May 27, 2017

Disabling an Attacker’s Sight, Wind or Mobility

In the Navy, I had to take a firefighting class. One of the things we were told is that a fire needs three things; oxygen, heat and combustible material. Take one away and you put out the fire.

Similarly, an attacker needs three things to attack you. They are; sight, wind and mobility. Sight to see you and by wind I mean breath. Cut off someone’s ability to take a breath and the fight flees from them quickly. If they are immobilized, you can easily escape.

This is something I have been thinking about for a while. If you see any holes, please let me know. Before I continue, let me explain my take on self-defense. Violence should be used as a last resort. When it is used, you should use as little force as is necessary (meaning you don’t shoot someone making verbal threats). You do, however, use as much force as is needed to stop the forward movement of the threat. Once you have stopped the threat, you stop the use of force and escape as quickly as possible. Not stopping and continuing the attack is no longer acting in self-defense, and I would say is acting in vengeance. Both God and the state take issue with this, albeit for different reasons.

One thing to keep in mind about self-defense is that some people are not as affected by pain as others. This could be from adrenaline surge, or from being chemically altered, among other reasons. Someone’s ability to be unaffected by pain won’t matter for the majority of the items I will list. If you can’t see, breath or move, you can’t see, breath or move, your ability to bypass pain doesn’t matter. Many of these items can also easily be used from a smaller statured person on a larger attacker.


There are several ways to disable an attacker’s sight, ranging from inflicting tears, to severely damaging the eyeball with a gouge for instance. Here are just some of the ways I can think of, along with my thoughts on each.
Eye Gouge

I wrote an article called If You’re in a Fair Fight, Your Tactics Suck where I explain several methods of “fighting dirty”. In it, I say this about the eye gouge:

“I have seen this tactic mentioned several times over the years and it is often explained as pushing your thumbs deep into the eye sockets of the attacker. There is a problem with this explanation however; doing so is repellent to human behavior. In his book “On Killing,” Lt. Col. Dave Grossman explains the following:

“The single most effective mechanically easiest way to inflict significant damage on a human being with one’s hand, is to punch the thumb through his eye and on into the brain.”

He goes on to explain that even though this attack would be extremely effective, it goes against human nature. He also says that during the filming of a movie that was rated X because of it’s violent content, an actress who was to portray stabbing a man in the eye with a rat tail comb, passed out twice during filming.

“This is a professional actress, she can portray killing, lying and sex on the screen with relative ease, but even the pretense of stabbing someone in the eye seems to have touched a resistance so powerful and deep seeded that her body and emotions, the tools of the professional actress literally refuse to cooperate. In fact I cannot find any references of anyone in the history of human combat ever having used this simple technique.”
Eye Poke, Flick and Rake

If you gouge out someone’s eyes, I think it is probably going to be very easy to escape. But since people shy away from the eye gouge, I think an eye poke or flick would be a more popular choice. Neither cause as much damage and, in some cases, might only cause tearing or a temporary distraction. Because of this, I would follow it up with another attack listed here.

Eye poke is just like it sounds; give them the Ol’ Three Stooges poke in each eye. The difference between this and the gouge is the amount of pressure before you stop.

The Eye flick is, to me, much easier to deliver as you don’t really need to aim as much as you do with a gouge or poke because you flick your wrist, aiming all of your fingers at their eyes. I was taught to do this followed up with a right cross or elbow strike to the chin.

Raking the eyes means scratching. This could cause damage to the eyes or it could just cause pain. If you do this, I would follow it up with another attack.
Punch in the Nose

Getting hit in the nose will cause the eyes to tear; this should be quickly followed by another attack as it alone isn’t guaranteed to stop the threat.
Pepper Spray

There is a lot of misinformation about pepper spray out there. I have seen people say it’s all worthless because they watched someone spray it into their mouth like breath spray, or put it on a sandwich and eat it. You can read my full thoughts on it in the article Self-Defense: Pepper Spray. For now I will just say that these people fail to understand that there are three types of pepper spray and they are not all equal.

CS (Orthochlorobenzalmalonitrile),
CN (alphachloroacetaphenone)
OC (Oleoresin Capsicum).

CS and CN are considered irritants and will cause stinging and tearing. They can take from five to thirty seconds to be effective and may have little to no effect on someone who is chemically altered or in a psychotic state.

OC on the other hand is an inflammatory agent. When sprayed with it, your eyes immediately slam shut. People most often become temporarily blind due to the capillaries in the eyes dilating. From breathing in the agent, there is also coughing and possibly some choking.
Other Irritants

Spraying or throwing other things into the eyes could cause temporary blindness. I know this first hand. As a kid in seventh grade, a guy from school blew a handful of powdered dry soap into my eyes. I don’t think I actually went blind for any length of time (thank you Jesus), but because of the pain and watering I could not open my eyes. Hot liquids would work as well.


