The Stages of Self-Defence

Posted: December 21, 2017 by urbantacticskravmaga in Krav Maga Principles
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Audio by Jonathan Fader

When people think of Krav Maga, or even self-defence in general, they often fail to understand the complex nature and progression of violent situations.  In the post on the use of force, a maze-like graph provides a visualization of how complex a situation can get from a second-to-second decision making perspective. Almost all violent attacks are because of a failure to be aware and avoid the situation. However, it is also possible that a situation, due to circumstances, was unavoidable, which means how we approach it will be fundamentally different.

There are two primary reasons that you were unable to foresee or avoid conflict.

  1. You were not paying attention and your awareness level was probably at white. (See post on Awareness Colour Code)
  2. The attacker had been planning it, and their tactics and approach were simply better.
Run away.jpg

While you may see variations of the model presented below, we offer a simplified version of the basic, four stages of progressing in a self-defence situation. Ideally, you should employ step one as often as possible, as you win 100% of fights you are not in.  Remember, however, that at any point you may find yourself in any one of the stages, which means you must respond appropriately and progress in order.

Avoidance (A)

If you do not put yourself in a situation where conflict is required then you will not have conflict in the first place. Avoidance can mean many things. It could mean you identify a threat and run away, or that you ensure, through wise choices, that you rarely encounter situations requiring conflict. Perhaps it means not walking in that dark alley, at night, alone. This seems like common sense, but many people routinely make poor decisions that naturally put them in situations more conducive to conflict. Perhaps avoidance means NOT going to a party hosted by a person who doesn’t like you, knowing conflict will result if you go. Maybe it is deciding to leave a coffee shop after noticing someone acting strangely, or simply making yourself aware of them so that you are prepared if they do something. In the avoidance stage, the threat may not even be aware of you as a target. Of course, we recognize that avoidance is not always possible and as such we move down the progression scale.

Expansion on this Stage:

De-escalation (D)

At this point in a conflict, the threat has actively identified you. This is the stage to which many first world countries like to advocate; the moment to “talk it out.” This is essentially the diplomacy stage. In Canada, 9 times out of 10 you can talk your way out of a potentially dangerous situation. (In some countries, however, if a threat has identified you, like it or not, you will have no choice but to run, or skip to step 3 and/or 4). If you can talk your way out of a conflict do so, at the very least, you should talk as a distraction while you find your exit and run; either way, you will remain on the defensive.  In this situation, you MUST be in semi-passive stance or something equivalent. Your hands MUST be up, non-aggressively, but ready to act should the threat decide talking is over and attack. If they attack first you will be jumping right to Reactive Self-defence. However, if in attempting de-escalation you assess, through observation of indicators, that they are becoming more and more aggressive, then we recommend you strike first, moving down the progression scale to a Preemptive Action strategy.

Expansion on this Stage:

Preemptive Self-defence (Preemptive Action (PE))

Sometimes the best defence is a good offence. This is a common saying that could not be truer in street self-defence scenarios. Because of the concept of action vs. reaction, it is always more beneficial to act first, as this means you will be one step ahead of the threat. We cannot tell you when or how to act first, as it is completely up to you to assess when it is required, but we can tell you that when you do strike you must strike hard, fast, and with retzef (relentless attacks meant to overwhelm).  You must attack with the goal to stop the threat. If at any point you feel the threat is neutralized, you must assess and either detain the individual or run to safety.

Expansion on this Stage:

Reactive Self-defence (Reactive Action (RE))

If you are reacting to defend yourself (rather than acting), it means something has gone wrong. It means you failed to use steps 1-3; either you have grossly misread the entire situation, or the tactics the threat is using are simply better than yours. Regardless of why, you are now reacting to defend yourself and stop the threat from doing you harm. This is where the explosive, aggressive aspects of Krav Maga come in. It is not good enough to simply block, you must block AND attack, using retzef to escape or stop the attacker from wishing to continue.

Expansion on this Stage:

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Comments
  1. […] See The Stages of Self Defense post for more details on the below […]

  2. […] reactions and work with them. Generally, we have a decision to make. If we are following the proper stages of Self defense, then we will choose Flight, as (A) Avoidance is the first choice when we have it and it is […]

  3. […] or Flight. This usually occurs when we were unable to or failed to practice steps one and two of the stages of self-defence. Whenever we are forced to fight either in PE or RA Self Defense, we must always do one of 3 three […]

  4. […] following the stages of self-defence, we may find our selfs unable to apply the first two stages and end up in either, A Pre-Emptive […]

  5. […] overall situation while still being able to attack your opponent if you need to.  If you need to pre-emptivley (PE) Strike, you should usually start from your long range as you properly assessed and kept your […]

  6. […] the stages of self defense the order is important as the earlier in the stages there is more time and more space for better […]

  7. […] the best self-defence is avoidance. Though Krav Maga teaches to fight with all you have, this is really meant for when running is not […]

  8. […] thing is, unless you are in such a situation (ideally avoided via the first two stages of self-defence), then being so aggressive that they die is going to result in dire consequences legally, […]

  9. […] There is a reason that the best self-defence is to not be there in the first place.  Because the more complex the situation, the more complex the decision making, then the more likely there will be an error in judgment.  Real life is messy, and mistakes happen, no matter how well you are prepared.  This is why, unless it is your job to engage, practice avoidance and de-escalation as a general lifestyle (See The Stages of Self-defence). […]

  10. […] you had the situation handled with one person, as you effectively deployed stage 2 self-defence (De-Escalation) and talked the person down, but then their friend showed up and their confidence […]

  11. […] Words do not always work, no matter how much we would like, so we must be prepared to continue our self-defence strategy. The same, however, can be said for violence; if it doesn’t initially work, we either need to […]

  12. […] A key thing to remember is that Techniques, in themselves, are the last step to any good Krav Maga or self defense approach. Before you have to actually use techniques, you should have practiced things like critical thinking and the stages of self-defence. […]

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