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What Would You Do If You Were Attacked on a Run?

Posted by on Jan 6, 2013 | 8 Comments

police sceneAs runners, have you ever wondered just how vulnerable we are running through the streets or out on the trails?Many times we’re in secluded areas with very few if any people around. We could easily be attacked, robbed, or raped. Killed even.

Can we do anything to improve our safety?

Kelly, the general manager at our mma gym posted a message to Facebook outlining some great tips. This post is copied in its entirety at the end of this post. Stella, another Facebook friend, posted a link to a article dispelling the original as a hoax. Indeed, some of the tips in the original message are rather dumb. HOWEVER, not all of the points are invalid and it’s still worth a read. The Snopes article does give some good alternative advice at the end, so please read that, too.

One of the questions asked in the Snopes article (and mentioned in the copied message) is whether it’s better to run or fight. This is a topic that’s endlessly debated. Why? Because it’s dependent on the situation. In many cases, escaping is the best bet… if it is possible. If not, the options are reduced to fight or simply give up. Most experts recommend fighting at all costs until escape is possible, which brings me to the next point:


Learning to fight isn’t always going to save you, but it will increase your odds of 1) not getting attacked in the first place, and 2) being able to defend against an attack and fight back to the point where escape is more likely.

But wait!” you say. “I carry pepper spray [or whatever other weapon you carry]! Isn’t that enough?

Sure… if your attacker gives you a chance to use it. Odds are good an attacker isn’t going to announce their presence as a threat until the fraction of a second before they actually attack you. They will either surprise you by hiding behind something and attack you as you pass or act non-threatening to give you a false sense of comfort.

Think you could pull out your pepper spray and douse someone in the time it would take them to punch you in the face? How about if they pulled a knife and stabbed you?

Learning to fight could give you the skills to react to such an attack. Maybe your instinctive reaction will cause the punch to land slightly off-center or the knife to just graze you. That will put you in a position to counter with something to stun them just long enough to run away. Learning to avoid punches and counter with your own kicks and punches could be an invaluable skill.

Many people mistakenly believe they would simply jab a key in the eye of an attacker. Or kick them in the groin. Maybe punch or elbow them in a pressure point. All of these methods would be completely ineffective if you were tackled, though. Once you go to the ground, the close proximity would make all of these things impossible.  You can’t out-wrestle some one that’s bigger, stronger, and probably faster. What can you do? Learning body position and leverage could be helpful. So could learning a variety of chokes and joint locks (which can easily allow the weaker person to break bones, tendons, and ligaments.) All can help overcome significant weight and strength advantages, which is especially important for women.

So how exactly does one learn to fight?

There are a lot of possibilities. Shelly has been training at San Diego Fight Club. Among other things, it’s an mma gym. She’s been learning boxing and muay thai skills (punching, kicking, knee and elbow strikes, footwork, defense, etc.) along with Brazilian jiu jitsu (aforementioned ground fighting skills.)

We wrestle around a lot (weird, I know… but nobody would mistake us for a “normal” couple.) Prior to taking the classes, it was relatively easy to pin or otherwise incapacitate her. She would have been an easy target despite her frequent strength training and overall athleticism. After a month of classes, she can fight me off about 75% of the time. Trying anything left me vulnerable to something else which she recognized and immediately exploited. I was so impressed, I started taking classes, too.

After only two weeks, I see why she became so good in such a short period of time. The drilling that’s done at full speed teaches immediate reactions. If she (or me) were attacked, the odds of surviving an initial attack and escaping would be increased dramatically.

There’s also the added benefit of avoiding the attack in the first place. First, learning to fight improves your confidence. You’re more likely to give off the “Don’t fuck with me” vibe. In some cases, that my be enough to persuade a potential attacker to pick a less confident target.

Second, it trains you to be aware (which is the major point of the Snopes article.) It’s amazing to see the sheer number of runners completely oblivious to their surroundings. They trudge around with their ear buds in their ears, focusing on nothing but what’s directly in front of them, cutting right next to obvious potential hiding spots, and making a ton of noise to announce their presence. As a barefoot runner, I’m quite adept at making very little noise. I can’t count the number of runners, both male and female, I’ve scared by approaching from behind. Any halfway sneaky killer would have an unlimited number of targets aimlessly meandering through the trails and streets blissfully unaware of the dangerous situations they put themselves in.

Learning to fight makes you realize the potential other people have. Most seem to assume a potential attacker would be obvious, would engage in a specific attack, and we could easily defend said attack. Once you realize people can incapacitate us in a fraction of a second from a wide range of physical distances, we become a lot more aware of possible dangers. That awareness will also help us avoid becoming a victim.

