Self-Defense Tips and Tactics for Kidnapping Survival

This is Part 2 of a 2 Part series in the wake of recent kidnappings. Blog one focused on ways to avoid unfavorable circumstances. This blog will focus on self defense tips and tactics to recall when in such a horrifying situation.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, an attacker is successful and catches you off guard. In a time of what may feel like helplessness, you are far from it. We can provide you some tips and tactics to help you out.
With everything you have, every ounce of energy, every possible weapon at your disposal, FIGHT.  Your chances of survival if you are taken to a secondary location decrease dramatically.  If you are going to die, let it happen then and there, not on their terms. I know this is a horrible thing to think about, but they have a plan in place to do what they want with you, you must have a plan in place to deny them that. FIGHT. Some easy to remember tips in case you’re thinking “But I don’t know how!” or “I’m small, what if they are much larger?”:

  • Most attacks or abductions that are unsuccessful are due to the assumption that a “weaker” target will not fight back.  These individuals expect that you will just go along with whatever they want, and that the last thing you will do is fight. In just the initial defensive strikes alone, you will cause them to hit the reset button and more carefully choose their next actions, which can take valuable seconds or more, more than enough time to continue the fight to cause more lasting damage, or to run away.  Think about the stories where people being attacked by a shark have gotten away by poking them in the eye or punching the gills (soft targets…sound familiar?).
  • If they have a weapon, i.e. a gun or knife, remember DATTS.  Down And To The Side.  You must get control of the immediate danger to you first, that arm.  Push the weapon down and to the side to get it away from your vitals. Once this happens, it’s time to go rabid honey badger!  
  • Go for the soft spots. Eyes, throat, groin…..strike hard, and strike often.
  • Continue striking until the fight in them diminishes. You’ll know it when you see it. Then when you get the chance, RUN.
  • Remember to yell, scream, and holler, and LOUDLY. You want to draw attention to the situation and get help to you fast.  This is not the time to be quiet.  Added benefit to yelling is that you contract your abs and tighten your belly, less likely to get the wind knocked out of you.  

Nope, not a typo. It’s an acronym for a military strategy tool that is sound advice for anyone. It stands for Observe Orient Decide Act. Let’s break it down in a scenario:  
You tried your best to fight off the initial attack but were unsuccessful. Your attacker, a thinly built, middle aged, white male, wearing a hoodie and jeans, has overpowered you.  He has bound your feet and hands and taped your mouth. He has forced you into the trunk of your own vehicle.  
But there is good news!!! You’re still alive, so you’re not out of the fight. Not by a long shot. But now what do you do? Well, this is where OODA comes into play. The next step is crucial…..YOU HAVE TO CALM YOURSELF.  You’ve got to discipline yourself to know that you are still alive, and if you want to stay that way, you have to get a hold of things mentally. The situation sucks, but as long as there is a breath of life left in you, you will do what it takes to survive. “I’m alive, I’ll survive.” Say those words over and over and believe it. Only when you can get a hold of yourself, can you begin the OODA Loop:

  • OBSERVE: What is the address and time of day? What does your attacker look like? What are they wearing? What is the make and model of the car, the color, etc… Begin to pay attention to every little detail. Sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference. Examples: “He had a small spiderweb tattoo on the side of his neck.”  “We kept stopping and starting, like we were going through stop signs in a neighborhood or city streets, and I heard a loud train that sounded like it was to the right of the car as we were driving.”  These things are not only important to know that can help someone find you, but can also help later on for prosecution purposes (thinking about putting this guy away helps to get you into the mindset that you are going to survive).  
  • ORIENT: This is the most crucial part of the process. Orientation shapes the way we interact with our environment: the way we observe, the way we decide, and the way we act. Orientation dictates the character of the present OODA Loop, and the present Loop dictates our future orientation. Think about that for a second, if your orientation is poor, you will be apt to make poor decisions, and poor decisions will promote future poor orientation, and the cycle continues. This is how a bad situation gets worse, quickly. So the quicker you can calmly and properly orient yourself, the better off you will be.  Proper orientation consists of breaking apart your old paradigms and put the resulting pieces back together with the goal of creating a new perspective that better matches your current reality.  John Boyd, the military strategist behind the OODA, describes this as “destructive deduction” – analyzing and pulling apart our mental concepts into discrete parts. Once you have all these parts, you can begin the second part of “creative induction” – using these old fragments to form new mental concepts that more closely align with what we have observed and our current reality. Scratching your head?? I’ll explain it more plainly.  
      • You’re cooking dinner. You have macaroni boiling on the stove, and it needs to be strained, but you don’t see a strainer or colander. You also don’t see any oven mitts or pot holders. The water begins to boil over.  Conventional paradigm would suggest that since you do not have the necessary tools to complete the task, the task must be abandoned. But we have all been in a situation like this before, and we would be damned if we didn’t get our mac and cheese. So what did we do?  We knew the towel would block the heat from our hands, so we grabbed the towel off the rack. We knew that we could put a plate on the top of the pot and leave a small opening to pour the water out without losing any macaroni, so we grabbed a plate. The separation of the conventional use of these two items is the destructive deduction of the process, while the new utilization of these would be the creative induction. With orientation, you need to make this figurative as well.  You can deconstruct ideals, traditions, methodologies, doctrines, many of which seem unrelated at best, and construct them in a way to improve your reality or in this case, save your life. A quick example of this would be Fujifilm vs Kodak. YAWN, I know. But this is a good example of Fujifilm succeeding at orientation, and Kodak failing. In a nutshell, in the 80’s, digital film was the future, and everyone knew it. Kodak, focusing on the money maker and keeping stockholders happy, decided to stay the course, and continue to fight the trend. Fujifilm deconstructed its building model, and funneled $1.6 billion, with a b, of its still healthy film profits into its joint venture with Xerox.  This would prove to be the lifeblood that has kept Fujifilm alive, while Kodak failed.  

