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Defense Tips When Indecisive?

I will try and make this story as short as possible as it could potentially get long!

I was caught up in a difficult situation that left me in two minds about the best action for me to take, this hesitation left me in a potentially dangerous position, I will explain…

I was coming back from a meal out and walking back to the car with my heavily pregnant wife, upon entering the car park in the stair way I see a woman cowering in the corner and a man standing over her shouting abuse. He had a pint glass in his hand and was making threats to hit her with it, it looked like he had already probably been physical towards her.

I got between them both and managed to usher him back to a reasonable distance from her whilst trying to talk him down. My wife went to comfort the woman. He would calm down, apologise to me and my wife and say he just wanted to talk to her, then he would flip out and try to get close to her and I had to stand my ground and keep him at a distance. His aggression at this point was not directed at me although I could tell me standing my ground was irritating him. This cycle went on for around 10 minutes, calm then aggressive, there was absolutely no one else around and I was unsure of my next move. The aggression started to turn towards me… This is where I had the dilemma.

My only concern was my wife and unborn child, this made me try and keep the situation calm and not escalate it, although all I wanted to do was attack. I felt I had the upper hand being sober and he seemed pretty drunk.

In my head it was like this…
attack attack attack

But what if you can’t take him? And I get hurt leaving my wife alone. Don’t attack.

But your gonna be on the back foot and your defence sucks, would be better to attack and get upper hand.

But what if my pregnant wife intervenes and get knocked over, I know she will try. Don’t risk it.

So I kind of froze not knowing what was best, he pushed my chest, I tripped over a small curb and banged my head on some steps and he stood over me with the glass pulled back threatening to hit me. He then went to go towards the woman and my wife, I scrambled up and again got back in between them, putting a hand on his chest to hold him back. His mood was so erratic, he apologised but continued to try and get to his wife.

After a minute or so the police arrived, he tried to assault a police officer and was arrested. Apparently 2 hotel reception staff had witnessed the domestic and called them, he had grabbed her by the face and forced her to the floor. (Pretty annoyed they didn’t come help but what can you do)

I received a phone call from the police, explaining the woman refused to talk to them but would like to thank me. I was fuming!

Tldr. In trying to not escalate the situation and end up hurt and unable to protect my heavily pregnant wife, I ended up nearly getting hurt and being unable to protect my heavily pregnant wife.

Although this was 6 months ago it still plays on my mind and I still don’t know what the right thing to do was.

Does anyone have any tips on this kind of thing? Any videos of self defence techniques that would help?
How would you have handled it?
Does your response to situations change depending on who is in your company?
Any other advice that may help?

Thanks and sorry about the long post.

Now let me start this by saying I am not a self defense expert or a member of law enforcement. I am just a normal 26 y/o kid with very limited experiences with altercations of any kind. This is definitely an armchair quarterback moment. I am single and have no children so take this with a grain of salt. Also hindsight is 20/20 so we can go over this all we want but in the end the result wasn’t too bad considering so count your lucky stars and learn from this. I also hope before you got involved you consulted your wife in some way and didn’t just make that call alone.

Let me say that you and your wife are good people. I don’t know a lot of guys who would stop and do something if they were just on their own without their pregnant wives.

That being said I think it was irresponsible to put your wife and unborn child at risk. At the least you could have made sure they were in a safe place before taking action. However (armchair quarterback remember?) in the moment you have to make judgement calls and if you really felt that you needed to act I think you handled it moderately well.

When it comes to self defense techniques from what I know is in your situation probably the best move would have been to keep your distance but call the cops. People like that are unstable and you going after him might even have led to the woman he was attacking coming after you. Worse yet, what if he had a knife or gun. All the self defense in the world won’t make you bulletproof.

To sum it up you and your wife did a good thing but it was, to some degree, reckless and foolish.

Instead of dwelling on it maybe make an effort to be better prepared for things like that in the future. If you are on this forum I imagine you already work towards being a stronger guy. How about taking some Krav Maga or basic self defense classes if there are any offered nearby. Discuss it with your wife(which I assume you already have) and figure out where you guys went wrong and what you could do better if anything like that happens again.

You don’t need to let it bug you or live in fear, but being prepared for tough situations is never a bad thing.

Just my two cents.

I have some experience as a bouncer dealing with irrational and intoxicated people. I’m by no means the final word on handling this, but I have a few thoughts I can share.

