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Knock Yourself Out @SS-hole



DISCLAIMER: I need to be careful not to fly off on one of my tangents.  There’s so much to say, this can easily turn into a rant that would make Dennis Miller’s swearing seem tame.  And this isn’t going to be a crash course in kung fu either; instead you’re going to get simple reframes, a checklist and a to-do list.  The rest is up to you (as it always is).

This blog is for YOU.  It’s about your real world responsibility, (which actually should be written: “response-ability” i.e., one’s ability to respond). It’s also about your vicarious liability (which should be written vicarious “lie-ability”, i.e., which is the act of putting yourself or your family in harm’s way while being cavalier or overconfident about real world danger.

Let’s keep this simple, blunt and strategic.

To say I’m disgusted by the Knockout Game (KOG) would be an understatement.

Here’s what I’m not going to do in this blog:

  1. I’m not going to discuss race
  2. I’m not going to discuss parenting
  3. I’m not going to discuss the decaying moral fiber of society
  4. I’m not going to discuss how our PC world has contributed to these brazen acts of violence.
  5. And lastly, I’m not going to discuss secret martial techniques.
  6. My system is based on behavior.  Therefore my observations and recommendations will all be about behavior. (That means you can change and apply it today.)

RE-FRAME: The Ambush

First lets reframe something that will change paradigms.  I get asked this all the time, “How do you defend against an ambush?”  My answer: “You can’t. That’s why it’s called “ambush”.  Yes, you can train to anticipate, intercept and weather an attack, but there is no magic style or technique to defend against the non-telegraphic ambush. If you can’t defend against the ambush then what do you do??


This isn’t Start Trek where people beam-down into your personal space.  In other words, there are always pre-contact cues. Getting off the X is about situational awareness.  It’s about being observant.  I wrote about this recently.  (Re-read “X” Marks the Spot. Get off the X after you’ve digested this blog.)  Bluntly folks…. get your head out of your @ss and off your cell phone when you are walking and driving (and I’d recommend the same thing when you’re at dinner in the company of other humans too).


No awareness = no flinch response = no chance. Everyone but one saw the bat coming. How? Because they were watching (situationally aware). They picked up on the pre-contact cues (bat slips from hands). This allowed their body’s survival system to move first. Your flinch will always beat you to the punch in a surprise attack. This is the foundation of all S.P.E.A.R. System training.
*Photo Courtesy Sports Illustrated


If you lack awareness, your survival system cannot do its job properly. You make it even harder  if you are fixated on a smartphone. When you are out and about pay attention.

Let’s call a spade a spade: you can’t counter a perfect ambush and that’s precisely why it was called “an ambush”. When the intended victim intercepted or disengaged the assault, it was called  an “attempted ambush”. This is important because it helps you start thinking about the bigger picture and what it really means to get to the left of an ambush.


How would you attack you? This is a neat concept.  It’s so simple. Spend some time thinking about when you could attack you. Is it walking down that alley daydreaming, not noticing the gang of hooligans approaching? Do you sit in your car checking emails unaware of people studying your routine? Follow yourself for a week and make notes of when you could sucker punch yourself, grab a purse, steal your car and you’ll be amazed at what you can learn about your situational awareness.  Now here’s the cool stuff. Doing this activates your reticular cortex, (Whenever you send a message to the reticular cortex, like “stay alert”, “look out for gangs”, it actually makes the change in your brain and you become more intensely aware and alert to your surroundings.  Scientifically speaking, “the reticular activating system helps mediate transitions from relaxed wakefulness to periods of high attention”.)


DETECT  (to avoid) DEFUSE (to de-escalate) DEFEND (to protect)


“Action is faster than reaction; in-action is faster than action” –BTS Maxim

If you’re having discussions with your martial arts pals on best moves or you’re searching YouTube for “counters for sucker punches” then you are already standing on the “X”.  Understand?  You completely missed detect & defuse. A lot of people get stuck in this trap, “What’s the best counter to XYZ?” The problem with this thinking is that to practice the counter you must practice the attack.  Therefore you always practice letting yourself get attacked in order to practice the counter. Interesting irony. But more importantly no one is working on avoidance and de-escalation. Accessing the skills honed in the gym gets even more unlikely when you consider that in a true ambush there is no consent and no awareness of the attack. In the real world, the hand is quicker than the eye and the hand is quicker than the brain. If you’re trying to figure out which style of martial arts is best then you don’t understand math, physics and physiology.


What’s required to play?

  1. A complacent victim with little situational awareness.
  2. Douche-bags

The first pre-contact cue is typically a gang and a lone person. (Light bulb!?) Start there.  See a gang? Get to the left of the ambush as soon as you. You’re alone?  Find a buddy.


  1. Identify your routine and any opportunity you provide to ‘opportunistic douche-bags”. Change what they’re looking for and then you’re not “it”.
  2. Walk with your own gang when you know you’re going through choke points.  E.g.: Leaving a restaurant alone?  Ask the manager for an escort. Same for underground parking lot.  Ask for an escort. Four eyes are better than two. There are lots of courageous bystanders and Good Samaritans near you, look for them.  (Also, how you ask will also influence their willingness to assist. Be honest and be smart.)
  3. Walking solo in a subway, bus stop, etc.? Think about your next step.  Pause, assess, and scan.  FYI you do this every time you step off a side-walk (in other words it’s not a new behavior and it’s not a paranoid behavior). See #2 – practice the lost art of talking to another human – ask if they’d walk with you. 
  4. Keep your head up & eyes alert. Diffuse your vision.
  5. Keep your hands free (yep no phone) *While this shit can happen anywhere, you know when its pseudo safe to have your phone out.
  6. Trust your gut.  Reread my blog on the Economics of Violence for a review on ‘paying attention’
  7. Err on the side of safety.  Even if you think something is about to happen immediately change your direction, make noise, create attention.  If you were wrong about the pre-contact cue (i.e. false alarm) the worst that happened is you are embarrassed. The alternative (ignoring the perceived threat) could be much worse.
  8. If you’re driving and see someone walking into the kill zone, slow down and honk like an idiot (same if you’re on foot, yell). Don’t hesitate just do something (you’d want someone to do it for you!).  If you can roll down your window and shout, “the police will be here in a moment.  The cameras are recording this.” (Point to the pretend CCTV camera). Verbal deception is a great tool to create a mental distraction in the bad-guy’s mind. It creates doubt & hesitation, and it just might dissuade or divert the attack.  At a minimum it buys you time and allows you to shift psychological gears.

