Facing an Armed Attacker

by Johnny Pain

In my article entitled “Self Defense and the Pooper Scooper”, I discussed the danger in placing your personal safety and that of those who you care about in the hands of a simple tool such as a firearm or a knife. I talked about how these tools are not for “self defense” purposes really at all, but rather serve as more efficient means of accomplishing the objective of causing injuries in another human being and thereby neutralizing their ability to injure you. In this post I will be looking at the topic of weapons from the perspective of facing an armed attacker while you are unarmed.

To the uninitiated, the idea of facing someone with a weapon is a terrifying thought. The tools are dangerous when wielded by a person hell bent on killing or maiming you, and therefore often convey a deeper sense of fear regarding the situation with their simple presence.

Once one is better informed however, much of the fear and apprehensions regarding facing an armed human dissipate greatly. We train people to recognize that the man’s brain is the real weapon in the situation, and the only one that needs to be dealt with.

As I mentioned before from the opposite perspective, a firearm will never kill a person on its own. It requires a human brain, possessing intent, to pick it up, point it at you, and squeeze the trigger. Likewise a knife or club requires a human operator as well. Without one, any of the aforementioned tools are little more than expensive paperweights.

Consider this scenario:

A police officer responds to a call where a man has been acting belligerent and has reportedly attacked several people with a knife. He arrives on the scene and discovers the man holding a large kitchen knife in his hand and looking menacing as all hell. The officer, pistol drawn, issues a verbal warning to the man and orders him to drop the knife and get on his knees. The man turns to face the officer, says “You’re next cop” and begins advancing towards him.

Then the officer shoots the man directly in the knife, right?

The knife is the threat; it is the man’s weapon, so the officer must shoot the knife so that it does not bring him harm.

My obvious sarcasm there is meant to illustrate how differently one inherently views a situation between two armed individuals from one where only one participant is armed. In this case the officer, armed with a handgun, would clearly shoot to kill on the knife-wielding attacker. Clean kill, open and shut, justifiable homicide right?

Of course.

So why would the situation be any different if the officer was an unarmed civilian (or off duty police officer for that matter)? By this I mean why would his focus now be on the man’s knife?

Why would he be concerned with defending against the knife, blocking, evading, or controlling it?

Why would anyone in any situation where they are facing someone with a weapon give a damn about what that weapon is doing? We already know that the weapon is simply a tool, and one that is incapable of being used for its intended purpose without a human brain at the wheel, so why on earth would our first thought not be to shut that brain off as quickly and efficiently as possible?

Facing a firearm is no different. The man needs to be conscious and have use of his body for the firearm to be effectively used. If we deny him either of those, the firearm is back to being a paperweight, the proverbial pooper scooper; an inert object that is laying aside his broken body.

Firearms do carry an extra threat with them, and that is in their ability to fire a projectile and kill from a distance, a fact that becomes relevant when we address field of fire. One simple principle that is taught to our students takes care of them not getting shot when faced with a gun (this can be done in handcuffs or with your hands in your pockets), but there is always the secondary concern of someone else being struck by a stray bullet fired by the man while he is being broken. Fortunately this concern is easily addressed by learning a simple principle that most become proficient in inside of ten minutes, and are then able to reliably demonstrate under a variety of circumstances.

Remember that we reverse engineer everything from the outcome that we are after. Once we understand what it takes to effectively injure or kill with a weapon, we understand precisely how not to allow someone else to do exactly that.

When faced with an armed assailant, our students learn to shut the man’s brain off, or destroy his ability to use his body in the necessary manner that inflicting injury with the tool requires. This occurs by applying simple principles that work regardless of the circumstances or scenario, and are easily retained like the ability to ride a bicycle.

A focus on the weapon that is in the man’s hand is a sure fire way to watch that weapon do grievous bodily harm to you or someone else. A focus on injuring the man and destroying his capacities ensures that you will be leaving the situation and that he, depending on how far you choose to take it, will not.

So if your training includes “disarm” techniques for firearms, special techniques for knives (usually involving wrist locks, shoulder leverages or the like), and impact weapon specific movements, I can assure you that you are headed in the wrong direction. While it’s fun and “sexy” to watch your favorite action star perform a cool “take away” technique in the movies, attempting that type of thing in the real, chaotic, and violent world dramatically increases the likelihood that you won’t ever get to watch that movie again, or are relegated to watching it from a wheelchair.

Additionally (forgive my ranting now), a person with intent to kill you does not need a weapon in their hand to get the job done. If you do succeed in snatching their weapon from them, “defanging the snake”, immobilizing their weapon hand, or whatever high speed term you want to use for it, you have not addressed the problem at hand at all, namely the fact that he wants to kill you.

This reminds me of a joke that I heard a while back.

A university is conducting a study on what would be necessary to make the average man kill his wife. The man is given an unloaded gun and placed in a room with his blindfolded wife after being told that he would receive an untold sum of money if he offs her. The wife has been told that she was part of a study on what she would recall from sound alone after a person had entered and exited the room. The people conducting the study wait outside to see if he will pull the trigger or not. After several minutes go by the team knocks on the door, assuming that the man is struggling with the decision, weighing his love for his wife against the money. The man then exits the room sweaty and covered in blood. One of the observers shouts, “Oh my God, what happened” to which the man replies, “The fucking gun you gave me wouldn’t work so I had to beat her to death”.

