Idiots Guide to Self Defense

An Idiots Guide to Self Defense – Redux

Written by: Nathan Corliss #486

Edited by: Jessica Pupillo #962

A huge thank you to Jess for helping turn my incoherent rambling in to something of value!


Welcome to the updated Idiots Guide to Self Defense. As we all grow in our respective passions, we learn and adapt. This revision to the Idiots Guide to Self Defense reflects fresh information on what I consider foundational principles on keeping yourself safe. Full disclosure, I am not an expert on self-defense, martial arts, self-defense laws or law enforcement. Most information presented here is my opinion on the subject, but I have also shamelessly stolen information that I have found valuable. Feel free to critique or challenge information I put out here. This isn’t about who’s right. It’s about how we can best help each other.

Often, I’ve heard others say they are fearful of our changing society. Living in fear is not an easy way of life. I understand there are those who experience circumstances when their personal safety is at a higher risk than others. Your profession, environment, behaviors may increase the risk of a violent encounter. Generally speaking, the likelihood of a violent encounter happening is low. One is more likely to experience domestic violence than predatory attacks. Going through the trauma of violence is scary, I get it. Should you face violence, I want you to know that you are more resilient than you think. In many cases, you can survive violence.

I like to think of self-defense as driving a car. I don’t leave my house fearful of driving. I take precautions to be as safe as possible. I wear a seat belt. I don’t text and drive. I stay alert and aware. I increase my level of awareness in high traffic, high speed, or inclement weather situations by reducing the volume of my music, limiting chatter with passengers or slowing down. One must do the same with self-defense. Hopefully in the event of an incident, be it an accident or violent encounter, I’ve taken enough precautions to help me survive. Should you encounter a violent situation, I hope this guide helps to avoid or survive.

There is such a varying difference in opinions, practices, tactics, techniques and strategy when it comes to self-defense. I will never say what the right self-defense strategy is. These are simply my personal recommendations and what I believe is best for me and my family. What works for me may not work for others. Every strategy, technique and tool has its own benefits and risks. Understanding those risks is a huge part of developing your self-defense plan.

I will not talk about specific techniques here, only principles. If you understand principles, you can work on your own techniques that work within your own limitations. When it comes down to it, there is not one guaranteed tool, technique or training, that works 100% of the time. Please be wary of anyone offering you a guarantee; they either lack experience or are trying to sell you something. This introduction is a collection of ideas, principles and beliefs from awesome people who I align with. I am a shameless thief of others’ work, and I’ll list resources at the end

Before I get in to the “what do I do if I’m attacked” stage, there is a lot of information I need to cover first. This information could help prevent you from being in a situation where you are attacked.

Social Conditioning

“Here we go; he’s about to get preachy and socially politically correct.” Yes. Yes, I am. Stay with me.

“I’m 25 years old. I’m alone in my apartment. I hear a knock and open the door, seeing a face I don’t know. The man scares me, but I don’t know why. My first impulse is to shut the door. But I stop myself: You can’t do that; it’s rude. Suddenly he is pushing the door and stepping inside. I push the door but I don’t push hard, it’s not polite to slam a door in someone’s face.”

  • Debra Ann Davis, Rape Survivor. “Betrayed by the Angel” Harvard Review#26, Violence Dynamics – Conflict Communications.

Social conditioning is powerful. Breaking social conditioning is tough. Making social change takes a long time. If you don’t believe that, one can look at the Civil Rights Movement several decades ago, and the continuing challenges today with economic and health disparities. One can only speak to a member of the LGBTQ community and the challenges they face. Women still face sexual harassment, assault and dismissed value.


As a society, we are socially conditioned to what have been accepted behaviors, expectations and ways of life. Generally, we are a society expected not to do harm. Women shouldn’t be rude. Men should be tough. In reality, it is perfectly acceptable for a woman to be assertive and for a man to back down. If it means you go home safe, it’s ok to deviate from the society norms.

As a society, we must also understand that just because something doesn’t happen to you, doesn’t mean others don’t experience it. I am a middle-aged, straight, white, male with a 200 plus-pound “fat-letic” build (I like to lift weights because I love to eat). I will not face the same harassment and violence that others will. I’ve not experienced it, but I believe. I’ve seen it. Don’t believe me? Just ask, and then listen.

