Is there a way that complete beginners (varies in strength and agility) can learn to defend themselves against common attacks / abductions in a few days, given that they do not have access to instructors nearby? The primary goal would to maximize chances of survival.

If there is, then what should they learn as a priority (except for avoidance and de-escalation)? And how? Training martial arts would take far too much time, but those so-called "self-defense" courses online usually consists of theory techniques that will put someone in worse danger. So are there any useful strategies / tactics (such as using the element of surprise) that will directly improve chances of escape in situations where de-escalation is virtually impossible?

  • 1
    "except for avoidance and de-escalation" - you're ignoring 98% of self-defense right there. Mar 3, 2022 at 18:04

3 Answers 3


First-off, so-called "self-defense courses" that consist of some lessons over a few days are mostly a scam and, in my opinion and experience, are often doing more harm then good. These courses tend to lead otherwise untrained persons to the delusion that what they trained a few times in (oftentimes cooperative) drills could be applied effectively in actual self-defense situations by them. This kind of misplaced self-confidence tends to make people more careless than they should be.

So, if you only have a few units available and want to maximise the survivability, what should the contents look like?

  • Tactical and psychological assessment: People should be trained in the assessment of potentially dangerous situations and how to avoid them, including situational variables like social aspects, escape route planning, positioning, leadership structure assessment (target priority), and the spotting of potential weapons.
  • Stirring attention: People should learn what to do to raise public attention and actually get help. For example, shouting "FIRE!" instead of "Help!", when to call which number with which informations given (faked loud calls like "Hey I'm in ... Street on my way to you, you should see me from your window by now!" can work wonders), how to assess the nearest public building and services, etc.
  • Body language: People should be able to read body language and know how to play with it, ie. know how aggression, calmness, self-certainty, etc. show in pose and walk.
  • Basics in guards and mitigation linked with stress situations: Since offensive options will be limited to "freak out and scare them with ferocity", it is important to prepare people for how it feels to actually be attacked (eg. full body armor, multiple attackers), how to minimise damage taken, and how not to panick in that situation. This also leads to the kind of humble caution that is needed in self-defense, even in the persons who brag the most in advance.

These are the most important abilities you can transfer to untrained people in a limited amount of time. More is not possible due to the limited time and training status of your average group.

If you got more time and a comparatively fit group of people, viable defensive motion patterns like the triangle engagement of Krav Maga (high shoulders and arms forming a triangle, going in between arm and head for grab and knees; works against a variety of attacks) could be considered.


As already stated, the main thing that I would focus on is mindset and preparation, as they are two of the biggest factors in avoiding an incident. Also, I would gear my presentation with slightly different emphases depending on the gender bias and ages of the group.

  1. Situational awareness - Google the address ahead of time for meeting invites, see the area, look at lighting if at night, typical clientele, number of exits, proximity to other open businesses, things of this nature.
  2. Walk/Attitude - head up, looking around, confident will deter many casual thieves, but huddled, tentative can attract
  3. Let others know - When you are going, how long you plan on being there, leaving, availability. This is typically more for women than men, esp on tinder dates or similar, but applicable for everyone.

These are all approach and mindset, then I will go into the physical portion of it. Typically I will teach basic weak link releases and grab defenses (they grab the pony tail/hair, etc), and some of the most basic places to strike to distract or try to weaken grips. Soft on hard, hard on soft, how to punch, how NOT to stick your keys in your fingers (I get that in about 60% of my classes, the "I heard that") so that they have an idea of what to do.

My closing spiel consists of "go DO what you learned", take more courses, practice practice practice. Mom, dad, partner, friend, whatever. Practice, hit a heavy bag so you know what it feels like, and so on. But the biggest emphasis is on mindset/attitude and situational awareness/approach.


You will not be able to teach them to become able to defend themselves against trained fighters in that short amount of time, but what you can do is to teach them how to throw up a guard, how to punch without breaking their fingers, and then drill them over and over again to respond to a sudden attack with utter ferocity and then running. Most attackers aren't looking for someone who can hurt them. Most people are not able to attack with the intent to hurt others. And too many people don't take the benefit of running once they have the other person on the back foot. You're not training technique so much as you're teaching reflexes and getting people to learn to go nuts.

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