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5 Critical Tips For Close Quater Combat

When learning self-defense you learn a lot of techniques, weapons, and skills that make up the system you are studying. Of the many techniques you learn, which ones are really the most important for close quarter combat? If you’re serious about learning how to protect yourself using the techniques you learn, then you need to make sure that you know how to translate all of the lessons into a form that will work for you in a self-defense situation. This article will help you to do that by focusing on the 5 key training concepts of self-defense.


These 5 areas are focused on being able to deal with street attacks, thrown at you by real attackers, and being able to defend yourself with lightning speed and precision in the chaotic, no-holds-barred experience of a self-defense situation. I am qualified to advise you on this matter for 3 reasons:

  1. I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, known for its violence and I have experienced, first-hand, what real violence was all about. And…
  2. I have studied many martial arts, disqualifying a ton of martial arts techniques and self-defense systems that I found did not really work in the street, and finally…
  3. I was able to disqualify these useless methods while serving in 3 military branches, 2 of them as a special agent, and serving as a Federal Agent and Protective Services Operator in several government agencies.

I have learned that in order to effectively protect yourself, you must have techniques that are practical, effective, easy to learn and execute, and most importantly…

… suited for real self-defense.

So, what are the key concepts of training that you need to focus on in self-defense – if your goal is to be able to handle a real, down-and-dirty, close quarter combat situation?

The 5 Critical Concepts

Concept 1: “Entering”

This aspect of self-defense is being able to effectively and strategically get through your attacker’s defenses so that you can be in the right position to apply your punch, kick, lock, weapon, etc. Entering is the part of your game plan that, when mastered, “allows” you to be able to do whatever technique you want that will finish your attacker.

Different methods use different techniques for this. For instance, if trading blows with your opponent, this would be parrying his blow so you can step in and deliver your own. If you are grappling, this would be the moment that you rush in to take your opponent to the ground.

Before you can effectively dispatch an opponent, you have to be able to get inside his defenses – you must be able to “move in” so that you can take the dominant position and break his body down.

Concept 2: “Body movement”

Body movement encompasses everything you can do to take advantage of your attacker. This includes stepping and lateral shifts, to having the ability to effectively neutralize your attacker’s attempts to damage your body with strikes, kicks, or grabbing attacks.

Self-defense requires that you focus on being able to move directly, from point to point, with no delay or tell-tale signs that would allow the attacker to prevent you from defending yourself against his assault.

Here you might side step your opponent attack, parry his blow, or feint to make him react and then make your move.

Concept 3: “Breaking Your Opponent’s Balance”

This a very important aspect of your defense; in order to get a determined attacker into one of your techniques you’re going to have to work for it. That means that you’re going to have to create or take advantage of moments when he can’t attack or defend because he is busy dealing with his own body fighting itself!

This can be done physically, psychologically, emotionally, or through a combination of any or all of three of these. The point here is to get him doing something other than dealing with you, if only long enough to get that strike, lock, or throw on him. Pushing or pulling your opponent is a way to get him to think about not losing his balance while you execute the attack you really wanted to unleash on him.

Concept 4: “Striking”

You need to be able to use the right kind of strike and match those strikes to the right targets on your attacker’s body while also doing maximum damage with minimal effort. If not, the fight may take longer than you have the energy for, especially if you’re dealing with a larger, stronger attacker who is accustomed to fighting.

If you are striking his head, DON’T used your knuckles as you may break them. Instead, use a hammer fist strike or a weapon. If you are striking soft areas like the solar plexus or kidneys, then feel free to use your fists. Instead of punching him in the eye, do a finger jab or flick instead. Use the right tool to get the job done while remembering not to damage yourself.

Remember, you must be able to break your attacker’s body down — not just hit him because you need to maximize the damage to end the fight quickly. I teach my students to sometimes take a hit to lure their attacker in. As a disclaimer: there is a huge difference between getting “hit,” and being “damaged.” Your job is to “damage” the attacker without him damaging you. Let him feel cocky and confident because he got a punch in on you while you focus on doing maximum damage to him.

Concept 5: “Catching”

This is the ability to lock your attacker by either catching and breaking up the joints of his body with locks or being able to pin him to the floor until the police or help arrives once you get him down. You are not just focusing on applying physical “moves” on him, but also being able to take positions where he gets “stuck” and can’t get at you to do what he wants or cause you damage. From this dominant position, you can deliver strikes, sweeps, or whatever you need to – to do what…

to “break his body down!”

There are literally dozens of techniques in each of these categories, but…

…there are only a handful of principles and concepts that you’ll need to become proficient enough to handle a brutal, hand-to-hand attack situation. I teach some in my Special Agent Combative Course and Fight Fast have many other courses from which you can learn.

The point that you must remember is: if you’re going to develop the combat survival skills you need for the streets then you must go beyond many of the techniques, ideas and beliefs you learn in your martial arts class about what skill is, and which skills are critical. Instead, you need to learn these five concepts and couple them with the most effective techniques of your chosen self defense system.

Click here for brutally effective self-defense instruction from Derek Smith

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12 thoughts on “5 Critical Tips For Close Quater Combat”

  1. Helpful! Hints for an able Senior woman to deal with an intruder. This is not likely and I have a large dog. However, things happen. This ties in directly with a previous comment
    Ideas, comments, help. Best case/worst case scenarios? Thanks all!

  2. Hello CJ, not sure what age you mean by “senior citizen,” I am 55 and wold be considered a senior citizen my some, but I still practice the martial arts. But learning some BASIC self defense moves won’t hurt. Especially learn how to use improvised weapons like keys, belts, a kubaton on your key chain, etc. Also, perhaps learn how to use actual weapons, like sticks and knives, pepper spray, and don’t rule out a legally carried firearm.

  3. Are there any “in real life” programs that incorporate the general skills you have gone over? I am interested in taking some classes, but don’t want to commit to studying a single martial art, unless I can find one that is most generally useful. I’ve heard good things about Krav Maga. I think I definitely need to actually DO these things rather than just watch others do them.

  4. Interesting. But, I’m a female, & almost 70. I doubt I ever face a situation like this. But if I should, I want to be able to defend myself. I don’t own a gun, can’t afford one, plus don’t have a license. So what could I do? My first instinct would be to go low with a swift kick, but from there, I have no idea of what to do. Any suggestions?

  5. If he takes you by surprise always wait till he is ready to punch. Afs soon as you see that and are in a confined space reach to the side of them and feel the lats on his side. Grab his lats and I mean put the grip on them and he will cry. I was a bouncer in past life. Had many drunks and just cowboys trying you out. I made a lot of grown men cry from this!

  6. I’m a medium sized male, had to quit fighting in grade school. I have learned many things from Bob Pierce and his crew which have given me the confidence to be able to relax in society with my wife and family and also to remain aware of and identify …outlying situations. I feel strongly for the smaller, single mothers and potentially the elderly to sparatic attackers. Keep tuned in to the techniques coached here, but I’ll emphasize on a straight heel to the knee or depending on height differences, a heel to the stomach or a knuckle forward fist to the bread box (just below the sternum. Poke yourself there a few times with two fingers until you feel it.) Quick moves like that can give you time to get away or open up other easy targets to keep an intruder from attacking again.

  7. You Didn’t mention Yoko Empi, as elbow strikes are not difficult to learn, very powerful and effective at close quarters.