Anyway, read the Snopes article. Read the article below. Get some fight training that involves learning to fight from a variety of distances, including on the ground. At the very least, it’s good crosstraining. It’s a lot more useful than an elliptical or jazzercise. 😉





It seems that a lot of attackers use some tactic to get away with violence. Not many people know how to take care of themselves when faced with such a situation. Everyone should read this especially each and every girl in this world.


Through a rapist’s eyes! A group of rapists and date rapists in prison were interviewed on what they look for in a potential victim and here are some interesting facts:

1] The first thing men look for in a potential victim is hairstyle. They are most likely to go after a woman with a ponytail, bun! , braid or other hairstyle that can easily be grabbed. They are also likely to go after a woman with long hair. Women with short hair are not common targets.

2] The second thing men look for is clothing. They will look for women whose clothing is easy to remove quickly. Many of them carry scissors around to cut clothing.

3] They also look for women using their cell phone, searching through their purse or doing other activities while walking because they are off guard and can be easily overpowered.

4] The number one place women are abducted from / attacked at is grocery store parking lots.

5] Number two is office parking lots/garages.

6] Number three is public restrooms.

7] The thing about these men is that they are looking to grab a woman and quickly move her to a second location where they don’t have to worry about getting caught.

8] If you put up any kind of a fight at all, they get discouraged because it only takes a minute or two for them to realize that going after you isn’t worth it because it will be time-consuming.

9] These men said they would not pick on women who have umbrellas, or other similar objects that can be used from a distance, in their hands.

10] Keys are not a deterrent because you have to get really close to the attacker to use them as a weapon. So, the idea is to convince these guys you’re not worth it.


1] If someone is following behind you on a street or in a garage or with you in an elevator or stairwell, look them in the face and ask them a question, like what time is it, or make general small talk: can’t believe it is so cold out here, we’re in for a bad winter. Now that you’ve seen their faces and could identify them in a line- up, you lose appeal as a target.

2] If someone is coming toward you, hold out your hands in front of you and yell Stop or Stay back! Most of the rapists this man talked to said they’d leave a woman alone if she yelled or showed that she would not be afraid to fight back. Again, they are looking for an EASY target.

3] If you carry pepper spray (this instructor was a huge advocate of it and carries it with him wherever he goes,) yelling I HAVE PEPPER SPRAY and holding it out will be a deterrent.

4] If someone grabs you, you can’t beat them with strength but you can do it by outsmarting them. If you are grabbed around the waist from behind, pinch the attacker either under the arm between the elbow and
armpit or in the upper inner thigh – HARD. One woman in a class this guy taught told him she used the underarm pinch on a guy who was trying to date rape her and was so upset she broke through the skin and tore out muscle strands the guy needed stitches. Try pinching yourself in those places as hard as you can stand it; it really hurts.

5] After the initial hit, always go for the groin. I know from a particularly unfortunate experience that if you slap a guy’s parts it is extremely painful. You might think that you’ll anger the guy and make him want to hurt you more, but the thing these rapists told our instructor is that they want a woman who will not cause him a lot of
trouble. Start causing trouble, and he’s out of there.

6] When the guy puts his hands up to you, grab his first two fingers and bend them back as far as possible with as much pressure pushing down on them as possible. The instructor did it to me without using much pressure, and I ended up on my knees and both knuckles cracked

7] Of course the things we always hear still apply. Always be aware of your surroundings, take someone with you if you can and if you see any odd behavior, don’t dismiss it, and go with your instincts. You may feel little silly at the time, but you’d feel much worse if the guy really was trouble.


I know you are smart enough to know these pointers but there will be some, where you will go “hmm I must remember that” After reading, forward it to someone you care about, never hurts to be careful in
this crazy world we live in.

1. Tip from Tae Kwon Do: The elbow is the strongest point on your body. If you are close enough to use it, do it.

2. Learned this from a tourist guide to New Orleans: if a robber asks for your wallet and/or purse, DO NOT HAND IT TO HIM. Toss it away from you…. chances are that he is more interested in your wallet and/or purse than you and he will go for the wallet/purse. RUN LIKE MAD IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!

3. If you are ever thrown into the trunk of a car: Kick out the back tail lights and stick your arm out the hole and start waving like crazy. The driver won’t see you but everybody else will. This has saved lives.

4. Women have a tendency to get into their cars after shopping, eating, working, etc., and just sit
(doing their checkbook, or making a list, etc. DON’T DO THIS! The predator will be watching you, and this is the perfect opportunity for him to get in on the passenger side, put a gun to your head, and tell you where to go. AS SOON AS YOU CLOSE the DOORS, LEAVE.

