How to Defend Yourself Against a Weapon?

How to Defend Yourself Against a Weapon?

You are strolling back to your car. There are two guys standing nearby. As you reach to open your car door, one of them puts a gun to your head. What do you do? How do you defend yourself against this weapon? You can practice knife and gun defence as much as possible in the Dojo, but to truly defend yourself against a weapon you must understand the psychology of the situation.

If the person intended to harm you then they would do so. Most people who point a gun at you, as opposed to simply shooting you, do so for reasons of intimidation. The objective is to place you in a tactical disadvantage to extract a resource. The bargain is that if you comply, you won’t be killed.

In this context learning a martial art alone is not enough when learning how to defend yourself against a weapon. You must first assess the intent of your attacker and then decide what course of action to take.

In this article, I am going to explain what you should consider when facing a threat from an unknown person. Keep reading and I will explain exactly what you need to consider to save your life.

Good Self Defence Requires Optimal Decision Making

Good self defence requires practical skills such as observation, threat identification, risk and impact assessments but it also provides a context for making important personal security decisions. This requires the correct mindset to be effective.

Consider someone is threatening you with a firearm. He has a pistol to your head while demanding your money, mobile phone or your vehicle. You have to make a assessment (A) if his threat to kill you is real, whether he’s likely to shoot you, (B) if your compliance is going to be enough or (C) is it possible to defend yourself. Then you have to decide what to do.

Your assessment of risk is important. Do you have time to make a risk assessment in a violent encounter? Well, social violence differs in comparison to violent crime. Violent crimes such as robbery, car jacking are threat scenarios. In which an offender is attempting to extract a resource. So what are your considerations?

Well there is a well established risk assessment and decision making process used by the Military and Law Enforcement.  This may help and inform you of whether it’s worth fighting back.

Time and Space in the Danger Zone

Time and Space (distance) are two key variables in your ability to react and defend yourself. Note, space is distance. Ordinarily your attacker needs time to cover the distance to attack. This implies that you must put space between you and your attacker to successfully defend yourself. However, this logic varies depending on the type of weapon you are facing (i.e. knife or firearm). Read How to Defend Yourself Against a Knife Attack.

Delaying an assailant’s progress can give you the time to escape in the event of a knife attack. Meaning the further away the knifeman the better. However, space is not helpful if a gunman is over 10 feet away. Note, it takes 1½ to 1¾ seconds for an average person to cover a distance of 21 feet from a standstill. Hence your reactionary gap is key to your ability to defend against a weapon.

Therefore, you must find practical ways to enlarge your space-time cushion and enhance your reaction time for safety. Moving to cover (or concealment) can help delay an attack and buy you options to defend yourself.

Space equals time. Therefore, the more space you can keep between you and danger the better. Yet, it’s not always possible. Real life rarely follows a prepared plan. You must assess and then adapt.

How to Analysis the Weapon Risk

Unknown people pose a threat because you don’t know if they armed or mentally stable. So, having a method to assess the risk to your personal safety is vital.

When in danger you have to make a threat assessments. Use a decision making model that will help you. The OODA Loop Decision Cycle devised by Colonel John Boyd is the most commonly cited for extreme circumstances. Basically, OODA stands for Observe, Orientate, Decide and Act. It’s a decision making loop model.

Deciding the degree of threat requires the first two elements of the cycle: Observe and Orientate.  Observation provides the raw information on which decisions and actions are based. Orientation provides the context for decision making. That is, what does it mean to me and how will it impact me? This must be asked in context of the situation. Together this informs the decision-making process.

The Moment of Truth – How to Defend Yourself Against a Weapon

Let’s return to the scenario. There is a hand gun being held to your head. Your attacker is close. In this instance, you have to orientate towards the action. That is analyse the situation. You may calculate that you move off line. This is your decision. The next stage is your action.

It is very popular in the self defence community to teach gun disarms. However, I don’t like to teach gun disarms without first instructing how to make a proper risk assessment for action. This involves understanding whether the person’s going to shoot and what your chances are to fight back.  A major consideration is the distance of the armed attacker. This will affect your reaction time.

Here are some key questions you should consider when faced with an unknown contact:

  1. Are they weaponized? If so, how many weapons do they have?
  2. What is the psychological state of the offender? Is the person’s agitated or angry? Are they high on drugs or drunk? How calm is your attacker? If the person is very calm this should also be a concern. You have to make an assessment of the person’s psychological state.
  3. What is the distance of the attacker?

These are just a few considerations that will shape your response in self defence.

People are typically taught to move their head out of the way, go off line, then dominate a weapon. You shouldn’t stop there. You have to repeat the risk assessment process again. That is observe their reaction, orientate, decide and act again.

Sometimes Compliance is Enough

When in danger you have to quickly make a decision if you are going to act or not. Whether it’s feasible to do something to protect your life or your loved one’s lives. However you can’t make a reckless decision in which you just run in on a weapon for the sake of it. Sometimes compliance is enough. The problem is knowing when. This is why you must have a decision making process when faced with an armed attacker.

Although we have seen cases where compliance actually doesn’t work. Offenders have actually shot people with no pre warning and then robbed them. Even shot them after they’ve robbed them. Now in a surprise attack. If ambushed the OODA decision making process may be difficult for the untrained. This is a situation where you need to react quickly.

You’re walking along and someone suddenly starts throwing punches at the back of your head. You may think that the OODA isn’t going to be effective enough, but it will orientate to the threat.  Granted in a situation where you have some time, you can make critical decisions in comparison to an ambush situation.

What are the takeaways to Defend Yourself Against a Weapon

I think about a violent encounter in advance before it actually happens. At least you’ve got a process of decision making that will help you defend yourself against weapon. Remember you have to first observe the situation, then quickly analyse the variables (e.g. what type of weapons). Then orientate to what you observe, and then act. You have to act, so you have to decide. That decision is often the hardest thing.

It is also worthwhile seeking a good instructor who understands the criminal mindset if you truly wish to learn how to defend yourself against a weapon.

Thank you for reading. Good luck.


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