  1. Are you ready to assume the risks of involving yourself in a violent situation? Intoxicated strangers acting violently can be full of surprises. The list of things you don’t know is quite long. You don’t know what sort of combat skills the person has. You don’t know what sort of weapons he might have. You don’t know what sort of blood-borne diseases the person has. You don’t know how far this person is willing to escalate the violence. You don’t know what it will take to subdue him, either.

All you know is some asshole is being an asshole and you want to make the situation better. Those intentions and the willingness to act on them is admirable, and it brings us to point 2.

  1. How prepared are you to handle violence? You appear to be fit, which is an advantage. Do you have a weapon? Do you know how to use it? Do you know what the legal ramifications for using violence in defense of self or others in your jurisdiction? Do you know how to fight? Have you ever fought?

It sounds like your toolbox for handling violence is limited, but it is important that you seem aware of this, at least after the fact. Many men insist on living in a fantasy world where they dramatically overestimate their ability to produce good outcomes when things get violent. Don’t be that guy.

There is only real training. Videos will not help you except for perhaps cultivating a more prepared mindset. If your jurisdiction allows, I’m a huge proponent of concealed carry. For hand-to-hand, I think brazilian jiu jitsu is a good choice if you can find a school that teaches how to fight first, compete in sport BJJ second. Find legit instructors and learn from them.

Tough to answer without being there. Standing and filming the encounter while you talk to the guy and send your wife to safety and have her call the cops could have been a good option.

Absolutely. You put yourself AND your wife at risk, and that is something you should think hard about.

Prepare. Train.

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  1. Take wife back inside restaurant! Keep your valuables safe!

  2. Get manager. Call police. Arrange for backup!

  3. Go outside with a “buddy,” and not your wife. Confront dude with numerical superiority. Tell him police are on the way. Show overwhelming force!

  4. Jumping spin kicks.

My wife made the call, not me. I was trying every thing I could to get my wife to walk away and get in the car where she was safe. I told her countless times to get somewhere safe, she would not. It was not a possibility to make her and i don’t see it as being an option to help or not when my wife was already fully committed. I was very angry at her for some time and we have discussed it. But I guess like me she didn’t want to walk directly past a woman begging us to help, it’s not a bad quality for her to have but in that moment I think she made a mistake in not getting to safety and letting me deal with it alone. We now have more of a family game plan.

In terms of myself, I boxed from a young age, I’m relatively well skilled in attack, but suck on the back foot. It’s something although I worked on it in training I never was very good at not getting hit. That’s why I never made it very far as a boxer! Very fast, very powerful but easy to hit, hence I know my limitations and don’t think I’m invincible. Also I haven’t been in a ring for over 10 years.

That’s good to hear.

Another thought I’d like to share is how domestic violence situations compound the factors of uncertainty I listed above. Another bouncer at my bar once got attacked by a girl who had just gotten slapped in the face the moment the bouncer laid hands on the guy to stop him. Women do crazy stuff, especially women who stay in abusive relationships. Her unwillingness to cooperate with the police tells me there would be a REAL good chance she’s getting involved if things were to have gone south for her abuser. Then you’ve got two violent people to handle.

So much uncertainty, especially when drugs, alcohol and unstable people are involved. Subduing people like this can be a lot more difficult than you might guess. I’ve seen drunk people withstand severe beatings and keep standing up for more. Are you ready to knock someone out who won’t stay down? Choke them out? Can you hold a person like that down?

Shit can get so messy, so fast. Most people really have no clue. My hats go off to the cops who seek these people out and handle them daily.

Can we just acknowledge that this situation has literally killed people before. People falling/getting punched and hitting their head on the ground has lead to death. Often. So, you weren’t “nearly getting hurt”, it was “nearly lights out permanently, no seeing my child grow up, game over.” That he lingered over you on the ground while holding a weapon makes it an even-closer call that you very narrowly missed a very bad situation.

Long story short, it sucks that you got drawn into that situation by whatever circumstances (my wife is the same way, a situation-escalator by instinct, so I feel ya.). Ideally, I would’ve had your wife bring the lady out of the situation and escort her to somewhere public instead of the parking lot - right back into the restaurant or someplace where there a lot more people. That’d remove both of them from the equation and if/when he followed them, there’s at least by more eyes on him which could sober him up during a “calm” phase.

As for handling him differently, you were dealing with an inebriated, armed opponent so you’re behind the 8-ball from the start. De-scalate (calm him down), distract (change the subject/attention), disarm (get him to put the glass down), disable/incapacitate (physical interaction). In that order. Sounds like you were on the way with some of them, but it got out of hand and went almost as bad as it could’ve.

