Insights and Training Tips from Tactical Arts


Insights from the Tactical Arts Academy

Fight like a Guerrilla - Tactics for Better Self Defense

Fight like a Guerrilla - Tactics for Better Self Defense

A guerrilla force is a small group of fighters that is agile, elusive, and carefully selective in how it engages a larger military opponent.  Guerrillas do not use a force of numbers or size of arms to overwhelm an opponent.  They use strategies and tactics that are indirect and misleading.  They use distractions to setup an attack.  They attack along lines that are less expected.  Guerrillas position themselves so that they can gain an advantage and limit the options of their enemy.  Guerrillas seek to demoralize their opponents in order to gain a psychological advantage.  Guerrillas use these tactics to be successful against a larger, more powerful opponent.

You need to learn to fight like a guerrilla to defend yourself.  You cannot afford to stand and fight it out against another opponent. Though guerrilla tactics are typically used by a small group, you can apply many of them in your own personal defense.

Below are guerrilla tactics explained with the appropriate adaptations for self defense.  Incorporate these tactics into your self defense and martial arts training.

Don’t Fight Toe-to-Toe

A small guerrilla band does not trade blows with a larger, conventional force by using a frontal attack.  If so, they would never win.  Fighting on equal footing would put them at a huge disadvantage.  History has shown that frontal assaults in battle are rarely successful anyway.  Even when they are successful, they are usually not worth it.  The winning force typically suffers heavy losses in the process of the battle.  Learn from the guerrilla fighter, and avoid going toe-to-toe with your opponent.

Don’t pit your strength against that of your opponent.  Not only may you encounter someone who is stronger and more hardened than you, but you may face more than one opponent at the same time.  If you reply on your strength or your ability to take pain in order to win, then you will not last.  Eventually you will meet your match, run out of strength, or incur too much damage to continue.

You cannot afford to suffer injuries while trading blows back in forth.  This is especially true if there is a weapon involved.  Do not absorb blows, cuts, or shots just to be able to strike back.  Your body may be able to absorb some abuse, but it will add up in both the short term and the long term.  If you fight toe-to-toe you are leaving yourself in easy reach of an attack, so your opponent will continue to hit you because your approach is too direct.  That approach makes you an easy target.

Instead of fighting toe-to-toe, use an indirect approach.  If you attack in the front, you will be attacking where your opponent is balanced.  His weapons are ready and pointing at you when you stand in front of him.  Attack him at an angle that will catch him off balance.  Move to the side of him, where he cannot easily reach you with both hands or kick you with both legs. The advantage is temporary, but it can be huge.

Let him think you are going to engage in the front, but actually move to the side and attack from there.  All you need is a slight angle to the side to give you an advantage.  Once you are to the side, you can point all of your weapons at the opponent, whereas, he has to adjust by turning towards you before all of his weapons can reach you.

Like a guerrilla force, you want to use fewer resources against a larger opponent.  You want to conserve your strength and minimize your injuries so you can maintain your ability to fight back.  If you spend all your energy fighting off an attacker only to find there is more than one, then you have lost.  Imagine fighting for several minutes delivering strikes, kicks, takedowns and grappling tactics.  In a very short time, you will be injured and exhausted.  Conditioning yourself is very important, but avoiding an all-or-nothing, toe-to-toe fight that taps your energy and willpower is crucial.  Fighting that way will wear out your resources.  Conserve your strength and energy, and use it selectively.

Hit and Run

Guerrilla fighters are more successful when they attack, then quickly withdraw.  They hit, and then they run.  They do this to frustrate and demoralize the opponent.  They are usually not concerned with dominating or capturing land.  They are just wearing down the opponent.  By striking, then immediately withdrawing, they can reduce the amount of time the opponent has for retaliation.  They get out before the opponent can organize a response.   To hit and run, guerrilla fighters move to a good position, deliver an ambush, or snipe at the opponent, then exit quickly.  You can apply the same tactic against your opponent.

