Defend yourself against a Bigger Person

Real talk:

Just about every small or average-sized person has a deep-rooted fear of an attack by a larger person.

Questions about “what would I do?” often race through our heads when thinking about this kind of conflict.

But there’s hope!

Being smaller than your attacker is not as big of a disadvantage as you might think. All is not lost.

Here are 3 important tips to help you defend yourself against a bigger person.

Defend yourself against a Bigger Person 1

Tip #1: Avoid the Fight

This may seem obvious, but the best way to defend yourself against a bigger person is simply to not get attacked by them in the first place.

One effective way to accomplish this is to not escalate a situation to the point of violence. For example:

  • If someone bigger than you gets in your face, then carefully disengage and walk away from the situation. You don’t want to get in a fight for your ego.
  • In the case of a robbery from a bigger person, then compliance is the best course of action to avoid a fight. Your wallet or purse is not worth more than your life. However, if they try to move you to a second location, then defending yourself is probably the best course of action.

Obviously, avoiding a fight does not mean you will never be attacked. Sometimes, no matter what you do, you just have to then defend yourself against that larger attacker.

This could be in a kidnapping situation, a bar fight, or just a random act of violence. Whatever the case might be, the next tip will help you defend yourself.

I also recommend sharpening up your situational awareness skills in order to avoid a possible encounter.

Here’s a great video on one technique for dealing with an angry or aggressive person:

Tip #2: Use any means necessary

And I mean ANY.

Face it, a situation where you’re at a significant size, weight, or other disadvantage really sucks. In order to get out of the situation alive and intact, you need to make use of anything you can get your hands on to survive.

Here’s a couple ways to do it:

Use a force multiplier

A force multiplier (or equalizer) is anything that can increase the amount of force you can apply to an attacker.

Humans have used force multipliers for thousands of years, in order to defend themselves against bigger opponents. Modern examples include baseball bats, pipes, and other self defense tools.

Not all force multipliers are created equal.

In fact, some force multipliers are better to carry than others. Here is a short list of the most effective ones to carry:

  1. Pepper spray. This is probably the most widely-carried self defense tool in the United States. It’s fairly effective at stunning an attacker and requires no physical contact. Pepper gel, a thicker version that more effectively sticks to the attacker’s eyes, is even better.
  2. Knives. These are a big force multiplier. One stab of a knife can easily maim or mortally wound an attacker. However, they can also be taken away from you and used against you by the attacker. For this reason, only use a knife in a defensive scenario if you have the proper training.
  3. Stunning devices. These include Tasers and various types of stun guns. These will usually stop most attackers in their tracks. However, the downside is that the pain stops once the electricity stops, potentially allowing them to press the attack.

Fight Dirty

Let’s talk dirty:

So-called “dirty” fighting in a sanctioned competitive fight is never a good idea.

However, this article is about attacks on the streets. There, the consequences of losing could be fatal, so I say you should fight as dirty as necessary to escape the situation. Fighting dirty against a larger attacker can involve anything from kicks and punches to the groin, to eye gouges and kneecap kicks.

Basically, finding sensitive areas that respond to less force.

Defend yourself against a Bigger Person - Kicks

Groin Shots

A shot to the groin is always the best bet when trying to fight dirty. Against a man, anyway.

Smaller people are actually at an advantage while throwing a groin shot because they can more easily reach the groin. That’s one great thing about being lower to the ground, I guess!

Generally, it’s not a great idea to throw a kick to the groin, as an attacker can easily grab your leg. A knee or an uppercut when you’re up close is usually a better option if the opportunity presents itself.

However, a kick to the groin might make a good last resort option depending on the scenario. Afterwards, you want to escape as soon as you can.

Kneecap kick

The kneecap is also the classic defensive move.

You simply kick your foot into the kneecap of your attacker as hard as you can. If performed properly, then this will hyper-extend the knee and cause excruciating pain to your attacker. This may even permanently injure the attacker.

The advantage is that the attacker will likely not be able to stand on their leg. This will give you plenty of time to escape.

Use discretion if you choose to kick your opponent’s knee cap, because of the risk for permanent damage. If that’s not a concern, then so be it.

Also, be aware of the opponent’s stance: If they are standing straight-legged, then a kick to the knee cap will be better than if their knee is bent.

These “dirty fighting” attacks require less strength than a punch to the jaw in order to be effective.

That’s why they’re a great option against a bigger person, and become kind of a force multiplier in themselves.

Defend yourself against a Bigger Person - Training is essential

Effectiveness, however, requires the knowledge to correctly apply them. That’s why I always recommend self defense training.

Not just a single seminar – you need ongoing training to keep your skills sharp. Just knowing that you should punch someone in the throat or poke their eye isn’t enough. You need to have done it once or twice (under safe training conditions, of course).

We used to do “eye gouge sparring” in my Jeet Kune Do classes – put on a pair of goggles and try to land a good shot to your opponent’s eyes. It’s more difficult than you think. The eye is a small target.

That’s why training right and training often is so vital.

Check out this great video on “dirty fighting” techniques for self defense:

Note: If an attacker is on mind altering drugs (such as PCP), then you will not be able to beat them in fight (even fighting dirty or with force multipliers). People on PCP have been tazed and pepper sprayed with no noticeable effect on their behavior.

If you suspect an attacker is on a mind altering substance, then running away might be your best option.

Tip #3: Run

The whole point of defending yourself is to walk away from the attack alive and with as few injuries as possible.

In the introduction, I mentioned how smaller people are generally quicker than bigger people. So use your quickness to your advantage.

Ideally, you should run immediately after incapacitating the attacker in some way. This will almost guarantee that your attacker cannot chase you down.

There’s almost no advantage to waiting around after you’ve struck.

On a closely related note, if the attacker has a hold of you, then yelling for help is a good option.

The odds of escaping the hold of a much bigger attacker are probably low. However, the attacker may fear the arrival of Good Samaritans and release you if you start screaming.

The attacker may also decide to violently attack you to force your silence. Keep this in mind before deciding to scream during an attack.

Defend yourself against a Bigger Person - Be ready to run


Overall, defending yourself against a bigger person is not as difficult as you might think.

At least you have options.

The best way to defend yourself is to avoid the attack in the first place. If that doesn’t work, then deploying a force multiplier against the attacker levels the size difference. Finally, running away once the attacker has been incapacitated works well.

These three tips will serve you well in defending yourself.

For more, check out this video specifically about defense against someone bigger than you:

Got another tip? Leave it in the comments.

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