How to Defend Yourself Against Punches

By far the most common type of attack you will face in a bar brawl, street fight or road rage attack is against multiple wild punches being thrown at your head.

Most fights are determined by attacks to the head, so protecting your head is the most important thing! Lets face it, this is likely the most intimidating attack and is so successful as it often causes the defender to blink, freeze or flinch, looking away from the incoming punches.

But flinching or looking away from the oncoming punches is the worst thing one can do. What you need is to be able to look at the punches while safeguarding yourself against their damage potential, while also looking for the exact moment to deliver a counterattack when the attacker relents. 

Why Blocking Punches is Useless

Traditional responses to dealing with a punching attack have always been some sort of blocking technique, where the defender tries to meet the incoming punch somewhere between the attacker's shoulder and their own head.

This poses one fundamental flaw, given that there are many angles from where punches can be launched from and multiple paths of movement of the incoming strike.

Given that action (the attacker's punch) will always be faster than reaction (your "block"), and that there are simply too many reactions to these different strikes for your brain to process in the split second, blocking punches is a bad idea.

How to deal with punches if blocking is useless? Cover the intended target instead. This means protecting the targets that can lead to you being knocked out: the jaw, ear, and the bony area behind the ear, while also covering your face, temple and throat.

The following video is from LEO Chad Lyman, a police and military instructor in the state of Nevada, explains this concept with several use case demonstrations.

How to Defend Against Punches

By far the most reliable self defense method of defending against a punches, the type the typical street thug will throw is by a technique known as the "monkey defense", so named by a leading boxing trainer, Rodney King.


Your hands come up and rest on the back of your head, putting your elbows out in front of your face. This gives you two advantages: a) it will make the first, and hopefully only thing the attacker will hit, are the sharp points of your elbows, thus likely damaging his hands, and b) create a window allowing you to keep an eye on him so that you can find your target when his attack leaves an opening.

The movement of your forearms and elbows become a literal fortress against punches. Look at the first image above which shows a professional fighter instinctively using this defense in the ring to shut down his opponent's barrage of punches.

This technique is the best way for you to keep an eye on your attacker, while at the same time protecting yourself.

Defend against punches

The video above deals with counterattacking from the monkey defense. Counterattacks that you can launch from here are rushing in on him and clinching the back of his head, pulling it into your chest while kneeing his ribs or head, or delivering an overhead punch to his head.

You could even move in and clinch his head, while executing a head throw, where you grab the back of his head with your right hand, and his jaw with your left hand, while twisting his head by pulling down with the right and pushing up with the left, sharply, causing his head to lead him off balance. If you put all your force behind this, it is a most devastating attack, particularly if you have some strength behind you.