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How to Defend Against a Knife Attack with Nick Drossos

Assailants typically use their greater size and strength to close the distance, overpower and subdue their prey: pins, chokes, slapping and "stunning blows" are common tactics. In sexual attacks, women are often slammed or forced to the ground, barraged by vile language - another weapon in the predator's arsenal intended to break a woman "on the inside. Because women are typically smaller, to be effective - by that I mean escape and survive - she must be far more vicious and determined than her aggressor.

To escape a predator's clutches, she must unzip from her civilized skin and summon her primal instincts, bypassing potentially mind numbing what if's imposed by fear. But survival is hard wired; if you think the capacity for violence is a Guy thing, guess again: "When women disengage completely from their traditional role, they become more ruthless and savage than men," observed anthropologist Margaret Mead.

An ability he attributes to the interactive powers of our "paleomammalian brain" - which bequeaths women the mothering instinct - and the more primitive reptilian brain housing our innate fighting instincts. When threatened, he observed, women can display "a killer instinct far greater than any male. The need to call up the beast and go primal seems obvious enough.

Yet in many self defense classes this reality is overshadowed by a glut of easy-to-learn techniques, often taught by instructors with little "real world" experience. Underestimating the brutality of attacks, the degree of aggression necessary for women to prevail against a larger creature who has likely "done this" before breeds overconfidence. Body language, de-escalating, boundary setting and evasive skills are the first lines of defense, but they don't replace the need for violent counter measures nor address the necessity to overcome internal conflict or the fear of injury - common inner muggers that can create vacillation or put a choke-hold on a woman's ability to effectively counterattack.

To help women be combat-ready and survive real world attacks, the killer instinct must be unearthed and trained, combined with essential physical principles and an unfettered willingness to renegotiate with fear. Making Each Move Count There's more to being effective than hosing down a rapist with unbridled fury.

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Practical and powerfully executed techniques are important and can help determine the outcome. Key fighting principles include: remaining focused, not struggling against an assailant's strengths, and attacking vulnerable targets - such as the face, eyes, throat and neck, groin, knees and ribs or easily breakable bones such as the clavicle. Likewise, busting the hands or feet can disable or slow down an assailant, and bashing the ears can stun or wobble a would-be attacker, thus allowing you to unleash your Savage Beauty. When fighting back, go maximum yang: Don't poke, gouge.

Instead of striking the face slam and drive through your target with your whole body. Don't just kick, stomp that knee like a mule.

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Wield your body's natural weapons like power tools, striking hard, fast and repeatedly. Use weapons of opportunity: a stick, piping hot coffee, your heavy cast-iron pot cover, a pen or book thrust into the throat, even junk on the street and - voila! If lying down and pinned, you can use your hips to dislodge or heave a predator off your frame. While this usually requires training, I know of women who employed such moves instinctively, or with very little training.

To avoid being choked, cut or boxed about the face, position your legs in-between your body and your assailant's and use them like battering rams to vital regions. Women can also employ potentially devastating axe kicks, which can splinter bones or rupture organs. It's not a pretty picture but let's get real: that's the occupational hazard of being a rapist.

The voice is a powerful yet often overlooked weapon. Besides drawing attention to your plight, it fuels the body, prevents "freezing" and summons the fighting spirit. Love Those Hips!

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To deliver maximum and explosive whipping power, get your hips into your moves - lower your center of gravity and fight from your body, not just your body part. I liken the hips to a Cuisine Art motor that drives the slice-n-dice attachments. Unless it's turned on, there's no whip, chop or frappe! When powered by the hips, even satin smooth arms can morph into clubs, elbows into spears.

When delivering knee strikes, instead of contracting your stomach muscles, practice slinging your hips into your strikes, following through like a wrecking ball. The Spirit of Entering One of women's biggest challenges is learning to antidote the tendency to shrink or backpedal when confronted with danger. Instead, women must summon their will and move in, enlisting the "spirit of entering.

Your goal is to get inside his strike zone and attack like a junkyard bitch. Once you commit to violent counter strikes there's no turning back. While stun-n-runs are sometimes effective, be prepared to apply a continuous counterattack until it is safe or safer to open distance and flee. Is your car nearby or do you have miles to run? Use the environment whenever possible.

