Self defense for the unathletic

Suppose Joe Evil comes up to me in a dark alley and wants to hurt me.

If he’s just interested in my stuff, he can have it and hopefully goes away. But, suppose, he’s intent on killing me. He knows I’ve seen his face and he’s going to remove all witnesses, just like on TV. Let’s also assume he doesn’t have a gun because this question is assuming I don’t have one. Therefore, he’s going to have to kill me within arms’ reach.

So - given this unlikely but possible condition. How do I save my butt? I’m 41 & overweight so running away isn’t likely. Do I charge him & knock him down? Is striking with my fists practical for the unschooled?

Is there a good move I can keep in the back of my head for those dark alley moments?

Have a gun, or stop walking down dark alleys.

If you are worried, take a self-defense course.
If this happens on the way to your first class remember to try and kick him in the testicles, punch him in the throat and rip his hair out. A straight fistfight with someone in superior condition is usually a loosing battle. Eye gouging can actually be pretty effective.

I think you were joking silenus, but the gun advice is very bad unless you train to use the gun and get a license to carry it.
“stop walking down dark alleys” is very good advice.


If you find yourself in a life-threatening situation and have no weapons and no self defense training at all, the best non-specific advice I can give is:

  1. Commit. If you have to defend yourself, don’t do it half way or with hesitation. Decide to do it, and do it.

  2. Go for the eyes and testicles, vigorously. There are other points of the body that can cause a lot of pain or damage, like clapping a hand on his ear or punching him in the throat, but eyes and testicle attacks are always high-return investments.

  3. Make a lot of noise, both to attract attention and freak your assailant out.

  4. As soon as you can, run like hell.

I am not a self-defense expert but I have been involved in some uninitiated fights and in 1999 I was the “victim” of a spontaneous attempted armed robbery by two men in front of my apartment building. The situation was basically as you described and it tuned out that both of them were known as extremely dangerous felons recently out of prison (it was a short break for them) that were capable of doing anything.

I reacted on instinct and fought back violently and punched one right in the cheek just beside the nose. I ran as soon as I could and did not even look back until I was next to a road. They completed three other armed robberies in the area that night and were arrested within the hour by my description and sent back to the max for 3 and 5 years respectively.

It is very difficult for someone to completely control someone while they are fighting back and trying to get away. My experiences lead me to believe that you should turn the tables and view yourself as the aggressor instead of a defender until you see an opportunity and then just bolt and do not stop. You have lots of weapons. Your mouth and knees are ones that haven’t been mention and hardly anyone can withstand assualts by those. You can also use your head, your elbows and many other things. Fight to injure and distract and then break away. Chances are the person you are up against isn’t a superhero so there is always something you can do.

Have a look around here.

Competence in unarmed self defense takes practice. This can be effectively done with a decent practice dummy (you can even build one yourself), or a partner, though I would only recommend a partner if either he/she knows what he/she is doing or you are both operating under the direct supervision of someone who does. Otherwise people can (and probably will) get seriously hurt.

The first and best self-defense advice is: Be aware of your sorroundings. Don’t wlak into dark alleys, take stock of anything suspicious or out of place, be sure to have your keys ready, walk with groups of friends, etc, etc. This is your first and best line of defense. It’s what has the best chance of saving your life.

Secondly, always look to get out of a situation quickly and efficiently. The guy wants your wallet? Throw it and run in the opposite direction. Call attention to yourself, NEVER get in some perps car. Better to run and get shot, your chances of getting away alive are probably higher.

Now, when all else fails and you get into an altercation, you must decide immediately if the guy means business. If you are in fear for your life it’s time to switch on kill mode and go all out on your defense. There is no hesitating, there is no playing it safe. You’re out to incapicatet your opponent and get away quickly (never stick around unless you are SURE things are safe, you never know what will happen next. His buddy might come to help with a weapon, he might get up, and go to his car to get his gun, etc, etc).

The mechanics of hand to hand combat are simple, but since the interactions are so varied it really does take a long time and skill to master. Your best bet is to attend a practical self-defense class. Tae Kwondo and other similar ‘martial’ arts are no good, specially for your needs. You need to learn the basics only. A few throws, a few strikes, a few locks, and a few escapes. That’s it.

My personal recommendation: There’s a lot of practical martial arts schools who author books and videos on this topic. My own interests lay in historicla medieval martial arts, but I’ve gotten to try out some material from more modern western martial artists. I like Pete Kautz of Alliance Martial Arts (google them) as most of his stuff has a good grip on what is martially sound and what is not. One place to start with them I’d recommend is their Medieval German Unarmed Combat DVD demo.

It shows the basic three wrestlings of the german system (dei drei ringen) and some strikes, how to fall, and how to practice safely.

Hope that helps. And do stay away from dark alleys!

And remember, the best self-defense is confident. Criminal arn’t looking for a fight, they are looking for an easy target (this is especially true for women). Hold your head up high, walk like you know where you are going, respond to things firmly, and don’t be afraid to say “No!” or “Go away” if anyone makes you uncomfortable. Be aware of your surroundings- don’t blather on your cell phone or have headphones on. Actively look around you.

I hear this is Hillary’s campaign strategy. :wink:

If you’re interested in some self defence and confidence building, why not try martial arts as others have suggested? A martial arts school is more likely to have your sort of “crowd” whereas a self defence class at a rec center or community center might be mostly women.

