6 Common Self-Defense Mistakes

“Win or lose, you always learn.” This quote has been used by coaches and martial arts practitioners in various iterations, and true to some degree. No one will forget the feeling of getting choked out for the first time or what actions, in training, lead to getting struck, thrust, or shot.

These experiences are great teachers. The wise fighter will catalog them to avoid them in the future. Sometimes, though, losing means losing it all. Some fight mistakes aren’t learning experiences — dying doesn’t afford someone a second chance to try again. What follows are common mistakes that have killed some but taught many.

Avoid these mistakes to survive a street fight. 


Running assumes your path won’t be blocked. Chain-link fences, locked doors, and tripping hazards can all impede your path and escape.

This is sound in theory. But reality isn’t always so kind. This assumption fails to take into account how real-life obstacles can slow or even stop the flight to safety. Uneven ground can trip you up. Loose gravel will prevent traction. And steep inclines, locked doors, and walls can slow or completely halt your escape.

These are merely the non-human factors affecting the “run defense.” How about the two-legged threat?

The attacker may be faster, have better endurance, or may be working with others. You might be baited into an ambush. The idea of fleeing assumes the end destination will be safer than the present location.

This pertains to a grander bug-out scenario, as well. Running is an option, but it isn’t a foolproof option. One should be ready to run, but also be willing to stand and fight.


When seconds count, the police are minutes away. What happens when a touch screen can’t be unlocked? Or if the call doesn’t connect?

Calling for help is effective if there’s help within earshot and they’re quicker to respond than the attacker is able to inflict harm. If this sounds unreasonable, it’s because it is.

In a small town, with a population of only a few thousand, there may be only a few police officers. In some cases there might be non. Yelling or screaming is ineffective at best, considering an unamplified human voice doesn’t travel far and there may not be anyone within hearing distance to recognize it and respond.

In this our Lagos, there might be dozens or even hundreds of officers on duty, but the chances of them reaching you in seconds are next to nil. Assuming you can reach your smartphone, this call will last as long as it takes to unlock the touch screen, enter the RRS emergency number, wait for the dispatch to pick up, alert nearby authorities, and then however long it takes for officers to go from where they are to the scene of the emergency. This, of course, presupposes you have strong mobile phone service.

For these reasons, rape whistles, mobile phones, and personal alarms are not effective means of defense.

Consider this factor as well: Crowded streets are filled with idiots that are less likely to intervene than to whip out their smartphone cameras to record what they think will be the next viral video. When a fatal attack takes seconds, help is minutes away.


In a street fight, there are no rules. This includes staying out of the optimal range of their weapon. Understand the “sweet spot” of a long-range weapon and the timing of when to close the reactionary gap.

Biting, thumb rakes, groin strikes, small-joint manipulation — these moves normally aren’t allowed in training sessions for their damaging and unsporting nature. These and other unorthodox moves aren’t considered fair. They also don’t win friends in the gym or on the mat.

However, they’re moves that can be used if the opportunity presents itself and the situation dictates them on the street. Sadly, not incorporating these moves into training creates a negative installation of habit. These moves aren’t repped in practice and, therefore, not likely remembered when they’re needed. When they are considered, the momentary hesitation may be all the time necessary for a thug to get the best of a situation.

There is no expectation of chivalry on the street. In a life-and-death situation, you don’t need to treat an opponent with any respect.


Mixed martial arts are fantastic for the Octagon, but do little to recognize weapons and their ability to be drawn at any time in a fight. Train for realistic scenarios where ring rules don’t apply.

Weapons-based training is vital for survival in the streets. Since weapons stack the odds of success heavily on the side of the armed combatant, training in only striking and grappling severely handicaps a warrior. Combat occurs at all ranges, from grappling to projectile range, and a weapon can be introduced during a fight at any time. There’s no such thing as just a knife fight, a gunfight, or fistfight. There’s only fighting, and the stakes are very high as any fight can be life threatening.


Without scanning, it’s possible to miss the changing conditions, such as additional threats, the presence of friendlies, the introduction of weapons, or reasons to break contact and find cover. Scanning is a process of collecting information in a fight, and with each second, countless variables change. Failing to scan means being locked in a moment. Even in a brief altercation, that moment is a lifetime.

Practice scanning before, during, and after a fight. At the range, after each course of fire, a thorough perimeter scan should be built in. Similarly, one should learn to identify the voices of coworkers, teammates, friends, and family to differentiate their commands from those of others.


Always be the first person to call the police. Don’t become the “attacker, wild man” or someone passersby would describe as the aggressor. Tell authorities your description and what happened before they show up.

For many martial arts/combatives practitioners, the vision of the fight they’re preparing for ends with them victorious after employing some form of striking, choking, cutting, or shooting. But that’s actually just the start.

When the authorities arrive, the real fight begins. In general, the first person to call the police will be treated far differently than the person with the second story of what just happened. If and when lethal force is used, a demand should be made for a medical evaluation, and no statement should be given until it’s determined the survivor isn’t in shock. One should expect an investigation and even a lawsuit to follow any defensive/offensive action.

You should prepare far in advance should things go south and you’re the one who’s handcuffed. Like a fire drill or a hurricane response plan, you should have a plan for a worst-case self-defense scenario — this includes having a trusted contact who can call your lawyer and relatives.


Don’t make the additional mistake of trusting questionable knowledge or not heeding these six (6) tips. Don’t make the mistake of relying on luck either. The wise fighter will learn from others, catalog his mistakes, and run the mental reps so he won’t make the same fight mistakes as those who came before him.





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