Top 5 Unarmed Self-Defense Principles

You are a family man. You work at least 40 hours per week. You have children to take care of, a yard or small garden to tend, and in your spare time, you read articles such as this one in hopes of finding valuable information for you and your loved ones.

If you fit this image, you are like the majority of modern survivalists in America. You see the rise in our nation’s crime rate and the proliferation of lawless activities in your own neighborhood. Perhaps you have purchased an electronic home security system as well as a family dog and shotgun in order to ward off possible intruders.

Good for you!

But what of the risk to you and your family outside of the home?

Unarmed Self-Defense becomes a must

You know that it is both illegal and most often impractical for you, your wife, and your children to brandish weapons during your daily out-of-house activities. By the same token, you become frustrated once you learn how much time and money it takes to become proficient in a traditional martial arts system. Be dismayed no longer. There is an answer to your dilemma.

I have been involved with martial arts for more than 12 years. From this experience, I have discovered five principles that are present in every winning fighter I have watched. In this article, I will explain these principles and make some suggestions about how to incorporate them into a practical and affordable home training program. But before we proceed, I would first like to put the study of these principles into their proper survival context.

Since we will be talking specifically about hand-to-hand combat (as opposed to combat involving weapons), you should first remember that this form of fighting, no matter how proficient you become, is not a cure-all that can ensure survival in every hostile confrontation.

Unarmed Self Defense Principles

At best, empty-hand fighting should be your last line of defense. Diplomacy is always a better way out of a fight. However, if your ability to palaver fails, to run away from a dangerous situation hurts nothing but your pride. If both fast-talking and fast feet are impractical options, keeping distance between an aggressor and yourself can help to diffuse an explosive situation as well as provide a buffer zone in case a weapon should be drawn.

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Only if a situation deteriorates completely and there is no means of escape would I advise using a makeshift weapon. Defensive weapons can be found almost anywhere if you know what to look for. I would always prefer to use a stick as a staff, a trash can lid as a shield, or “power-throw” an object before I try to become a Billy Jack.

It is only when my creativity has reached its end that I would rely upon my personal empty-hand combat training. Now, should you ever find yourself in this kind of extreme situation, the following five principles will greatly enhance your ability to survive.

Unarmed Self-Defense Principle #1 – Getting Rid of Butterflies:

There is literally no “secret” move or special combat technique that can replace the conquest of personal fear. I have seen many students go from dojo to dojo in search of that one “new” movement, which will baffle their sparring partners and defeat their enemies.

What most of these temporary students really need to overcome is their own inner fear of getting hit. The first principle every street survivor must learn, then, is to “get rid of the butterflies” in his/her stomach before the fight begins.

When you know how to take a punch, and when you know how much force your body can absorb or repel without injury, the initial seconds before a fight begins are less emotionally taxing. You can concentrate more upon the task at hand and dwell less upon unsettling visions of personal pain.

To toughen the body (the stomach in particular) is a four-fold process.

First, begin every morning with a regimen of sit-ups and leg lifts. Do not forget the leg lifts. They will prevent the potential of lower back injury when practicing the other phases.

In the second phase, begin to strike your stomach gently with your forearms. This step requires patience. You do not want to bruise your muscles or internal organs by becoming too anxious. By the end of six weeks, with slow, systematic increases in force, you should be able to strike your stomach with your fists relatively hard. In time you will be able to strike your solar plexus without much discomfort. When striking, remember to tighten your muscles and meet your strikes with your stomach. Let your strike bounce off your stomach as if it were a big base drum.

In the third phase, recruit a partner and play “medicine ball” with them. Do hits by facing each other and simultaneously exchanging stomach punches. Be sure to go slowly and progress within the limits of your partner’s ability. Good training partners are hard to find, so lay down some courteous ground rules before entering this phase. You will know when you are ready for the last phase.

When the time comes, ask exceptionally large relatives and friends to strike you in the stomach with half strength. If you successfully repel the strike, request a full-force strike from them. Your confidence will grow by strides when you discover that large muscular macho-types cannot penetrate your newly-acquired “iron vest.”

Unarmed Self-Defense Principle #2 – Trust Your Weapons:

Trust Your Weapons

The second principle you must master in order to become proficient in hand-to-hand combat has to do with your ability to hurt your opponent. You must discover exactly how much damage your natural weapons can inflict if you are going to learn to trust them.

A weapon can be any part of your body that strikes your opponent. I have personally used forearms, shoulders, hips, and my forehead, as well as my fists, elbows, feet, and knees.

The first phase of learning to trust your weapons has to do with the conditioning of them so that they do not become damaged when you use them with full force. Because of the brevity of this article, we will concentrate mainly upon the conditioning of the hands.

Some form of bag-work is essential for the conditioning of your hands. Punching a bag toughens the skin on your hands as well as develops the physics and timing of your punch. Your bones learn to line up properly so that your wrist does not collapse upon impact.

Your body also becomes aware of its positioning so that maximum impact can be executed. Along with consistent bag-work, I suggest you practice what martial artists call “Iron Palm” training. There are many ways to develop an iron palm. Some are more dangerous than others, and some have better results. I believe that the safest way to develop an iron palm does not necessarily produce the best results. Nevertheless, the system is safe and consistently produces a powerful fist.

The iron palm system takes about six months to perform and can be repeated as long as you take periodic rests.

Recommended reading:  Aging Preppers and Martial Arts – 6 Powerful Strikes To Learn

First, fill your bathtub with about eight to 10 inches of warm to hot water. Place a cinderblock in the water and put a wet folded towel on top of it. Kneel down in the water and drop your hand on the towel with a back-hand slap, a hammer fist, and a front-hand slap. Do this with both hands about ten times per session or until you feel them pulsating.