Deliver your attack, then exit right away.  Although it may only be for a brief moment, you want to get out of your opponent’s reach immediately after you attack.  Try not to linger more than 3 seconds or 3 hits before you attempt to disengage.  Do not linger just to deliver additional strikes.

If you hit and stay in, then you need to be sure you are really dominating or your opponent is uanable to respond. Remember, even someone with no training can hurt you.  It is better to attack and get out right away if you can.  It may not always be possible to disengage, but it is safer.

If you can stun the opponent with your initial hit, it may buy you enough time to escape.  You will be much less likely to suffer injury if you can completely escape.  Remember hit, then RUN!

Change your line of attack.  You want to hit your opponent where it is unexpected.  Attacking the same way multiple times will give your opponent a chance to figure out a response.  This approach is actually how we train in class in order to make improvements.  We practice responding to the same attack over and over, until the response is fluid.

Don’t give your opponent multiple opportunities to counter the same attack.  He will figure it out.  Instead, keep him guessing.  Also, do not attempt to attack along the same line if your first attempt failed.  Get out and try another line of attack.

Stay mobile.  Remaining in one position is a bad habit.  Focus on footwork, not stances.  Keep your hands and body moving.  Train yourself so that you feel uncomfortable when you are not moving.  If you are just standing in one spot, you should feel like something is wrong.  Get in shape so you can move continuously without fatigue.  Train to be agile.  There is no room for static defense.  At the very least, you can be a hard target to hit if you stay mobile.

Fight from a Dominant Position

In battle, position is key.  With the right position, a small group of guerrillas can fight a much larger, stronger force.  With the right position, a guerrilla can gain advantage. For example: If the guerrilla force is positioned on a mountain above the opposing force, then they would be better able to repel the attacks of their opponents.  The difficult climb would leave the opponent more exposed when he tries to engage. The guerrillas would have better vision of the incoming attacks, and the targets below would be easier to hit from above.  A change in position can make a big difference in the outcome.

With the right position, guerrillas can even defy the advantages held by the opponent.  For example: By leading an opposing force through a natural funnel in the landscape or battlefield, a guerrilla group can reduce the number of effective fighters the opponent can move to the front.  This funneling effect allows the guerrilla to fight a smaller force and limits the opponent’s ability to surround them.

Like a guerrilla, position yourself so that your opponent has fewer options and you have more. The goal is to attack from a position where your opponent’s weapons are not all pointed at you. If you are directly in front of him, then both arms and legs can reach you.  Don’t stay in front of him.

Flank your opponent.  Fight him from the sides.  By flanking your opponent, you delay the reach of his weapons on the opposite side.

By you moving to his side, your opponent is forced to adjust to you.  When he adjusts to get a better position, you can take advantage of this delay to deliver an attack, move again into a better position, or disengage.

Get to the back of your opponent.  Whether you are standing or on the ground, being behind your opponent offers a huge advantage.  His weapons are pointing away from you, and his vision is limited.  He will have difficulty determining what you are doing and what he should do about it.  You will find it easier to evade his attacks.

In the back, not only are you in the best position to avoid his attacks, but also you are in a position that leaves him very vulnerable.  His spine and head are exposed to attack.  His neck will be accessible for a choke. Psychologically, he will be off balance.  It will take him time to recover from this bad position.  During that time, you can focus on attack or escape.  Either way, the initiative is yours.


Sabotage your Opponent’s Resources


Guerrillas destroy the resources of their opponents.  They sabotage communication equipment, obstruct supply lines, and destroy other key elements that are important to the plans and maneuverability of their opponents. They attack significant points of the infrastructure inside an opponent’s territory.  They do this to cause a distraction, take away the opponent’s options, or to force a reaction.

You can sabotage the plans of your opponent by attacking him in a way that will distract his attention, undermine his plans, and disrupt him psychologically.

