by Lito Angeles
Photo by Rick Hustead
Let’s begin with a quick review of the scenario I described in the June/July 2022 issue: You’re coming out of a restaurant when a stranger bumps into you. He starts getting hostile and threatens
you with bodily harm. You employ the fence stance (April/May 2022 Black Belt) and attempt to de-escalate by apologizing — and not AACTing, which stands for antagonizing, arguing, challenging or
As you convey your apology, you create a space of at least 3 to 4 feet by stepping back and moving to the right or left of center. All the while, you watch for body language that indicates he intends to
launch a surprise attack.
When you angularly step back — with your innocuous fence stance serving as a barrier, tactile sensor, range gauge and action trigger — you’ll immediately know his intentions because he’ll stay
put if he doesn’t want to attack or close the gap if he’s planning an ambush. If he closes the gap to get back in the 1- to 2-foot zone, you should angularly step back again, this time commanding him to remain where he is.
This will be enough to dissuade the average assailant, especially if he’s a “woofer,” or someone who’s all bark and no bite. You’ll end the situation with no blows thrown. However, let’s say he’s not deterred and opts to close the distance again while continuing with the hostility. Maybe he slaps
your hand away. At this point, you’ve already apologized and backed off repeatedly. You never antagonized, argued, challenged or threatened him. You did your best to maintain a safe distance. He’s encroached on your personal space not once, not twice but three times, blowing off your apology and continuing to threaten you.
At this close range, action is faster than reaction. When he does attack — and he will any second — you won’t know which limb or which side he’ll use or what technique he’ll throw. Moreover, when you’re in the 1- to 2-foot danger zone, it’s practically impossible to block or evade any surprise attack. Yes, you can make assumptions like he’ll probably use his right hand and throw a haymaker to your head, but you won’t know until he does it. Do you really want to bank on those assumptions? I wouldn’t.
Even worse, you’ll know nothing about your adversary’s skill and experience levels. You also won’t know if he’s armed. Is it prudent to wait to be attacked before physically defending yourself? I hope your answer is no.
In such a scenario, you would be morally and legally justified to physically defend yourself with the primary tactic of proactive self-defense, which happens to be the tactic bad guys use on their victims: the preemptive attack. This is, bar none, the best unarmed tactic you can use for proactive
self-defense. There is nothing more effective and efficient.
There are various ways to employ it, but the best way is with a single pre-emptive power strike that imparts maximum blunt-force impact to the head. Driving this point home, when your adversary has clearly shown that he’s an imminent threat at a distance where he can get the drop on you, you must beat him to it and unleash the most powerful shot in your arsenal.
By now, it should be clear that you don’t need to wait to be attacked. If you do and he knows what he’s doing, he’ll take you out in a flash.
Once you’ve grasped the folly of waiting to be attacked first, how should you pre-emptively strike when it’s go time? Based on my experiences, observations and insights from a law-enforcement and civilian perspective, the most potent strike is a boxing-based hook with a fist or, as I prefer, with a palm. Optimally, you should target the side of the jaw, but the side of the head in general is also an excellent choice if you use your palm.
Why the palm hook and why the jaw? The palm is a structurally superior and adaptable striking tool that involves the lowest risk of fracturing a bone or lacerating the skin, especially when compared to the fist. And the side of the jaw has been proved to be the best target for rendering a person unconscious.
As a reassuring backup to that (in case you miss), the entire side of the head is a potent knockout target when using the palm. As for the hook, no punch is more potent and efficient for rendering an adversary unconscious. It’s one and done. I will elaborate on this in future columns, and I will address the most effective and most overrated empty-hand techniques — and the best and worst targets.
To reiterate, the most efficient way to neutralize a close-range threat is to
render your adversary unconscious or semiconscious through blunt-force trauma to the head. That said, some might consider this barbaric and believe a more humane tactic such as a body shot or joint lock will suffice. I acknowledge that in certain cases, a head shot that causes a knockout may be inappropriate because the possibility of a person fatally injuring himself from the secondary impact with the ground is always there.
However, experience and observations have revealed to me that for the most part and for most people, body shots and joint locks are worthless in serious situations. And no matter if the volatile situation you’re in is ego-based or criminal-based, your adversary can kill you. The most reliable
target to attack when you’re in a dire situation such as this is the head.
The reality is that if you have to respond to a serious imminent threat with physical violence, you should always regard it as a potential life-and-death situation for all people involved — because it is. Along these lines, you should maintain a perspective that says while you could unintentionally kill an adversary, that adversary could do the same to you and any loved ones who happen to be with you.
It goes without saying that there are other considerations such as the possibility of being arrested and imprisoned, but it’s the immediate threat to life and limb that justifies your last-resort response. You must have exhausted all other options or deemed them unviable because whether you are the victor or the victim, the consequences are often life
altering in a negative way.
Lito Angeles is Black Belt’s 2022 Self-Defense Instructor of the Year.
This article originally appeared in a 2022 edition of Black Belt Magazine.