Insights and Training Tips from Tactical Arts


Insights from the Tactical Arts Academy

Emergency First Aid for Self Defense

Emergency First Aid for Self Defense

Self-defense is a component of survival.  There are other skills you need in addition to self defense skills to help you survive a violent encounter.  You may be ready to fight off the bad guy, but what if you are injured in the process?  If you suffer a serious injury during an attack, you will benefit from knowing how to treat the injury afterwards.

Improving your self-defense skills is about preparation.  You study to know more about the threat.  You train techniques and tactics to use for defense.  You arm yourself with a weapon and train when and how to use it.  You cultivate situational awareness skills, verbal deescalation skills, and learn to manage situations that are common to violent crime.  In addition to these skills that are directly related to defending yourself, you should learn first aid skills that will help you or someone you care about recover after an injury.

The threat level for dangerous events like bombings, active shooters, home invasions, violent road rage and the like seems to be going up.  The potential for more people being hurt in one event and the likelihood of you being the victim of a mass attack appears to be increasing recently.  In this climate, the skills for emergency first aid are potentially more valuable or perhaps more frequently needed than before.  In events with many injured, such as the 2016 Brussels Bombings and 2015 Paris Attacks, first responders are spread too thin, unable to attend to everyone quickly.  If all of us learn a few emergency first aid skills, there would likely be fewer casualties in events like this.

What to Learn

Don’t be overwhelmed, thinking you have to start reading 5 inch thick medical books or spend years in school.  You are not trying to become an ER doctor.  You just need to know enough to minimize the impact of an injury before medical professionals can address it. The good news is that in a short period of time, you can learn a few very useful skills.

Learn to stay safe.  The first thing you will learn about emergency first aid is to be safe.  You will need to make sure that you and whoever you plan to help are safe.  If the scene you are in is unsafe, then you need to make sure that it is or leave.  You cannot help yourself or another if you are attacked and injured or killed in the process.  Once you know it is safe to treat someone or treat yourself, then you can really help.

Learn how to approach someone you intend to help.  In your first aid training, you should learn basic assessment skills and methods to approach someone who is injured.  You should learn how to recognize and treat shock.  If you are helping someone else, you may find them to be scared, disoriented, or agitated.  Learning to manage the stress both you and others will be experiencing after a traumatic event will allow you to help more effectively.

Learn hemorrhage control.  You need to know how to stop bleeding.  This will include the application of pressure bandages, packing wounds with gauze, using hemostatic agents, and applying tourniquets.  You need to know how and when to use each of these.

Learn to use an AED (automated external defibrillator).  An AED will determine if a person has an irregular heartbeat that is interfering with his ability to pump blood.  If so, the AED will attempt to treat the irregular heartbeat through electrical therapy (defibrillation) to allow the heart to reestablish an effective rhythm. AED’s are designed to be used by anyone and will even talk you through the steps required when used.

Learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). If someone is unable to breathe, you need to be able to breath for them.  If someone does not have a pulse, you give them one.  CPR is performed to restore breathing and blood flow to get oxygen to the heart and brain.   CPR can manually keep the brain functioning to prevent death and minimize damage caused by a lack of oxygen.  It cannot actually start the heart if there truly is no activity, but it can certainly save a life.

Learn to treat a penetrating chest wound.  Wounds to the chest area can cause what is known as a pneumothorax a.k.a. sucking chest wound.  This happens when the vacuum inside the chest is broken and one or both lungs detach from the chest wall and begin to collapse.  Pressure from air and blood inside the chest can squeeze the lungs making it difficult to breath.  Treatment will involve using an occlusive dressing on the injury.  This dressing acts live a valve allowing air and fluid to come out, but not to go in.  Using it helps restore the vacuum needed inside the chest for the lungs to function properly.

Learn to treat a wound with an impaled object.  If you see a knife sticking out of someones head or body, don’t just pull it out!  You could cause more damage and allow more blood to be lost by pulling out what was essentially acting as a plug.  Often you will just need to stabilize the object, so that it will not move and cause more damage.  There are some situations in which you do need to remove it.  Learn about it.

