Act or be killed:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

I was listening to a talk show on NPR and a listener called in with this experience-

A bully with 10 friends surrounded this guy, and he knew he wasn’t going to get away. They engaged and humiliated him. I commented that he should have broken the bully’s nose before the first sentence came out, it was the only real chance he had. I said that the guy didn’t know they would just humiliate him, and he must assume they will kill him. If anyone attacks you, you must assume it’s to kill and react accordingly. My wife, who was also listening, said that was stupid, and that hitting the bully could have caused the gang to kill the guy, not just humiliated him. But this guy is still affected by what happened 30 years later!

It seems to me that if he’d taken action, he could have spared himself the lingering trauma. What do you think?

Non-Neutral Ned

Dear Ned,

I agree with you. I was taught in Judo that if some is attacking you, you need to assume their intent is to kill you. The goal is to get away and whatever allows for that must be done. Besides, you can’t know someone’s intent and there often is only seconds to make a decision. I am not sure this changes even if the aggressor’s age or gender changes. Think about the planes that were hijacked in 911.The only plane not to succeed was the one where the passengers assumed they were already dead. People often react wrong assuming the aggressor can’t possibly be thinking so abhorrent. People assume other people can’t possibly be that evil or broken, but they can be.

If you are attacked or surrounded by a group of potential attackers especially if there is alcohol on their breath assume they are one of those. Do what it takes to get out of there.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Dear Ned;

Both you and Dr. Cliché are seriously misinformed.

First, I’d like to mention that the radio call-in guy wasn’t killed, illustrating the point that not every attacker means to kill you. In fact, this guy wasn’t even attacked, as far as I can tell. He was humiliated by this gang, not beaten. So the judo advice of what to assume and how to act when attacked is not even relevant to this case.

Second, I do predict that if the victim in this case had punched the bully in the nose, it would have done nothing but make the bully and his friends angry. A punch from a guy is the equivalent of a slap in the face from a girl. When I train women in self-defense, I tell them to never slap an attacker. Why? It just pisses your attacker off and makes him feel the need to subdue you more harshly. If you are going to strike out at an attacker, you have to actually damage him, not just hurt him. Don’t scratch a face, rip an eyeball out. Crush their trachea so that they suffocate. This forces him into a position of self-preservation and will enable you to get away.

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are surrounded by 11 attackers and you know with absolute certainty that they intend to kill you, you have one chance, and this chance exists only if you know specific techniques and can execute them with the full adrenalin and power of your being. You need to grab the person closest to you and damage them so badly that they are either dead or mutilated. Bite their freaking’ face off if you have to. Gouge those eyes. Break their neck. It is the ONLY thing that will convince a gang to leave you alone. No one wants to risk being maimed or killed, and at this point, the gang knows you are going to take some of them down with you if they attack.

None of these last-ditch self-defense tactics are something that you can take back, and the post-trauma experienced from executing them is not inconsiderable… so if you aren’t sure of the situation, you may want to THINK before reflexively maiming another person for life. If you are on a hijacked plane, the need for drastic action is obvious. But if I were on a school campus and a small group of students surrounded me, I would not jump to the immediate conclusion they wanted to kill me. You need to use common sense.

Be realistic- if all you have in your arsenal is a punch in the nose and you aren’t a trained fighter, don’t just flail out. If the surrounding gang didn’t intend to beat you senseless before, they surely will after that. It’s not a fair fight, and that’s what bullies love most.

Right now, the guy from the radio show has lingering trauma. But he could have ended up both with lingering trauma and be confined to a wheelchair for life- or be six feet under.

And I gotta ask- how the hell did that guy allow himself to get into a situation like that to begin with? There just are not that many normal situations in life where you find yourself alone and surrounded by a gang. The idea of prevention may not be as ego-gratifying as the thought punching a bully in the nose, but it’s by far a more intelligent method of self-defense.


About Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Dr. Brilliant Cliché and the Granny Dr. are a fictional web presence and advice blog. Together we offer a joint perspective that is deep but not academic, entertaining but not fluff, and educated yet street smart. By joining the internet community we hope to share thoughts and stimulate insightful conversation around pressing issues that affect us all. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. (This is not a site for therapy nor does it intend to replace medical or other professional care. ) You can leave comments here or email The Dr. at and don’t forget to like us on facebook. Our facebook page is Dr. Brilliant Cliche
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3 Responses to Act or be killed:


    I posed this question to a self defense teacher:

    In this case I would try to determine who the leader of the gang was. Then get him to attack me or tell one of his members to attack me. Let the gang member attack first, be ready for him and destroy him as nasty and brutal as possible. Show the rest what is in store for them if they try. Show no fear; most of this is a mind game where you need to convince them you are crazy enough to kill any of them that try to attack you. Since you cannot be sure what they will really do you have to let them make the first move.


    Granny retorts:

    But let’s not forget that the crux of the matter here is that there WAS no attack, but if the guy had provoked the bully, there most certainly would have been.
    Shihan seems to forget- he is a highly trained martial artist who can handle himself.
    That bozo who ended up in the middle of 11 bullies could never have pulled this off, so for him, it is very bad advice.

    You have to remember that what is possible for a black belt is not possible for the average citizen.

  2. Ken says:

    If you are being surrounded by a gang, quickly assess the situation. If you have done something to incite revenge, don’t get in a fight. Find a way out. If you have not done anything to incite this behavior and there are racial differences between you and the gang. Get out of it and don’t fight. Unfortunately, society is not yet ready for an instant awareness lesson in cultural sensitivity. However, if you are all the same race and you are being picked on because you have a somatic or sensory condition or suffer from a mental disorder, its time for a little psychoeducation. Find out who the leader is and beat the snot out of him. The rest will not come to his defense, as long as they know why you are being bullied. They’re just there to see if you can adapt in spite of your “apparent” weakness.

  3. ken says:

    There is no national statistics on bullying at this time. One sample of 700 students showed 30% were either bullied or bully others. The rate was higher between 6th and 8th grade students than 9th and 10th grade students. According to another study there is a cultural difference in prevalence rates with a sample of 1% for a group of teenagers in Ireland and Malta. I think the bottom line is you should try to avoid getting into the situation in the first place. If you do get in to a situation like that, it is hard to predict if there would be any alternative but to fight, especially if they won’t let you go. didn’t mean to be so emotional in my former response. I was the victim many times in school.


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    Kaltiala-Heino R, Rimpela M, Marttunen M, Rimpela A, Rantanen P. Bullying, depression, and suicidal ideation in Finnish adolescents: school survey. BMJ.1999;319:348-351.



    Menesini E, Eslea M, Smith PK. et al. Cross-national comparison of children’s attitudes towards bully/victim problems in school. Aggressive Behav.1997;23:245-257.



    Olweus D. Bullying at School: What We Know and What We Can Do. Oxford, England: Blackwell; 1993.



    O’Moore AM, Smith KM. Bullying behaviour in Irish schools: a nationwide study. Ir J Psychol.1997;18:141-169.



    Whitney I, Smith PK. A survey of the nature and extent of bullying in junior/middle and secondary schools. Educ Res.1993;34:3-25.

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