We all are guilty of making assumptions about others. Whether it is a coworker or a neighbor, we can tend to be lulled into both a false sense of security or outright dismissal of potentially threatening behavior.
After all: most people just want to live in peace. If that weren’t the case, violent crime would be at a fevered pitch, and mankind would probably not exist in its present societal conditions.
The issue is that we tend to underestimate those we encounter – and this can become especially dangerous when we’re encountering someone who may intend us harm.
Underestimating An Attacker – Acknowledging The Fight
The biggest point of failure in a self-defense scenario is failing to identify that an attack is about to take place. If you’ve ever been in a situation where someone has a threatening posture and is advancing towards you, but you don’t want to fight, so you move back – you’re making a dangerous mistake.
An attacker can and will broadcast their intentions most times. Unless you are sucker-punched at close range while your attention is turned elsewhere, you will probably clearly see some indicator the person who is about to attack you indeed intends you harm.
Little features like a person’s posture – forward-leaning, shoulders hunched or arms and fists raised – all give clear signs this person means you no good.
Your first job is to acknowledge this.
The only wrong answer in a self-defense situation is a failure to assess. If a man approaches you with his fists raised and you neutralize him, and he claims, afterward, that he was only kidding and meant no harm – he’s an idiot.
You’re allowed to offer a warning.
As the person approaches, tell them to stay back.
That is all the warning you really need to offer someone who is approaching you. After that, you are completely allowed and should defend yourself to the fullest extent you are able. If you’re able to flee – do so. If your path to safety is blocked, without hesitation, neutralize your opponent to the point where they are physically unable to press any sort of attack whatsoever.
Never Drop Your Guard
No matter which martial art or hand-to-hand combat form you studied, you likely have at least one beginning posture for those techniques. When you assess that someone is approaching and may intend harm, adopt that posture immediately. Don’t worry about ridicule or words – those are meant to distract you. Your only focus should be on your potential opponent, and in order to defend yourself, you need to be in a physical position to be able to do so.
Do not drop that guarded stance until you are able to flee OR your opponent is neutralized. There is no middle ground on that.
Guarded Retreat Versus Routed Flight
If you assess that your opponent can and will do physical harm to you, and you have the opportunity to flee, take it. A rout is the process of turning and running at full speed. You are dropping your guard and dedicating all your energy to flight. At this point, you are defenseless. A rout is the most dangerous form of retreat because it hinges entirely on you being able to outmaneuver and outrun your opponent.
A guarded retreat means maintaining your guard until you are able to reach a point where you can run without being pursued. This means maintaining your basic defense stance and moving towards an exit, keeping your attention divided between the exit and your opponent. Once you reach a safe distance where you are assured you can keep distance while you flee, do it.
The reason you never want to underestimate an opponent’s intentions is that once you are involved in hand-to-hand combat with another person (or persons), there is no telling when he will stop his attack. There is no “win” or “lose” in a fight – there is only survival. What does not kill you may maim you for life or leave you severely scarred. That is why you do not underestimate your opponent, and you do not stop fighting until your opponent is incapable of fighting. And above all else: always opt to flee where the possibility exists.