Do not strike hard in the beginning. Keep your arm relaxed and keep plenty of water in the towel. Too much force too soon can do great damage to both your hands and your internal organs. If you develop a chronic bruise, lay off until it heals.

When you have completed the strikes, rub your hands with some form of bone-bruise medicine. You can normally find these kind of medicines advertised on karate and hand-to-hand combat-related websites and magazines or have a qualified herbalist concoct a good one for you. When used together, the hand strikes and medicine make your fists firm without the deformities common to many martial artists.

Train your forearms and shins by lightly tapping a stick on them or by rolling a soft drink bottle over them. Bone bruise medicine works well on these areas also. Do not put any medicine on the forehead, the back of the neck, the stomach, or attempt to take it internally. Finally, test your weapons with various breakable objects. Styrofoam, wood, and watermelons are good specimens.

Once you know the value of each of your weapons, a “personal fighting style” will begin to emerge, and your confidence will continue to grow.

Unarmed Self-Defense Principle #3 – Danger-Go

Danger Go

The third principle I would like to describe is called “Danger-Go!”

By using this phase, I am trying to correct the most common error students of the martial arts make. In a fight, you must rarely (if ever) step backward when an opponent initiates an attack. Not only does the practice of backing up give you a “retreat” mentality, but it also gives your opponent a second chance to hit you.

His forward motion is much faster and has more momentum than your backward movement. It is only after years of training that a defender can step backward into a strong stance and deliver an effective block and counterpunch against an angry and charging opponent. Most often, if a novice attempts this maneuver, he will find himself literally overrun by such an attack.

I recommend that when you are attacked, the correct response is to move forward with total commitment. If you have conquered your “butterflies” and have learned to trust your weapons, learning this principle will come much easier. Drill with your training partner. Let him initiate controlled attacks while you respond by moving into him. Be vocal.

Marines train this way, and by doing so, overcome the fear of charging into a fire-fight. It works. Often, your mental presence alone will give your enemy a “retreat” mentality, and you will be able to run over him instead of the other way around.

During this drill, you will discover at least three important things.

First, you will be amazed at how many kicks and punches can be jammed or trapped during your counter-attack. The critical distance for a kick or a punch to be effective can be bridged more quickly than you think.

Secondly, you will discover that your weapons receive more force because of the momentum of your forward movement.

Thirdly, you should experiment with your ability to move forward, but off the direct line of attack. Instead of clashing with your opponent, angling movements can actually put you behind him. Most often, angling will allow you to attack one side of your opponent as opposed to having to be concerned with both of his hands and both of his feet.

Unarmed Self-Defense Principle #4 – Box a Kicker-Kick a Boxer

The next important principle to learn is never to fight on someone else’s terms. If your opponent looks like a boxer, kick his legs out from under him. If your opponent looks like a kicker, move in close and use your fists and elbows.

If your adversary is a wrestler, don’t let him get a hold on you. If he is lean, agile, and mean, get it over with as fast as possible so that his superior conditioning can’t be used to wear you down. Simply put, stay in control of the fight to the best of your ability by capitalizing on the knowledge you have of your opponent’s strategy.

Unarmed Self-Defense Principle #5 – Always Get the Better of an Exchange

Always Get The Better Of An Exchange

This last principle is essential to survival and can only be confidently mastered after you have the other four perfected. Once you have been attacked, always dish out more punishment than you receive. Never quit fighting until you do so!

Most street encounters don’t go beyond one clash before one of the contenders decides that discretion is the better part of valor. Serious encounters rarely last more than two minutes and involve about three or four clashes.

Clashes, unless they degenerate into wrestling matches, only last a few seconds. If you have done your sit-ups and leg lifts if you have practiced your bag-work, and if you have drilled with your partner, you will have the aerobic stamina to commit yourself to the fight until the other person backs off.

Whether you have actually done more damage to your opponent than you have received is a matter of perception. If you fight until he backs off, it is likely he perceives that you are getting the better of the exchange. If you back off, your opponent will probably perceive that he is winning.

Related article:  Hand to Hand Combat – 8 Practical Tips

One way to assure yourself that you can continue an attack until the other person retreats is to let your body take over. Thus the old maxim, “If you stop to think in a fight, you lose.”

By mastering the first four principles, you will have trained your body to react on its own. Continue your training by attacking your punching bag with total commitment until your energy is drained. Rest awhile and do it again.

Do not think about what kind of punches to deliver, and do not think about how many seconds your attack has lasted. Let the “animal” in you emerge and imagine yourself literally ripping your opponent apart. Your training up to this point will allow your senses to locate the areas to strike on the bag and, ultimately, on a real adversary.


Now that we have discussed the five principles of hand-to-hand survival, put them in their proper self-defense context, and show how they can be practically and economically appropriated into a training program which fits our busy lifestyles, begin with training something like 30 to 45 minutes a day.

Look at this block of time as an exercise break, which produces more than just a healthy body. Being able to defend yourself in a fistfight is an acquired skill. But like any skill, it must be refined through consistent training. And with training comes survival.

Resources for survivalists:

A hand-to-hand fighting system so simple you can learn it in hours

Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation

The most scientifically researched and well-periodized core strength and stability program

The Common Vegetable that Will Increase Your Heart Attack Risk at Least Two-Fold

1 thought on “Top 5 Unarmed Self-Defense Principles”

  1. What a great site here, I am new to all of the preppers things. Coming out of the mainstream life can anyone direct me to where to begin?
    I am a female in my late 50’s and nobody around me is agreeable to go forward. I’d appreciate any guidelines as I prepare to go abroad alone.
    Thanks for all this wonderful help!!!


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