Do you have a basic understanding of unarmed self-defense? If you think carrying a firearm or knife precludes you from engaging in unarmed hand-to-hand combat, think again! In a potentially lethal confrontation, your gun could malfunction, you could drop your knife, or you may not have sufficient time to draw a weapon due to the sudden or aggressive nature of the attack. Effectively employing your body’s natural weapons against your adversary’s vulnerable anatomical targets could give you the edge needed to win the encounter.


The most important weapon is your mind. No matter how big and strong or highly trained you are, if you are not completely determined to do whatever it takes to defeat your attacker, you’re bound to lose the fight – maybe even your life. You need to be able to “flip the switch” and tap into the instinct that we all possess but is often repressed for so long that we forget its there.

Refuse to be a victim! If a physical confrontation is unavoidable, fight to win. Rather than dwell on the potential negative consequences of being attacked such as being injured or killed, focus your mind and body on the task at hand – hitting your attacker as hard as you can and as often as you can until he is unable to continue to attack. Concentrating your efforts on “attacking” the attacker is the best way to ensure your safety.


Adhering to the “block and counter” concept advocated in many traditional martial arts is not conducive to real-world self-defense because it requires you make split-second decisions and have lightening fast reflexes to succeed. Remember, the truism, “the best defense is a good offense.” The less time you spend defending, the better off you’ll be.

Practice tucking your chin and using your elbows to shield your head momentarily as you transition to an offensive response. This posture not only helps protect you but could injure the assailant’s hands if they impact your elbow. You should not try to block each blow individually because sooner or later, one is bound to slip through your defenses. Don’t allow yourself to back peddle. In fact, your goal should be to cause the attacker to back peddle. This will compromise his balance, take his mind off hurting you, and create an opportunity for escape.

Based on the circumstances, when you feel strongly that a physical attack is imminent, consider striking preemptively. This allows you to bypass defense, which is by far the most difficult and dangerous aspect of fighting. Verbal provocation alone does not justify striking someone. However, if an attacker tells you that he’s going to “kick your ass” and cocks his arm back, it would be foolish to wait for him to actually punch before taking action. But remember you need to be able to articulate that based on the attacker’s actions, it was reasonable to assume he was preparing to attack you.


When most people think of a human’s natural weapons, fists are probably the first things that come to mind. While fists can be effective striking surfaces, so can palms, fingertips, elbows, knees, shins, feet (especially when wearing shoes), the head, even teeth. The weapon you choose will probably be based on several factors such as the type of threat you’re facing, the distance between you and the attacker, what target areas all available to you, or whether one of your arms or legs is trapped.

When striking, the goal is to generate as much force as possible to prevent the attacker from wanting or being physically capable of continuing to fight you. To deliver fight-stopping blows, you need to get the weight of your entire body behind each strike by proper hip rotation and follow through.

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  • jedimarkus

    As a Krav Maga practitioner for almost four years, I would have to say this is a great article. Well done!