What options do you have against a bigger opponent charging like a lineman? (not just punching or kicking, but using his body-weight to overthrow you).

  • 4
    There are so many things you can do/train for these situations. In my opinion the most important thing is: don't try to out-power the stronger opponent. Try to either evade, deflect or use his movement/power. Don't be discouraged by it either: putting much power or weight behind a technique often means it is a lot easier to be countered. I'm not pointing to any specific style to train for I believe many fight styles have there solution for these situations.
    – Bart Burg
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 20:00
  • 1
    You need to be a complete fighter to deal with that. The guy might run into striking range, so you need to be able to defend against his strikes. He might run through striking range and crash into you, so you also need to be able to turn that into a throw (or at least redirect him), he might grab you, so you also need to be able to fight in the clinch, he might go for a take down, so you also need take down defence, and despite all your efforts you might end up on the floor so you also need a ground game - even if it's just surviving to get up as fast as possible! Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 10:26
  • There is no "complete fighter" in the world that could prevail if locked in a cage with Ndamukong Suh, 313 lbs. of pure aggression. (Anyone making such a claim is likely a slightly overestimating the capabilities of the arts in general. Musashi wrote about killing a man by striking with the shoulder, and a conflict against an one such as Suh is likely to be determined with the first hit;) Neither kicking, punching nor grappling would work against an elite athlete of that size and caliber. It's really a physics problem: martialarts.stackexchange.com/a/10239/7644
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 21:34

14 Answers 14


I note your question is tagged with just self-defence - what I explain here can be applied whether you are practicing an established martial art or just a bunch of self defence type moves.

There is an exercise in a number of Japanese arts (karate, ninjutsu, aikido and more) called Tai Sabaki. It involves doing the same repeated sequence of moves (whatever is chosen at the time, not like kata) while pivoting at the start of the sequence. Here is an introductory Yotube link, you can explore from there. The purpose of the exercise is to turn and face - or in your case deflect and face - so you are off the original line of attack, giving you a better angle to defend from.

In general though you want to avoid meeting the opponent head on. You can meet them head on if your technique is good, but this can take some training to master. For example, rather than delivering a mae geri (front kick) to the thigh from directly in front of them as they charge, you will have far more success if you step on a 45 degree angle and deliver the kick from there - this is what tai sabaki teaches you.

You will also find that Aikido specifically has ways of dealing with this, many of its throws are based on using the opponents momentum as part of a throw (once again this involves turning as you execute a movement, just like tai sabaki). If you are a practitioner of a striking oriented system you can still practice aikido - you will find it complements whatever you are currently training in and expands your arsenal of moves while teaching you better positioning and movement.

  • 2
    +1; as an aikidoka, I'd love to have an attacker charge at me. *rubs hands together* mmmm, yesssssss. (that said, if I were actually 'fighting' [and ignoring what that means], I would never stick to just Aikido - I'll be using whatever I can to win, thankyouverymuch!)
    – BenCole
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 19:27

Loaded question. Depends on many factors.

A) Do you have the option of running (and do you think you could outrun him)? If so, do.

B) Is he within kicking range (and are you a strong and accurate kicker?) A kick to a vital area (groin, ribs, solar plexus if you can reach) would be well worth your trouble. This has the added advantage of stopping him before he gets too close. Also, don't underestimate the value of a good stop kick to the shin. A stop kick is a kick used to prevent kicking or halt forward momentum (such as a heel kick to the shin).

C) If this person is barreling toward you like a lineman (a stupid way to fight), he probably intends to grab you and control you through grappling. You need to be effective at counter-grappling, that is, be able to grapple enough to escape. Biting, eye gouges, testicle-grabs, are all fair game (if this is a self-defense and not a sparring situation). If this person is a trained grappler, tap. No joke, tapping may trigger his unconscious response to let go, at least enough for you to get some breathing room and/or leverage, but don't count on it.

