You’ve prepared ahead. You have your needed supplies in your bug-out or 72- hour bag. However, there are people who didn’t prepare, and they might not think twice about taking your gear by force. Unlike what you see in the movies or TV, an attack most likely won’t come at you head on, but rather from the back or from either of your blind sides. There are many simple steps you can take to not only be aware of surprise attacks from dangerous individuals, but also to learn quick and effective techniques to take them out of the fight permanently.


Be aware of your surroundings — that particular phrase has been constantly reiterated and reinforced throughout nearly every martial arts school, self-defense class, or children’s safety course for decades now, and with good reason. It’s absolutely true and it’s your first line of defense against surprise attacks. Too many people, especially in these modern days of portable electronics allow themselves to be distracted and ultimately become targets of those out to do them harm or forcibly take their belongings.

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Being aware of who is around you and within your eyesight and earshot is the first step. As you walk through a populated area, keep your head up high and constantly scan forward, as well as from side to side. This not only allows you to know what’s ahead, but also sends out a signal to those watching you that you are alert, aware, and are not going to be taken by surprise. Try to keep a large gap between you and any people walking behind you. Use your peripheral vision and ears to constantly observe over your shoulder and never allow anyone to quickly close the gap that you have created.

Moving through close-quarter environments, such as stairways or tight hallways, requires an additional level of awareness. Not only should you look upward (or downward) on a stairway for any signs of others, but also listen for footsteps or voices that can also alert you to their presence. Sound and echoes carry easily in a closed in area. Use them to your advantage.

When walking down hallways, be sure to stay as far away as possible from blind spots that would create a perfect ambush for an attacker and don’t let yourself become trapped in a hallway with no clear exit points. A bottleneck can trap you between two aggressive persons or groups where your chances of survival would become very slim.


During a survival situation, an impending attack could create two distinct scenarios. The first would involve someone forcibly trying to steal your supplies, literally right off your back. Your 72-hour bag is a prime target to those needing food and other supplies and your bug-out bag would be a very difficult treat for them to resist.

The second scenario would be a direct attack upon you. Good people can do bad things when hungry, hurt, and desperate for basic everyday needs that they are lacking from whatever nature or man threw at them.

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The simple fact is that people are all around you in the world. There will come a time during survival conditions when you will have to travel through large crowds. Your goal is to go unnoticed by others. Learn how to blend in, become invisible and avoid attracting unwanted attention with these six valuable tips.

  1. CLOTHING – Always try to choose outfits that blend with the clothing worn by the majority of the crowd. Avoid clothing colors that stand out from the norm. Avoid shirts or caps with stand-out slogans such as profanity, vulgarity, sexual overtones, or statements or company brands that are counter to the common mindset. Do not wear overly expensive or excessively dirty or worn-out apparel. Wear clothing that is appropriate for the environment you are in. Heavy jackets or vests in tropical or southern climates only raise suspicions. Dress similarly to those around you and you will soon become just another fish in the sea.
  1. LOCATION – Your physical location within the crowd is very important. Hanging too far out on the fringe of the group can draw unwanted attention to you. Instead, find a balance between staying within the crowd and still being able to flee or escape the area without much interference. Don’t position yourself in the corners of a room if indoors; this makes you stand out easily and can leave you with limited escape possibilities.
  1. COMMUNICATION – When you find yourself within a large group of people, speaking to another person may be inevitable. Again you need to find a balance between becoming too “chatty” and being observed as a stoic by speaking far too little. If asked a question, try to answer to the best of your ability and move on, without being abrupt. Don’t elaborate on topics and don’t reveal anything personal about yourself, no matter how trivial you may think it is. Avoiding a person’s question, or talking so loud that others can hear you will attract unwanted and unneeded eyes on you. If you have to resort to mis-information, be sure you can maintain credibility.
  1. BODY LANGUAGE – As with all these tips, maintaining a middle ground is key to becoming just another face in the crowd. In this case, don’t be overly outgoing or too introverted to others. This can only draw attention, and attention is what you definitely don’t want. Be confident but relaxed, maintain proper posture, return eye contact and smile if smiled at. Don’t appear nervous, lost, or disorientated. These are red flags to others that something with you is not right. Make sure your movement has a purpose; wandering around aimlessly can blow your cover instantly.
  1. ELECTRONIC DEVICES – Use your cell phone, MP3 player, or other portable devices to reduce your interaction with others and thus lessen your chances of being noticed or identified at a later time. People are far less likely to start a conversation with you while you have headphones in your ears. You don’t even have to have the device on. In fact, it’s best to keep if off so you can still hear everything that is going on around you. While sitting at a shop or park bench, a newspaper, magazine, or book works just as well. Just remember to turn the pages as one would be expected to.
  1. MIRROR OTHERS – This general idea combines all the previous tips into one package. Your main goal when trying to blend in is to mirror all the characteristics of the people around you. You want to duplicate their mannerisms, their outward appearance, their style of talking, their physical actions, and their overall emotional mentality. By accomplishing this you become one of them and far less likely to ever being viewed as an outsider. This is the backbone of how you hide in plain sight.

