How to Survive a Physical Attack: Tips from a Top UFC Trainer for Escaping and Attacking

What would you do if you had a 250-lb. football player on top of you?

Most women would be raped, and most men would be beaten unconscious.

In both cases, you end up on the ground and must first try and establish what’s called the “guard” position — your legs locked around your attacker’s mid-section, which allows you to better control distance. Most self-defense courses will only train you enrage your attacker, ensuring a worse ending.

Here are two ring-tested approaches that just plain work for saving your ass:

Want to see some of these moves in real life? Check out UFC 75 tonight for free at 9pm ET/PT on Spike TV. Not for the faint of heart but a good tutorial in what actually works. Be safe!

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29 Replies to “How to Survive a Physical Attack: Tips from a Top UFC Trainer for Escaping and Attacking”

  1. How do you defend against strikes to the groin and midsection? Those seem more obvious attack points in those positions, especially when you are covering your head with your forearms. The second “twister” technique also exposes your kidneys, which having been punched in the kidneys I know how painful and disabling that is.

  2. Tim

    Right on brother – good stuff.

    I always wanted to get into “shootfighting” (this is what it was called when you and I were kids)

    It really “hit” me after being attacked by a good 8 – 10 guys and realizing that my wrestling background did little good

    Hitting double leg takedowns in a parking lot worked against me, and, realizing that being on top of my “opponent” only lasted for about 3 seconds – 1 on 1 is a rarity in the streets nowadays – I was too naive to even think such a thing though

    There’ a gentleman who teaches reality based fighting and man is he amazing, it’s NO BS and he’s actually been doing it since he was in the Israeli spec ops in the 60’s and 70’s – he still teaches their elite units every month

    He is a true reality based instructor teaching what really works, as you know, there are infinite numbers of people who claim to do this – this guys stuff is amazing – he blends his jiu jitsu, judo, mma and military background into one simple, yet highly effective method

    I don’t want to post links on your blog bro, but if you want me to pass on the info let me know bruddah, e mail or however you prefer

    I’ll be watching UFC tonight as you will 🙂

    Have a good one bruddah and please let me know when I can sneak onto Princeton’s campus as a “student” for the day 🙂 ha ha



  3. Good stuff. One question I have: In a real-life fighting situation, how do you get your legs around the waist of the attacker (this is how your scenario in the video starts out)? When an attacker gets you on the ground he will most likely be straddling you (unless it’s a rape attempt, in which case the position shown seems probable)…in which case I’m not sure how one would get their legs out to begin any of the moves you’ve shown us.

    Other than that one quesiton, very helpful stuff. Thanks!


  4. Pretty interesting. But how about the position where the attacker is not between your legs, but sitting on top of your stomach/chest?

  5. I am learning SO much by watching these little videos. Could you show what happens when you are on the ground FACE DOWN with a big football player guy on you?

    Many women are attacked from behind as they walk down the street (or dark alley on a dark and stormy night).


  6. Hey Tim,

    Just watched Rampage do his thing!

    I’m enjoying these video posts. If you’ve not checked out Kettlebell training yet you really should. I’m training with a number of fighters here in Edinburgh and KBs have become the strength endurance conditioning tool of choice. Serious effort required for short brutal workouts but the results are incredible.



  7. Wow! Great tips.

    I don’t like the idea of learning grappling or ground techniques only such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu only, but I would like to learn it as a secondary thing. Because I’ve always been interested mainly in learning how to fight. But great tips!

    Take Care


  8. maby Tim will have an answer, but from watching alot of MMA fighting, once some one has your back, your in a very bad place unless you are very well trained. Even for the pros, once some one gets their back its a very bad place to be, especially if they have you face down. At that point they are pretty much free do control you as they want. And with a fairly simple positioning of their legs inside of yours, they can prevent you from being able to get up or turn either.

  9. Nice stuff Tim,

    I’m planning on studying a fighting art, but was orginally considering Krav Maga, or Russian Martial Arts.

