How To Defend in a Bar Fight: Hands Up

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I was a nightclub bouncer. The muscle at the door. The one in control of the velvet rope. I policed social order on patrons who were drunk, high, disorderly, and for the most part, complex in character. 

I dealt with threats, insults, physical assaults, and armed patrons – it felt the norm, not the exception. Each night was unpredictable, and as a result, I developed an arsenal of skills to prepare me to secure lives – my own included.


Two decades later, I use this critical knowledge to teach real-world self-defence because I’ve lived it. The split-second decisions you must make when in a bar fight could be advantageous or tragic, and the results always have consequences. So how do you defend yourself in a bar fight?

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Anyone’s first line of defense is situational awareness, inside or outside of a bar. Therefore, identifying, processing, and comprehending the world around you becomes a vital practice.

It is challenging, even tricky, in a dark club with hundreds of guests, blaring music, an abundance of noise, and a torrent of movement. Distractions are immense!

When you find yourself in a potentially volatile scenario at a bar, it’s essential to grasp that ego will play an enormous factor when facing conflict, even more so when drugs or alcohol are a factor. Assessing the state of mind of an aggressor will also influence your defense system.

Avoid Confrontation

It’s optimal to defuse any strife or discord with a potential assailant in a bar or nightclub. It’s a dangerous place with stairs, tables, hardwood floors, bar stools, and glassware. It’s crowded, the music is loud, and alcohol is in the mix. The elements are dangerous, and the stakes are high, so remaining calm is strategic. 


Maintaining your composure is critical to avoiding a fight when being provoked, belittled, or taunted. First, take a deep breath, raise your hands and express your motive for peace. Then, aim to be agreeable and yielding so you can duck out with ease. 

Sustain Eye Contact 

Eye contact dominates how we communicate with one another, and consequently, it is paramount in victim selection. For that reason, it’s imperative not to gape in fear or aggressively narrow your eyes when in the range of a violent assailant to avoid being a soft target. Typically, confident, assertive, firm eye contact sends a compelling message that you are not a target nor easily threatened. 

Create Distance

Physical groundwork is paramount after gauging what’s around you and who’s around you. When opposing someone who is intrusive or combative, your first action should be to step back to create distance. You want to avoid a face-to-face connection, which boosts the probability of assault. The most common mistake is to allow an aggressor to get too close to you; it leaves you vulnerable to being grabbed, head butts, and clenching bearhugs. Creating distance eliminates the leverage a violent attacker will have on you. 

Put Your Hands Up

Keeping your hands where you can use them is vital in a bar fight – it’s a primary rule. Having them raised and in front of you maintains a proper stance for offensive or defensive action. If you sustain this as a natural position, it ensures preparation for an attack and qualifies you to block or strike. In addition, you can technically hammer fist, elbow, palm, and throat strike within this opposing position. 


Improvised Weapons

A bar is vastly packed with weapons of opportunity and objects in various defensive applications. The primary rule of Krav Maga is your safety by any means necessary. A beer bottle, a pool stick, a cue ball, a barstool, chairs, and tables are dominant items you can find close by to inflict immediate and treacherous damage on a violent assailant. Therefore, it’s paramount to hurl, bash and swing with all your force to escape or evade a rear chokehold, getting slashed, or worse, killed. 

The 360 Defence

Simultaneously defending and attacking against the knife or other edged weapons remains a critical principle of Krav Maga. Conversely, victims will frequently safeguard themselves without retaliation, severely injuring them. The 360 exercise is a knife defence drill based on opposing outside attacks within a 360-degree circle. The logic is to master defence by blocking high, medium, and low attacks with combined opposition. The arm that is closer to the knife will protect while the other is counter-attacking. Creating a barrier against a strike is a life-saving motive. 


Violent bar patrons are both men and women, making for an even more complex and disturbing dynamic. Antagonism between patrons is always risky and delicate. In my nightclub experience, directing any chaos was critical to keeping the peace inside the club. Safety was paramount, and my function was to intervene before fights escalated. 

This method of self-defense is often visionary, so preparing to fight for your life is unavoidable. These tips on surviving a bar fight should prompt you to evaluate your level of readiness and self-defence knowledge. 

Combining this life-saving advice and real-life tactical training is a particular and powerful combination; my self-defence systems and courses have merited a profusion of excellent feedback. 

My target is to always empower personal protection by offering real-world self-defence. The Surviving a Bar Fight, Hero Program, Hero Training Camp, Bob Dummy F.I.I.T, Knife Defense, Women’s Shield Program, Bully-Proof and Larger Attacker Defence indicate the demand and success of learning self-defense online. 


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