It’s a simple fact that many people will encounter armed violence in their lives. Frequently, after giving a short self defense demo of an hour or so, a participant will ask, “what do I do if the guy has a gun or a knife”. Unfortunately, dealing skillfully with an armed assailant is not something easily taught in an hour session, or in a 5 minute Q&A at the end of such a session. So, what’s the best possible advice that I can give to beginners for dealing with an armed attack? Read on…

The specific style of Ketsugo Jujutsu we teach originates with Peter Freedman sensei, who was a pioneer in teaching self defense concepts and principles. Anything you could do, wanted to do, or needed to defend against involved at least one concept and one principle.

The concept, is simply an idea. You can’t visualize it – it’s abstract. The two concepts I want to explain for surviving and armed assault are: 1. create distance, and 2. seek cover. A principle is then the working science that makes the concept work. Frequently we use technique as a method of displaying the concepts and principles.

First the concept of creating distance. The basic idea here is that all weapons, knives, guns, empty hands, etc. have an effective range. Weapons lose effectiveness as a target moves beyond the effective range. Moving targets are also much harder to hit with a weapon.

Keeping this concept in mind opens up a number of possible tactics. Running away from a threat is a great option, one that I recommend if possible. There are circumstances where running away is not possible, so what are some other ways in which distance can be created? Pushing an assailant away is another. Knocking an assailant to the ground – yet another if possible.

Some people have suggested running in a zig zag motion to throw off someone with a gun. I believe that would only slow you down and increase the likelihood that you trip and fall. A better option is to run for the closest hard cover – this brings us to the second concept.

Seek cover – also known as shielding. The principles behind seeking cover are shielding or creating barriers between the weapon and your body. Weapons lose power with each surface they must penetrate. Bullets refract on every surface they strike, so cover can reduce accuracy.  Also, cover may keep your opponent from seeing you and effectively targeting you.

When a weapon comes into play look for the nearest hard cover and get ready to run for it. By hard cover, we usually mean some kind of structure, door, car etc. Many firearms are powerful enough to pierce car doors, tables, steel mailboxes, and the interior walls of most houses. However, some protection is better than no protection at all.

Stay low but mobile behind cover, look for the next place to run to should your assailant pursue you.

If hard cover is not available, look to place anything you can between yourself and your assailant and make distance. Let’s say, for example, you were assaulted in an elevator. Put whatever you are carrying or whatever you can get your hands on between you and the assailant. If a struggle ensues, move as much as possible – circle around the person as much as possible – his own body then becomes your cover, his need to turn to face you is your distance. You are buying time and looking for the opportunity to escape.

If there is no way to escape or cover, and you are being assaulted with a weapon, you have a couple of choices.

1. Give the person what they want. In the case of a simple mugging, handing over a wallet or purse to save your life is a good idea. Never, ever, under any circumstances allow someone to take you to a second location, tie you up, or get you into a vehicle – your chances of survival drop significantly if you do

2. Attack. Use both hands to grab the weapon arm (not the weapon) and do your best to control the hand (not the wrist). Attack with everything else you have – kick, headbutt, bite, scream, hip check, stomp on the feet etc.

Again, the main goal of self defense is to seek escape.

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