    I don’t think I’ll make this a long term hobby, but I would like to increase my skill in this area.

    What would you recommend, or anyone else?


  10. To answer a few of your questions:

    @Bob Smith: No doubt that groin and midsection strikes could be effective, but if an attacker takes the time to attack either of these two spots, it most likely will give you a better chance to use the escape/retreat technique shown in the first video. Most trained and untrained attackers strike to the head when on the ground, and with the positioning, they have a very good chance of injuring or knocking you out (as Tim put so eloquently, “Pain can be overcome, unconsciousness cannot”) so the technique is focused on protecting your most endangered asset. But this is a fight, you’re gonna get hit — it’s about escaping and surviving.

    @Matt, Mark, and Sijmen: Establishing your “guard” is something that comes with training. As you get tackled, thrown, or taken down, you learn to instinctively pull your legs up and lock your ankles. If an attacker ends up sitting on your chest (called the “mount” position), there are various ways to protect yourself, slip to your guard position, or even ways to reverse the position so you’re sitting in their guard (Try searching for “mount escape” on youtube for demos).

    @Jacki: Mike’s right, it’s not a position you want to be in. Besides simply scrambling out, your main objective would be to get to a better position, such as the guard, where you would have more maneuverability in order to escape. I’d suggest taking some jiu-jitsu, although there are some wrestling moves that cover this as well.

    While these are great self defense instructionals, they need to be trained and practiced before ever becoming useful. It’s kinda like driving, as many videos you watch, you gotta be in the driver’s seat before you really learn.

    Hope I didn’t step on your toes, Tim, just trying to answer what I could. Just bought the book, but have been eyeing it for a while, staying tuned into the blog, and loving it all, thanks for all the good reads!

  11. These vids are great, and I think they are sophisticated enough to make people realize that none of this is of much value unless you train on it regularly. I’ve been taking Tae Kwon Do for about a month now and it has made me much more energetic and confident, but also very humble about my abilities when faced with a trained opponent, or even an untrained one who might be able to obtain any advantage such as surprise.

    I am glad to see the blog moving beyond the scope of the 4HWW text, and I look forward to new directions.

  12. I tried both of these moves in the videos with my husband as the “attacker”. (He is also in the military and has completed training as an unarmed combat instructor). While both videos have taught me new techniques, I am STILL not strong enough or fast enough to prevent my pants from being taken off by someone who was quite determined. Of course I didn’t actually kick my husband in the face either. I also think that tickling is cheating…but what can you do when you’re married???

  13. Hey Tim.

    This would work for you or someone else who has the time to train these moves into his nervous system.

    Everyone else with no training? Probably not. It’s better than nothing though — so I commend you on this.

    What does work?

    Focusing on one primary objective with disregard to techniques: causing as much injury as possible to vulnerable target areas of the human body that cause a spinal reflex.

    — Caleb

  14. I agree with Tim’s earlier post that fight avoidance is best. I don’t go to nightclubs where thugish people hang out, I go to friendly neighborhood bars where I know most of the people.

    Also, go with a group of people, not by yourself.

    Be prepared to run! Cut down on the donuts and ho-hos, and run a couple times per week to get in shape. Sometimes when I don’t take my own advice and am walking by myself late at night, and I see someone suspicious following me, I’ll wait ’til I get around a corner, and then sprint a block or two when I’m out of sight. It would be dumb to start running where they can see you, because that’ll just make them want to chase you. (Or laugh at the paranoid freak)

    Also I learned not to wear “bling”. I once got into an altercation with 2 guys over a gold chain I had and they wanted. I took one open handed hit to the ear, and then I sprinted away. They were not fast enough to catch me. So I kept my gold chain and my ear only rang for a couple days. I have not worn the chain since.

    Here’s another one: minimize distractions. No ipods! It’s trivial to sneak up on someone jamming to their mp3 player. Chatting and texting on cell phones is another distraction.

