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Dealing With a Home Intruder

March 23, 2012

Featured in Gun World Magazine (Spring 2012)

Absence of a Weapon
Spring 2012
By Doug Jeffrey with Rener Gracie

5 Hand-to-Hand Survival Strategies with Rener Gracie

Crime Does not discriminate.
No matter who you are or what type of personal protection weaponry you keep in your house, we all fear the possibility of being caught off guard by a home intruder. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of a home intrusion is that we receive little, if any, warning or notice. Once the intruder is in, one wrong choice could mean the difference between life and death. To help increase your chances of survival in the event of a home intrusion, we sought out world-renowned hand-to-hand combat expert, Rener Gracie. Following is what he had to say.

Identify the Threat Immediately
How would you respond to an intruder depends largely on what his objective is. A rapist or murderer would be dealt with differently than how you would deal with a burglar or kidnapper.

The sooner you identify the threat, the sooner you can strategize and execute the appropriate defense plan. For example, if you live alone and the intruder's objective is to assault or kill you, the wisest choice would be to avoid contact by barricading yourself in a secure room or escaping as quickly as possible.

But, if you live with your family, you'd certainly want to engage with the intruder before he reaches your loved ones. Bottom line: assess quickly and respond accordingly.

Watch His Hands
When working with law enforcement professionals, one of the most important things we teach is to watch the hands of the suspect, and the same concept applies in a home intrusion.

If the intruder has a weapon, your first option should be to avoid contact. If that isn't possible, or you must engage for your family's safety, you should dedicate all resources to controlling the arm on the weapon side. If he is not carrying a weapon, then your primary concern should be to avoid devastating strikes from the intruder using the distance management principles below.

Manage the Distance
In a fight, he who manages the distance, manages the damage.

Unless you have 15 years of martial arts experience or you outweigh the intruder by 50 pounds or more, I don't recommend getting into a boxing match with the intruder. The risk of getting knocked out is too high. If you're unconscious, there is nothing you can do to protect yourself or your family.

Instead, your goal should be to avoid all devastating blows by avoiding the "red zone," which is when you are one-arm's length away from your opponent because this is when strikes are most possible against you. To avoid the red zone, stay at least two arm lengths away from the intruder, or you'll want to close the distance and clinch the intruder by wrapping your arms around his waist in a bearhug like fashion. From the clinch, he won't have the distance or angle necessary to knock you out. If he tries, he will rapidly exhaust himself, at which point you can take control.

Home Court Advantage
Even though the surprise entry gives the intruder the upper hand, you have to remember that you have the home court advantage.

From where you keep your personal protection weapons to which room is the most secure, no one knows your home better than you do, and it's critical that you use any resources possible to gain an advantage.

In preparation for an intrusion, make it a regular practice to scan your regular household items to see what could be used as a self-defense tool in the event of a break-in (you'll be surprised by how many "weapons" you have lying around your house). Most importantly, remain calm and collected and remember that there are no rules in the fight for your life.

Know When Not to Fight
Sometimes the best hand-to-hand combat technique is the one you don't use.

If you're awakened by unusual noise in the living room, go downstairs to check it out, see two intruders exiting through your front door with your 60-inch plasma television, think twice before chasing after them.

Being the lowlife cowards that they are, chances are they brought a weapon "just in case" things went wrong. In the heat of the moment, fear and adrenaline might cause them to shoot or stab you, even though it wasn't their original plan.

Protect yourself and protect your family, but always remember that there is no physical possession that is worth risking your life.