Just reading this has activated your reticular cortex and now you are safer than you were 10 minutes ago. :-)

Step 1. Commit to the homework. Think about and apply the suggestions.

Step 2. Practice all the skills and drills suggested in advance of any real threat. Yes.  Do it.  Rehearsals are great.

Think of self-defense as a behavior not a technique.

Remember: you are a #humanweapon #beyourownbodyguard

Stay safe,



(Why you might not do any of the above.)


This might confuse some.  It’s subtle. You actually need to think that you are important and worth fighting for. This might seem stupid, but there’s more to it than just reading the sentence.  In fact, there is a profound depth to this principle and the conversation you need to have with yourself.

Cognitive dissonance, apathy, denial or other avoidance strategies convince us this training and awareness isn’t really necessary.  Logically you do agree with me that you’d rather make a speech than get your ass beaten right? But fear of public speaking is usually #1 on the list and the threat of physical violence doesn’t even surface. If you’re tracking my philosophy then you understand that all our training is behaviorally based and in that reality, the mind navigates the body.  And how you feel about yourself can influence how you would react.  And what you would (or wouldn’t do) will affect your performance.  It’s a subtle truth, rarely discussed but integral to tapping your indignation, which I liken as ‘fuel for the fight’. But you need to know in advance of an attack that you will protect yourself and your family.   On the other side of the coin is the false assumption that you need some sort of technical or tactical training or background to fight back.  You don’t.  You just need to fight.  So give yourself permission to fight back.

To practice self-defense properly you need to value yourself.


Thou Shalt Not Fear Fear

*Teach self-defense? visit here

**CrossFit athlete or coach?  visit here

***DT or Combatives trainer? visit here



13 Responses to Knock Yourself Out @SS-hole

  1. Darryl says:

    Good Blog Tony. :-) Thanks for making the world a better place.


  2. Chuck Tongren says:

    Hi, Can you please subscribe me to your blog and res feeds and let me know when you will be teaching in So. CA. Thanks

  3. […] Advice from self-defense expert and instructor Tony Blauer: […]

  4. Ross B. says:

    Y’all use a lot of words for a fight in’ coach!

    One of the best pieces I’ve read from you to date. Your contribution to martial arts is original, profound, and lasting, and your contribution to the world is just beginning.

    Good on ya Coach T-Daddy!

  5. Vince Walsh says:

    Why get to the left? I’m trying to understand this point.

  6. dang3rtown says:

    In a certain sense, maybe the “knockout game” isn’t such a bad thing for us. Hear me out!
    Truthfully, the chances of you being a victim of the KOG are pretty slim. We see it a lot in the news because it’s an easily sensationalized story. It’s extreme, it’s violent and it preys on the fears of normal people. Is it going to happen to you? Not likely. However, the kind of ambush situation that makes you a potential KOG victim is the same kind of situation that a potential robber or rapist might use. I’m quite sure the avoidance and deescalation techniques Tony talks about here will work for either of these crimes. So, if as a consequence of the KOG we make people more situationally aware and we prevent very real crimes that unfortunately happen far more often than the stupid and detestable KOG, then maybe it isn’t all bad.

  7. Jerry Wood says:

    Situational awareness is the key and always ask for help!

  8. clint Horsley says:

    Tony, good stuff! everyone needs to read this and make it part of their everyday routine!

  9. John Bennett says:

    Tony –

    We in law enforcement and beyond continue to appreciate your simple and effective approach to a complex adaptive environment. I was anticipating your response to this when I saw the teacher victim. Like many things, sadly – people don’t know, what they don’t know, if they don’t know it. Time to wake up as you mention. Peace.

  10. kevin lewis says:

    Great perspective and insight.

  11. Elese says:

    Thanks for some good info–I hope I am never in a crazy situation where I’m being ambushed! But as a “not as young as I used to be” female, I have pretty much gone through my life NOT putting myself in places where an attacks are likely. There are those times however where you have to go to places you would otherwise avoid. In those cases, the attitude I convey is “do NOT eff with me!” And, as was stated above, stay aware of your surroundings…ALWAYS!

  12. gerry says:

    It sounds cliche, but awareness is the key, because the element of surprise is huge in the knockout game (I’m 45, and it was played in my ‘hood when I was a kid, so it’s nothing new); the object is to put the victim’s lights out, which becomes much less likely if the victim-trained or not-flinches, blocks, runs, etc. Past that, I suppose if you get it into your mind that you are completely prepared to tear off a piece of someone’s face if you have to, it will show in your body language (some training here helps, since there is a difference between ‘acting as if’ you’re ready to let the fur fly and actually preparing to do so). These are your best bets. Other than that, I think society at large has to take some cues from crows, who instinctively group together and ‘mob’ predators such as hawks and owls. It works well, but everyone has to be on the same page, and take some risks. Just my humble opinion.

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