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If you're close in and latched on to your attacker, take control: you may be able to spin him around or drive him back into a wall, car or other hard object while unloading rapid fire knee or elbow strikes. If your body is unified, you can also slam him to the ground or as I prefer to say, hit him with the planet. Proper Timing and Explosiveness Counts!

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The element of surprise - going from 0 to percent, rag doll to ballistic - is one of the crown jewels of techniques. Few criminals expect a woman to launch a ferocious counterattack. This isn't always possible in an ambush, but many assaults against women involve phases and windows of opportunity that can be exploited. Get his hands on you then explode I teach my students in simulated rape scenarios. The concept is simple: if an attacker is pinning or controlling your arms versus immediately striking, coil up inside, spring loading like a snake, but without telegraphing your intent.

The instant he goes to strike or shifts his hands onto your body, go ballistic by that I mean like a bullet, supremely directed; not like a firecracker discharging all over the place and attack the eyes, throat or other vulnerable targets of the face, or deliver smashing "ear claps" ideally combined with bucking or heave-off techniques.

Many women have also used bait-n-switch strategies to convince their attackers to put down a weapon or to change positions to better launch their attack. A colleague's student asked her would-be rapist to allow her to get on "all fours. He obliged! Once outside, babe in arms, she successfully made a beeline for her back door. Women must not only hunt for, but also learn to create openings: at the first sight of a rope, duct tape or the intent to tie you up, or if you're being forced into a vehicle or a second location, it's time to "go off.

Something inside exploded. My fear turned to rage.

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These commonly expressed sentiments from female assault survivors fly in the face of traditional warrior training which touts the need to control one's mind, one's fear and seeks to cultivate a dispassionate mindset - free from the sway of emotion. But there is nothing dispassionate about these fighting women's words or the heated experiences they reflect.

When a situation calls for fighting back, you need to turn up the heat, and become - how shall I put this? It is absolutely true that one's cognitive, rational mind must be present to assess and strategize and that intense emotion, like the rush of adrenaline, can hijack body and mind or create knee-jerk reactivity. But women, by and large, are less prone to or conditioned by a "make-em-pay" attitude or accompanying fear of losing face that can cloud a man's judgment or prolong a "contest.

Training to stay calm and not lose control gets tricky for a female who is likely more vulnerable to intimidation and the paralyzing effects of control and fear. Her survival may depend on being plugged into her emotional body - a hothouse of energies that fuel and fund her counterattack. Terror is an equally compelling emotion. When it comes to rape, there's no mincing the truth: being slammed down and pinned by a larger, pumped up creature intent on raping or ravaging you will, at least initially, evoke animal-like terror and can quickly can suck the life force right out of one's body. No amount of warrior-within affirmations is going to change that or banish fear. Fear does not respond to, nor is it abated by, trickery - it is a deeper more purposeful emotion, ordained by Mother Nature.

To effectively fend off a rapist you must prioritize. The decision to not be raped, to escape and survive, must supersede all other concerns including the fear of injury - the biggest obstacle to fighting back.


You will believe all the criminal's promises and never notice fleeting opportunities. A rapist can hold a woman hostage with her very own fears, and will effectively use a woman's terror to gain compliance and render her powerless - "bought and paid for," attests Strong. Therefore, being effective in self defense means renegotiating with fear. Instead of succumbing to fear we need to use it as a weapon and harness its powers. Instead of being fearless which is impossible and dangerous , learn to become fearsome. Sensations of fear and terror must become the trigger that catapults women into action; enabling us to turn the rapist's own weapons of intimidation - the vehemence of his words and actions - back onto him in a merciless counterattack I call "return to sender.

I have witnessed this countless times in scenario-based teaching, and experienced it myself when I was assaulted and struck back: The moment fear combusts into rage is precisely when many claim and unleash their greatest strength; it summons life forces, breaking through layers of shock or psychic numbing that might otherwise petrify or tamp down the fighting spirit. There is utility in its ire, without which a woman may be rendered powerless.