Get Away Safely – Disabling your opponent

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How can you get out of a dangerous situation safely? If someone is trying to hurt you, do you have a defense strategy? In our self-defense series we have discussed several strategic goals. These include:
1. Avoiding dangerous situations
2. Deescalating an unavoided dangerous situation
3. Disabling your opponent with an appropriate amount of force.

We have had detailed discussions on points one and two in earlier articles. Today we will be discussing point three. Disabling your opponent appropriately can be key to preserving your safety before and after the incident. Whether it is our favorite drunk uncle Bob at a wedding or an attacker on the street, you need to use an appropriate amount of force. Too little force or too much force can have severe consequences for you.

There are four basic ways to disable your opponent that we will discuss today. None of these work for all situations, so it is important to understand all of them.
1. Inflicting Pain
2. Containment
3. Rendering Unconscious
4. Immobilization

Techniques we use can include one or more of the above disablers. One and Two can be escalated but three and four are more extreme and final. To use any of these effectively one needs to learn the techniques and practice them.

1. Inflicting Pain. Pain can get a person’s attention and snap them out of any tunnel vision whether they are drunk or on an adrenaline rush. Pain can be increased to higher levels as needed to neutralize the threat. This is appropriate for minor threats in which the attacker does not really want to hurt you or in a severe threat where you have a clear path for escape. For the minor threat, the pain jolts the attacker, you get their attention and you deescalate the situation from there. For a more severe threat, the pain is a distraction, so you have the opportunity for escape if your path is clear. Inflicting pain can be ineffective against a determined opponent or one on drugs, so you would need a plan B if you use this technique on the street.

2. Containment. Holding someone until they calm down or until authorities arrive can be effective for a minor threat or for a more severe primary threat in an environment that is free of the risk of secondary attack. To contain an attacker you need to keep close contact with the attacker for some time. You either have to hold them in such a way that they cannot attack you or expect and be able to defend against attack from the primary attacker. You also need to be in an environment where you do not expect secondary attack. You will be vulnerable from both primary and secondary attack while containing a threat and it can be very difficult to contain one person and ward off secondary attack. Containment is safest if you are surrounded by allies to watch for other threats.

3. Rendering Unconscious. This method can be risky. Trying to render someone unconscious is not always effective and can actually cause more damage to your opponent than intended. Rendering someone unconscious with a strike can also cause concussion, broken bones or worse (it is possible to kill someone with a strike). Rendering someone unconscious via oxygen deprivation can cause brain damage or spinal cord injury (secondary injury from a choke hold). Due to these possible outcomes, these techniques should be used with caution. Also, you need to have experience with the techniques. If you don’t have experience, success will only come if you are lucky. If you are unsuccessful with one of these techniques, the retaliation can be severe.

4. Immobilization. This is the most severe option and should only be used when you or those around you are in extreme danger. I define immobilization as extreme joint manipulation to remove an attacker’s ability to attack you further. Immobilization includes extreme damage to the knees, ankles, elbows or shoulders, which can cause permanent damage to the person you use it on. When executed properly, the attacker will no longer be able to attack you effectively. However, if it is considered excessive force by the authorities, you can be the one with legal problems rather than your attacker.

The techniques needed to execute the outcomes above take practice. You should study the techniques with a reputable instructor. You can’t watch a couple of online videos and expect to be successful at disabling your opponent. If you don’t know what you are doing, you will end up hurting someone unintentionally or getting hurt yourself. As always, the best outcome for a fight is avoiding it, but if you do get in an altercation, you need to analyze and eliminate the threat without using excessive force. It is a fine line and there are no cookie cutter answers. Train your self-defense techniques, carry yourself with determination to avoid trouble, but if trouble comes to you, be ready.

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