Mental Preparation

Violence has a negative connotation. Violence is a tool. It is simply the use of force to achieve your objective. Gardeners use force to harvest vegetables. Police officers use force to restrain a criminal. Abusers use force to establish dominance over others. Because of its negative connotation, we are socially conditioned that we shouldn’t create harm. This causes hesitation.

You must give yourself permission to use violence. You have permission to use violence. Say that again, then again. When all else fails to de-escalate or escape, give yourself permission to do what you must to escape a situation. You have permission to be as ferocious as you need be to come home alive.

This is easier said than done. When I started training, in younger and dumber days, I thought I could easily hurt someone if they tried to hurt me or a loved one. As I progressed, I started to question myself. Could I really break someone’s arm? Stab them? Kill them? I doubted myself. Do I want to live with knowing I’ve taken another’s life? Now older, still dumb, I made peace with the fact I can and will if I need to. I don’t take that lightly; I hope it never happens.

A mental drill I found helpful was to envision myself in encounters where I had to use violence. What did the snap of someone’s bones sound like? What was it like to stab someone in self-defense, their blood all over me? What did it taste like when I bit down, what was it like to pull a trigger? Experiencing that level of trauma can’t be duplicated, but mental training may help reduce a pause.

This can put you in a grim place. Balance scenarios of brutality with successful de-escalation and escape. Did you calm someone down who was intent on harm? Did you recognize signs and leave? Envision positive outcomes where violence wasn’t necessary.

Know Yourself

Know yourself both mentally and physically. What triggers set you off? How do you historically act in traumatic situations? Did you mentally prepare for situations? How do you flinch? We’ll talk about that a little later. Know what triggers your emotional states and recognize this so you can de-escalate yourself.

Know your physical body. What is it capable of, what are its limitations? But importantly, don’t let your physical limitations drive your mentality. “I’m smaller and not as strong, I can’t fight this bigger person.” “I’m injured, I can’t escape.”

Focus on your goal. The goal is to escape. Don’t stop. Come home alive. Understand your physical abilities and work on your plan.

Sometimes your physical abilities change. As I write this, I’m waiting for a total hip replacement. While others treated their body like a temple, mine was an amusement park. Running is not in the cards for me. I can’t generate the same strength I did before. I can’t let that deter me. I train what I can. Escape for me may just be keeping an attacker at a distance.

It’s worth repeating: Don’t focus on your limitations; focus on your goal. Use what capabilities and tools? you have to develop your own plan. I carry a few more tools to supplement my limitations. My 38” long, 1.5” knob, high impact polypropylene walking stick is “only intended” for walking assistance, however it may be a useful weapon if I’m ever attacked. I’ll talk about weapons a little later.

Understanding Violence

Not all violence is the same. It is important to understand the different types, situations and scenarios you may find yourself in. Depending on the situation, your approach may differ. For example, your response to a drunken bar fight will look different than your response to a person intent on killing you. What if the person intending to cause you harm is a loved one in a drug-induced coma, or a child dealing with a mental health breakdown?

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything will look like a nail.”

Violence can be broken into two groups, social and asocial.

Social Violence – Social violence can be best described as establishing dominance in a social setting. Think rams butting heads, lions fighting or bears wrestling to establish the “alpha” in a pack. Human’s play a similar dominance game. A hard stare, aggressive approach, adrenalized actions, lowered jaw, fists clenched, squaring off and getting chest to chest. It is easy to let your ego carry you into conflict during dominance games. However, this violence is the most unnecessary and the easiest to avoid. Social violence tends to come with instructions to avoid: “get the (bleep) out of my face or I’ll (bleeping) kick your (bleep).” You were given the option to disengage; hopefully your ego lets you.

Asocial Violence – These are predatory attacks. Predators see you or your stuff as a resource. Sometimes this resource is a need to fulfill their dark urges to do harm. Once you encounter a predatory attack, the predator has decided what you have is more important than you, whether what you have is your stuff, your body or your life. Kasey Keckeisen, violence dynamics instructor and swat team coordinator so eloquently states , “Who you are carries no more emotional weight than the wrapper a taco came in.”

