Defending against a sucker punch: Reflexive/instinctive reactions
By Yevgeniy Grigoryev
New York City is a relatively safe city and the crime numbers have been steadily declining over the past 12 years. But like in any metropolitan city, there are certain dangers that we need to be aware of. These dangers are not concentrated in any particular locales; instead, they are posed by criminals who are looking for easy targets. This makes sense, because a common criminal is more likely to attack an easy target, someone who will not put up much resistance. For the same reason, criminals will attack you when you least expect it. So should you live in fear and never leave your house? Of course not; we cannot allow such bad elements terrorize us and make us live in fear. Instead, we need to practice awareness and not ignore potential dangers, because they will not ignore us.
For example, let’s look at a real-life mugging that took place in New York City at the Times Square subway station, a station that is always full of people day and night. In the incident, the victim was accosted by a mugger, who approached him, asked him something, then knocked him out with a sucker punch, grabbed his phone and fled on the departing train. The brutal incident was captured on a security camera.
Let’s break down the situation to see what the victim could have done differently:
1. Notice that the criminal approaches the victim and asks him something. This is a common technique used by muggers. They approach you and ask you some random question to distract you.
2. The victim ignores the mugger, then faces away from him while apparently talking to someone on the phone.
MISTAKE #1: The victim allowed a stranger to get into his personal space and then turned his face away while clearly displaying his phone. Displaying your phone carelessly makes you a prime target to criminals
RULE #1: Always be aware of your surroundings, if a stranger approaches you and asks you something, never turn your back on them. Instead, bring your hands up and in front of you, with your palms facing them, and establish a safe distance. NEVER ignore a potential danger.
3. Notice how the mugger keeps looking around, he is actually well aware of his surroundings, he is searching for potential dangers, such as police, and also identifies potential escape routes, seeing that there is a display up above that indicates that there is a train arriving into the station.
4. The mugger uses the fact that the victim is facing the other way to deliver a powerful sucker punch, knocking him out cold, then grabbing the phone and escaping on the departing train (off camera).
MISTAKE #2: Because the victim failed to PREVENT the mugger from getting within his personal space and was NOT aware of his surroundings, he was unable to react to the sucker punch.
RULE # 2: By practicing situational awareness, you are more likely to perceive an attack and use your reflexes to react on time. For example, when we perceive an object flying towards our head, our reflexive reaction is to duck our head and also instinctively bring our hand up towards our face to cover it from danger. Picture seeing a Frisbee flying towards your head out of the corner of your eye.
So, how could have the victim, or you, react in this particular situation? Here is a short clip of how we teach prevention and reflexive reaction at the Krav Maga Institute.
Remember, be aware of your surroundings and never allow strangers to get into your personal space. By having your hands up, palms facing them, and keeping your eyes on them, you can automatically thwart an attacker because they will perceive you as a hard target.