defensive tactics, and self-defense may superficially appear to be the same, but they are not.

Martial arts are defined systems of vetted techniques passed forward to us from antiquity, from the first caveman to including the karate studio down the street. The martial arts have roots in traditional and global fighting styles or systems, usually of ethnic origin and employing the likes of fists, feet, legs, elbows, and head butts. Some incorporate the use of non-ballistic weapons such as edged or impact weapons; others focus only on the empty hand, such as striking, throws, and ground fighting.

Defensive tactics are those martial arts techniques taught by a government agency, sheriff’s office, or police department. With input from legal counsel, the organization has approved those techniques. Suppose you are an agency or department employee, and you use a defensive tactic that your employer does not authorize. In that case, you may open yourself up to inevitable legal and civil repercussions.

On the other hand, self-defense is anything you come up with to keep yourself from getting hurt. Examples of this might include throwing a scalding hot pot of coffee or a hammer at an assailant intent on cutting your head off with a machete. Neither of them qualifies as a martial arts technique or an approved defensive tactic, but if whatever you come up with effectively gets you out of harms’ way, it is considered self-defense.

Whether you use a martial arts technique, defensive tactic, or douse your attacker’s eyeballs with bear spray, even as a civilian, you are accountable to those same laws applicable to peace officers governing appropriate use of force.





Either you control the fight, or the fight controls you. The key to winning any fight is to take control of your environment, more specifically, managing the time and space of your immediate vicinity.

An example of controlling space is maintaining your distance from the physical threat. Given enough forewarning, if you can see it, hear it, or smell it coming, you can high-tail it out of there and to a safer space. If you cannot change your distance for some reason, you can certainly change your position relative to the threat. Instead of standing directly in front of them, you want to try and get to their back or off to the side where you can deny them easy access to your body.

You also want to stay mobile as a moving target is always more difficult to hit than a stationary target. It’s important to mention that if you’re going to move, move to someplace safe – perhaps behind cover or minimally concealment. Placing obstructions between yourself and your attacker(s) is strongly recommended.


If you encounter a threat in an open space outdoors, in a parking lot, or similar area, your best bet is to make and keep your distance. Space is your friend because it buys you time and more opportunities to solve the tactical problem.

You can, of course, engage in a violent physical attack and go toe-to-toe with bloody fisticuffs, relentless edged weapon slashes, or a brutal close-quarters gunfight. Still, your best bet is to “get out” of a nasty situation. The longer you stay and play with your assailant(s), the more susceptible you become to increasing your physical injury.

Some fighters choose to rush in without hesitation and engage an active threat with a barrage of strikes and dynamic physical movement (choose to “get in”). In contrast, others find it better for their health if they disengage and keep their distance (decide to “get out”). The choice is yours to make based on the conditions at the time. However, rest assured that the old saying “When in doubt, get out!” directly applies here.

The longer you stand in front of a charging bear, the greater your potential for injury. There is no time for sixteen-step complex martial arts or defensive tactics moves in the real world. You may have only a few seconds to get yourself and your loved ones away from the threat.

At the end of the day, when it comes to knowing how to fight, you are hard-pressed to make snap decisions to solve the tactical problem with the appropriate reactive response for that exigent set of circumstances. Do you run away, go to guns, reach for a knife, unleash your pepper spray, activate a stun gun, or deploy an improvised weapon?

Should you find yourself behind the action-reaction curve reacting to a real-world threat, you are relegated only to three reactive measures – flight, fight or freeze. The best way to minimize damage and injury to you and others is to flee, creating distance between the threat. If you choose to fight, I strongly recommend you train in a fighting system prior. When the time comes to confront a violent physical altercation, we do not rise to the occasion but fall to the last level of our most recent training.