Double-click to start typing
Double-click to start typing
Double-click to start typing
Double-click to start typing

Urban Survival Association

Part of the REACT Survival Files training and education programmes

The R.E.A.C.T Ten Commandments

One day you may be faced by an offender brandishing a weapon. And if that day dawns, no matter how good you think you are, you’re facing a problem that could take your life. 

Successful defensive tactics against any weapon requires extremely high levels of skill to provide any significant level of safety. It’s not going to be slick and choreographed like it is in any training you may have had. Remember, you could sustain an injury by intent or by accident, and you bleed just as much from either.

One positive thing in your favour is that in the vast majority of cases, the person with the weapon is totally fixated on what they are going to try and do with it. This means their mind is locked and that gives you a slight advantage, but only if you can remain calm, relaxed and composed. 

Panic is your biggest enemy. Do not focus on the weapon, doing so will reduce your ability to detect the offender’s body movements. Also, fixation on the weapon will increase your stress level. Track the weapon with your peripheral vision. Focus around the height of the offender’s elbows and slightly off centre towards the weapon hand.

If you’re faced with an offender wielding a stick or club of some description remember one simple rule; the fastest and most dangerous part of the weapon is its front end. Therefore, the closer you move in the safer you are. Take control of the end of the stick nearest the assailant’s hand and redirect its energy.  

Think hard before attempting to disarm anyone with a sharp weapon - knife, scissors, broken bottle, etc. You will probably get cut, but if you do decide to make a move it has to be powerful and decisive, you will only get one chance. Total concentration and all your physical energy has to be directed towards the weapon arm at the elbow of the offender. Intercept the arm and redirect it away from you. Control the knife hand by jamming the arm close to the attackers own body. Don’t chase the knife hand or try to grab it in order to attempt some fancy wrist lock. You won’t be fast or accurate enough. Furthermore, don’t be fooled into thinking you can create the famous ‘reactionary gap’, draw your own weapon and defeat the attack. You won’t! Without training you will not instinctively step into danger, but your aim should be to get behind the offender. Keep these goals in mind.  Stay away from the knife, control the arm, get behind and defeat the attacker from the rear. The probability of having to disarm a gun-carrying offender with your bare hands is extremely remote. If escape isn’t an option and faced with a potential life or death struggle, the most important factor is awareness and control of the direction of the guns muzzle. Before anything else you must redirect the weapon so you are out of the line of fire. Remember, sometimes less is more and even the smallest movement can accomplish the task. 

Any physical intervention should only be attempted if:

1  There is no other option.

2  There is a good chance of succeeding.

3  You are confident in your physical ability and training. 

4  The weapon is close enough to access quickly. 

5  You fear that there is nothing you can say or do to stop the gunman killing you and therefore you have nothing to lose.


Remember that as the initiator, you will have a slight reflex advantage but only about half a second. It is imperative that the following principles are adhered to:

1   Implement some form of verbal/non-verbal distraction. 

2  Combine surprise and speed 

3  Make your moves powerful and decisive.

4  Extract yourself from the line of fire.

5  Take control of the weapon and/or weapon hand.

6  Maintain control of the weapon throughout.

7  Do not hesitate to break or dislocate fingers of the weapon hand to disarm the offender.

8  Try and ignore any weapon discharge. Even if you are deafened or temporarily blinded by the flash or hot gases, vigorously continue with 

    your quest.  DO NOT STOP.

9  When in possession of the weapon secure a position of total control over the offender. Use your own primary weapon/apply restraint technique. Even though the tactics you have been taught and might employ to defend yourself from a variety of guns, knives and pointy sticks will vary. There are certain principles that in my opinion stay constant. I call these principles “The REACT Ten Commandments”. They are rules that I believe to be crucial components of anyone’s arsenal if faced with an attack or potential attack from a weapon.

Remember these rules; they could help you to survive:

Commandment 1  Run away

Confrontation with any weapon at close quarters should be avoided at all costs, and sometimes the best and most appropriate way to do this is to simply flee the scene. This action may not do your ego much good, but an ego the size of a house and balls of steel are of little use to you when laid out on a mortuary slab. If it makes you feel better let’s call running away a strategic withdrawal, a retreat, or a clinical extraction, but the bottom line is if you can get away do so without hesitation. If you are able to escape you need to discourage the assailant from coming after you. This can be achieved by several means. The primary way would be to disable your attacker in some way, or to distract them long enough to make your strategic withdrawal. Once you are on your way an excellent way to dissuade them from coming after you is to attract as much attention as you can, deny them the luxury of privacy by shining a big verbal spotlight on them. This brings us neatly to rule number two.

