At my Krav Maga classes I stress the simple fact that different techniques are effective at different distances. When you are better off engaging in hand-to-hand or knife combat? When should you use your gun or a stick to defend yourself?

To truly be able to protect yourself, you must understand the advantages and dangers of each weapon and how the distance from your opponent affects each weapon’s efficacy.

As this is a firearms website, I first want to stress the simple fact that you may not have the time or opportunity to draw your weapon. Attackers tend to ambush their victims. An assailant may be right on top of you before you know you’re being attacked.

Never draw on a drawn gun? Like that.

It is imperative that you do not rely solely on your firearm to save your life. Anyone who’s serious about self-defense should master some basic non-firearm close quarters combat techniques. I suggest Krav Maga, which doesn’t require years of training and extreme levels of fitness to be effective.

Hands  

Fighting with your hands makes it easier to open and close fighting distances to dictate the course of an attack. However, your choice of position will usually depend on the size of your attacker.

If an attacker is significantly larger than you, you have two options to gain an advantage. “Run” to remove yourself from the threat or improve your positioning (enabling a ballistic defense). Or approach your attacker as close as possible to neutralize the power that the length of their limbs can generate.

Knives

Defending yourself against a knife threat is a similar concept to hand-to-hand defense, as a knife does not lend a significant amount of length to over-all reach of an attacker’s limbs.

That said, a lot depends on whether or not your encounter with a knife-wielding assailant posing a threat or a direct attack.

If you’re simply being threatened with a knife, analyze the situation to determine the most efficient way to neutralize or redirect the threat. This can mean engaging with the opponent aggressively to neutralize the threat, or employing a long distance counter attack (a gun is ideal) to improve your position and prepare for engagement.

If you’re being actively attacked with a knife, you won’t have the luxury of formulating a strategy. You will have to react quickly, effectively and aggressively. Many styles of self-defense recommend using the outside of an arm to block a knife, as it’s harder for your attacker to cut a blood vessel or artery.

Blunt Objects

Should you encounter a situation where you’re required to defend yourself against an opponent wielding a stick, bat, pipe or other blunt object, you need to find a way to quickly lessen the distance advantage that the object gives them.

The best way to do this: approach the situation just like you as if you’re defending yourself against a larger opponent. You need to close the distance as quickly as possible, neutralize the use of the object as a weapon, and then counterattack swiftly to prevent a further assault.

Firearms

When it comes to defending yourself against an opponent with a firearm — when you find yourself unarmed, unable to escape the situation and/or unable to draw your weapon — your only possible self-defense solution requires that you get within arm’s reach of the weapon.

This means that a firearm defense will always be a close range defense.

How do you get closer? Some suggest that handing over your wallet (should that be the attacker’s intent) is the right moment to attack.

If you can reach the gun, first and foremost, you must redirect the gun’s line of fire away from yourself and any potential bystanders. (Remember that a bullet is able to go through non-re-enforced walls, cars and people.)

Once you have redirected the line of fire, similar to other defense techniques in Krav Maga, need to aggressively counter attack your assailant. In this case, you might even say in all cases, self-defense must be in the form of attack.

Some say you shouldn’t use the attacker’s weapon against them — except as a blunt force object. Again, while the natural reaction is to use your own gun, drawing from concealment requires time. Which requires distance. Chances are you won’t have the time or distance to draw.

Assuming you’re not facing a revolver, if you decide to shoot the assailant with his or her own gun, tap – rack – fire. There’s no guarantee that the firearm has a cartridge in the chamber.

When it comes to defending your person, you should remove yourself from the situation whenever possible. Should that option become impossible, pay attention to the weapon that your aggressor has chosen to determine the best distance — and thus strategy — for self-defense.

25 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: Distance Determines Technique

  1. That was a pretty weak disarm video, with the gun more or less being handed to the instructor in a super calm environment. I’ve had weapons pointed at me and it wasn’t calm, the person wasn’t stationary, and if I went for their weapon I don’t think they would have stood still like a catatonic person allowing me to disarm them. With all that said, I don’t have martial arts training but I do have eyes and years of experience on this planet. If this guy’s for real I wIsh he would post a higher speed video or start slow and escalate accordingly as it went on.

    • When the SHTF my pants come off. People tend to rethink their options when confronting a naked dude with a wild look in his eye.

