Self Defense: Escaping Your Captors In The City

Feature | Martial arts self defense | SELF DEFENSE: Escaping Your Captors in the City

September 10, 2023 / Comments (4)

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Protect yourself from kidnapping with this self-defense training tips against kidnapping.

RELATED: 7 Self-Defense Video Techniques You Need To Know

Self Defense Techniques to Escape Your Abductors

Danger Lurks Everywhere

A student of mine was walking down the streets of Los Angeles in the middle of the afternoon. She was in a decent area of LA when she noticed a white panel van pull up alongside her.

Despite the relative safety of the area, she immediately felt uncomfortable and a man hopped out of the van and started staring at her.

She picked up her pace while watching the man who was just leaning against the van while continuing to watch her.

All of a sudden, she was grabbed from behind by another man.

She immediately started fighting back and screaming the “F word” like there was no tomorrow. After a few seconds, the man let go of her and ran to the other man in the panel van and they drove off.

The young woman, in her 20s, ran to safety, called the police, and thankfully was unharmed.

Man walking on the road | SELF DEFENSE: Escaping Your Captors in the City

I imagine that most of us think this could never happen to us and that we’ll never be kidnapped because it only happens in places like Iraq or Afghanistan or when you foolishly vacation to Iran or North Korea.

But, the fact is, kidnappings happen every day all over the U.S., even in “nice places,” as proven by the woman’s experience above.

If you ever find yourself in a kidnapping situation, you should obviously fight back with everything you’ve got, just as the young woman did.

Use your gun, knife, tactical pen, and any weapon you can access to keep yourself from getting taken. (My weapons of choice include a Glock 19, Ruger LCP, tactical pen, and Benchmade knife.)

But let’s pretend someone tried to kidnap you and that you were overpowered and weren’t able to get away. Let’s say 10 men jumped out of a van to grab you and they took you to an undisclosed location.

You don’t know what they’re going to do to you… Now what?

The First 24 Hours

Remember that the first 24 hours are the most critical after you’ve been kidnapped. Why is that?

You Still Have Strength

First, because that’s when you’ve got the most strength and energy. You’ve still got food and water in your system and you’re as strong as you’ll ever be.

The longer you are held the weaker you’ll become. It’s highly unlikely your captors are going to feed you steak and eggs for breakfast and that you’re going to get three solid meals a day.

Take Advantage of Location Changes

Another reason the first 24 hours are the most critical is that you’re likely close to the location where you were kidnapped, making it easier for people to find you.

The longer you’re in captivity the more likely it is that you’re going to be moved from “safe house” to “safe house” making it more difficult for others to find you.

This is why you need to look for any opportunity you can to escape during these first 24 hours. An important note to remember is while you’re looking for the first chance to escape you are being a “model prisoner” to your captives and you’re not drawing any unnecessary attention to yourself.

Be “Submissive”

If they’ve got you in captivity and you’re screaming and yelling and are telling them you are going to kill them then they’re likely to put increased security on you making it more difficult to escape. But, if you pretend to be submissive they may not watch you as closely, making it easier for you to find a way out.

Don’t forget, if someone has kidnapped you then deadly force is justified and you can use whatever measures you need to in order to get out of the situation you’re in.

Don’t just sit around there thinking, “If I’m good they may let me out today,” because “today” could turn into weeks and months.

RELATED: 7 Martial Arts For Self-Defense

Key Points to Remember

If you’re able to escape (hopefully within 24 hours) and you’re in an urban environment, here are some key points to remember:

1. Find a Weapon

On your way out, grab anything you can that may be useful to you.

Woman holding a broken mirror | SELF DEFENSE: Escaping Your Captors in the City

Don’t forget, that almost anything can become an improvised weapon. A rock, a piece of wood, or a piece of glass… have something to be able to defend yourself.

2. Take Left Turns

If you’re being chased through a city don’t forget to take left turns. You see, we live in a right-handed society and we’re all “brainwashed” to take right-hand turns the majority of the time.

Case in point: When I’m teaching my driving course there’s a drill where you can choose to go right or left around an obstacle. 99% of people will go to the right and I eventually have to make them try going to the left.