Asocial violence may also be in the form of a person in shock, resisting help, or someone under the influence of drugs. Nurses may encounter resistant trauma patients.

Predators will use all of their tactics to get what they want from you in the easiest and safest manner. Some predators may use charm to make a target comfortable. Ted Bundy, notorious serial murderer, was charming. A predator will use speed, ferocity and surprise to prevent you from responding. The attacks happen fast and are difficult to respond to. Even a highly trained martial artist or law enforcement officer can be surprised.

Asocial Violence can be broken down in the hierarchy below.

Base Survival Level – (Survival right now) Think of someone fighting off a wild animal or an accident victim in shock, fighting a rescuer.

Panic/Primal – (survival right now) Drunk, drugged, deranged, disturbed individuals may also respond like they are being attacked by wild animals. In those types of instances, they may not be able to surrender or recognize that the victim has surrendered. Pain compliance may not work on someone who is drugged or deranged.

Security – (Survival tomorrow) Resource Predator. A resource predator wants something you have and will use violence to take it from you. A resource predator situation can be resolved by giving up what you have – your car, purse, wallet, etc. None of these items are worth dying for.

Process Predator – (Self Actualization) For the process predator, the act of violence is the reason itself.  The crime is the goal. Resource Predators have self-identified with their crime. They are no longer someone who has committed rape but a rapist. They are not someone who has killed but a murderer. Process predation requires time and privacy to “enjoy” the process/act of violence. They will attempt to isolate their victim. They will come to you in a home invasion, catch you in an isolated location like a running trail, or take you to a secondary crime scene. These are things worth killing/dying for: your life, not being maimed, not being raped. Do whatever is necessary to end the situation and get away.

Situation Awareness

Of all the tools, strategies and techniques I’ll discuss, situational, self-awareness and intuition are the most important tools in your self-defense tool box. Awareness is something you always hear, “You must always be aware of your surroundings.” Well, duh. That is like saying, “You should always run a PR,” and never train. That’s just lip service. Awareness itself must be trained.

How do you train awareness? Many say, “I’m always aware.” Are you? Do you notice peculiar behavior? Do you pay attention to where a person’s hands are? Or what’s in their hands? Do you notice that person who seems to get closer in a crowd, the person next to you? Did that person look at you when you entered the elevator? Do you notice everyone at the gas pumps? Is that person shifting their position?

Below are just a few things to help you practice building your awareness:

  • Make eye contact frequently and acknowledge. A friendly nod. Let them know you are aware of them.
  • Keep your head on a swivel. You can make it look like you are taking in the environment, but you’re scanning everything for something that stands out.
  • Every place you enter, automatically look for all available exits.
  • Continually watch entrances as new people enter, pay attention to their attire, mannerisms and body language.
  • Pay attention to people’s hands, where are they, what are they holding. If you can’t see their hands, you can assume they are carrying something.
  • If you were an attacker, where would you hide?


You may have had that gut feel, something felt off. Intuition are signals sent to your brain from environmental inputs. These signals could be visual, audible, or subconscious. You may pause and think, “Something is off.” Some input triggered your brain. When you can, either in the moment or later, think through what you took in during that gut feel moment. You may find something your mind picked up on and sent the signal. The more you do this, the more you trust your intuition, and the more your brain will send signals.

Environmental Knowledge

The environment we place ourselves in greatly impacts the risk of violence to occur. This isn’t blaming anyone if an attack occurs, that blame lays solely on the attacker. Just understand that your environment may increase risk. Some risks can’t be avoided due to their professions. Law enforcement, real estate agents and medical personnel are regularly exposed to higher risks of violence. Although attacks can happen at any time at any place, a few places with elevated risks are:

  • bars
  • isolated places
  • dark locations
  • late hours
  • anywhere mobility or escape routes are limited
  • places where young people gather (teens early 20’s)
  • places where territories are in dispute
  • Where an individual falls outside of the normal “tribe”

Tribalism is a huge driver of conflict, both verbal and physical. It happens in all of us. That topic alone is huge. If you are interested in learning more. I highly suggest checking out Rory Miller’s “Conflict Communication”. Rory is well known within the self-defense industry, worked in law enforcement, and has written several books.