5. A few notes about getting into your car in a parking lot, or parking garage:

a. Be aware: look around your car as someone may be hiding at the passenger side, peek into your car, inside the passenger side floor, and in the back seat. (DO THIS TOO BEFORE RIDING A TAXI CAB).

b. If you! U are parked next to a big van, enter your car from the passenger door. Most serial killers attack their victims by pulling them into their vans while the women are attempting to get into their cars.

c. Look at the car parked on the driver’s side of your vehicle, and the passenger side. If a male is sitting alone in the seat nearest your car, you may want to walk back into the mall, or work, and get a guard /policeman to walk you back out. IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY. (And better paranoid than dead.)

6. ALWAYS take the elevator instead of the stairs. (Stairwells are horrible places to be alone and the perfect crime spot).

7. If the predator has a gun and you are not under his control, ALWAYS RUN! The predator will only hit you (a running target) 4 in 100 times; and even then, it most likely WILL NOT be a vital organ. RUN!

8. As women, we are always trying to be sympathetic: STOP IT! It may get you raped, or killed. Ted Bundy, the serial killer, was a good-looking, well educated man, who ALWAYS played on the sympathies of unsuspecting women. He walked with a cane, or a limp, and often asked “for help” into his vehicle or with his vehicle, which is when he abducted his next victim.

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  1. Jack Harris
    January 19, 2013

    It was stated already, but go for the eyes and the throat. No one thinks you will go for their eyes. You don’t even need to gouge, just touch the eyes. Compare that to how it feels when you get a hair in your eyes. It doesn’t take much.

    If you train ground fighting (or train against a ground fighter), try this drill. Have one partner, the aggressor, wear well fitting goggles and try to take down the defender. The defender goes for the attacker’s eyes. Even when the attacker is expecting it, the eyes make an easy target. It’ll be that much easier when they don’t expect it. The way I have tried this is to keep score. A successful takedown is a point for the attacker. If the defender gets their eye shot in before hitting the ground however, they get the point instead.

    My wife and I would do a similar drill after she would stay up late watching true crime stories. One day, she got into an argument with an acquaintance of ours and he ended up putting her in a headlock. She went for the eyes immediately. She wasn’t able to reach the eyes, but it sure as hell took his attention away from protecting his groin, which was turned several degrees clockwise. It was great. He complained the rest of the night.

  2. Recorrido » Leituras de 3a Feira
    January 8, 2013

    […] que são “pouco úteis”, geram pânico e dão aquela falsa sensação de insegurança. Mas aqui você tem dicas para mulheres corredoras se protegerem de um ataque de cunho sexual durante seus […]

  3. John Y.
    January 7, 2013

    Be aware. React. React with speed. Strike to incapacitate or maim. The groin will be the first spot he expects you to strike. Aim for the throat. The eyes. If you are wearing heels, stomp down on the top of the foot with the point of the heel. Use your purse as a bludgeoning weapon. It gives you range. You’d be surprised the amount of force a 2 lb purse can generate when swung with intent.

  4. Daily News Mon Jan 7
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    […] What would you do if you were attacked on a run? […]

  5. Mathijs
    January 7, 2013

    > Many times we’re in secluded areas with very few if any people around.

    It would seem to me that less people around means less risk of being attacked. If I wanted to rob, rape or kill someone just for fun, I would go to a place where there are people to rob, rape or kill. Not to some secluded area. I cannot believe things are that much different in the States, I do think people are more scared there. I’ve seen some of your media and it is not hard to imagine why.

  6. Ken S.
    January 6, 2013

    You already spoke about this, but in my opinion, situational awareness is the single most important self defense skill. If you can spot a potential problem, you will have a much better chance dealing with it effectively. If you get attacked by surprise, you’re probably in deep doodoo no matter how well trained you are.

  7. Shane
    January 6, 2013

    Best thing in the Snopes article: “Complacency kills”.

  8. Thomas
    January 6, 2013

    Advices like this honestly makes me frustrated. One reason could be that I live in Sweden, which could be different from the US. Although I don’t know if that is the case?
    The recommendations are all ok, but the statistics highlights some other, by far more important threats.
    In 60% af the rapes, the victim is in a “close relation” to the perpetrator. And only in 25% of all the rapes, the victim does not know the perpetrator. So the violent attacks by an unknown stranger are unusual.
    The most important advice to stay out of trouble, is probably to stay away from alcohol. 80% of the violence is related to alchohol. So stay away from it yourself and stay away from intoxicated people. Of course, don’t shut down your social life. But be aware of the very high correlation between violence and alcohol.
    Once again, these numbers are from Sweden and the situation can be different in the US.