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
  • 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 wants to be a “bad-ass”, walking around looking to impress their friends with their street fight record, 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, dislocated shoulder or knee or even a concussion. All for what?

The contents of your wallet or purse? The besmirching the name of your favorite sports team? The rudeness of cutting you off in traffic?

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 desire to fight. Walk away, and know that by not battling it out 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.

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.  Don’t go with some fancy move from a Bruce Lee flick, may not be effective in stopping your opponents advance and leave you off balance.

I prefer a low line attack 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 staying behind and  admiring your handiwork.

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.