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You can train for years in the martial arts or take numerous self-defense classes throughout your life and it can still be for naught if you are taken out by a cowardly attack that you never saw coming. Simply put, a “sucker punch” is an attack that you either don’t expect to happen or one you’re unaware of. This type of attack is the most formidable that you may face, and without question, it’s one of the most dangerous.

Being blindsided with a weapon or a strong empty-hand attack virtually renders all of your long-practiced skills useless and transforms you into another statistic reported on the evening news. In addition, there is a very alarming fad that has arisen within the past few years of individuals who target men, women and teens, and literally run up to their unsuspecting targets and deliver a powerful knockout blow before running away like cowards away from the scene. These vile people then post their videos of their great “accomplishments” on social media outlets for all to see while some of their victims suffer permanent, life-debilitating injuries.

Being aware of your surroundings is an age-old mantra, yet it’s still incredibly effective in today’s day and age, even when dealing with the possibility of a sucker punch attack. Being in tune with the sights and sounds of your local area is your first line of defense to avoid being caught off guard and taken down by a knockout blow or worse.

Your first remedy to increase your awareness is to stop using electronics while you are walking on the streets. These are major distractions, especially if you are wearing earbuds or large headphones that block external noises. Otherwise you might not hear an attacker’s approaching footsteps, and the next instant you will be picking yourself off the ground or being taken to the hospital.

Second, as you walk, walk with absolute confidence. Your eyes should be scanning the area in front of you with your head moving from side to side to notice any activity in the periphery. This will keep you at attention for nearly anything coming your way within an area of nearly 180 degrees. Predators prey upon those who are distracted, wander away from the safety of a group and appear as easy victims. Don’t be included with that bunch; stop an attack before it happens by making your surrounding predators choose other targets.

Body Language Cues

Sucker Punch yelling

You can decipher someone’s intended actions by reading some the subtle and not-so-subtle clues obtained from their body language. This applies mainly to face-to-face confrontations, as opposed to a blindsided attack, when a conflict arises between you and another person. Normally, in this scenario, you may have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time and caught your confronting foe having an extremely bad day.

Verbal engagement starts the conflict and escalates from there. This is where your sense of reading body language comes into play. There are signals that you can read that will indicate when your verbal fight is about to turn physical. First, notice your opponent’s hands and arms. Are they up above his waistline? Are his fists clenched? These are indications of an incoming strike. Beware, step back a bit and be ready to counter. Also, if he is pacing back and forth and suddenly lifts himself on the balls of his feet, he is ready to pounce, all indicated by his use of movement for momentum and getting himself in the “ready” position with his feet and legs.

Conversely, if your verbally aggressive foe is standing still with no movement showing at all, take notice of his stance and arms. Is he in a T-shaped stance with his front foot forward and back foot perpendicular to his front foot? If you can’t see his hands while he’s in this stance, he may be hiding a weapon. As with all the aforementioned situations, slowly back up and allow yourself distance between you and your aggressor. Staying within arm’s reach will only leave you vulnerable to any number of unprovoked attacks. Forget your ego; forget your “tough guy” act. Bumping chests and opening yourself up to your opponent with a “You want some of this?” attitude will only get you a trip to the hospital or the morgue. Play it safe, be aware of his body language and you will protect yourself from serious harm.

Location Matters

Sucker Punch lurking suspect
Being aware of your surroundings and avoiding trouble spots can help you avoid an attack.

One way to lessen your chances of becoming a target of a “hit and run” assailant is by being consciously aware of places that you frequently visit that either give the attacker opportunity or, better for you, hinder his intended attack. Crowded streets or other congested areas give an attacker the perfect opportunity to strike and run away while blending into the surrounding crowd.

In addition, the sounds and movements of the numerous people surrounding you as you walk or shop around town will mask the signs of an oncoming attack, preventing you from using that split second of awareness to counter and hopefully prevent yourself from becoming harmed. Instead, travel when possible in open areas, free from large crowds. Take a longer route if necessary to avoid congestion and stay alert to your surroundings.

Multi-Angled Attacks

Adding martial arts or self-defense classes into your daily routine will definitely give you an edge when dealing with a sucker punch attack. Continual practice will sharpen your skills relating to reaction time, situational awareness and reading an opponent’s intentions, yet most classes fail to touch upon multi-angled attacks, and this is an absolute must.

Face-to-face techniques are the norm in the majority of self-defense classes, meaning that your attacker is directly in front of you, and you know his intended means of contact with you, whether it’s a telegraphed kick, punch or grab. He attacks, and you defend accordingly. However, this can put you at a great disadvantage in the real world. Most attacks won’t come from the front, but rather from your blind side or behind you, and if you’ve never trained to defend yourself from these positions, your skills will be useless.

Instead, have your partner in this attacker/defender scenario initiate his or her movements from various angles all around you. Take note of what works and what doesn’t, and then adapt your techniques to make all of your defensive movements smooth and natural. Only through constant repetition can you truly feel comfortable defending yourself from every angle around you. If this type of variation training is frowned upon by your instructor even after you explain why you’re doing it, then it may be time to go elsewhere to continue your self-defense regimen. A close-minded teacher or one stuck in unaltered tradition can limit your most-needed strategies to survive in a real-world confrontation.

Multiple Sucker Punch Attackers

Sucker Punch defense
“Several martial arts incorporate multiple-attacker scenarios in their regular training; aikido, Krav Maga and Japanese jujitsu are just a few examples.”

Another type of training to help assist in avoiding or, at the very least, lessening the harmful result of an unseen sucker punch is to practice defensive techniques and movements against multiple attackers. Having two, three or four opponents “attack” you in a variety of practice drills will help you hone your natural instincts and reaction time when dealing with attackers that can literally be positioned all around you. This allows you to not always rely upon your stronger side (the right side for the majority of people), but to make split-second adjustments and utilize your weaker side more effectively. Multiple-attacker drills also help you practice proper foot movement, staying in constant motion and keeping your hands up and ready for countering.

Several martial arts incorporate multiple-attacker scenarios in their regular training; aikido, Krav Maga and Japanese jujitsu are just a few examples. As with any self-defense or martial arts program you begin, always do your research first to avoid joining classes that don’t practice what you are pursuing. Some emphasize philosophy over practicality while others focus on the “sport” side and teach competition-style martial arts that don’t always translate into street-applicable self-defense. Once you find the appropriate school, practice, practice, practice!

Be Smart

No one can foresee, predict or prepare for every possible attack out there in the world, but a person can definitely reduce their chances of being on the list of easy targets. The more difficult you make it for a coward’s “hit and run,” or thinking with your brain instead of your ego when facing a head-to-head confrontation, the greater the odds that you will make it home or to your intended destination unharmed. There is no one thing that will help you survive injury from a sucker punch, but rather a combination of mental and physical practices, including self-defense training, increased awareness and confidence, a humble outward attitude and basic common sense. The collective sum of all these valuable parts will assist to stop an attack against you, even if you never knew it was coming.

This article was originally published in ‘Personal & Home Defense’ Spring 2017. To order a copy, please visit outdoorgroupstore.com.

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