D) If you can, sidestep. He's barreling toward you like a bull, so be a matador. While you're sidestepping, make sure to hit him hard, fast, and multiple times, then run away as fast and as soon as you can. Be ready for him to put you back in his cross-hairs fairly soon though.

I think this question requires clarification. What is the specific situation in which someone is just charging at you like a linebacker? Who fights like this? I can clarify my answer if you can clarify the question.

  • 2
    "If this person is a trained grappler, tap." I never though about this... +1!
    – BenCole
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 19:23
  • As a side note, the sidestepping requires delicate timing imho, and striking after the step more so.
    – user11733
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 13:52

Chances are, this isn't just someone charging towards you. This is what I characterize as "The Berserker". The Berserker is a guy who goes crazy on you. He's going to charge at you, probably screaming, flailing his arms around, and doing all kinds of kicks mostly at thin air as he's coming towards you.

The Berserker is one of the hardest, scariest types of attacks to defend against. Most martial arts have a pitiful, unintelligent answer to this. You're typically going to hear something like this: 1) Evade, don't be there, make him chase you. Or 2) come straight at him (maybe even with the same ferocity and energy). Both these strategies don't work.

If you try to evade a Berserker, he will merely turn and follow you. If you can run and get out of there completely, great. That's common sense. But most of the time, a Berserker doesn't give you much room and time to evade.

One Berserker I had to deal with once (unsuccessfully!) in my early college days was when I was in a narrow hallway. There was no room to evade left or right. And turning around and running wouldn't have worked, since he already had a head start on me going towards me. He would have easily caught up with me, and my back would have been turned to him. I opted to kick at him, but he easily blocked it, got in some punches to my head and body, and took me down. I was helpless. That made me think A LOT about this scenario.

That leads me to the second strategy I listed above: Confront him head-on with kicks, punches, knees, etc. Basically, you're taking an offensive strategy here. As I found out, it just doesn't work!

A Berserker will merely put all his weight into you. And you might land one or two strikes, but a Berserker is someone who's flailing around rapidly. He's going to nail you five times for every one you land. Don't fool yourself into thinking your martial arts expertise will allow you to make one good punch or kick that will just put him down immediately. It won't.

And if you yourself actually go into Berserker mode to counter his Berserker mode, then both of you are getting seriously hurt. There's no telling who will win. This is just a stupid defense. It could work, but it's not intelligent.

If you insist on becoming a Berserker to defend against a Berserker, make sure you are constantly moving around, mostly sideways, not back-to-front. If you stand still, you're giving him a target he can lock onto. By not standing still, by bobbing your head around, you're making it real hard for him to target you. While you're doing this, you need to be throwing punches like mad. Don't focus too hard. Just flail your arms like he's doing. Because statistically, one will land, and that's all you need. Your body movement is just buying time for one of your strikes to land.

But as I said, that's not intelligent. And it's maybe just as likely he'll hit you before you hit him.

No, the way you deal with this situation is by practicing this scenario over and over again. This is worthy of practicing a lot, because it comes up a lot in real life. And if you can get comfortable dealing with this kind of an attack, it will spill over into just about every other scenario you may encounter.

If the Berserker is coming at you flailing his arms and legs, but he's doing so slowly enough that you don't need to sprawl, then you can duck in under a punch (accepting that you might have to eat some hits to your face), and go for a take-down. You need to get up close with him, pressing your shoulder into his chest. Hold on to his torso with both hands. Tuck your head down. Stick to him. This will prevent his strikes from doing any real damage to you. Next, take your leg and hook it behind his leg. Then take him down.

If the Berserker is coming at you too fast for a take-down, you'll need to stop his advance by sprawling, followed immediately by anything that will take him down. Think about doing a single leg take-down, a trip take-down, a whizzer, etc.

Sprawling and duck-and-shoot style take-downs are your bread and butter. Practice these often.