Commandment 2   Scream for assistance

I don’t care if you if you have spent the last twenty years training the SAS in unarmed combat. If you are ambushed by a knife wielding street robber in the car park of the local supermarket, in our out of uniform you are just another victim. You are in danger and need all the help you can get. Sadly however, the proverbial shout for help in today’s society is all too often totally ignored, but if you are being attacked or threatened by an armed assailant you do need to attract attention and you need to do it fast. Bystanders will invariably avert their eyes and adopt the attitude of mind that says, “Mind your own business it’s nothing to do with me”. However, if you yell at the top of your lungs things such as, “Fire!” “Bomb!” or “Oh my god he’s got a gun!” people will respond. You must yell something that stands out from the usual cry for help. Another reason to cry out for attention is for no other reason than not only do we live in a violent world but also a litigious one. You must always assume that an incident could be captured on CCTV
and your actions must reflect an appropriate response to the situation. If you are filmed systematically tearing your attacker apart you will be deemed as the bad guy. It is as important to attract witnesses that can testify on your behalf, and it is imperative that you are seen to have been in true jeopardy before you resorted to violent self defence counter measures. The law can and does get it wrong, judgment can be swift and severe and unfortunately not always directed at the true guilty party. 

Commandment 3   Don’t get hit first

The cold hard facts are if you get hit, cut or shot the likelihood is you have lost the fight and are going down. At best you have been severely compromised and are now at an extreme disadvantage. In my REACT System I advocate the principle of recognising and evaluating the threat in order to avoid and de-escalate potential danger. You may call it your Inter Personal Skills (IPS). Avoidance through awareness is paramount to personal safety. You should always do your upmost to avoid violent encounters. If things do go sour, and especially if a weapon is brought into play, Rule 1 should be your first priority. However, if escape is not an option open to you, not getting hit should be your next priority. You must deal with the immediate threat in a manner that keeps you from harm. If you can’t get away, you must keep moving. No one ever avoided being hit by standing still. However, never lose sight of the fact that he who strikes first will more often than not be the victor. If you have read all the signs and truly believe yourself to be in imminent danger and therefore fear for your safety, “Strike first”. Action will always beat reaction so become the predator, and pre-empt their actions. 

Sun-Tzu (Art of War) writes, ‘The height of strategy is to attack your opponent’s strategy.’ Take control, become the predator and be pre-emptive.

Commandment 4   Pain is your friend

So you’ve forgotten rule 3 and you’re in pain. You are compromised and at a distinct disadvantage. The most important thing to remember is that if you can feel pain you are still alive and if you are still alive you can do something. Ancient warriors believed you should embrace the pain, work through it and refuse to recognise defeat. A primeval animal survival mechanism buried deep in all our brains keeps us going in adverse conditions and as it’s your mind that controls your body you have to revert back to that pure animal instinct. No thought, no fear, ignore the pain, all that matters is survival. We all have an ability to trigger our brain into a mental state that says. “Yes I’m in pain, but so what, I will not be a victim, I will not fail. Yes it hurts but I will walk away from this, I will not be beaten and I will certainly never give up, whatever happens.” Your will to survive, with or without pain is the most important and formidable weapon in your arsenal. 

Embracing the pain can turn prey into predator, and all predators have one thing in common? They attack, they do not defend, they are the aggressors and that just happens to be your assailant’s worst nightmare. Always remember an animal is most dangerous when it’s wounded. 

Commandment 5    Always assume they are armed  

The REACT system advocates that awareness is always your first line of defence. The process of recognising and evaluating potential danger should never stop throughout your life. Continually scanning all those who enter your personal space is crucial to your safety, especially if you sense potential confrontation. Whoever they are, young or old, male or female always assume they are armed, and even more so if there hands are not in plain sight. Anyone can conceal a weapon on or about their person and there are innumerable ways concealment can be achieved. So even if you can’t see a weapon never make the mistake of assuming that he or she has not got access to one. The rule of thumb when scanning an adversary is to pay close attention to hands that hover around the waist line. Be aware, however, that a skilled knife fighter will rarely allow you to see his weapon until after he has already cut you with it. Also, since almost anything can be utilised as an improvised weapon be conscious of anything that is within reach of an aggressor.

Commandment 6   Remember weapons are everywhere

You should always be prepared for an armed confrontation if for no other reason than weapons are ubiquitous and ever present in all our lives. 
For simplicity categorise weapons into 4 sections: Projectile Weapons, Striking Weapons, Edged Weapons and Disguised Weapons. There are of course composite weapons that could be encompassed by all of the first three descriptions and of course 1, 2, and 3 all have one thing in common, and that is they can all be disguised. Remember if it looks like a weapon it’s a weapon, but not looking like a weapon doesn’t mean it isn’t. Always assume that innocent looking objects are guilty until proven innocent. A cigarette package, a lipstick, a watch, a comb, even a gum wrapper are amongst the literally hundreds of common, everyday items which have been used, converted or adapted into concealed and deadly weapons.
Ninety-nine times out of a hundred a common street thug will be prepared to use a weapon, and many are prepared to kill. If a confrontation starts with a verbal exchange, but you believe it may go physical, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you will only have to deal with fists. Statistics show that the utilisation of weapons is becoming more common. You have no guarantee, especially if someone is desperate, that a weapon will not be brought into play.   

