No matter how many Jason Statham movies you’ve seen or Tapout shirts you own, you never quite know how you’re going to react in a fight until the situation arises. Martial arts expert and self-defense instructor Alan Condon of Empire Martial Arts has spent more than 30 years preparing for just about any such situation. He teaches SWAT teams and New York State troopers how to handle gnarly altercations, so we presented him with six common scenarios and he gave us some info about how to get out of them with your pride and, more importantly, yourself intact.
Editor’s note: This article is meant to be informative. It is not a replacement for real self-defense instruction. The best defense is to avoid a conflict altogether.
Scenario 1: A good ol’-fashioned fistfight
WHAT NOT TO DO
You never know what strike is going to knock someone out, so if it’s clear that you’re in danger, don’t wait for them to hit you. If they do strike first, it’s OK to flinch, but don’t turn away from the action. Also, don’t pull anything fancy. It’s a major fallacy that there are points where you can hit a guy that will automatically knock him out. Some people might have severe pain tolerances. Some people might just be whacked out.
WHAT TO DO
Once the flinch reflex has passed, go forward and start hitting, immediately. Overwhelming force is normally going to win the day. You want to land as many strikes as possible, whether they're headbutts, punches, elbows, knees, or whatever your instincts tell you to do. You can think about knocking on a door, only in an aggressive way. Don’t stop hitting until you’re sure the threat is neutralized and you feel that you can get away safely. The last thing you want to do is stop striking and go back to square one.
Scenario 2: A rear chokehold
WHAT NOT TO DO
Movies and martial arts magazines always show people bending at the hip and throwing the person over. A lot of the time, what that will do is either make the choke tighter or just drag the person right down on top of you. If you’re in an environment where you don’t have much room to move, your surroundings could also restrict you. Trying to lean away from them is just going to tighten the choke like a zip tie or a noose.
WHAT TO DO
Turn with the choke. If they’re grabbing your head and twisting, you want to go with it and try to address the immediate threat, which is the fact that your blood flow and oxygen are being restricted. Grab the arm that’s around your neck and start to try and create a little bit of space between you and your attacker. You want just enough that you can start using your body offensivelywe call this using combatives. Headbutts are good in this situation. Kicks to the groin will also work.
Your ultimate goal is to escape the situation, but you don’t want to leave the attacker standing. If this person grabs you once, they’re going to feel confident grabbing you again and if you step back from them and give them time, they may use it to pull a weapon.