The 3 Most Common Street Attacks & How to Defend Them

By Joel Williams | Krav Maga

Oct 23
Learn krav maga at home

You train hard and you practice a lot. But are you actually “ready” for a real life physical confrontation? Maybe so, maybe not… There is really only one way to know for sure, right? Just find yourself in a situation where you have to actually use your knowledge and skills. None of us truly want that – but at the end of the day, if you are serious about using your martial arts skills for self-defense, it’s all about being prepared. One way to train specifically to defend ourselves is to organize your training to ensure you are as prepared as possible to defend yourself against the most probable (or common) attacks. That is exactly what the GMAU Krav Maga program does – it teaches you how to defend yourself against the most common attacks. Want to know more? Then keep reading!

“Whether it is learned the easy way or the hard way, the truth remains that your safety is yours. It is not the responsibility of the police, the government, industry, the apartment building manager, or the security company.”
― Gavin de Becker

Ever Heard of Goshin Jutsu?

Goshin Jutsu is Japanese for self-defense method or technique. When someone refers to attacks that happen “on the street”, they are talking about self-defense. Other terms you may see are: reality based self defense, situational defensive training, or combatives. In all cases, these learning systems are concerned with teaching practitioners to effectively respond to common attacks. Luckily for us, there are uber intelligent (and very experienced) martial artists who have taken the time to do extensive research on “common attacks”, a sub-field of the scientific field of study of martial arts (that particular academic endeavor is called hoplology, by the way). There are many individuals to highlight in this field of study. Allow me to highlight just one…

Enter: 9th Dan Black Belt, Hanshi Patrick McCarthy

Habitual Acts of Physical Violence: The Big Picture

Patrick McCarthy began his training in the 1960s and was recognized as a major kata, kihon and kumite competitor in the 1970s. After becoming disillusioned by (what he describes as) the lack of reality in the tournament scene, he traveled to Okinawa, Japan and China to find (again, in his words) “real” karate. His journey in the 1980s – 1990s led to the development of a theory of self-defense which he called the “habitual acts of physical violence” (or HAPV, for short). Subsequently, he has written many books and articles on the subject and has developed two person drills designed to address training against these common attacks. Below is his complete list of the 36 HAPVs:

  1. Swinging punches
  2. Straight punches
  3. Downward strikes
  4. Upward strikes
  5. Swinging kicks
  6. Straight kicks & knee strikes
  7. Head-butt/spitting
  8. Biting
  9. Testicle squeeze
  10. Augmented foot/leg trips
  11. Single/double-hand hair pull from the front/rear
  12. Single/double-hand choke from the front/rear
  13. Front neck choke from rear
  14. Classical head-lock
  15. Front, bent-over, augmented choke (neck-hold)
  16. Half/full-nelson
  17. Rear over-arm bear hug (& side variation)
  18. Rear under-arm bear hug (& side variation)
  19. Front over-arm bear hug (& side variation)
  20. Front under-arm bear hug (& side variation)
  21. Front/rear tackle
  22. One-handed wrist grab (same & opposite sides-normal/reversed)
  23. Two-handed wrist grabs (normal/reversed)
  24. Both wrists seized from the front/rear
  25. Both arms seized from the front/rear
  26. Single/double shoulder grab from front/rear
  27. Arm-lock (behind the back)
  28. Front arm-bar (triceps tendon fulcrum up supported by wrist)
  29. Side arm-bar (triceps tendon fulcrum down supported by wrist)
  30. Single/double lapel grab
  31. Single/double-hand shove
  32. Garment pulled over the head
  33. Seized & impacted
  34. Single/double leg/ankle grab from the front (side/rear)
  35. Ground straddle
  36. Attacked (kicked/struck) while down

“The only defense against evil, violent people is good people who are more skilled at violence.”
― Rory Miller

HAPVs in Context

Others have organized this list in additional meaningful ways. Using crime statistics and circumstantial details, for instance, it is known that when men attack men, they strike half the time and grab half the time. This is not usually a surprise attack and often results from some type of initial verbal confrontation combined with lots of posturing, e.g., puffed up/chest out. This what Rory Miller, a former corrections officer and tactical team member with training in psychology, who writes and lectures on the topic of violence, calls the “monkey dance”.

