Bruce Lee vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, "Game of Death"

(1) Can you run away? THEN RUN THE HELL AWAY.

(2) If you can’t straight-out run away – run the hell away – it is good to try and pacify the fight before it begins.

If your attacker wants your money or your car, give them to him. Most muggers will run off when they get what they want. If your attacker wants you to come with him, now we’re in a different situation. Moving to a different location is 100% bad for you 100% of the time.

Pacifying is really important. Try to avoid violence if you can, especially because I’m assuming in these rules that you’re like me: tiny and not all that strong. Do what can get you out of the situation within reason. Just give the guy your phone. You can get another one.

(3) Know what distance means and how to use it.

For someone my size, I’m at an immense disadvantage because my attacker more than likely has a greater reach than I do. He can strike me when I’m not at a distance to strike him. So, for me, I have to understand that I’m going to want to get out of the way or close to a distance where I’m at an advantage. Kicks are great, and they always have better reach than an arm. For someone like me, however, my kicks are not necessarily the best or easiest. Things like offensive or defensive front kicks are devastating, but require a great deal of reach from me that puts me at odd angles because of my height. Let’s put it this way: I can knock the wind out of a girl by kicking her in the abdomen without much stress on my part. To kick a 6-foot-tall man in the abdomen, I really have to flex my leg up to even reach him.

I can punch or palm strike the face, neck, or below the ribs. I can kick the groin or kick a knee. These last two are really devastating if done well, and do not require long distances to be effective. A groin strike causes immense pain, and knees are extremely weak joints. Knees are so weak that we can barely practice strikes to them at all – we practice by kicking at thighs instead. Both kicks can be done with speed, so if I do it right he won’t even see it before I’ve blown his knee out.

For someone my height, I’m at something of an advantage in medium-to-short range. I can close in on my attacker and execute wicked combatives with comfort whereas he has to struggle to reach me effectively – I’m too close and low for him to punch with ease. He’s out of his comfort zone unless he wants to grapple, while I’m still in mine.

(4) Be aggressive. Ridiculously aggressive.

The bad guy picked you because you look like a weakling. If a bad guy picks me, it’s definitely because I look like a weakling. According to my instructors, one of the most important qualities of my response is my aggression. If someone sneaks up on me and chokes me, I have to answer immediately and viciously, and I can’t stop until I get away. The director of our outreach program, who works mostly with women, cannot stop talking about being aggressive. Most women, when attacked, fold up like lawn chairs. Resisting for 10 continuous seconds is enough in many cases to force your attacker to think twice and run.

It’s hard for me to be physically aggressive. I’ll admit it. Especially when I’m up against a guy – that screws me up all kinds of awful. I’ve seen it on the face of every woman I know at Krav Maga when they first start. It’s hard to work through. It just is.

(5) It’s not about strength. It’s about technical proficiency.

This is less helpful for people who aren’t trained. In my case, anyway, I have to execute all of my strikes, defenses, and take-aways with extreme accuracy. Why? Because there’s no way on earth I can out-muscle my attacker. I have to neutralize his strength by being more technically proficient. Big guys can get away with all kinds of sloppy technique. I see it all the time. Me? That always ends badly.

(6) Spider monkey.

In Krav Maga, they try to teach us how to get out of situations effectively and with the least effort possible. They also teach us how to deal with it if we screw up. If you’re attacked, you’re going to be scared out of your mind. Adrenaline will flood your veins, which will make you stronger and dumber. Thinking clearly is not going to happen. So our instructors build instincts, so that when we react we have a set of tools that are literally part of our muscle memory. One of the most important instincts for the short person is being a spider monkey – once you have an advantage, don’t let go and don’t stop. It’ll be messy and it’ll be hard and you won’t do it right, but for God’s sake just go with it. Spider-monkeys are agile creatures, and they know there is more than one way to climb a tree. And one thing is always certain: letting go, stopping, always results in falling.

Be mean. Your opponent’s head will ring if you strike him open-handed on the ear, or scream into it. Claw faces, because that hurts like hell. Strike at the neck, which people don’t think to protect as much as they should. A nerve runs along either side of the neck, called the “brachial nerve.” If you hit it hard, the whole side of his body will go numb for a few moments. Something called the “IT Band” runs right along the side of the thigh. Drive your knee into it and pain will shoot up your attacker’s body. It’s easy to reach, and no one protects it.

Don’t stop. If I miss, I strike again. If he breaks through my defense, I wiggle into another one. If he keeps coming, I keep hitting. And when he’s down, I run. Run the hell away.