The art of self defense is truly a mosaic of applying several pieces of knowledge in a timely manner:

  • how to throw certain combinations,
  • which technique is most effective for the attacker before us, as well as
  • where we should target our attack, given our distance and circumstances

But what about when?
The timing of when we launch an attack or even whether we engage in battle at all, is crucial in our ability to successfully defend ourselves in times of physical threat.

Assuming nobody reading this fancies themselves a “bad-ass”, walking around looking to impress their friends with their warrior’s prowess, we will discuss scenarios that start when you are confronted by person of bad intent.

Let me start with a quote by Sun Tzu that I find invaluable: “The supreme

art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting”.

There are a lot of romantic notions of battle and how brutally dealing with a foe makes you feel proud, valiant or “more alive”. The reality is that unless you are being paid good money to risk your physical being in a combative event, you rarely have reasons to engage in a fight and expose yourself to multiple, and sometimes, significant injury. Many times the victor suffers as much damage as the loser: a broken hand or nose, dislocated shoulder or knee or very possibly a concussion. All for what?

The contents of your wallet or purse? The besmirching the name of your favorite team or best friend? The indecency/emasculation of cutting your car off in the street?  Really??

Whenever possible, de-escalation should be your first tactic. Talk your way out of the situation. Tell your would-be assailant that you have no beef with them and have no desire to fight. Walk away, and know that by not entering the breach you possibly saved yourself an encounter that could have suddenly and inexplicably escalated into weapons and possible death. Remember, you do not know your attacker and have NO IDEA what they are capable of.

“This not tournament, Daniel-san, this real thing” (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself!)

If, despite all your efforts to calm the situation down, you are forced to defend yourself from physical attack then the question of when to launch your attack is key.

It is my sincere belief that once you have an attacker within range (range can be kicking range or punching range, depending on your comfort in the technique), you should always launch the first strike. Strike quickly and strongly to a target that renders the person physically disadvantaged. Most movies show punches to the face. Personally, I am not a fan of this as a first offensive, as it may or may not be effective in stopping your opponents advance. Enough drugs or alcohol in their system and they may not even feel it. Many people have strong chins and a shot to the face may only cause them to become more enraged.

I prefer a kick to the knee or the groin. The first removes your attacker mobility, the second their ability to respond for several seconds. If successful you should be able to launch 2-3 additional strikes to available targets and then immediately leave.  There is nothing to be gained by standing around gloating. Your assailant may not be alone and your staying there places you in a situation where you may have to defend yourself again.

Now if you are not the first to launch a strike, but are forced to defend an attack that was launched unexpectedly or with very short notice, it is the practice of Krav Maga that you launch your defense and near-simultaneously launch an attack. Block/strike in unison, creates confusion for your attacker as they go from being the predator, to being the prey! They think they’re about to devastate you, and suddenly they are hit. As before, take that moment of confusion to follow-up with 2-3 brutal and direct combatives and immediately leave.

The point of this discussion is that there needs to be a button in your head that is your “GO” button. As soon as you realize that you are being forced to fight, push it. Immediately and brutally go on the attack. Throw as many strikes necessary to end the situation and then you escape to safety. Fights are won and lost based upon the hesitance in pushing that button. If you do not throw the first strike with intent to end the encounter, you must assume your assailant will.