“It’s better to avoid than to run; better to run than to de-escalate; better to de-escalate than to fight; better to fight than to die. The very essence of self-defense is a thin list of things that might get you out alive when you are already screwed.” ― Rory Miller

Male vs. Male HAPV:

  1. One person pushes, hands to chest, which is normally followed by the pushee striking first, to the head.
  2. A swinging punch to the head.
  3. A front clothing grab, one handed, followed by punch to the head.
  4. A front clothing grab, two hands, followed by a head butt.
  5. A front clothing grab, two hands, followed by a knee to the groin.
  6. A bottle, glass, or ashtray to the head.
  7. A lashing kick to groin/lower legs.
  8. A broken bottle/glass jabbed to face.
  9. A slash with knife, most commonly a 3 to 4″lockblade knife or kitchen utility knife. (Apart from muggings, sexual assaults and gang violence, the hunting/combat type knife is seldom used)
  10. A grappling style head lock.

“Men commit 80 % of all violent crimes and are twice as likely to become the victims of aggressive behavior.”
― Lawrence Kane & Kris Wilder

When men attack women, they almost always grab in some way and there can often incorporate and element of surprise.

Male vs. Female (General) HAPV:

  1. The victim was approached from the rear/side/front, a threat was made with a weapon, and then the weapon was hidden – Then the victim’s right upper arm was held by the attacker’s left hand and the victim was led away.
  2. A silent or rushing approach was made from the victim’s rear, and then a rear neck/head lock applied and the victim dragged away.
  3. The same approach as in #2, with a rear waist grab. The victim was carried/dragged away, normally into bushes/alley etc.
  4. The victim was pinned to a wall with a throat grab with the attacker’s left hand. A weapon-shown threat was made, and then the weapon hidden, and the victim led away.
  5. The victim was approached from rear/ front/side. The attacker grabbed the victim’s hair with his left hand, and then she was dragged away.

Male vs. Female (Most Common Wrist Grips):

  1. The attacker’s left hand, thumb uppermost, gripping the victim’s raised right wrist. The attacker threatens/ gesticulates with his right hand.
  2. With the victim’s right arm down, the attacker grips the victim’s right upper arm with his left hand and her right wrist with his right hand.
  3. The victim raises both arms, with both of her wrists gripped. The attacker’s hands are vertical with the attacker’s thumbs uppermost.
  4. With the victim’s arms down, the attacker grabs both upper arms.
  5. With the victim’s right arm down, the attacker’s left hand grabs just below the right elbow, and his right hand grabs her wrist.

“It is understandable that the perspectives of men and women on safety are so different–men and women live in different worlds…at core, men are afraid women will laugh at them, while at core, women are afraid men will kill them.” ― Gavin de Becker

HAPVs & the KISS Principle

Hanshi Patrick McCarthy also simplifies the list of 36 HAPVs by collapsing them into 3 basic categories:

  1. Seizing (grabs, chokes, bear-hugs, pins/holds, etc.)
  2. Impacting (punching, kicking, slapping, elbowing, etc.)
  3. Combo (2 handed grab + knee, ground & pound, etc.)

If you think of them in this way, the list of 36 common attacks (a number large enough to potentially overwhelm those with little to no martial arts, combat or fighting experience) seems much more “manageable”. Now that we have divided the attacks into smaller groups we can get to work figuring out what to do in those situations and how to best respond to each specific threat.

The GMAU Krav Maga Solution

The GMAU Krav Maga program addresses each of the 36 HAPVs (and more). Beginning at the white belt level, students learn to strike, kick, defense against a choke, and standing grappling. In other words, the curriculum addresses all “ranges” of combat from the beginning of the program. As one progresses through belt levels they will learn blocks and additional strikes and kicks (through the black belt level). More standing grappling and ground defense instruction is taught at the intermediate belt levels and continues through the black belt level. Defenses against weapons begins at the intermediate levels through black belt.

Common Attack #1 – Seizing Defense

Common Attack #2 – Impacting Defense

Common Attack #3 – Defending a Combined Seizing + Impacting Attack

Create a FREE Account and Start Training Now!

Are you looking for an affordable and convenient way to learn how to protect yourself and others? Do you have dreams of being a qualified self-defense instructor with access to hundreds of hours of lessons and classes? If so, you should look closely at the GMAU Krav Maga student or instructor certification programs. See the links below to learn more and try them out (for FREE) with no implied commitment. You won’t be sorry you did…

Our Krav Maga Student Course

Our Krav Maga Instructor Certification Course

Additional Resources

If you want to learn more about the nature and psychology of violence, below are three very highly recommended books on those topics:

Gavin de Becker’s book: “The Gift of Fear

Lawrence A. Kane & Kris Wilder‘s book: “The Little Black Book of Violence: What Every Young Man Needs to Know About Fighting

Rory Miller‘s book: Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence

About the Author

Husband. Father. University Professor. GMAU Certified Krav Maga Instructor.

Leave a Comment:

Leave a Comment: