Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
Some of us spend a lot of time preparing ourselves and our gear for when the SHTF. But what happens if disaster strikes when you aren’t ready for it? More importantly, what do you do when you find yourself in a life-or-death confrontation?
We have discussed a series of scenarios with former military, police, and martial artists to give you the best answer on what to do if someone tries to mug you, particularly if you’re unarmed and alone.
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While we are using a mugging as an example, many of these tactics (and the overall mindset) can be applied in an endless number of life-or-death struggles. We are using this as a jumping-off point to help you visualize how you may have to react if you are caught unprepared and unarmed by someone with a weapon.
Most of what we will talk about today can be applied in a huge variety of situations. We are painting a specific situation here to help you visualize a confrontation and to allow us to talk through some psychological concerns. Do not think that this specific scenario must occur for this information to save your life.
Most of you reading this will understand that civil emergencies and post-collapse crime always means robberies, rapes, murders, and exploitation will skyrocket. As it has many times in the past. Staying out in the open as things get worse is not an option.
So you were out in the city and unarmed when the SHTF. You decide to start making your way back home on foot. It’s perhaps only a 2-hour walk, and when you get there you’ll have weapons and food waiting. You have a backpack on you with some random supplies you had planned on using for that day trip, but now having this bag on you may have become a liability.
An armed man approaches you and demands your bag and wallet…
So You Are Being Mugged
Most muggings in the normal world occur at night and at gunpoint. Most occur in the cities. Typically, you can avoid dangerous people by staying in well-lit areas and avoiding long periods on foot. This will significantly reduce your chances of being mugged. Presenting yourself as a hard target, i.e., moving fast, being visibly armed and not having any apparent valuables on you will stop 99% of muggers from even considering you an option.
Should I Actually Fight Back?
This is impossible to answer until the unique situation presents itself. In a mugging, the answer is usually no. Money is rarely worth your life, and your ego never is. Remember this. A nervous mugger simply needs to have a slip of the finger, and it is all over for you. Most muggings can end without violence if you allow it to happen.
In a survival scenario, you will likely still have a better chance of making it through the disaster alive even if all your food is stolen when compared to a bullet in your skull.
Obviously in the ordinary world we would call the police or may even draw our firearm (especially if he was using a knife) after the criminal has begun to leave and make space with you, but if you find yourself caught unaware and only a foot or two from a drawn knife or gun – do what you can to leave that scenario safely. That is your main priority.
How to Maximize Safety and Diffuse a Mugging Situation Correctly
Step away and make distance if you can–little subtle steps to make some distance while you hand the mugger your wallet, for example. don’t make any threatening movements and talk in a controlled and calm voice. Do what they ask and take time to evaluate the scenario.
1. Take an Effective but Seemingly Non-Threatening Posture
Try and keep your hands up in a non-threatening way -but keep in mind a non-threatening arm posture (like arms raised above your head) can also double as a defensive posture. Look at a Muay Thai stance, and you’ll see that is a combat stance that also looks very similar to a surrender pose. A Muay Thai stance is also naturally protecting your flanks and the sides of your neck from quick slashes. Get into a Muay Thai stance and open up your fists to give the universal sign of surrender. From the Muay Thai stance, you have the leverage to slap down, strike the opponents eyes or throat, kick the groin, and defend your vital areas (your elbows drop down to protect the torso.)
This is just one example of how your posture can both appear non-threatening but also be very ready. Police and military train a slightly modified but overall similar stance for these scenarios.
2. Try and Make Some Space Between You Two
Don’t struggle and pull away if they have put a hand around you or grabbed onto you. If they have not grabbed you, take advantage of this fact. Act passive and do what they request, all the while trying to make subtle and slow steps away from the mugger. Take a half step back as you reach for your wallet, move back a little more as you hand it to him, etc. Mask these movements with other actions. This distance can give you a chance to escape or defend yourself if he attacks.
Now there is something to consider here if you must defend yourself. The farther from a knife you are, the better. The closer to a gun you are (usually) the better. If you plan to run, distance is always preferable, so err on that side.
3. Calm the Situation if Possible
Talk in a calm tone. Explain that you will be reaching slowly for your wallet. Do what they ask. Stay ready and look for subtle clues as to their intention, but do whatever you can to stave off violence if necessary. Remember, you are on the back foot and they came prepared–don’t let your ego get you killed.
This is all well and good, but always remember: not every mugger is logical, not every scenario can end non-violently, and you may need to fight for your life.
Dealing With a Murderous Criminal in a Mugging
Please remember that the following information is not an in-depth guide. This alone will not save you. It is merely an overview of how to visualize and begin to prep for this scenario. We will be publishing more in-depth pieces on the following concepts such as “weapons of opportunity” and weapon disarms in the near future.