Regarding self-defense in the future, I’d take up boxing again. Even if it’s one session a week, shake the rust off those reflexes and remember how to throw a punch (though I prefer open hand or hammerfist over knuckles for self-defense striking). Brushing up old skills is going to be more efficient than starting a new art like learning krav maga or BJJ.

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If we’re doing story-time, one of the only times I “intervened” in a situation, I was walking across the parking lot area of a shopping mall when a husband, wife, early-teens daughter, and two younger boys come out of a restaurant. Husband’s yelling in teen’s face something like “You want to keep embarrassing me? Do you?” while grabbing her jacket collar and shaking her once or twice.

It took me a second to tell if he was grabbing her jacket or her throat. If it was the throat, I would’ve gotten much closer, much faster. The wife awkwardly shuffling everyone along towards the parking lot, saying nothing.

I stopped maybe 15 feet away, standing out in the open, and made it obvious that I was staring at them. Husband looks over and says “You a cop or something?” I say “If I was, you’d be fucked right about now. Everyone okay?” In the back of my mind, I expect him to take out a badge right then. Sorry, but that was my first thought.

Husband says “Mind your own business”, then to daughter “Just get in the fucking car and be quiet.” He takes a half-step towards me, wife touches his arm and says “Please let’s just go to the car.” He gives me a “Fucking pussy.” as he walks with them to the car a few spots over. I yell out “Even kids are allowed to call 911.” I walked off very slowly but checked over my shoulder at them a few times, and I still feel bad about what those kids and that wife have to deal with.

Ah yes, “fucking pussy”, classic line. My go-to response, since I’m a smart ass and can usually deliver it perfectly, is “ooh I like that too!” and smile. Doesn’t ever diffuse a situation but if you’re in a crowded area pretty much everyone will be on your side after that.

Yeah I know the dangers of the situation, I didn’t choose to go running in all hero though. It was to my eyes unavoidable, we literally had to walk up the stairs she was cowering in, we had no idea if it was domestic, car jacking, rape. We were also in a secluded multi story car park pretty late at night.

The guy would calm down and agree to come out for a walk to clear his head, take 10 steps away then turn back. The woman stayed curled up in a ball crying, my wife tried to get her to leave with her but she wouldn’t move. Shock I guess. The situation really sucked, and with hindsight I would have done a few things differently.

I have been thinking about getting back boxing, I’m thinking if a martial art may be more effective for self defence though. There’s a mma gym pretty local which I’m looking into. I’ve brought a heavy bag to blast the rust off a bit.

I think having the plan with my wife is the biggest lesson learnt, I’m hoping she sees the dangers a little better now and do exactly as I say in that kind of situation.

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First off, boxing IS a martial art, and a good one at that.

Second, I think BJJ offers a few things that other martial arts don’t. I’m only about six months into it, but the benefits for self-defense are clear.

  1. Hard sparring. Rolling allows you to train your techniques at full force against a resisting opponent. Practicing BJJ against people who know BJJ puts me at a real advantage against untrained opponents. With only six months of consistent training, I was able to put an in-shape active US federal law enforcement officer from his feet to the floor and submit him with an arm lock in about 5 seconds. I’m a bit bigger and stronger than the average guy, but I’m nothing special. Training was the difference. He couldn’t defend the takedown and once we were on the ground he was clueless about how to stop me. Most untrained people will be. The guys who have been doing it for years are very, very good with their bare hands, making me feel just as helpless and unprepared as I made that federal agent feel.

Hard sparring also has mental benefits, insomuch as you get used to thinking and analyzing while you’ve got someone trying really hard to choke you unconscious or break your bones.

  1. Control the outcome. I never actually hit anyone working as a bouncer, even though I could have. You don’t know what’s going to happen when you hit someone. Maybe nothing. Maybe you knock them out. Maybe they get a concussion. Maybe they hit their head on the way down and die. It can happen, and so can legal and/or civil court action. With grappling it is a much more controlled event, and it gives you chance for negotiation. It is all about controlling the position so they can’t hurt you but you still have options to hold them or attack with strikes, joint locks and chokes. Position over submission. You probably won’t get jailed or sued for keeping an asshole pinned on the ground until the cops show up.

Just some food for thought on a slow Friday. I’d encourage you to stop in your MMA or BJJ gym and give it a go, see if it is for you. Lots of places do first class free.

Short answer now, more later:

-You are both to be commended for caring about another person’s plight. That said, poor choices were made.