So in summary, the basic strategy here is to control his forward advancement first, and then take him down. Once you have him down, he has lost his mobility. He's not as much of a threat to you and others at this point. You can then use that as an opportunity to exit, or you can go on to submissions and pounding.

This is a high risk, high stress, no time situation. It's scary. Your adrenaline will be surging. Your accuracy will be greatly reduced. Your ability to think will be mostly gone. Many things can go wrong. Even when things are going right for you, you'll probably still take some strong hits. That's why this is something you need to practice.

  • 3
    '...it comes up a lot in real life'?? Perhaps this applies to you and where you live, but personally I've never been in such a situation and neither have any of my family members, friends and collegues AFAIK.
    – THelper
    Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 12:41
  • I thought that was common sense, though? Obviously there are things that you're going to encounter that nobody else will, and vice-versa. The type of attack that I described is actually fairly common in my opinion. It happens in an instant. A guy decides to go off on you. He rushes you and starts flailing his arms around (not a trained fighter). I see this in lots of videos of real fights. It happened to me. It happened to several friends of mine. I think it's definitely worthy of practice. And like I said, it spills over into many other scenarios, so there's a lot of benefit to working on it. Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 20:47
  • 1
    +1 for making use of all dimensions and not just left/right, front/back. Too many people forget that sometimes, your best best is to drop down onto the ground.
    – Shauna
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 16:41
  • Yes, the ground is a great equalizer. If someone is attacking you who's larger and has longer reach, then taking it to the ground is often the best choice. On the ground, that size advantage is worth a lot less than on the feet, especially if this is someone not trained in grappling. Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 2:54
  • I'm downvoting this because anecdotal experience of getting your ass kicked (once) in college isn't the same as an answer, especially when you make a thousand assumptions that are false. The advice to go to the ground is not bad, but you can't just say hook the leg/ do a takedown; takedowns are hard, especially if someone is charging into you and you have no experience in grappling. Clearly you've put some thought into this, and not all is bunk; but theory needs to be tested and applied before you can give it as advice, and there's none of that here because you'd have answered differently. Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 5:20

You need to do something like Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or Judo. These arts are great for taking a persons force and using against them. Ignore all these stupid wing-chun kung fu type of martial arts. I've trained in wrestling, BJJ and Judo against guys who are smaller than me (I'm 6ft2 92KG) and had my ass kicked by guys who have great technique alone.

  • Especially Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, it will give him more self-confidence when fighting on the ground.
    – Tassisto
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 7:57
  • 3
    I find it ridiculous that you call some other arts "stupid". Every art has their strengths and weaknesses. There are situations where kung fu will work much better than BJJ and vice versa. It is a shame to see martial artists like you out there that speak badly about other arts instead of appreciating what each of them contributes to human life.
    – Erol
    Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 8:59

Learn to sprawl.

High school wrestling 097; go learn to sprawl. A good sprawl will move you out of the line of attack.

The real thing you need to though, is have guys charge at you with the intention of taking you down/whatever, and you doing a defense on a regular basis, say every day at 6pm at your local wrestling/grappling/Bjj school.


While I appreciate the fancy, exhaustive answers here, there is really a common theme that rises to the top:

If you aren't there, you can't get hit.

Move. Don't stand their waiting to do something cool. Even if you can't move completely, try to move so you can trip him. There's no need to do anything other than that here.

Chances are, if he's charging, you have some time to get out. Note the Tueller rule: An armed attacker can cover 21 feet in just 1.5 seconds. That should be enough time for you to decide whether to meet and potentially get bowled over by the freight train, or scram.