An attacker will attempt to find the easiest way to ambush a victim:

  • The victim can be distracted
  • Mobility is limited
  • When the predator can get closer to his / her victim without being seen by others.
  • Escape routes are limited
  • Location allows one to hide

Here are a few basic considerations to helpyou improve awareness and minimize the chances of becoming a target.

  • Does the environment have escape routes? Where are they?
  • Does your environment have a way to call for help? Is it accessible?
  • Does the facility you are in have security measures (i.e., locking doors)?
  • Don’t be glued to your phone.
  • Don’t zone out with your earbuds.
  • Trust your gut. If you are uncomfortable don’t proceed. If you must proceed, place yourself in a heightened state of awareness. No earbuds, head on a swivel scanning your environment.
  • If strange people or vehicles are near where you are going, it’s OK to turn around.
  • It’s OK to ask a business for an escort.
  • Don’t post your location on social media.
  • Change up your routine, predators love patterns and will plan around them.
  • Do you look confident or have a commanding presence?
  • Are you injured and walking with a limp? Walking with assistance?

The less you look like an easy target, the lower the risk. Not guaranteed, but reduced. Be a hard target, and look the part. My wife says I have a permanent scowl in public. I lift weights to be strong, but also to look the part (both for self-defense and Instagram). As mentioned earlier, I currently walk with a limp as I await surgery. I look like an easier target.

Develop Your Self-Defense Plan

When establishing your self-defense plan, Rory Miller has a pretty good conflict strategy:

  • “Better to avoid than to run.”
  • “Better to run than to deescalate.”
  • “Better to deescalate than to fight.”
  • “Better to fight than to die.”

You have to establish what is worth fighting for. Only you can answer that for yourself. What are the things you are willing to risk getting maimed or die over? Not being crippled? Not being raped? Not allowing my friends or family to be murdered? Is your wallet worth fighting for? Your vehicle? For me, it comes down to what things can be repaired or replaced and what can’t.

As I continue, I’m going to sound like a broken record. Whatever means you decide to use to defend yourself, be it awareness, weapons, martial arts, you need to train and train often. Do you go out and run a few miles to prepare for a full marathon? Some Idiots do, but for the vast majority of us, you need to train. Self-defense skills are perishable. You need to train and test your skills often. How do you test your skills? In a safe environment, like a self-defense or martial arts class, simulate a pressure-filled situation. You will find that once the pressure is ratcheted up and adrenaline takes over, your thinking and motor skills go out the window.

Defensive Tools/Weapons

Disclaimer: Check your local laws to determine what legal restrictions and laws apply to your tool of choice.

So maybe you’ve decided you want defensive weapons as a means of protecting yourself. Before we go any further, you need to understand that any weapon, whatever you choose, including a firearm, is not a guarantee.

Allow me to step up on my soapbox. When asked about self-defense, I’ve met too many people whose automatic answer is, “get a gun, carry pepper spray, etc.” Many people believe that if you are carrying a weapon, you are now safer. That creates a false sense of security. This will sound extremely cold, but even those who are professionally trained and are required to carry firearms have been killed. Their weapon didn’t guarantee their safety.

Carrying a gun or any weapon only slightly improves your chances. Many people will purchase these tools, stick them in a bag or purse, and never train to use them. Use of weapons requires skills that need to be practiced. You must also be prepared for your tool not working or taken from you by the attacker.

As mentioned earlier, you must also be mentally prepared to use said tools to potentially take another person’s life.

Defensive tools and weapons are just that, tools. They are an extension of your own abilities and training. Each tool has its pros and cons. I don’t view one tool as better than another; each has its own purpose.

Gun – Long and short distance tool. Requires training to develop precision and motor skills. Only one line of attack. May be bulky and difficult to carry depending on your model and holstering ability. Requires fine motor skills.

Knives – Short distance tool. Multiple lines of attack. Can do a lot a damage with no training. Knives scare me the most. Best knife defense training? Sprint intervals.

Batons – Short distance tool. Multiple lines of attack. Similar to knives from a training standpoint, but again, someone trained can be more effective. A little easier to carry than a gun, but kind of bulky.

Stun Guns – Short distance tool. Single line of attack. Limited effectiveness. Stun guns are not effective on the extremities and most effective when used on the center of the body.

