Simple tips for defending yourself effectively

Guide to Life: Take Down an Assailant


The best fight is the one the that never happens, the one you walk away from because the assault to your pride, your team, your girlfriend — your whatever — isn’t worth ending your night early, the risk of injury (to you or the other guy) or jail. However, we recognize that sometimes walking away isn’t possible. For those rare instances where you can’t talk yourself out of violence, we offer simple counsel for defending yourself.


Mental Preparation

Get Your Head Right Before the Decisive Act

Be committed. Violence is a decision, and it’s one best made in the cold light of day, before the flight-or-fight monkey brain interferes. A half-hearted delivery is worse than nothing: it will only serve to put your attacker on guard for his next move.

Strike first. And go for something vital. We’re a fan of the throat punch, but this a potentially lethal option, so if you’re not a skilled fighter and you don’t want to kill your opponent, an eye gouge is very effective and rarely fatal. That said, a lethal threat deserves a lethal response; someone who comes at you with a pipe or knife presents a lethal threat. As a rule, stay away from groin strikes. Men are instinctively protective of their huevos/family jewels/testicles. That said, if the shot is there, take it. It’s not fatal, but it will slow any guy down.

What to expect. The technique below is specifically tailored for that ubiquitous punch of choice for drunks, blowhards and general all-around assholes with little to no training: the round-house. This swing-for-the-fences knockout punch is visible from a mile away. If you anticipate an assault, prepare by raising your hands shoulder height, open palms in a supplicant position. An open palm is less threatening that a fist but will still allow you to protect your head and torso from attack.


I’m not tough and I don’t have any “special set of skills” like Mr. Neeson, but I do know that if you’re a guy and you see anyone in distress, you help. I’ve never taken down an assailant, but I did take down a guy once. Here’s what I remember.

I was walking home from a late night out in Meatpacking with some cronies. Not feeling up for the crowds and swarms of Bridge & Tunnelers I decided to call it a night and make the long walk back to Midtown East where I was living. It was chilly out — enough to help you walk off a few beers but not uncomfortable. Pretty quiet for a Saturday.

I heard a girl screaming from afar. A bit echo-y but definitely close. Then a girl rounds the corner ahead. Running.

A second later, a guy barrels around the corner a dozen paces behind. Running faster.

At this point I’ve stopped to take in the situation and the girl is closing pretty quickly. I distinctly recall the black dress and brown coat, the brunette hair and the fact that she was yelling “get away from me!” The guy trailing behind wasn’t saying anything — intentions unknown.

A few moments later I’m in the back of a police car staring at the reflection of blues flickering against the building the rear door.

I don’t recall exactly what happened, but I do remember several key moments during the wrangle. I remember bracing my right foot as the guy closed in. I remember hunkering and then heaving my body, shoulder first, into him as he ran past. I remember smashing my lower forearm into his face as he confusingly yelled “what the fuck, du…?!” I did it because I was confused and scared and wanted to defend myself against what he might do. I remember a few moments later sitting in the back of a police car (no cuffs), seeing the flickering blue lights against the facade of 260 Madison Avenue.

The officers told me later that night that they were on a routine drive when they saw part of the altercation take place. I’ll never know who that woman or man were and what their situation was. Evidently what she told the cops was enough to get me a ride home instead of the station though. As he pulled up to my apartment, the officer sitting shotgun said, “You helped that woman from a bad situation, but what you did to that guy was not a good idea — he’s going to have a bad night. Never do it again. Next time you want to defend someone you don’t know, call 9-1-1.”

Eric Yang

All the Right Moves

Steps to Take Down an Assailant

Move. First you want to get out of the way of the attack. Your instincts will tell you to move away. That’s bad. You’ll move yourself right into the point of full extension and maximum power. Instead, move inside the punch, where your attacker has no power. Step forward with your lead foot.

Block. Your other natural instinct, to flinch, can actually help. Raising your arms to block the inside of the striking arm blunts the attack and puts your hands in a position for counter-attack. Block the strike with a bent left arm.

Strike. Strike your assailant in the face with the heel of your right hand, driving off your rear (right) foot and pivoting your hips. Repeat as necessary.

Violence is a last resort. But if it’s necessary, bring it effectively.