Tracy’s Karate (American Kenpo) is all self-defense based. It’s definitely not too much for an overweight 41-year-old guy (Al Tracy himself is a very overweight 100-year-old guy or something). They have a few studios in the Denver area if you’re interested.

In all seriousness, if you don’t think physically defending yourself is a realistic option look into purchasing a handgun. Just make sure you get good, extensive training in its use! And I don’t just mean safety, I mean learning how to effectively and accurately defend yourself with one. Pistols are not nearly as easy to use effectively as you see on TV.

Don’t aim for the testicles, that’s movie nonsense. If a guy takes one in the balls during a fight, he won’t go down just like that. Forget about it.

If you’re a girl, scream, fight, run. Use the nails, aim for eyes; screaming and fighting and if possible running away is the smartest thing you can do.

There has been a lot of research on this too, and fighting back (in whichever way, really doesn’t matter that much) not only gives the best chance of getting away, but also helps recover physchologically if you’re not getting away.

About hitting guys in the testicles:
There is only one martial art drilled into every American man every other day from age 5 to age 18. That is DodgeKicktoNutsFu. Seriously, that’s the only move I have down pat. I can improvise 12 different counters to it without thinking, and all I have to do is shift my hips slightly and you just punched or kicked my thighs.

I gotta’ say, personal safety is the only positive aspect of my being morbidly obese. I look just muscular enough that potential perps don’t know if the encounter will be like robbing an arthritc old man or a college lineman, and the only property crime committed against my person since adolesence was an attempted pickpocketing.
The last time I was in a fight, I was freaking AMAZED at how poorly the other guy did. I’ll assume we were both untrained in any martial art, but I was able to successfully… well, basically, bulldoze him without any substantial effort. I’ll assume that 175 lbs of mass trumps any speed advantage an untrained opponent has.

Try taking lessons in Krav Maga, it’s really one of the few practical self-defense systems.

Knocking an assailant down with a ball of mystical energy, that’s movie nonsense. Stopping an assailant with a groin shot isn’t. There’s a reason why every single fighting sport absolutely requires groin protectors before you’re allowed to even set foot into a ring: groin shots are dangerous, and they end fights.

I’ve been on both the giving and recieving end of fight ending groin shots. On the recieving end, I was fighting in a tournament and recieved a groin shot that went underneath my groin protector, causing what doctors call a “straddle injury to the perineum.” In layman’s terms, the guy kicked the bejeezus out of me right in my taint and instantly dropped me. It was serious enough that my doctor wanted me to get a CAT scan to make sure one or both of my testicles wasn’t being strangled. I was black halfway down my thigh for almost two weeks.

On the giving end, I was sparring with my kickboxing trainer, a former heavyweight IKF national champion, which is the kickboxing equivalent of Golden Gloves. He wasn’t wearing a groin protector and forgot to tell me, and I threw a leg kick at his lead inner thigh which “caught him dangling,” so to speak. Now this guy is much, much tougher than me and pretty much everyone I ever met, but my stray kick put him on the canvas for nearly five minutes.

There’s a reason why pretty much any self defense system you can name drills groin shots as part of their curriculum. It’s far from movie nonsense, it’s one of the practical basics of self defense.

Blows to the testicles hurt, but as has been noted already, men instinctively protedt the nuts.
Krav maga and other systems that have their roots in being something that can quickly be taught to milltary personnel are all well and good…if you can find a reputable instructor in your area. A quick google search indicates that I won’t find a krav maga instructor less than 300 miles from where I live, for example.
The more commonly found martial arts schools offer good exercise but it takes a lot of time and dedication to build useful levels of skill. Said skills will then promptly atrophy if not practised regularly.
I will second Silenus (something I find myself doing often, of late) and suggest you buy a gun. Also get yourself a good holster and some instruction. Instruction in the defensive use of the handgun is surprisingly easy to find, as the NRA sponsors courses in it through many gun clubs and other organizations. At any rate, it is easier to find than instruction in Rumanian Spetznaz Dick-Wrestling. Guns are notably good implements of self-defense because useful levels of skill can be built quickly and because they aren’t dependent on the user being in top physical condition.

If you’re really worried about this, you should look into getting in better shape and taking an actual self-defense class. One of the worst things you could probably do is say, “OK, I know to kick for the groin, so I’m safe,” when you’ve never tried to kick anyone in the groin before. If you want to learn even just one technique, you need to go out, get instruction from someone qualified, and then practice it. It’s not something that can be taught on a message board.

You’ve never taken a shot to the balls, have you.

It’s best to have some training, plenty of practice, and the willingness to use it. Of course, most of us lack at least one of those three.

When all else fails, fight dirty and fight crazy.

Hit him on the head with a brick.

Seriously, the first rule of unarmed combat is to get armed. A brick, a pipe, a piece of rebar, a glass bottle, a length of 2X4 - dark alleys are full of useful weapons. Any of those things is better than a fist, and just waving one around threateningly can change the equation in your favor.

It’s amazing how quickly wrenching on a pinky finger can imobilize someone - if someone grabs you and you have the opportunity, grab a pinky and crank like hell - it works on about 98% of people, regardless of size.

Secondly, Bat-Shit Insane works pretty well too. Biting, pulling hair, using fingernails, etc. - go for it. But as someone else said - make sure you commit - otherwise you’ll just piss the guy off.

Finally, if you have the chance, a well placed knee to the head does wonders, however, you have to be fairly agile to pull that one off. You might consider ramping up your exercise regimen if you’re concerned.