  • While things like "Tai Sabaki" and "Mae Geri" may sound fancy, they're really not, and says the exact same thing you're saying here - "he's charging where you were at...so don't be there." Sometimes, the safest place in a fight is actually a hair's breadth from your opponent.
    – Shauna
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 16:37
  • I agree. The original message, however, does not suggest the person with the question knows anything about martial arts. If I asked an engineering question when I don't give any indication that I know anything about engineering, I would likely to be turned off by what I'd consider to be jargon. To this person, the Japanese terms may be jargon. Not saying anything bad about the messages that contain it, but we don't know whether that is intimidating (and therefore, not helpful) to the person asking. Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 17:18

There's obviously some doubt as to whether the question is what can an untrained defender do or what should a reasonably competent martial artist do. For the former, assuming the fight's unavoidable I'd recommend stepping in suddenly and deep to catch the attacker before they're expecting engagement, using a palm strike, elbow, front thrusting kick or knee - whatever you think you can make work.

For a trained kicker - I recommend the side thrusting kick...

Like several other respondents, I've also been attacked in this style... someone charging from 15 or 20 metres away. I stepped in with a gliding side thrusting kick - the footwork moves you in a couple metres and the kick reaches out considerably, so you're meeting the opponent four or five metres in front of the point they expect to be hitting you (possibly more - they probably expect you to back away), when they're basically in the middle of a running motion or just starting to tuck down for a dive/tackle. Their own momentum makes them defenceless. I kicked through his chest lifting him off his feet and throwing him backwards to land on his back. He was about 10cm taller than me and of a solid "footballer" build. I had practiced this kick extensively against heavy swinging bags and other targets. You might doubt the kick could have enough power, but there was little feeling of impact - the kick can very easily do this. I deliberately held back from full "snap" power in my kick (i.e. reducing the peak power at impact and pushing him more / I tend to have to be angry to lash out with real intent to maximise damage, which is a rare thing for me), and I was wearing soft sneakers, but it took him a good two minutes to stand up, and he made no attempt to continue the fight.

I used a "checking" kick variation of this technique against another charging attacker - albeit smaller than me this time - he'd just robbed a shop and was trying to get to his car: he was pretty determined to land a "good one" quickly or scare me off - telling me he had a knife while searching his pockets - and after a couple ineffective swipes at me he charged and I checked his forward progress with a side kick to the hip - not trying to knock him down - again he turned and sprinted for his car. I was trying not to hurt him as I had been walking past the outside of the store and it was my girlfriend who said "go stop him, Tony" - I wasn't sure what he'd done and was initially planning just to talk to him. One of the times I had an endorphin reaction in a fight - you're so mellow it's hard to be aggressive, which isn't necessarily a good thing, but everything slows down nicely and it's so easy to control the situation.

So - side thrusting kicks are recommended. You can cover ground quickly to hit them at an unexpected point in their approach, the leg reaches out much farther than their fist could and your head's way out of their reach when you make contact. But, not many arts do them particularly well. See 2:50 onwards in this tutorial if interested - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTtyTOLqnoc


A strong jab (aka a "straight punch") or headbutt to the nose or the tip of the chin will momentarily stun your opponent, giving you time to decide to fight or flee.

You won't be thinking clearly enough to perform the five-point-palm-exploding-heart technique from Kill Bill or something you saw on a 70's kung-fu movie. The simplest, most effective way of dealing with an overpowering opponent charging at you is to stun him and make him think twice about what he's doing. Unless he's a professional boxer, he won't know how to deal with hard contact to the nose and will likely be shocked into incapacity. It also doesn't hurt that his eyes will be watering and there will be lots of blood. Ironically, a good boxer won't be charging you head-on anyway, so it's a pretty safe fall-back technique for this type of situation.

Source: personal experience. LOTS of it.

  • 1
    If someone is charging at you at 10+ mph (15+ km/h) you won't be able to do a headbutt. If they're bigger/heavier than you, standing there and doing a straight punch will might land one, but then you'll be tackled. Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 18:20

This actually happened to me. I ducked and threw my side into him very low causing him to flip over me. The end result was a concussion from his head meeting the floor, and 2 broken ribs for me, from his knee. Do not do what I did!

If you can just avoid the charges. It uses a lot of energy to charge like that. Tire him out by letting him do his thing. At this point I would just leave the situation I I could.


