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Self-Defense Tip #42 — Think like a commander — Don’t stand your ground

Don’t stand your ground. Know it and use it, but don’t just stand your ground.

Here is my explanation, based on memoirs of an accomplished warrior, Jan Chryzostom Pasek.

In his commentary on the battles of Vienna and Parkany (Štúrovo), during the Turkish invasion of Austria in 1683, he noted the great number of dead Turks on the battlefields. He compared that to his experiences from other battlefields, particularly of battles against Tatars:

Fugiendo pugnat, fugiendo vincit [While escaping they fight, while escaping they win]. I fought against Tatars, but never have seen so many dead Tatars in one place, as Germans, Russians, and other nations; to see three, four hundred killed Tatars in one place—that’s a great victory, while seeing others piled up like so much chopped wood was a common thing.”

He then explains why: Others stand their ground, while Tatars don’t. They run and then hit back. Here is Pasek again:

“But Tatars—to escape from them is not good and to chase them is an unpleasant matter.”

The Lesson

  • Standing your ground against a strong enemy is a losing proposition, especially if there is more than one enemy.
  • A smart retreat extends and fragments the pursuers. It tires them too. To take advantage of enemies’ fatigue you must be fit.
  • Mobility reduces losses. To maintain mobility you must be fit.


  • Learn your terrain (house, street, park, woods, restaurant, train station, and so on).
  • Practice escaping in any terrain.
  • Practice inflicting damage as you escape


Are you fit enough to quickly break off from an engagement, and then, after tiring or just breaking apart the pursuers, to turn and break them one by one? Can you keep your cool and decide when the nearest one is tired enough for you to pretend to run out of steam and let him catch up with you? Is your conditioning good enough for this? Is your knowledge of the place good enough for this?

Self-defense tip from Thomas Kurz, co-author of Basic Instincts of Self-Defense and author of Science of Sports Training, Stretching Scientifically, and Flexibility Express.

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Self-Defense Moves

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