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Top Five Go-To Moves Everyone Needs in Their Self-Defense Toolbox

Photography by Corey Lack

Safety Disclaimer
The tactics shown are for illustrative purposes only. Seek professional training or instruction before attempting any techniques discussed or shown in this story.

Self-defense is not a game. If you’re in a life-and-death situation, the moves you use must work right then and there — and deliver performance on demand. In writing this article, I took a step back and decided to provide a best-of-the-best set of techniques that aren’t just extremely effective in a high-stress situation, but are also easy to deploy.

These are the moves I teach to my dearest loved ones and in my classes. These are also my personal go-to moves for when I have to save my own ass. The reasons for this are simple:

  • They are easy to remember
  • They are easy to train (and retain)
  • They are applicable in most self-defense situations
  • They flat out work (having all been pressure-tested in high-intensity roleplaying — or in real-life attacks)

One thing to consider up front is that while we all lovingly overuse the phrase “add another tool to your toolbox,” there are downsides to adding too many. Several studies over the years have indicated that the decision-making process is actually slowed when the decision maker has too many possible choices. For example, if you had to respond to a question (or respond to an attack!) and only had one answer or move to use, then your response would be faster than if you have three potential choices. My suggestion: Pressure-test everything and find self-defense responses that work for you — then eliminate all of the fluff. Train hard with what actually works. While it is good to have a backup move and flexibility, sometimes being really good at just a few moves will serve you better than being able to do a bunch of things with mediocre ability.

On to the self-defense techniques. First, credit where it is due. These moves are a collection of techniques I have learned, trained, helped evolve, and/or absorbed from a host of written, video, and in-person sources. I credit those who I can remember in the sections for each technique, and I apologize to any I may have inadvertently overlooked. Many years of blows to the head will do that to a guy.

Go-To Move #1
The Cage


Go-To Move #2
Palms, Knees, Elbows


Go-To Move #3
Drag, Drive, and Draw


Go-To Move #4
Weapon Strip 101


Go-To Move #5
Bring The Blade


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