Although awareness and avoidance are excellent strategies that I firmly believe can keep almost anyone out of danger, there are situations that happen despite the best planning and awareness. Sometimes people simply get attacked or find themselves in danger and it would be shortsighted and foolhardy of me not to address this possibility. So, when awareness and avoidance have failed, we have a plan for action.
Escalated response: It is very important that you match your action response to the threat level. This is not just me talking, it is literally against the law to use more force than necessary and you will be arrested and thrown in jail if it is determined that you went overboard. So here are some examples:
Low threat: A guy is pestering you at a bar or a drunk relative at a family gathering. Clearly you don’t want to go straight to the red zone and bash someone’s head in if they are just being a pest. But you don’t want to tolerate that behavior either. The best thing to do is leave. If for some reason you can’t, or you need to address the situation (e.g. he has you cornered) try to make noise and get someone to help you. If that is not an option, joint locks are great for these situations because they don’t leave marks or cause damage if done correctly. Grab a finger (or wrist) and bend it the wrong way (be careful not to break it unless that is your intention). Once he is distracted, use his body angle to escape. Joint locks are easy to execute but they take a lot of practice to learn, so I suggest you find an instructor in your area who can teach you or contact me for assistance.
Next level: Medium threat. Someone trying to take your purse or you are cornered and the joint locks aren't an option but your life is not in danger (yet). This is where groin kicks and face palms are great. One shot, distract them, and run like hell. Every body is different, so I recommend you practice on a Body Opponent Bag or at your local martial arts school to find out what techniques suit you best.
Next level: high threat. This is where you life is in danger. It is hard to write a guide for this because there are a thousand different scenarios that could happen. The basic concept is this: if someone is really threatening your life, it’s either you or them. You have to shut off that switch inside of you that keeps you polite and functioning in society and become an animal. Fight dirty. There are no rules. The only thing you need to know is if you survive, you win. This is something that long term training in martial arts will help with. A good instructor will put you in more and more difficult situations to gradually desensitize you to being hit, being sat on, being thrown, being threatened, etc so you have a better chance of keeping your head if it actually happens. Not all schools are good, so please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like help choosing a school.