Admit it, you laughed.

In the past I used to demonstrate this idea to cocky students who bet me that they could take my gun away or that their disarm technique(s) would work despite what I was telling them. I would assume whatever position they wanted me in to best demonstrate their rehearsed technique (something that we do not do here; techniques are disposable, principles are all that matter and are what allow you to truly solve problems) and would proceed to serve as their dummy.

Nine times out of ten I would simply apply the principle that we teach for when you are the armed one and someone is attempting to get your weapon from you (simple physics, you’ll shit when you see how easy it is. True story, Mark Rippetoe laughed in amazement at how ridiculously simple this principle is in my living room a few years back). But, if I was feeling especially frisky, or really wanted to take the person down a peg or two I would merely let them have the weapon and proceed to jam my elbow into their throat, throw them gingerly on their head, or shove a rubber training knife into their neck. Whatever alternative method of ending their life I chose to demonstrate was used to illustrate the point that even if they were successful in “disarming” me (the proxy for their attacker) by taking away my weapon, they did not address the fact that I wanted them dead and could easily adapt to the situation and find some other, often less pleasant, way of getting the job done.

My students are versatile “assassins” (calm down libtards) who, when faced with asocial violence, are capable of adapting to the situation at hand, and accomplishing the objective of rendering unconscious, crippling, or killing another human regardless of what is in their hands, or what is in the hands of their adversary.

Learning to address a weapon, and not the man holding the weapon is training time that could be better spent actually masturbating. At least there will be a favorable outcome in the latter.

Drop a line in the comments if you would like to see any of these principles demonstrated, or have a particular scenario or situation that you would like me to discuss.

Johnny Pain is the man behind StrengthVillain.com as well as the East Coast’s notorious Greyskull Barbell Club, the newly launched Greyskull Academy of Combat Sciences, and several other ventures. He is the author of several books on subjects pertaining to strength and conditioning. He can be found comically entertaining questions on his Q and A forum at StrengthVillain.com or can be reached for consultations, training seminars, or speaking engagements at john@villainintl.com.

Also, you can follow him on Twitter: @thejohnnypain




8 Responses

  1. Devin and Bony both told me to ask if you would do a post demonstrating the masturbation principle in action.

    Personally, I would rather see you put someone on their head and stab them in the throat.

    July 2, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    • That’s weird too because the masturbation principle seems like it would be common sense.

      I just don’t know about some people.

      July 3, 2013 at 1:26 pm

  2. Chibs

    First off, this has been a fantastic series of articles so far. Martial arts and ‘self defense’ especially are littered with all kinds of less qualified people in teaching positions, so this is a breath of fresh air.

    Second, since discovering your site a while back I’ve been reading through your archives and have enjoyed your material a lot. I share your approach of constructing a plan of action in reverse by starting with the desired outcome, so your presentation style fits me nicely. Especially your more general, ‘life’ based articles like villain A-Z offered quite a few new insights to me.

    Is there any possibility that your fighting principles will be available in print or video in the future? I’m very interested but live in Germany, so the seminar option is not one for me.

    Thanks for the great material.

    July 3, 2013 at 10:48 am

    • Thanks Chibs, I’m glad that you’ve found the site and are enjoying the content.

      In answer to your question, I am working on my first book “Principles of Violence” as we speak. This one will cover, in detail, all of the base principles that we address at the GACS. After that one, there are two other titles coming out which are very detailed targeting manuals, one for empty hands, and one for edged weapons.

      As for video, I am in the early stages of planning the first DVD/mp4 set. We already have plans for several video series offering a comprehensive look at what we do, and allowing those who are unable to get live training the best media possible from which to learn the information.

      Beyond that we are looking at getting our training calendar filled up for seminars on the road and abroad, so if you have a venue for something in Germany contact me and we can set something up for the future.

      Thanks again for the support, and stay tuned for more content.

      July 3, 2013 at 1:31 pm

  3. Rus. D


    These articles are fantastic and have opened my eyes to what real self defense is all about. I am trying to workout my schedule so I can attended your seminar in September. What martial art would you recommend someone practice for self defense.

    July 4, 2013 at 12:15 am

    • Thanks Rus.

      Honestly the best advice that I can give you is to do everything you can to make the event in September. Coming from almost two decades of experience in martial arts I cannot in good conscience recommend any course of study. The simple fact is that martial arts do not prepare you for the type of situations that we concern ourselves with, and do not address the principles that need to be addressed to dramatically increase the likelihood of your survival.

      The combat sports styles of martial arts are entertaining and fun to participate in, but obviously come up short when it’s not a sport, and unfortunately, 90% of what I’ve seen from “Reality Based” Self Defense programs leave entirely too much to luck, and ignore principles, or worse, promote bad principles that will get you killed.

      I address these shortcomings and dangerous practices quite a bit during the lecture portions of the seminar as well. This is not a bias towards my program from a proprietary standpoint, but as I said, a simple moral inability to recommend something that will not help you when you need it.

      The best analogy I can think of is which liquor is best to give an alcoholic, gin, vodka, or whiskey?

      July 4, 2013 at 1:47 am

  4. Joel

    Great series of articles John,looking forward to the 3 day course in September .

    July 5, 2013 at 9:55 am

  5. Pingback: Dealing with the knife - PreDefence

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