Dealing With a Knife Attack
If you really want to understand this, buy a rubber training knife and have a friend attack you. There is no substitution for proper training. This is also important to know if this is all new to you: YOU WILL BE CUT IN A KNIFE FIGHT EVEN IF YOU WIN–IT IS JUST THE REALITY OF THE WEAPON.
Some people die from a single stab, others have survived being stabbed upwards of 50 times. Where you are stuck makes all the difference. Trained users will aim for multiple vital spots (femoral artery, etc.), the untrained often go for the belly, chest, or neck.
If you are fighting for your life, you will want to use the outside of your forearms (not the side your wrist is on) to protect your neck and other vital areas. If you don’t think you can beat the attacker in a foot race, try to kick their knee cap as hard as you can as they step in. The attacker will hopefully have to step in, and that is your chance to blow out their knee.
This also isn’t easy and requires practice, but many self-defense martial arts like Jeet Kune Do emphasize it for its effectiveness. They like to lean their head away from the attacker while they throw a powerful side kick to the attacker’s knee. Even if he isn’t crippled, it can buy you time to make more space and escape or can stall them long enough for you to grab their weapon hand.
Weapons of Opportunity
Did you ever see the Bourne Supremacy movie where the main character fights off an attacker with a knife using a rolled-up magazine? And then stabs back with a ballpoint pen? That all came directly from Filipino Kali. A very useful stick and knife fighting martial art. One of the things emphasized by this art, as well as the United States Marine Corps, are “weapons of opportunity.” (That video link is a bit silly but gets the point across).
Tire irons, fire pokers, pool cues, letter openers, your belt, your shoes, hammers, screwdrivers, etc. These can all be extremely effective tools or “weapons of opportunity” for both offense and defense. Even wrapping your belt or shirt around your arm to ward away knife cuts has been shown to work. The city is full of objects you can use. Even a brick or a rock can help you get home safely.
Your imagination and your ability to think quickly is your best weapon here. Take some time to get familiar with weapon target templates and how to correctly swing and slash an object with force. You need to get your hand speed, reaction speed, and fighting intelligence at a high-level before relying on these tactics.
Don’t focus on doing damage necessarily, focus on controlling the weapon and protecting yourself. Try and cripple and escape if you see the chance. When all else fails try and destroy/remove their eyes or testicles from their body – that can at least draw their attention away from harming you for a second.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and/or Wrestling May Save Your Life or Make You Easier To Kill Depending on How You Use It.
Jiu-Jitsu positions, like the guard or side-mount, often just allow a guy with a knife a clean shot to your neck, abdomen, or liver. The same goes for most takedowns. You really want to avoid being stuck on the ground if you can avoid it.
If you are on your back, start throwing kicks at the enemies’ knees, groin, head, and knife hand (if he is reaching in to stab you) and immediately get back to standing so you can start to get away. Survival is the goal, not a tap out.
Ground grappling can be invaluable for these things and can save your life when you need to keep someone away and get up, but there are many videos and case studies of a wrestler or Jiu-Jitsu fighter going in for a takedown and earning a knife in the back or hip for their troubles.
Eye gouging and biting can also counter many sport locks. If you train in grappling, good on you, just make a point to spend some time adding in training knives, dirty tactics, and street clothes from time to time so you can wrap your head around the differences between sport and survival techniques.
Dealing With a Firearm
Most muggers are going to utilize a gun. A firearm can actually be easier to manage from a defensive standpoint once you can get your hands on it and you know what you are doing. There are more places to grab onto and leverage the weapon away from their hands.
I cannot emphasize enough the need for correct training and practice to pull off a disarm successfully–otherwise you are just giving them an excuse to shoot you while you struggle to figure something out. Buy a rubber gun, look up Krav Maga and other practical self defense arts and the disarms they teach.
Rather than describe some specific disarms (there are many, but the simplest and most direct ones are the only ones that will work), I simply want to emphasize that if you feel there is a good chance the person will pull the trigger, you need to simultaneously move out the way of the weapon and try and control the muggers weapon hand. The disarm you will want to utilize will depend on the distance between you two, how the gun is being held, and where it is pointed.
Those of you who shoot also know how inaccurate a pistol can be in untrained hands. If you feel like you have no other option and they are too far to grab, take the chance and sprint away, at an angle, as fast as you can.
The chances are relatively high the shots fired will not be very accurate and it is better than being an immobile target and being hit with an aimed shot at center mass or to the face. If anything, you may throw the shot off and only be hit in a limb, allowing you to continue to escape. I know this is very “what if” and extreme, but the logic holds.
If you are being mugged within a vehicle, whether you are the driver or not, jump out as soon as they are even slightly distracted. You never want to move with an attacker to a second location. No matter what. When the moment comes, think and move, don’t panic and freeze.
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