      • You joke, but it IS highly effective. Was on a river tubing trip at a popular spring run with friends once. One of them shouted some friendly jibes at a group of frat-boy types trying (very ineffectively) to throw a rope over a branch from shore to make a rope-swing. This motivated the frat-boys to follow us down the river shorline for the remaining 3/4 mile or so to the end of the tubing run, shouting threats an obscenities at us, which my (inebriated) friend was more than happy to incite. As we get to the end, they’re waiting for us at the top of the stairs out of the spring. I look at my friends, ask if any of us actually want to fight these jerks. We all have jobs and responsibilities and are past all that, and we all agree no. I tell them “I got this”. Paddle on ahead of the group, shouting to the frat-boys how I’m going to kick all their asses single handed, etc etc. Finally get to the stairs, climb up them, and at the top i yank off my suit, standing there naked as a jaybid, and get down in a sort of fighting/wrestling crouch “C’mon boys! Lets do this greco-roman style!!”. I’ve never seen the wind go out of a groups sails so quickly. They all start embarrassedly muttering under their breaths, no-one wants to look at me or make eye contact, they start backing away… a bunch of good old boys (we live in the south) didn’t like the idea of having their sexuality questioned by letting the story get out that they had wrestled a soaking wet naked man. Only thing damaged was my pride, and my chances with any of the ladies in our group (did I mention the spring was a chilly 72*?).

  2. If it came down to outrunning or outfighting my attacker, I’d be in deep sheet. I think I’ll just shoot the bastard.

  3. I carry a gun, cause I’m too old to fight. And too fat to run. Joke aside, past injury and age do place a limit upon the physical capability of many of us. I stay a fair distance away from most people. Gives me more time to react, or act, as the case may be.

  4. Fight like your life depended on it. Do not practice your dojo dancing in a real fight. Use whatever you got or can find. Go freaking ballistic. Thumbs into the eyes all the way is effective, but be prepared, that really agitates a predator. Do it, disengage, get out. Wolves do not expect sheep to attack first.

    • Varies highly but a more important question may be: how do you have any idea that what you are ‘learning’ is worth anything? Anyone can hang a shingle outside their door (or at the local gym) advertising them as being a former tier 1 operator, best of the best, Israeli special forces reserve, blah blah blah. And asking their students won’t help because they might be indoctrinated because they are invested in believing they’re also learning to be some bad MFers (it’s hilarious to see the videos where some self-proclaimed chi experts who claim to be able to basically HADOKEN! get owned by real MMA fighters because their students were just laying down for them).

      Anyone looking to get into martial arts- especially trendy ones like Krav Maga- should check out the bullshido website and forums. Often they are able to answer questions like pricing and whether someone checks out for their claims.

      • ^^^This^^^
        Do your research, there are a lot of crap Krav Maga schools out there. KM has experienced a rapid rise in popularity and a commensurate rise of bullshit artists. For a while some organizations were offering shake and bake “instructor certifications” and a lot of gyms jumped on the bandwagon. As a point of reference I’ve got five years of Krav Maga training with an IDF Krav Maga instructor. This is what I would suggest:

        Look for an instructor who is Israeli trained or learned from someone who was. Bonus if they have a solid background in a legit martial art (boxing, judo, muay thai, etc, no kiddie karate, fitness kick boxing or pajama dancing).
        Most schools offer trial classes take one. Are the instructors instructing or just impressing people with their awesome? Are people working hard ?(I think it’s a good sign when new people have to take a little throw up break) Get a feel for the joint, are people serious or just mall ninja LARPing?
        If you can advance out of beginner levels without full contact sparring… run away.
        If the school offers belts…. run away.
        If the school promises to teach you deadly secret ninja commando SEAL techniques… run away.

        I was paying a little over $100 a month to take as many classes as I wanted which included the gym, muay thai, jiu jitsu, boxing and fitness classes.

        • Ditto to this. There are two types of Krav Maga now that is has gained so much popularity. There are Krav Maga gyms and then there are Crap Mega gyms. You are going to have to figure out for yourself which one is the one in your area.

  5. Running away, especially from a knife or blunt object wielding opponent, is often a good idea- even if it’s not as cool sounding as using that free trial of krav maga you took a year ago.

    A lot of people eat that opportunity away (burger by burger) or let themselves go soft by never exercising and in so doing, limit their options.