Pepper Spray – Short or long distance tool (depending on spray distance). Single line of attack. Not effective on all people. Smaller target range (face) you need to hit.

Not everyone is comfortable with tools that can cause lethal harm. That’s OK. Anything you carry or have on you can be an improvised weapon. Your purse, a bungee strap, your hydration belt, a walking stick, anything can become a force multiplier. Some states have restricted carrying items for the sake of self-defense or creating harm/injury. I like flashlights. Particularly metal hand held flashlights with the switch on the back. You’ll get less questions as to why you are brandishing a flashlight. A flash in someone’s eyes may disorient an attacker enough for you to escape. Or a nice tool to smash someone in the face.

If you know about the Swagger 10 rules, rule #1 just be a nice guy and the rest will follow. Rule #2 carry a baseball bat just in case. Yes, good tool. I would add: Carry a glove, too. Your lawyer will thank you.

Martial Arts

My personal belief is that you need a base level of physical skills to supplement any tools. There is a good chance your weapon may not be readily available, may malfunction, or may get taken from you. What then? You’ll have to fight.

Many runners cross train. I believe it’s best to be balanced in many fighting principles, from striking to grappling. I will not say one art is better than another. Just like weapons, they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Just with weapons, no amount of training is a guarantee. Training only improves your chances of surviving.

Let us step through the stages of a violent encounter.

Pre-Attack Cues

Violence happens fast. You can be the most aware person and still be surprised. That’s just a reality. Depending on the situation, some behavior cues can tell you a person may be intent on attacking. There are the obvious cues of verbalizing aggression and there are other subtle ones.

  • Physical cues
    • Clenched fists
    • Change in demeanor
    • Change in articulation, getting louder or suddenly getting quiet
    • Change in complexion
    • Feet in a forward fighting stance, watch boxers how their lead foot is forward
    • If carrying a weapon, may be hiding it. Are their hands visible? If not, assume something is in them.
  • Behavior cues
    • Witness checks. Watch their eyes. Are they looking around for other witnesses? Those motivated by social violence may want an audience. Predatory attackers will avoid witnesses.
    • Range checks. The attacker may use some form of touch or movement to understand their proximity to you.
    • Blocking off exits. They are attempting to isolate you.
    • Persistence. Did you say no and they continue? Are they coaxing you to an isolated place?
    • Consistently violating a boundary you have clearly articulated.

I wish these were the only telltale signs. Some predators may not show anything. As I mentioned earlier, Ted Bundy was charming.

The Freeze and the Flinch


Everybody freezes. It’s real. The more you are exposed to an environment or stimulus, your freeze can reduce.

But nobody ever truly knows how they will react to a situation. Your brain needs a second to process what is going on before it responds. Hopefully, you’ve trained enough that your neurological response is consistent. If you train martial arts, be sure to mix in pressure-tested drills. During these drills, you don’t know how someone will attack.

It’s easy when the attack is scripted, you know it is coming. I can execute some really beautiful and neat looking fighting techniques when I know the attack is coming and when the attacker lets me. Pressure-tested drills are ugly, and I find that I default to certain things. Real fights are even uglier. There are plenty of YouTube videos that show how nasty real fights can be and how hard it is to control someone. The movies lie to us.

Everyone also has a default response when something comes at you. That is your flinch response. Some jump forward, some lean back, some dodge. Some throw their hands up in some weird ritual-looking dance. Whatever. Try to learn what that is for you and train a movement that may help protect you for those initial few seconds.

The Fight

As mentioned, your brain needs time to process what is going on. Are you out on a run and something startled you? Have you heard a noise? If you can, fully turn your body towards whatever it was that startled you. This allows time for your brain to process what the sound was. A slight glance may not allow you to fully process what’s happening. Maybe it was just a dog barking or someone closing a door. If it’s a threat, turning your body can help you prepare.

Well, the $%^* just hit the fan. Someone is hell bent on attacking you. Again, it happens fast. Do not blame yourself if you were surprised. It happens. Time to fight.

