Military Tactics for Self Defence

– technically different, but tactically identical


While looking different in their final, technical application, the TACTICS used by the military to defend against attack from the enemy provide a perfect blueprint for building a tactical model for personal self protection. The tactics used by special forces apply particularly well. Often operating in very small groups behind enemy lines, far from the main force and with only as much firepower as they can carry, SF patrols can be compared to the unarmed civilian who is attacked by a larger attacker or group of attackers.

If we use counter-ambush tactics as an example, it is easy to see that they are very transferable to civilian self protection. Considering that the ambush, as a method of attack, is designed to create a ‘shock and awe’ effect in the target, it is vital for both military units and self defence practitioners to rehearse an active response so as to overcome the momentary ‘freezing’ that occurs when taken by surprise. Whether the ambush happens to an SF patrol in the jungle (see video above), or to YOU in an alleyway or while sitting in a bar, the dynamics are identical.

When ambushed in the jungle, the SF patrol will duck down and lay down as many rounds as possible in the direction of the enemy. Literally holding their fingers down on the trigger until the magazine is empty, the idea is to create an appearance of superior firepower, forcing the enemy to get their heads down. It’s fair to say, that while trying to take cover from the onslaught, the enemy will have great difficulty in continuing their ambush.

For the unarmed civilian, who is set upon when walking past a hidden position (a doorway, an alleyway, bushes, or simply attacked from behind), the instinctive response will almost always be to protect the head with the hands/arms, just as it is natural for the soldier to crouch down when being shot at. Considering that no amount of ‘covering’ will protect you forever, this response is fine, so long as it is momentary and is immediately followed up by as many strikes as possible in rapid succession towards the attacker’s head. Focusing on speed and aggression so as to ‘create an appearance of superior firepower’, this will force the attacker to hold back on - or even stop – their initial attack. Having fists, palms or elbows thrown towards his face will have a noticeable effect on his ability to attack, whether due to their flinch response or because of having their brain shaken about inside their skull (blunt force trauma).

When the SF patrol has successfully caused the enemy to take cover and have preferably moved in to a better position themselves, they can then use a slower rate of fire; taking better-aimed and therefore more effective shots. No longer aiming in the general direction of the enemy, they are now selecting targets with more care so as to diminish their capability to attack (or in other words, kill them).

For the unarmed civilian this means that once he has created a break in his attacker’s ambush attempt, he can throw his strikes at a slower rate. Instead of utilising speed alone, and preferably having gained a stable footing, he can then utilize more powerful, well-aimed strike. The goal is to deliver effective concussive blows to the attacker’s head, with the aim of causing enough damage to render the attacker unable to continue their ambush attempt.

For both the SF patrol and the unarmed civilian, the priority is now to escape the ambush area. In the case of overwhelming odds (too many enemy with greater firepower, or an attacker who is simply too powerful to take-on), this may have to happen immediately after the initial blitz, skipping the better-aimed shots/strikes. Simply put, if there are too many baddies, the opportunity to deliver well-aimed shots/strikes my not present itself, in which case the idea is to ‘shoot and scoot’ or ‘hit and run’.

The ambush is only one example of how military tactics relate to self defence. The fact is; combat is combat. And while there may be different forms of combat, the military and civilian tactical options for how to manage them are the same. Further examples being that the military model for carrying out an ambush has within it the blueprint for pre-emptive self defence and that the military tactics of how to prepare for battle and what to do post-battle can be translated quite easily into how the civilian can be prepared for self defence and what to do after an incident.

Even the ninja of ancient Japan used two models known as godai and gogyo which overlapped and applied to all their activities, including unarmed combat, sword fighting, intelligence gathering and psychological operations.

To learn how the British army approached self defence directly, I recommend that you look into the activities of a little-known unit called 14 Intelligence Company (‘14 int’ for short). This was a plain-clothed intelligence gathering unit that operated in Northern Ireland throughout the 80’s. While trying to remain covert when operating in the toughest areas of NI, they had to utilize unarmed combat methods that paralleled the tactics they used for firearms usage… fascinating stuff that directly applies to effective civilian self protection.

Over and out.