    • Every self-defense program should come with a 1-2 times a week sprint exercise. There is no such thing as a “fight ready” man that is over 17% body fat and people need to realize that the 16 year old kid that is going to rob you is going to be stronger and faster than your presidential fitness failing ass.

  6. Does anybody have a legitimate reason for not using any opponents weapon against them?

    Besides it being a toy/replica in which case you can hit them with it.

    • I didn’t think so, until it was pointed out to me that if someone came around the corner and saw you hitting someone with a club immediately after disarming them the witness would assume you were the attacker, and now it’s two against one in the courtroom.

      • Fair enough, I agree from a legal standpoint that you should use a weapon against someone that’s no longer a threat.

        I’ve just heard from *redactded* that you should use an opponents Firearm, because it could have an IED in it. I’ve always found that concept ridiculous at best.

  7. First for Woody from ny; I train in Krav and the VERY hard part of training and demonstrations is that Krav is pure survival at all costs. Even with proper pads and gear you still cannot go full balistic or speed on your training partner in civilian classes. You train for instant reaction to totally disable your attacker and evacuate to a safer place. To be able to follow the flow and moves it has to be done slower that real time for demonstration.

    Now for my comments. Rob, I like how you explain that every circumstance is different and you should be aware and prepared for anything. The only way to do that is to train often. Besides giving oneself more confidence it is fantastic exercise. I study Warrior Krav Maga and they are starting to integrate some of the Defence Lab moves and Kali knife flows as well. I found out how much I don’t know. The main objective in self defense is to survive. Avoidance is primary. Training is for when there is no way out.

    adverse4, you are correct to be an explosion of action and use surprise as your main distraction. There are no rules to survival. Great article and I am sharing with some of those in my class.

  8. I was gonna say, smiling and walking slowly into a hail of gunfire, who is this guy? A freakin terminator? Granted being a terminator would be pretty cool.

  9. My kung fu is better than your kung fu.

    Disclaimer over 🙂 If you train where if the guy has even a partial grip on the gun, and the barrel crosses your body you die, then you realize in those situations it is ALL ABOUT THE GUN. You want two hands on it at all times and the other guy will instinctively try to get both of his hands on the gun if he does not already. The first person to realize gravity is his friend will often win these match-ups. Fall to the ground with your hands on the gun. If you can’t do that head butt, knee, and slam into walls.

    This guy is probably a decent instructor. That is why I say find another guy of similar stature who trains in Krav Maga and then let the two go at trying to disarm each other. It will not even look close to something like this.

    But yes – distance does determine technique.

  10. I’m a 39 y/o Kenpo blue belt, and have been studying on and off for almost five years (I would be black by now but have had to take extended breaks due to life getting in the way). From my standpoint, everything Rob says more or less makes sense.

    That said… my instructor and I (a 60-something 9th degree black belt who’s been studying the art longer than I’ve been alive) were talking about Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix, and something we both appreciated about the show is that Daredevil, despite being an expert in martial arts, routinely gets his rear-end beat in the process. Like, almost every fight he takes a beating. That is fairly realistic. No matter how good you are, you’re going to take a punch or two (or worse) in the process. So with that said, I would add…

    1) If they bring a knife, and you have to engage, there is a pretty good chance you’re going to get cut. How bad is up too you, but no matter how skilled you are versus them, expect to bleed.

    2) If they come at you with a stick, expect to get hit. Again, how bad is up to you, but real fighting isn’t like how Hollywood portrays it.

    3) If it’s bare hands, expect to take a punch or two.

    Honestly, one of the best things about good martial arts training… or even decent basic self defense training… is learning how to get hit. You *will* get hit. Learning how to take it, and redirect it or recover from it will make all the difference in the world.

    • Word. I’m not into self defense from someone who’s never been punched in the face or who has never twisted anyone up. In an actual fight. Size and strength matter. That’s why the UFC has weight classes. If someone is significantly bigger than you, a good weapon is your best chance of victory.

  11. I’m running from knives – at least until I have the distance to draw and shoot. Doesn’t sound high speed, but it’s a great way to avoid being cut.

  12. LOL@ training with docile and complicit partners. Because baddies are gonna wait for you to switch your stance.

    You should be training in a style that features full resistance training – like Judo or Jiu Jitsu. Simple enough to learn in 6 months, but complex enough that they will keep you interested as you spend the rest of your life trying to master them.

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