Commandment 7   Understand weapons and how they work

If you know what a weapon is, how it works and how it can be used against you the more chance you have of avoiding it or defending against it. Although when faced with a weapon of any kind you are at a distinct disadvantage, it is important to understand that every weapon has its strengths and weaknesses, and you can use this knowledge to your advantage. Projectile weapons, edged weapons and striking weapons all have different and unique properties. For example, a single edge blade will be utilised in a different manner than a double edged blade. Recognising and understanding how certain types of knife mechanisms deploy their blades can be a distinct advantage at close quarters. When faced with different types of striking weapons knowing whether or not you are safer by closing the distance between you and the aggressor or creating more distance could mean the difference between a minor bruise and a wheelchair. Knowing the difference between how the mechanism of a revolver works as opposed to that of an SLP is crucial if engaged in a life or death struggle for control of a weapon. The more able you are to recognise and understand how weapons work the safer you are from them.    

Commandment 8   Cheat, your attacker will

If you look on armed assaults as nothing more than an assassination attempt, you have to conclude that there can never be such a thing as a fair fight. Training gives you many practical options however, it also gives you a huge amount of politically based rules, regulations and legislation to remember. Tactical communications, use of force protocols, empathy, non-lethal tactical options, etc., the list goes on and on, but there are no rules on the street, especially if you believe your life to be in danger. The armed attacker has no use of force protocols to hamper his actions. Your first priority has to be survival and just about anything is acceptable to achieve that goal. Remember, if your life is on the line there is nothing you can do that could be considered inappropriate. The street thug will lie, manipulate and deceive without hesitation. They will do anything to trick you and get you off guard in order to defeat and do you irreparable damage.
Rules are all well and good, but if you are staring death in the face, CHEAT! And remember the old adage “Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six”.       

Commandment 9   Fear is your friend

Whether it is conscious or unconscious, all success comes down to appreciating and understanding the fundamentals of managing one’s fears. Confronting our fears empowers us and can be the catalyst to self-confidence, motivation and success.
Fear is a negative thought process that always fixates on something in the future that hasn’t happened yet. So if it hasn’t happened why would you be afraid? Fear is a perfectly natural, emotional state of mind just like anger or sorrow. Without it we would all put ourselves in positions of extreme danger and probably not live very long. Those who say that they are not frightened of anything are either plain liars, deluding themselves or simply stupid.
Most of us will think of fear as a negative and if not understood and managed it can be totally devastating. An attacker is relying on fear to create confusion and panic and therefore diminish the effectiveness of the victim’s response. Fear is an emotion that can even cause some of us to act more violently than we would normally. We all have fears, many of them irrational, but nevertheless very real to those who have them. When you are frightened the adrenaline glands dump a cocktail of hormones into the bloodstream, which summons up reserves of power and strength. Your muscles tense in order to ward off an attack, your breathing rate will rapidly increase to supply more oxygen to your body, your heart rate increases to supply more blood to your muscles and you will break out in a cold sweat which has the effect of cooling the body but warming the muscles ready for action. So, while you are feeling like shit and wanting to throw up, your body is saying, ‘Come on then, I’m ready for action!’ So make the most of what nature has given you. Fear is your friend. It’s not the fear in itself that’s the problem. It’s fearing fear that can be emotionally lethal, negate all your efforts and in turn destroy your confidence and your ability. Understanding that fear is just another emotion gets you to the point of learning to deal with it. All it requires is awareness and then commitment to achieving the goal and in this case the goal is survival.  Don’t get trapped by that negative fixation on the future and paralyse yourself with fear. 

Commandment 10  Expect the unexpected

Never underestimate your adversary or the seriousness of a weapons related situation. In the heat of battle there is no time to analyse the fight, you must allow your training to take control and act instinctively but remember, nothing you do on the street will remotely resemble anything you ever did in the training hall. Remain flexible in your thought processes and allow yourself to be guided by the characteristics of the prevailing situation. React instinctively to whatever your opponent does, don’t think about it just do it. The chances are that he or she has attacked in this manner before and all that experience will be brought into play against you. Never lose sight of the fact that this person could take your life even if by accident. So expect the unexpected because the unexpected invariably happens.