Think of it as putting tools in the toolbox. The more and different subject matters you can learn, the more tools you will have. You never know what seemingly unrelated things you have learned will be able to come together to help you survive!

  • DECIDE: This one is pretty self explanatory, however there is one catch.  Whatever action you have developed through your orientation of the given scenario, make sure you have mentally tested it enough to ensure a high probability of success.  Going back to the mac and cheese example, you could have chosen paper towels and a saucer, but you didn’t because mentally you knew you would end up with burnt hands, maybe a trip to the ER, and an empty belly.
  • ACT: The easy part. Honestly it is. You’ve calmed down, considered your surroundings and options that have presented themselves to you or that you’ve figured out through creative induction, that part is the hard part. Now, after you’ve decided and mentally tested to a high probability of success, you get to do what you can to survive. The important part of this is that you must think of acting as a test, as it might not always work. But through the Orientation process (see? I told you it was most important) we learn from it and move on. Example: you found a coat hanger and attempted to open the lock on the door but the lock was too rigid and it didn’t work. Now you have a new basis to frame your Orientation process and come up with a new plan of attack. REMEMBER it’s the “OODA LOOP”, not the “OODA ONE AND DONE.”


I will briefly touch on this, as I feel like this is a very last resort, but it has shown to be successful in some instances. Some women who have gotten away have addressed the fact that they began to relate to their attacker, to humanize themselves. If you have a mouse, you set out some traps, and when the mouse is caught, you toss it… nothing personal. However, if you were to raise the mouse, gave it a name, and spent time with it, it would be more of a companion or pet and then things get very personal. Go watch Marley and Me if you doubt me. When people have a name, a husband or wife, brothers or sisters, kids, it becomes harder to harm them. This is especially important with kidnapping for ransom victims. Usually the kidnappers have no joy in what they are doing, it is about the eventual payout, so if you can tap into their sympathy and humanity, your treatment may be better and you may be released. Here are some things to consider:

  • Give yourself a name: repeat to the individual your name, that you have a family, kids, dogs, lizards, whatever.  
  • Follow instructions (within reason), and say please and thank you. My mom always said you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, and it can apply here.
  • Keep your dignity. This echoes the fact that it is harder for them to do harm if you seem more “human”. Keep your composure, or regain it. Do not grovel, beg, or become hysterical. Try not to even cry. The goal here is not to challenge your abductor, but to show them that you are worthy of respect and dignity.  
  • Attempt to build a rapport. Find things in common if you can and exploit them. If you hear them on the phone and he seems to be talking to someone else in charge, make it a point to say things like “is this what YOU want me to do. I’ve done this for YOU”. Getting them on your side by appealing to their need to feel in control may go a long way when it comes to deciding your fate.  

Again, I touch on this topic, but FIGHT. It’s truly the best chance you have.
Hopefully you will never be placed in the situation to have to use this information, but at OPS we will do what we can to tip the odds in your favor if it ever does. We will be putting together some videos with tips and security ideas on our YouTube Channel in the coming weeks. Subscribe to be notified when they come out at:

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OPS Security Group has over 80 years of combined experience protecting executives, businesses, residents, guests and government officials throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington D.C. and New Jersey. As a regional security alternative with a service-first approach, we offer a level of customer service that international providers are too big to deliver. If you’d like to learn more, contact us!


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