I will not discuss specific techniques as it is damn near impossible to visualize what I’m trying to say. There are just as many videos and technique variances as there are 75 million other running groups. I will share a few concepts and principles to keep in mind and play around with:

  • Your brain needs time to catch up. Protect the head: chin, temple, mastoid (bone behind and slightly below the ear). Train protecting your head as part of your flinch response.
  • Attackers grips are always weakest at the thumb. When trying to escape, apply force towards the attacker’s thumbs.
  • Bones break with less force than you think. Most joints only go in a certain range of motion.
  • Hips generate power, don’t just use your upper body (arms/shoulders) use your whole body to move.
  • Your legs are the largest muscle groups, and runners generally have strong legs. If you are on your back, your legs can push on an attacker’s hips or knees.
  • Body mechanics is critical. Just changing a grip from a close fist to an open hand engages different muscle groups to provide additional leverage and strength.
  • Don’t fight force on force. The strongest person will eventually win. This is also tiring. If your attacker is pushing in one direction, you deflect and go the opposite direction. Think of a bull fighter; let their momentum take them past you.
  • Hands up to react, cover your head.
  • Action is always faster than reaction.
  • Where the head goes, the body follows. Attacking the head can disrupt an attacker just enough to escape.
  • If you can take someone off balance, you can disrupt, take down, or throw.
  • For someone to pick you up, they need to be really strong, or get their hips under yours. Blocking off their hips can take a lot of strength away.
  • Use your eyes to guide you to your destination. Strange as this may sound, it helps with body structure.
  • If you feel any sudden shifts in resistance, be aware they may have reached for a weapon.

Not everyone is built the same, what works for me may not work for you. Play around with what works for your body type. Again, there is no guarantee anything will work. Don’t rely on it. Don’t let someone sell you on it. Fighting is high speed problem solving; the answer will never be the same. Throw person off his/her game and RUN. You don’t need to fight to “win”. You need to fight to get away. Winning is getting to go home.


When you are under emotional or physical stress. Your body may dump adrenaline. Some telltale signs you are getting adrenalized:

  • Change in demeanor. Did that normally chatty person get real quiet? Did they get louder?
  • Change in complexion. Some get bright red, others pale.
  • Change in body movement, jittery.
  • Eyes are watering. Some may think, “Oh look, they are crying, they are weak.” Nah. That’s your body’s way of clearing your eyes of dirt, preparing for battle.

When adrenaline hits, your body gets a shot of strength. However, a lot of things go out the window. Your cognitive abilities and fine motor skills lessen. Operating complex tools, like a firearm, may be more difficult. You may not feel pain, which could be bad if you are seriously hurt.

Adrenaline doesn’t affect everyone the same way. Typically, there are noticeable differences between males and females. I say typically because the majority fall within a similar result but there are always outliers. Males typically have a quick adrenaline spike. It doesn’t take much time for their adrenaline to spike. But the adrenaline has a short duration. Females typically have a slower rise time, the amount doesn’t go as high, but it lasts much longer.

Men get a faster, higher burst for a short fight. Notice a typical male has a fast initial aggressive response. Then he comes down? That’s adrenaline.

The longer a fight goes, the more adrenaline will benefit a female. For the females, you may notice when arguing, you start calm and progressively get angrier? Then you remain angry even after a conflict is over? Adrenaline.

You hear stories of people blacking out in fits of rage? Not remember what happened or what was said? Adrenaline.


The fight is over. Hopefully the physical damage is minimal. What should you do next? Make sure you are in a safe place, and check yourself out. That adrenaline may be masking pain. Wipe your hands across vital areas, at each area check for blood. If you see blood, wipe off and check again. If you see blood again, it’s yours. If you don’t, it might have been theirs. Did you feel pain? You are hurt. Do this along your head, neck, arms, torso, legs, any vital areas. If you are bleeding badly, stop it immediately, seek immediate medical help. It doesn’t take long for someone to bleed out.

Law enforcement will come to try and sort this out. Although they’ll make sure everyone is safe, they’ll need to figure out who really is at fault. Criminals lie. Remember, adrenaline may still be compromising your cognitive and articulation abilities. Something I learned from a bouncer: Always ask for a medic to check you out before giving any statements. This gives your body time to burn off the adrenaline. If you still recognize those adrenaline cues, give yourself the time needed to gather your thoughts.