Wind, breath, air; without it one is not going to be fighting for long.
Pepper spray

I have seen people gasp, cough, choke and vomit from having been sprayed with pepper spray. Again OC spray causes a biological reaction. It cannot be trained against as some of the other types of pepper spray or mace can be.
Throat Strike

Collapsing the airway is another way to stop an attacker. One way is to keep the fingers together, forming a Y with the thumb and aim for the throat. On a man I would aim just below the Adams apple.
Midsection Strike

I hesitate to put this in because it can be defended against by flexing the abdominal muscles. But, as I found from sparring, even people who are expecting to get hit, get caught off guard. I only hit them with maybe 40% force, and while it didn’t knock the wind out of them completely, it did cause them spew what air they had and then gasp for more. If you use this attack on your attacker, your goal should be to hit their stomach hard enough that you could hit their spine. If you don’t knock the wind out of them, then this alone might not take them out of the fight. If not, quickly follow up with something to stop their mobility or hinder their vision.


By either causing so much pain as to immobilize someone, or causing enough damage to a part of the leg; well if you cannot be chased you can simply escape. There are nerves and arteries that can be struck, but that takes some practice, so I am not going to list them here. The attacks I list are things most people should be able to do.
Striking the Knee

Striking the knee from either the front, or side with enough force can cause all kinds of damage. This can be done with a kick, or tackling, though I don’t recommend tackling unless there is no other option. The type of kick I am talking about would strike their knee with the bottom of your foot.
Foot Stomp

Stomping or otherwise striking the top of someone’s foot, I suppose, could cause them to be unable to bear weight on it. If nothing else, it can distract them and give you the opportunity to go for a KO.
Knock Out

This is by no means a guarantee, but an unconscious person makes for a really bad attacker. Forget the standing toe to toe trading haymakers with your fists. Elbows are far better suited than your fist for this task. Most likely, you will have more power behind it and elbows are less likely to break after a strike than a hand.

Your goal is to get as much of your elbow on as much of their lower jaw/chin as possible.
Breaking the Ankle

Standing firm on someone’s foot and pushing them could cause them to break an ankle. However, don’t remove your foot until they are on the ground.
Groin strikes

I think all men have been hit hard enough in the groin to make them immobile. It’s not a guarantee though. Some hits will cause nausea and can also still cause pain, but usually not enough to immobilize.

The optimal way to strike would be going upward from knees to groin, not just a direct hit. You should also strike with enough force that to kick them in the chin if it were possible.

Hopefully you will never need to use any of these attacks. But if you are ever the victim of violence and get the opportunity to, fight to take away their sight, wind or mobility so you can escape!

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  1. Malcolm Foster says:

    Great article – thank you. It is of particular interest to me as we do not have the legal right to own guns here in the UK – only in fairly exceptional circumstances when a certificate might be obtained for hunting with a 12 bore single/double barrel shotgun, etc. As such, now having stored up a growing stock of food and other essential day-to-day rations (well hidden from casual view), defence has been at the forefront of my mind, even though we are not (hopefully) anywhere reaching any such crisis yet.
    Fast heading up to 70 years and with growing physical limitations due to spreading arthritis pain, close up combat is something I would want to avoid. If things did deteriorate quickly, my first line of defence would be to prevent home entry in the first instance with robust door/window barriers, ideally in steel. As an engineer, I would make those.
    Next, I would hope to acquire a cross bow, replica firearm or a pellet air gun (is that called a `Be-Be’ in the U.S?) and certainly some sort of debilitating spray like the pepper types mentioned or insect repellent – which can’t be deemed illegal. All to be used as an assailant tries to enter.
    Lastly, my mind turned to Taser guns – which our police have used sometimes unjustifiably with deadly effect. If I could get one quickly, which is unlikely, I would, as by time the social situation had got so dangerous, I would no longer care about it’s legality. My idea for a substitute would be to a couple of lengths of electrical cable connected to `lances’ ie, wood poles, and plugged in to our 240V AC house power circuit. The business end would have two exposed metal prongs (coat hanger wire?) taped on and connected at the end. I now have a weapon I can warn of before entry, and use multiple times at arm’s length if required, before any would-be assailant gets near. Power grid down? My portable petrol generator then comes in. A death my result but it is them or us by then.
    Well, that is my two ‘penneth (dimes worth) and I look forward to other’s comments.

    P.S, Just as I finish this off, I jokingly thought of something else – a catapult/sling shot and instantly the Bible story of David and Goliath sprung to mind. No, I have not got that skill.

    • What about using a cricket bat, or something similar? I would actually prefer that to a Taser Gun at that close a range.

      • Malcolm Foster says:

        Hi Chris. Sounds a reasonable weapon which I would consider, thanks, but I am still trying to think of things that do not require much physical strength and keeps me the furthest distance from a stronger attacker, say, with a blade. My 3 young grandchildren still remind me telling them how those on our castle ramparts in the old days reportedly poured boiling oil down on those below trying to get in the gates!
        A great site, thanks.

        • I understand. My problem with tasers for self-defense is that they are one shot items, so if you miss you’re done. I would recommend an OC foam spray. This will shoot 10 or more feet and the foam will limit blowback somewhat. If you miss, just adjust your aim and go again.

        • I think Chris covers it somewhere else, or it was on the forum here at one point, but the other big, big downside to a taser gun or taser bug is that with bulky clothes on, the attacker may not feel it, or may not feel the full force of it.

