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Up Against The Wall

by Christopher Caile

It's not an enviable position - to be pushed from the back into a wall, or up against a car or other object. Shocked by the suddenness of the attack, and back turned to the assailant, most people are totally defenseless.

In bars I've seen people pushed forward into tables and posts, or against the bar, and then struck down from behind. But the backward push is also commonly used in robberies -- pushing a woman, for example, against her car in order to rip away her handbag. This was working so well in Buffalo a few years back that I was part of a team that was asked to give several self-defense seminars to federal and state employees. (1)

Escaping a push isn't really that difficult if you practice some simple basics. First thing to remember is not to get "squished," that is, not to let yourself get pushed totally flat into something (as seen in the photo above).

As a push comes, it is only natural to react by extending your arms forward to brace yourself as you also step forward with one leg.
Allow your arms to absorb some of the energy that is propelling you forward. This also keeps the body some distance away from the wall or other object so there is some room to maneuver. Then relax the left arm, allowing the left side to pivot inward (still keeping my right hand against the wall to maintain some distance) toward the wall around the right leg. As your left shoulder passes the wall, lower your right arm and move it with your body. The arm in this way will knock the assailant's pushing arm to the inside.

The key here is not to resist the attack, but to move with it, pivoting to let the assailant's own energy propel him into the wall, while you have turned outward to his outside. Your right hand ends up at about his groin level. From this position many things are possible.

One choice is just to flee. But there are many other options. You could simply punch to the side of the head (not shown). If you just want to control the attacker, you can activate an arm bar and take him or her down. As in the photo above, you might add a left palm heel strike to the back of the attacker's skull to stun him or her first (this same technique is also used below). You may also use your turning movement to do a left elbow strike to the same target (not shown).

Another option also stems from the same left palm heel strike to the back of the attacker's skull. In this move you do not rotate your body quite as far, so you can move your right hand in front of your opponent to slap or hit upward into the groin. Then grab the pants near the groin (or reach deeply between the legs to grab the belt from the back). Then you can lift with your right arm and push with your left forearm against the front of the opponent's head -- propelling him or her backward to the ground. This type of throw usually results in the attacker landing on his side.


Just the dump into the ground can stun most attackers (especially if there is head contact, so be very careful if you practice this move), but if you desire you may also apply a finishing strike to the side of the attacker's head or jaw. Use your right bent knee against the opponent's hips to keep him or her from turning towards you. Your left arm can also hold the opponent's arm so his or her elbow is locked against your left leg momentarily to help lock your opponent in place.

There is also a happy ending to this article. Remember, we taught this simple turn and escape (and other self-defense techniques) to federal and state employees in Buffalo. Not long afterward we were informed of the results. In the month preceding our seminar five female employees had been assaulted and robbed outside the Federal Building by assailants who had first pushed their victims against their cars in order to tear away their purses. In the month afterwards, we were told, there were four similar attacks, but none were successful. I think it goes without saying that we were invited back for more seminars.


(1) The Seminar team included an aikido teacher Mike Hawley, a judo teacher and fellow aikido-ka, Eric Joseph and myself as a karate teacher and aikido-ka. We taught technique. A volunteer Buffalo police lieutenant also lectured on awareness and how to avoid getting attacked. As a group we taught similar seminars to many corporations and groups in Buffalo and the greater Erie County. In the seminars this technique was taught by Hawley Sensei (Wadokai Aikido) and it comes from aikido. The technique was so impressive and effective that I incorporated it into my own vocabulary of self-defense.

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About The Author:

Christopher Caile is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of He has been a student of the martial arts for over 40 years and holds a 6th degree black belt in Seido Karate and has experience in judo, aikido, diato-ryu, boxing, Itto-Ryu Kenjutsu and several Chinese fighting arts. He is also a long-term student of one branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Qigong. He is a personal disciple of the qi gong master and teacher of acupuncture Dr. Zaiwen Shen (M.D., Ph.D.) and is Vice-President of the DS International Chi Medicine Association.

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