Assailants will sometimes grab your shirt (or jacket, blouse, etc…) to control you, throw you off balance, and to intimidate. The can grab with one hand or two and from any direction. As always we strive to avoid or prevent but sometimes we are caught by surprise.
Here are some points to consider:
Your Surroundings: They might be slamming you into your car or a wall. The could try to be pulling you somewhere – into a car or to the ground. These physical structures can be dangerous. Hitting your head on a wall or the ground can lead to dizziness, concussion, or worse.
Context: A drunken co-worker at a staff party (it happens) or a stranger slamming against your car in an underground parking lot? Historical anecdote: In 1965, American Vice-President allegedly grabbed Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson by the shirt after the latter questioned American policy in Vietnam during a now famous speech at Temple University. Should Lester have punched Lyndon? Likely not. Your level of aggression needs to be appropriate to the situation.
One Hand Grab: A one-handed grab immediately begs the question: Where is the other hand and what is it doing? Is he: about to punch, threatening to punch (e.g. shaking his fist), grabbing your property or body, holding a knife, reaching in his pocket….? The hand grabbing your shirt is threatening but the other can be much more dangerous.
Two-Handed Grab: The good news with this grab (kinda) is that you know where both his hands are. The bad news is that it can be a stronger hold, the attacker can have more leverage and he can still knee or headbutt.
The Direction of the Attack: Attacks from the front are challenging enough. Shirt grabs from the side or back are even more surprising and it takes longer to assess the specific dangers mentioned above.
Self-defense training needs to include not only technical practice but also train you to quickly assess and perform under stress. Our next blog (this Wednesday) will look at some solutions as well as training tips to prevent and defend shirt grabs.