Most injuries in U.S. are caused by blunt force trauma (mostly car wrecks) and heart attacks.  Having emergency first aid skills to help you survive an attack is very useful, but you may be more likely to use those skills to save someone from bleeding to death after an accident or after they collapse due to a heart attack.

What Gear You Need

To streamline your effectiveness in an emergency situation, you should consider separating your basic first aid supplies needed for minor situations from that needed for a serious emergency.  In the basic first aid kit, you keep things like band-aids and aspirin, but in your emergency kit, you have only the things you really need to save a life.  Below are a few of the most common to include in your emergency kit.  These items are based on what is needed to apply the skills listed above.

  • Pressure dressings such as an Israeli or OLAES bandage.
  • Z-packed gauze
  • Z-packed gauze with an hemostatic agent such as Celox or Quikclot.
  • Occlusive dressings.  Make sure you have at least 2.  Think about a gunshot injury wherein there could be an entry and an exit wound.
  • High quality tourniquets such as the SOF-T-WIDE or CAT.  Watch out for knockoffs and inferior replicas sold on Amazon and airsoft websites.  The more you have the better.  Imagine a family car wreck, How many arms and legs could need a tourniquet?
  • Heavy duty / EMT scissors or cutting tool designed to be used for removing clothing in order to find and have access to injuries.
  • Nitrile gloves.  Protect yourself from blood borne pathogens when helping someone else.

This list is not a complete list, but it covers most of the basics needed for someone who does not have medical training.  If you have other special needs, such as an EpiPen for dangerous allergies or insulin for diabetes, you may want to include those in your kit.  You may also want a CPR mask.  Some carry a decompression needle.  Just remember the larger your kit, the harder it is to carry with you.  Also, you need to be careful when helping a someone else if you use more advanced medical procedures.  If you are dodging something that should only be done by a medical professional, you could open yourself up to more liability.

You must have your emergency kit with you.  Put together multiple kits and keep them in your home and your car.  Keep one at work.  Carry one with you.  Make sure one is readily available at the gun range and when you go hiking, hunting and camping.  The kit will not be useful if you or someone else helping you cannot find it immediately.

You must have training for any of this to be useful.  Don’t go out and buy these things until you have had training and learned how to use each of these items properly.  The easiest step is to order all the gear, but the usefulness only comes with the training.


Go to a professional course like those offered from Lone Star Medics and the American Heart Association to learn how to administer emergency first aid and CPR properly.  You need to learn where you can have hands-on experience in class.  Some courses include scenario training to bring together skills and create more realistic training environment.  Though videos and books can be useful, they are secondary resources and are not substitutes for actual training.

Just like in training for self defense, so in training for emergency first aid, you need to practice the physical and cognitive skills involved.  After learning the techniques in class, practice them at home.  Buy some extra bandages and tourniquets that you use only for training.  Get them out regularly and develop the motor skills to quickly access your supplies from your kit and apply them.  Rehearse the steps used in each of the procedures.  Think about what factors would affect your assessment of someone who needs your help.

Final Thoughts

Without learning some basic emergency first aid skills, you are unprepared.  You should know how to help both yourself and others who you care about.  With just a small investment of your time you can develop useful life saving skills. Not only are those skills useful for the aftermath of a self-defense related incident, but also they may allow you to save a life in other deadly situations.  Whether you are hurt in a wreck on the way to work, see a friend fall and become injured while enjoying the outdoors, or witness a family member fall over and stop breathing, you can do something about it using the same set of skills.

Be prepared to take action.  If you are injured and alone, who will help you?  If someone else is injured, who will help?  Do you want to watch them die or be prepared to help them before the professionals arrive.  Get some training.  Buy and learn to use the right gear.  Be a little better prepared for the unexpected.


If you are interested in learning more about self defense, consider joining the Tactical Arts Academy Warrior Athlete Program. Training includes a variety of physical self defense skills and related topics. In addition to training self defense, we host experts like Caleb Causey from Lone Star Medics to teach us emergency first aid skills including the tools discussed above. We can help you learn to protect yourself and enjoy making yourself better.

Click the button below to learn more about the program and sign up for a free visit. You’ll learn more about Tactical Arts, you’ll have the opportunity to watch our classes in action, and you’ll discover if our training is right for you.


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