    Tim had a good post a couple months ago about fight-avoidance from his days as a bouncer. It’s pretty good.

  15. Looks like I’m not as computer literate as I thought. I can’t seem to find the links to the video clips.

    As for a response to Matt and Sijmen’s questions… I would think if you flicked/thrust your hips up using your legs you could throw them off balance or over your head? I don’t know… just something I learned in a women’s self defense class. Again… this was against other women so I don’t know if it would work with a 250 lbs football player.

    Really interested in the clips if you can guide me on how to get to them. Don’t have TV at home so couldn’t watch UFC 75.

  16. Want to learn how to protect self in real life situations that may be in a confined space, against an armed assailant, or when there is an innocent bystander whom could get caught in the cross-fire? Learn Krav Maga. People of various ages and fitness levels can do it. It’s the training system for the Israeli military and police across North America.

  17. Pingback: Survival Today
  18. Tim I am a speech language pathologist and know something about language acquisition, both primary and secondary language acquisition. Your comments about learning a second language are very intriguing. However, you never completed your series of pertinent articles on acquiring a second language on this website. Since my niece is planning to spend next year in Spain and desires to learn the language before she goes. What would you suggest? Will you complete the series of language learning articles on your website or should I look else ware. And where would that be. I don’t expect something for nothing but would like the best guidance for my niece who has some mild learning disabilities but is quite bright and very disciplined and hard working.


    Hi Bill!

    To start, I highly recommend the following for Spanish:

    The “Living Languages” set of textbooks, available at most bookstores with CDs flashcards

    A Casio Spanish-English electronic dictionary, if you can find one

    If she learned the content of the first two, she will be conversing fluently in most daily conversation. Good luck!


  19. I just wanted to comment on the story about living the bible out literally. I think the author missed the point entirely. The Bible, both new and old testament point to one thing and one thing only. Forgiveness by Jesus Christ.

    While I agree with what he said about the whole “fake it till you make it” philosophy (mainly that what you do or think does change you…which is why what you put in front of your eyes and ears is REALLY important)… But the thing that truly and deeply changes a person at thier very core is the understanding that they have been forgiven and that forgivness has taken care of any sin they might make in the future (please don’t go to the argument about the murderer who continues to murder after being born again as the bible says one who acts this way can be seriously questioned as to wether or not they even believe in Jesus).

    People who follow the rules of the bible as a means to enter heaven end up either self-righteous becuase they feel better than the next guy, or defeated and worthless becuase they feel worse than the next guy. It leads to a “comparitive” life which does not bring peace in any way.

    If you contemplate on the fact that One who never sinned and was under no obligation to help you, took the punishment that you deserve and that becuase HE took the punishment YOU get to enter heaven….if you contemplate that and believe Jesus when He said He was God the Son and died for you…. that will in fact change you without you even trying. Grace through faith in Jesus Christ being who He said He was, that is what changes a human being.

  20. Just for your readers:

    I contacted BrickWorks and You Man in India and both of those companies told me that did not take job that I asked them to. Here is the job I asked them to do:

    Call a llst of website owners I supplied (my competitors customers) and ask them the following 4 questions;

    1. How did you hear of the company that created your web site?

    2. Why did you choose them to created your web site?

    3. Why did you NOT choose some of the others that bid for the job to create your web site?

    4. What is the best business decision you ever made?

    I thouht it was a simple request, almost admin type, though it is definitely market research.

    So I am now trying Elance… But I thought your readers might like to know that ever since your book came out praising those companies, they are now “too busy” to handle certain tasks.


    Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for the comment. They are busy these days. That said, I also suspect that they declined this task due to their limited English in some departments. I would definitely recommend using Elance or finding a native for anything language-intensive, especially via phone.

    Good luck!


  21. Camarillo is a very strong grappling coach. Does an amazing job of combining BJJ and Judo together and applying them to MMA and the streets.