Aikido might come in handy. Since your opponent is strong and charging towards you, you can't use a stop kick or any other kick above the waist since it makes you unbalanced and you will be overthrown even if you landed a perfect kick.

So the best option would be to move away at the very end or use your opponent's speed and make him fall. One thing you can do is you can go down and kick him below knees to make him fall but this should be done at the very last moment.

In aikido there are moves which will use the opponent's force to make them. So you can try it

  • Welcome to Martial Arts! I think you forgot a few words in your last 2 sentences. What exactly is it you are trying to say there? Also, can you give examples of aikido moves (names) that may help in this case?
    – THelper
    Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 9:35

In Aikido, i learn that i could overcome bigger opponents/partners with huge charging forces by

  1. Grabbing their shoulders on both side and moving downwards and backwards while twisting your body a little.

  2. Moving sideways or offline at the last minute as they charge in.

  3. A knee to the head as they bend down.

  4. Push their heads down as they charge in. In all honesty, timing is very important as moving too soon would allow them to change their direction and moving too late would result in you ending up on the floor.

We do drills in the dojo on these situation and i find the most effective one for me is either pushing or chopping their heads(back side) as they charge in, or basically just knee-ing them.


Anyone with more mass than you has more momentum in a charge. If he's taller but lighter, he's more lanky and is less likely to knock you down. There are better ways to stop a charging opponent.

  1. dodge him (most obvious)then attack from behind
  2. Leap frog over his head (Place your hands out, to catch his shoulders or head and push off the ground, like the iron horse)
  3. Knee run him (if the opponent you notice his knee first, run to step on his approaching knee and spring step off him)
  4. Get down (drop to the ground in a defense position using your elbows as a Point, and break his stance at the knees or groin)
  5. Run away (simplest thing to do)
  6. Punch the head (if his head is the first in the Imaginary finish line of perception, ATTACK the head Quickly)
  7. Catch: Put your hands/fists out and press the charging opponent
  8. Stomach kick (brace yourself if behind something, like a mail box, street lamp, car, concrete bollard)
  9. Dive between the legs
  • Back up if possible, and side step to trip or throw

Typically a simple hip throw, but tripping is optimal because you might not be able to pull off that throw.

  • Back up and push them by the shoulders face forward into the ground

If movement is restricted, these application may not be possible, so getting rushed by a bigger opponent in many situations can be "unwinnable".

This is why "choosing the ground" for combat is so important.

  • If on the street, use the curb to disrupt the rushing attack

This can mean being on the sidewalk when the attacker is on the street, visa versa, or straddling the curb. But only attempt this if you have the requisite footwork not to be tripped up by the curb yourself.

Putting objects like a bike rack, mailbox, lamppost, etc. is also effective at forestalling a rush.

Having a concrete or brick wall behind you can also be a devastating weapon if you can guide the attacker into that wall.

(I once saw a streetfight that ended when a larger, stronger opponent rushed a smaller, quite strong defender, who put the attacker into a headlock, then rammed the top of their skull into a concrete lamppost. No permanent injuries, thankfully, but an ambulance had to be called.)


i have learnt a few martial arts including systema - the Russian martial art - which is mainly focused on using the attackers momentum against him. in this particular case, since he's running at you, you can simply just step aside and trip him when he reaches you, and because he's expecting to meet resistance his momentum will carry him down where you can then deal with him there. hope this helps!

  • This is absolutely false. There is zero evidence that this works, and nearly unlimited evidence that that it does not work (ex. all of wrestling, MMA). Please do not spread misinformation about fighting techniques, as it can be extremely dangerous.
    – coinbird
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 14:15
  • im sorry man, but your completely wrong as ive tried this in practice and it is highly effective. believe it or not there are other martial arts which have drastically different techniques then the standard MMA style. although i thank you for looking out for other people
    – Maslin
    Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 16:01
  • The timing is extremely hard to control, to say the least. It takes extensive training...
    – user11733
    Commented May 18, 2022 at 3:49

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