Stun your opponent before launching a full committed attack.  In order to make sure what you are doing is not obvious and easy to counter, start with an attack that distracts or misleads your opponent.  Gain advantage right away by delivering a quick stun that has little commitment on your part, but that forces him to respond.  If the stun works, then you will have gained some initiative to do something more substantial.

Use a stun like a jabbing flick to the eyes with your fingers or your weapon.  While recoiling from the flick to the eyes, your opponent will have difficulty clearly seeing what you are doing.  Use that opportunity, when he does not have clarity of vision and awareness, to follow up with more devastating strikes or to move to a better poistion.

Destroy your opponent’s plans.  Before the fight even begins, you want to reset your potential attacker’s OODA loop.  You want him to have to reassess the situation.  If you recognize a pattern building that may lead to criminal behavior or violence, interrupt that pattern and force your potential attacker to second guess or diverge from his plans.

A criminal looking to rob you has a plan.  It may be simple, but it is a plan.  In that plan, the would-be attacker has some assumptions.  He is assuming you will respond a certain way based on his actions.  For example: This may include politely asking you a question in order to get closer to you, then putting his gun in your face in order to convince you to give him what he wants.  If you can recognize that he is trying to get closer, then you can stop him from doing so with verbal commands and authoritative body language.  Before he has a chance to reach for his gun, you can position yourself to jam his arm if he tries to draw a weapon.  You may even already have your hand on your own weapon, so you are ready to accessit quickly and stop him.

If you distract him from his plan and instead force him to respond to you, then you have sabotaged his planning.  You may even circumvent the benefit he has of experience.  He may have used that same plan twenty times, and it worked every time.  If you change the variables and don’t fall into the behavior pattern that he expected, then you have disrupted his resources of planning and experience.

Ambush your Opponent

Guerrilla tactics include the use of ambushes.  Ambushes are attacks designed to catch an enemy off guard by using concealment and surprise.  They are used to knock the unsuspecting opponent further off balance in order to temporarily stunt his ability to respond.

When it is time to fight, try to catch your opponent off guard.  The time to fight back may vary.  In some situations, you need to act immediately, such as before your attacker even finishes his pre-assault pattern. In other circumstances, you may need to wait for the right opportunity such as when someone pointing a gun at you looks away momentarily.  Either way, you need to act when the advantage is yours and, if possible, when your opponent is not expecting it.

Use violence of action when attacking your opponent.   Overwhelm your opponent with very aggressive, continuous attacks.  If you are morally and legally in the right to do so, then attack.  Don’t use more force than is necessary, but whatever your technique, apply it hard and fast.  Don’t give your opponent a chance to recover. You want to emotionally disrupt him, so that he freezes or becomes defensive.  Keep him reeling from your attacks, so that you can be one step ahead.  Do this until he stops being a threat.

Final Thoughts

You can benefit from learning to fight like a guerrilla.  Like a guerrilla, you will likely be facing an opponent with greater size and resources.  You may even face several opponents. If you can incorporate the tactics above, you will find that you can give yourself a better chance of surviving a violent personal attack.

Using the tactics above requires that you develop self defense skills through training and cultivate situational awareness through practice.  You need trained responses and the ability to improvise in order to survive a violent attack with the least amount of injury.  You need to teach yourself how to maintain awareness of your surroundings and think through possible plans of action should something go wrong.  If you are unaware of your attackers actions prior to the actual violent attack, then it will be difficult for your to execute many of the tactics mentioned above.


If you are interested in learning more about self defense, consider joining the Tactical Arts Academy Self Defense Program. Training includes learning how to avoid fighting toe-to-toe and using tactics that will give you an advantage. We can help you learn to protect yourself and enjoy making yourself better.

Click the button below to learn more about the program and sign up for a free visit. You’ll learn more about Tactical Arts, you’ll have the opportunity to watch our classes in action, and you’ll discover if our training is right for you.



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