Self-Defense Law

Any time you use force, you may find yourself in a court room. This is why you need to read the situation and apply the appropriate force. If I use the same amount of force on some drunken bar patron as I would on someone trying to kill me, I could be facing my own assault and battery charges. As justified as you may be when someone tries to hurt you, your response can be deemed excessive.

Each state has specific laws for civilian use of force. As an example, here is Missouri’s Basically, most laws indicate you need to use the minimum amount of force to stop a threat. However, this is not legal advice. I suggest you study your respective states or consult a self-defense attorney. Be advised the court will determine if force was even necessary and if the appropriate level of force was applied. This is a sticky situation, and you need to be consistent with your statements. Criminals lie. They will say anything to make you look like the aggressor in a situation.

To prove force justification, you’ll need to articulate a few factors in a court of law:

Intent – Did the attacker have a desire to do something harmful? Was this articulated in any way?

Means – The threat must have the ability to carry out intent. A person threatening to shoot you must have a gun with them to be an immediate threat.


Opportunity – The threat must be able to reach you with the means.

Preclusion – If you do not have a duty to act, should you be engaging? More often than not, unless you are protecting a third party (police officer, soldier, security guard) if you have time to ask yourself if you should be engaging, most likely the answer is no.

Let’s evaluate a few scenarios. Two drunk guys are bumping each other, and a shoving match ensues. The ego show starts. Both parties show intent, and both have means to fight. Both these guys could have left at any time and ended the conflict. One guy decides to leave, but the other follows and continues the conflict. The person trying to leave turns and strikes the person pursuing. In this instance, you can articulate preclusion. Because the aggressor continued to pursue after your attempts to flee, you can argue that you had a duty to act and have a legitimate claim of self-defense.

Let’s look at this other situation. You are in your own home; an aggressor is on your front lawn threatening to shoot you. The aggressor has a gun. There, you prove intent and means. You walk outside and shoot the aggressor. Is this a legitimate claim of self-defense? Probably not. The threat did not have the opportunity as you were locked inside the home. If the aggressor then broke into the home and came after you, then you may have a more legitimate claim.

Some of you might be saying, “But castle doctrine and stand your ground protects me, they were on my property!” You could argue that; you’ll have to have a good case to explain to a judge why you left the security of your home to shoot an aggressor who didn’t have the opportunity. If an attacker cannot reach you, call the police and let them deal with it. You will stay safe and avoid a potential criminal case against you.

There are plenty of self-defense case studies of someone’s claims of self-defense being denied. Each state is different, too.

I highly recommend speaking with your local law enforcement or a self-defense lawyer. With all that being said, don’t let possible legal repercussions make you hesitate during a violent attack. You will need to be fast, don’t stop. If need be, use as much violence yourself to escape the situation.


Having to defend yourself is a traumatic experience. Nobody reacts to trauma the same way. The trauma may change who you are. A study conducted by Dr. Mark Crandall and Sethanne Howard found your brain physically changes after trauma. This has found this to be a psychological injury, not a mental illness.

Anger, depression and guilt are all normal responses from traumatic events. That is normal. You are normal. You are not weak. Nobody will recover the same. It is OK not to be OK until you are ready to be OK. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should recover. Please seek any professional help you need to work through it.

I hope you read through this and found some value. If anyone has any questions, want to talk about self-defense, or share their past experiences. Feel free to reach out at [email protected]


St. Louis Tae Kwon Do Academy –

Katamedo Jujitsu – facebook – katamedo jujitsu

International Martial Arts and Boxing Academy –

Violence Dynamics –

Budo Blog –

Randy King Live –

One on One Control Tactics –

Rory Miller Books:

  • Conflict Communications
  • Meditations on Violence
  • Facing Violence
  • Force Decisions
  • Scaling Force –

Training Background

  • 2nd degree black belt in ITF Tae Kwon Do – St. Louis Tae Kwon Do Academy
  • Brown belt in Judo/Jujitsu – Katamedo Jujitsu St. Louis Club
  • 50 hours of Instructor/Coaches Training IMB Curriculum – International Martial Arts and Boxing Academy
  • Regular training in one on one control tactics, Serrada escrima, violence dynamics, and trauma awareness/ peer support.
  • FEMA Emergency Management Institute – Incident Responds Command Systems