-Cops bring backup (and guns) to domestics for a reason. Shit show potential is very high.

-Do not go into a violent situation unless you are mentally resolved to do violence if needed. If it is needed, be first, be fast, be ferocious. Have a plan of attack and an exit strategy.

-Know your legal authorities to use violence and how to protect yourself legally after. If you get charged/sued for cleaning up someone else’s mess you may win the fight but lose the war.

-Never stand square to someone within arm’s length. If you can be pushed down you screwed up your positioning. Be off line and at least arm’s length and a half away until you decide it’s necessary to go hands on.

-Never push someone’s chest. If I am putting my hand on a drunk, violent person holding a potential weapon it’s to put them directly on the floor.

-If someone has a weapon, have a better weapon.


Not intended to be abrupt. Just short on time.


I forget if I posted this story several years ago, but this seems a relevant thread even if I did.

Several years ago I was walking through the downtown of a sort of grumpy, chumpy, spit on the ground type of town (it is in Canada, but still) in early morning light to get a takeout coffee.

Just before turning the corner towards the place, I noticed ahead on the main thoroughfare a man loudly berating a woman, at times referring to her as a whore. He then a couple of times bear hugged and controlled her a bit.

I could have continued on, but felt compelled to observe to come to some conclusion about what it was, I didn’t want to leave a potentially exploding scenario unattended.

She kept trying to get away from him, and was in tears, and he continued pursuing her and berating her loudly. She tried to get to a payphone, but he blocked her. After continuing at her verbally for a while longer, with her sitting on a concrete tree potter with tears down her cheek, I thought the activity slowed enough to cautiously approach.

I asked him, “is she your girlfriend?”, and he said yes. I actually made sure I got her to confirm that, by which time he said something like, “Now why don’t you just fuck off and mind your own fucking business?”.

So I went my way. In summary, I didn’t try to directly intervene during the earlier bear hugging, or for that matter keeping her away from the payphone, I thought it possible it was more of a relationship thing that could get resolved beyond my incfluence. As to whether I should have fucked off, I think it reasonable that I as a citizen seeing something that initially had other possibilities was correct to confirm what type of disturbance this was, although I think I showed good restraint at every moment I almost called the police.

@twojarslave thanks for the info, bjj sounds well suited to what I would like to learn.

@batman730 thanks, you are right that I let my boxing stance slip, I should have stayed ready at all times. That’s a massive mistake on my part. If my wife was not present I would have been first to attack. When I started to change my preferred plan of action is when I fell apart and was in two minds.

This has knocked my confidence pretty bad to be honest, if you asked me a while back “do you think you could protect your family?” I would say a massive yes. I’m physically in betters shape than most, have some fighting experience, very aware of my surrounding and actively avoid risky looking situations, I’m fast, powerful and aggressive. I’m pretty good at talking people down and think a few steps ahead.

Then a situation came up, I tried to control it, my wife didn’t do what I instructed and I didn’t think fast enough, lacked concentration and lost all confidence in my fighting skills because I could not risk not being successful in my attack.

I need a way of getting that confidence back. I’m pretty annoyed at myself. But I would hate myself if I just walked away, or my family got hurt.

I think this is an admirable level of self-reflection. A lot of guys never have that moment, instead going through life with completely delusional ideas about their ability to handle violence. I did for a time. That often works out fine, and we’re lucky to live in a world that’s peaceful enough for that to happen. It worked fine for me until the day it didn’t.

I think it is pretty common to re-asses these notions you hold about yourself when you get faced with real violence of a predatory nature. Predatory violence is much different animal than social violence, which is what I would typically deal with as a bouncer. Social violence is really just posturing for others, and it usually doesn’t go too far (but it can). But there are some flat-out bad motherfuckers in the world, and you don’t always get to choose when you cross paths.

I’m guessing you are in the UK, so the common-sense solution of carrying a small firearm that you’ve trained with is out. I’ve been training firearms, carrying firearms and minding my own damn business for quite a few years now, and I like the odds of that formula for where I live.

Martial arts might be the next best thing, and it is definitely good for helping your other problem…

If you know how to endure the discomfort of hard weight training, you’ll do fine with BJJ. It is just a different kind of discomfort at probably a similarly low level of risk for injury, provided you train smart as well as hard. If you can deal with grinding out reps and being sore most of the time I’m sure you’ll learn to cope with a shin across your face or a knee in your belly. It is good medicine if you ask me.

I’d be training right now if I didn’t have a nasty cold!