Also, I’m sure you’re familiar with the survival wisdom that if you ever become trapped in your vehicle in the snow you should stay with the car and not leave to go looking for help.

Often, when people leave their vehicle they are found dead within a mile or two of the car. These people thought they were walking in a straight line but they were really going in a wide circle almost circling back to the vehicle they left.

My point is, if you’re running down streets don’t always turn right down a side street. Force yourself to take lefts so that you don’t end up closer to your captors and make your escape all for nothing.

3. Go High

Don’t forget to “go high.”

If you’re escaping in a city and you need a safe place to hide for a bit, go inside a building and quickly get to one of the top floors.

Man standing outdoors | SELF DEFENSE: Escaping Your Captors in the City

When your captors are pursuing you, they typically only check the first level of a building because they assume you’re getting further and further away from them and they don’t want to waste time checking all of the levels.

If you do decide to hide out on the top levels of a building, make sure you have an escape route planned in the event that someone does find you.

4. Practice Social Engineering

What is social engineering? This technique uses a form of psychological manipulation to convince people to offer things or information to complete strangers.

Use social engineering because your social skills may save your life. You see, during the Escape & Evasion course I teach, we do a field exercise where students have to convince strangers to let them use a cell phone, let them borrow money, let them use a camera and more.

Of course, not everyone enjoys getting out of their comfort zone, but if you’re going to stay alive while on the run, your ability to convince others to help you is paramount. You can start practicing this today by asking for small favors from strangers.

You’ll quickly be amazed at what other people are willing to do for you.

The Law of Reciprocity

Also, as part of your social engineering, don’t forget to understand and practice the law of reciprocity. It’s one of the best ways to get people to assist you.

The way the law of reciprocity works is that you do something for someone and they, in turn, feel indebted to do something for you.

The perfect example I can give you of the law of reciprocity is the “windshield cleaners” in New York City.

You may be at a stoplight in New York City when some guy runs up to your vehicle and sprays the windshield and starts cleaning it with newspaper. You’ll probably tell the guy “no thanks” or “go away.”

But, he’ll just ignore you and keep cleaning your windshield anyway. When he’s done he’ll go up to your window and beg for some money.

You may think to yourself, “Well, the guy did do a good job and the windshield is clean, I might as well give him $2.”

The windshield cleaner makes a decent living off of “guilting” people into giving him money because he first did something for them by cleaning their windshields. If you’re ever on the run and need help from someone, see if there is something (no matter how small) that you can do for them first.

What It All Boils Down to

Following the above advice could mean the difference between life and death if you’re ever being pursued in an urban environment.

On a final note, don’t forget to give yourself as many advantages as possible by having the right survival gear on you at all times. Of course, if you’re ever kidnapped, your captors will likely confiscate all of the items in your pocket.

But there are certain items that I carry more than one of on my body, including knives, guns, and handcuff keys. At a minimum, I have two handcuff keys hidden on me at all times and I recommend you do the same.

And, depending on where you’re traveling you should carry a back-up gun. (I typically have a Glock 19 and Ruger LCP.)

Learn to defend yourself against any attack. Watch this video from 5-Minute Crafts:

If you want to take self-defense classes to protect yourself from abduction, you'll be helping yourself tremendously. You can also follow the tips here when encountering bad people.

Arm yourself with self-defense weapons in anticipation of cases like this. Learn how to use things you can find in your environment as well.

Know these things, in case your captors take away all of your weapons.

What other self-defense techniques for men and women do you want to learn? Share your concerns in the comments section below!


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Editor's Note: This post was originally published on August 8, 2014, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

4 Responses to :
Self Defense: Escaping Your Captors In The City

  1. Donn says:

    I liked your picture of what you carry! I carry a Glock 21, a Benchmade thumb assist, a Microtec auto, Wather PPS, and one handcuff key. I like the way you think. keep up the good articles and thank-you.

  2. Susanna Ensign says:

    Where can one get the tactical pen?

  3. Robert says:

    I hate to say it, but as I was reading the first paragraph, I was thinking it was probably an unmarked police van.

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