          Just wanted to point that out. Have a good one!

    • I don’t own a gun, but I cannot imagine not having the right to own one. I got cayenne pepper in my eyes and thought I was going to go blind. I appeared as if I had been in a fire. I would think a person could make a spray of any kind of pepper and have an effective weapon. Yes, it is a BB gun.

  2. Nothing effectively replaces a gun, but perfectly legal wasp and hornet spray works wonders: stops breathing, blinds, chokes, and in general makes your attacker wish he had chosen another target. Don’t use this stuff unless your serious because your attacker will be blinded permanently, which is the main reason I keep a can with me at all times. If they are blind they can’t identify you: Case closed!

    • Obviously nothing matches a gun, but there are times when carrying one isn’t an option. If they were the aggressor than the only thing you need to worry about would be the law suit for using the spray other than how it was intended and blinding them with it. Foam OC spray is just as effective, perfectly legal and easier to conceal.

  3. I took aikido for years and help teach a womens self defense class for a couple of years as well and these techs work well one thing I taught that if you have to strike you don’t try to hit the front of area you try to DRIVE the FRONT of the area to the BACK of the area all this techs in real life really DO WORK the other thing that really does work to is this SPEED AGGERSSION AND SUPRISE if you MUST fight don’t do it halfhearted go at it as if your LIFE depends on it because it very well might alsothen there is this the Hebrews came up with fighting form just before ww2 KRAV MAGA this aint no SPORT fighting style this the real thing this is HURT EM AND RUN AWAY BEFORE THEY HURT YOU

    • I wanted to mention things that people could do without training, as not everyone can afford it, or has it near them. I took Hagganah which is based off of Krav Maga, and it is very effective and easy to learn. If you have either near you, I would look into them.

  4. GatorGeek21 says:

    I have been thinking about this over the last little while & I like some of the ideas presented. I am quite a big guy with a fairly high tolerance for pain & can be intimidating. That being said I grew up having it drilled into me that no matter what you do there is always someone better & worse then you. Funny thing is, is that being my size, etc. I am one of the nicest guy’s you could ever meet & would only ever think of hurting someone as a last resort or if I felt threatened. Often times a loud voice, a firm stare & a confident stance with plenty of eye contact can be effective at diffusing a situation. And let’s not forget proper OpSec & situational awareness.

    As far as weapons go, being from Canada we don’t really have any sort of carry laws for handguns, so this wouldn’t really be an option for day-to-day. I have thought of at least going for my PAL certificate so I at least have an option, but it is a bit of a lower priority as the wife can’t really see the justification for it at this point. In a way I don’t either. I don’t hunt or target shoot so justifying the cost of a gun is a reach at this point. I have thought of airsoft’s but I am not sure what their stopping power would be.

    I do carry a small folder in my pocket everyday. It is hidden enough not to be noticed but easily accessible just in case. I do also use it as a tool during the day as well. I am by no means trained with it but feel confident enough if I needed to.

    I have thought a lot about the whole idea of pepper spray but ther eis often some confusion about the legality. So I started thinking of different options. I know someone mentioned wasp spray, but I am wondering if a bug spray would be easier to justify legally & perhaps not as permanently damaging. Although…me & them…guess what. I have also thought of a home made type pepper spray & I think I have figured out a delivery method. I haven’t tried or researched it yet, but I have an old nose spray bottle that i thought could be used. A simple plunger spray might be just enough due to its small size/compactness & relative obscurity. It is theoretically “grey man” enough that it shouldn’t be an issue.

    Chris…I would be interested to hear more about Krav Maga/Hagganah. I have wanted to take some sort of martial art (or mixture of) that would provide a balance of self-defence, spirituality, fitness, etc. KM is on my short list but so far I haven’t been able to find a training centre & price information. I am sure there is something around somewhere, but life always seems to get in the way.

    • I haven’t researched it, but I haven’t heard of anywhere that pepper spray is illegal. But lets say you live in a place where guns are illegal, and you make a fully functional one at home. Do you think if you had to use it for self-defense that the authorities would be fine with the idea and not classify it as a gun? Now on the bug spray, I can guarantee you will still run into legal problems because you used it not as intended with the intent of using it for that purpose.

      Not that I am telling you to carry pepper spray even if it is illegal, just be wary of the alternatives as well.

      You’ll have an easier time finding Krav Maga, just do a search on line. It is by far the most effective martial are in terms of street combat that I have seen. People talk about MMA, but in MMA you have one opponent, you don’t have to keep looking for the guys buddy, or worry about a knife being pulled. I used to watch students who had been in Tae Kwon Do for the same length of time I was in Hagganah. I could tell that someone taking Krav Maga or Hagganah for the same amount of time would win if push came to shove.

      • GatorGeek21 says:

        I have done searching but nothing really concrete yet. I might ask around or search again. Thanks for the insight on what you have experienced.

        I don’t know what the solution is for self-defence. Maybe I will just go up and ask a cop someday. I don’t normally have a problem with stuff like that. Lol we actually have a community district near our house anyway so maybe a trip in. Or hit a do not shop one day.

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