Again, I think it is admirable that you’re wired to help people deal with some of the more difficult problems life can present us. Lots of people aren’t. Maybe most people aren’t. I also think it is admirable to recognize your shortcomings and seek out a way to remedy that. That’s just recognizing reality, but that simple act of reckoning can be surprisingly uncommon in men.

I’m sure Batman730 will drop some great knowledge when he has more time, but I’m also sure he’s going to tell you to train your skills. That’s the only way if you want to be the person it sounds like you want to be.

Yeah I think being realistic is safer than being macho about it, it would be easy to say that I would have hammered him if I chose that option, or the only reason he managed to get me down was because I tripped, then carry on thinking all is good. But the reality is I wasn’t decisive and I was in a position where being put down was easy due to my own mistakes.

I got ambushed in an alleyway 8 years ago, I was walking along when someone rugby tackled me from behind, jumped on top and tried to smash my head into the concrete, I managed to land a few shots, turn him on to his side and hit him a few more times before he decided to run. I chased him and some bouncers grabbed him until police showed up. It was mistaken identity! Although this incident shook me up and I learnt from it, it didn’t test my decision making skills and i didn’t have a choice but to fight for survival. When i didn’t have a choice my instincts kicked in.

When it’s my choice if the fight starts or not is when I fall apart and my brain takes over and not my instincts.

There are two problems here:

1st, you didn’t call 911, or whatever number 911 is in your country first. You ALWAYS CALL 911 FIRST. If someone is choking, you call 911, tell them where you are and what’s happening, then you do the hiemlich. If your not alone, you order someone to call 911. You don’t say “someone call 911” you actually point at someone and make sure they do it. Get help coming before you get sucked into the situation. If everyone is just standing around looking stupid you may have to call 911 yourself before performing interventions.

The 2nd problem is your wife. She’s a wonderful person for wanting to help another human being in trouble but she must have grown up in a very sheltered environment because she doesn’t know what violence is.

If that piece of shit had slapped your wife and you had gone from de-escalating to fucking him up the woman you were defending could have easily attacked you or your wife. If you know any police officers ask them about domestic violence situations, they’ll tell you a hundred such stories.

My favorite comedian Joey Diaz was ranting about how clueless his wife when it came to her safety and the safety of their child. (paraphrasing) “I love my wife to death, but she needs to get shot in the foot or something to wake her up.”

Also, you let yourself get confused by this guy’s apologies. This guy was using verbal Jujitsu to confuse you and any potential witnesses. His actions were totally consistent, and actions speak louder than words. Really, they’re the only thing that matters. Scumbags do this all of the time. It’s a dark rabbit hole to go down, but watch some self-defense shooting videos. They will go from being the aggressor to crying for help in a matter of seconds.

First, some good advice so far, and as Chris pointed out, this could have turned out much, much worse than it did.

My general advice for dealing with a domestic abuse situation would be to intervene via words, but to not put yourself between the husband and wife like you did. I know we as respectful men want to protect women who we see being abused, and we should feel that way and even attempt to intervene. But, you never know how the wife/girlfriend is going to react and they may wind up attacking you from behind to defend their man (who was just beating them) in some cases. Yes, messed up but it does happen, on a fairly common basis.

If you ever encounter that situation again, I’d suggest having your wife call the police while retreating to a safe location/distance, and you verbally intervening while also trying to draw as much attention to yourself and the situation as possible (hopefully encouraging other bystanders to also join your attempts at intervention and/or also call the police). But keep both parties in front of you at all times if possible.

Second, and even more importantly, you need to develop a “family safety” game plan for such potentially dangerous situations. The code word in my family is “Sento.” If my wife or I give each other that code word it means that one or both of us has indentified danger/potential danger and it’s time to go into action (and assume our assigned roles) to deal with that situation. My son is still too young to really understand, but once he is able to he will also be integrated into that course of action (which might just be as simple as “getting behind Mommy”, or “going with Mommy when she asks you to, no questions asked” at that point).

My wife has a good “bark”, but there is no dispute in our family about who has the best chances of handling things should it come down to “bite”. There is no room for ego or “gender equality disputes” when it comes to a survival situation. Failure to execute (or even have) a solid survival plan for reasons of pride or “dominance” is a recipe for disaster.

Unless your wife seriously trains and has a legit chance of taking out the potential threat in the vicinity, then she needs to get herself the hell out of there to safety. A person who is not a legitimate asset in a survival situation is a liability and making things worse, not better, by sticking around and putting both of your lives at greater risk.

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