They won’t go through the trouble of fighting for your goods, they will instead directly assault you, strike hard and take your belongings from your injured or dying body lying on the street.

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No matter which of the two situations you may find yourself, the key to overcoming the initial attack is to use proper body movement and positioning to avoid the attack and allow you to effectively counter to end the threat quickly. In the case of your bag being the initial target, the attack would most likely come from your back or your side.

Avoid using strength to try to pull away. This action would only increase your opponent’s intent, aggression and determination to win the confrontation. Instead, simply pivot your body and turn into your attacker’s extended and occupied arms. With both his upper weapons (his arms) secured on your bag and you positioned in his blind side, you will now be able to strike at his face, break or hyperextend his extended arms or take him down with an easy-to-apply arm lock. The idea is to keep him close to you to end the conflict, not pushed away so he can return and continue his barrage.

A direct attack on your body is a bit different. Your attacker’s intent is to hit you hard (most likely on your skull) and run away with your valuable stuff. This attack can come at you from almost any angle, so it’s vitally important to be aware of your surroundings. Sidestep the attack, but again keep your aggressor as close to yourself as possible without being in range of a follow-up strike. Then, using bone breaks or strikes to his vital areas, disable him and quickly flee the scene before others come to his aid or before he recovers.


Pit strength versus strength and the stronger person usually wins. This unfortunate fact is why you need to rely on technique to overcome a bigger and stronger opponent. When faced with this scenario, you must strike fast and effectively at your attacker’s vital areas. The vital areas on any person include the bridge of the nose, the eyes, the throat, the fingers, and the groin, as well as the more subtle locations; the sciatic nerve, the inside area of the knees and the floating ribs. Manipulating these areas should affect the majority of people that you may come across. Those under the influence of drugs or alcohol may resist the pain you may inflict, so having a weapon in hand is also a must.


Striking into the soft tissue of the eyes temporarily blinds your attacker and allows you to escape. A crushing break to the nose causes your opponent’s eyes to tear while blood erupts from his face. This alone may send him running in pain and fear. A sciatic nerve strike can temporarily paralyze his leg rendering it useless and preventing him from standing upright. Keep in mind that these strikes are not knockout punches. They are used to continuously keep your attacker off balance and off his game so he (and his friends) can’t overcome you with sheer power or numbers. Finger breaks are quick and effective and require only about eight pounds of force to accomplish. A bone snap can cause shock, intense pain and most importantly, the inability of an attacker to use his hand and most likely his arm to continue the assault.


Evading an ambush by a single person is difficult enough, but what about a multiple attack? Two or more people working together to steal your goods pose a unique challenge for your self-defense abilities. This is where constant movement is an absolute must. Once you stop your motion, your attackers can overwhelm you and accomplish their initial task. You can’t fight one on one, and if you tried you wouldn’t last very long.

All it would take is for one of the attackers to forcibly grab you and within seconds his partners would completely overtake you. The fight would be over quickly and you would be on the losing end. Stay moving and strike quickly. Your goal is to escape at your first chance and run to safety. There is no room for egos when your life is at stake. Follow this advice and live to see another day.


An ambush can take even the most experienced person out of the game, but you don’t have to be a helpless victim. If you follow the basic principles of awareness, body movement and quick and effective striking, you can survive a cowardly blind-sided attack. It takes not only the knowledge of how to survive an attack, but also continuous physical practice under a multitude of scenarios to fully prepare you for an unpredictable future.


Just as you would stock supplies well before any disaster or survival situation may occur, training for personal self-defense should be on your routine long before you need to use it. Your first decision would be to decide what form of self-defense or martial art to begin studying. There are dozens upon dozens of martial art disciples as well as hundreds of independently created styles. Do your research. Watch many different varieties of classes and focus your attention mainly on their self-defense training. Do they incorporate weapons into their curriculum, both offensive and defensive? Do they deal with multiple attack situations? These are the scenarios that will most likely mirror your own situation if and when things go very bad in the world.

Once you have found a location that suits your needs…practice steadily. You will not gain any benefits from just “saying” you take self-defense classes. The results you achieve are a direct outcome of how much sweat and sometimes blood you spill in class. Once you feel comfortable and natural with the techniques that you have learned, apply them to “real life” scenarios during practice. Have your opponents attack you from different angles, from your blind or weaker side and adapt what you have learned to deal with these unique threats. Repetition is a must to transform generic martial art moves into a fluid and natural-to-perform repertoire of muscle memory and life-saving skills.



Don’t be easily distracted
  • Discreetly keep an eye on those around you
  • Are you being watched or followed?
  • Use your peripheral vision
  • Maintain active listening
  • Avoid bottleneck areas
  • Don’t expose your back
  • Avoid using strength to pull away
  • Pivot into your attacker
  • Strike hard at his extended arms
  • Sidestep an attack
  • Decrease the attacker’s range
Strike Vital Areas:
  • The bridge of the nose, eyes, throat, fingers, groin, sciatic nerve, inside area of the knees, and the floating ribs.
Maintain Control:
  • Keep moving
  • Strike quickly and efficiently
  • Escape at the first chance


Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the August 2015 print issue of American Survival Guide.

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