Tim Ferriss Getting His Ass Kicked + How to Survive a Physical Attack (Video Series)


This post might seem odd, as it starts with a random sequence from a random skill. There are three reasons for this:

1) I like to expose readers to things they’ve never explored.
2) The best long-term policy for keeping a blog fun to read (and write) is to cover things that subsets of your readers love, not things that everyone merely likes.
3) I think all of you should know how to respond to a real physical attack.

Keeping these in mind, I hope you enjoy a lil’ taste of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, often nicknamed “human chess.”

If it’s not your thing, I still suggest you skip to the end, where you can see the free (and short) video series I did with Dave Camarillo on defending against real-world attacks of various types. I had these videos up at one time in 2007, but the code became corrupted, so I’m updating them here.

One of the last videos is of me getting thrown on my head, or heels-over-head, repeatedly.

Enter Dave Camarillo

Since the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) came to prominence in 2005, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) has been the most sought-after skill-set in the marital arts world. There are many world-class athletes, but there are only a few world-class teachers. Dave Camarillo, who’s coached UFC fighters like Cain Velasquez, is one of them…

I’ve known Dave for nearly a decade and trained with him at AKA in San Jose, CA. I also had the chance to be a crash-test dummy for his new book, Submit Everyone, which is the book I always wanted him to write. It is (finally) a principle-based system for learning submissions and game strategy, as opposed to a hodge-podge of random techniques. Dave, though he’d never admit it, used to teach chess in addition to BJJ. It comes through and, as of this writing, his book has 100% 5-star reviews on Amazon.

For grappling fans, the below pass will give you a submission to try at your next practice. This scenario comes up a lot on the mats.


PHOTO 1: SUBJECT CAMARILLO is approaching the open guard of CONTACT FERRISS, TIMOTHY. As always, Camarillo does not delay in establishing control of Ferriss’s heels. At this point, Ferriss is focused solely on defending these grips and has been momentarily taken out of his previous mindset.

PHOTOS 2-4: Without delay, Camarillo pushes Ferriss’s legs overhead and waits for him to rock back in defense. As Ferriss falls into the first trap, Camarillo steps inside of his seated guard. Ferriss does not wait and grabs the single-leg to gain advantage and attack.

PHOTO 5: However, Camarillo realizes that the single-leg is the most common reaction and is already cross-stepping backward with his left leg before Ferriss can execute a sweep or takedown. Due to his perfect timing, Camarillo does not have to wait for Ferriss to establish a stronger defense of the backward cross-step.

PHOTO 6: Having reached Ferriss’s left side, Camarillo now focuses on the arm by securing a figure-four kimura lock on Ferriss’s exposed (from holding the single-leg) left arm. [TIM: See third pic here for hand position] Camarillo’s right leg is still technically inside of the guard, but Camarillo has little concern for it; he is completely focused on the finish.

PHOTO 7: To break Ferriss’s posture and initiate the final sequence, Camarillo jumps his left foot to Ferriss’s left hip and sits down onto Ferriss’s left shoulder. This collapses Ferriss toward the mat and sets him up for the submission.

PHOTO 8: As Camarillo falls to his back, he slides a belt line hook with his left leg and uses his right foot as a hook to steer Ferriss away from his trapped arm. This keeps Ferriss planted to his back where it is far more difficult to defend.

PHOTO 9: Ferriss locks the triangle on Camarillo’s right leg, but it does not matter. Camarillo’s right leg blocks Ferriss’s right arm from making a proper defense and his triangle makes it impossible to roll to either side to escape.

Camarillo stretches Ferriss’s arm for the finish.

The Videos

First, before the instructionals, here is me getting thrown over and over again. I did this video to illustrate the importance knowing how to fall (ukemi) without getting injured. The music is a bit loud:

The instructionals follow. If you want to skip around, they cover, in order: punch defense, choke defense, bottom defense, and bottom defense/offense. Women should focus on the latter three, especially the last two.

Originally filmed in 2007, most take place at AKA in San Jose, where Dave coached at the time:

Posted on: January 8, 2012.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

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Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

147 comments on “Tim Ferriss Getting His Ass Kicked + How to Survive a Physical Attack (Video Series)

  1. Once I saw the second UFC in the 90’s I understood that most fights went to the ground and BJJ or grappling skills in general would be important. Bruce Lee shows a bit of it in one of his movies.

    I took it in 2003 and really fell in love with. It’s a great workout and boosted my confidence. I weighed 170 and with six months of training, was able to control,but not submit, a 230 college football player.


  2. Hey Tim, Cool series! I really enjoyed all the throwing… One comment on those punch defenses: they’re great for boxing and kickboxing, but if your attacker had a broken bottle or knife in their hand that you didn’t notice (because it might be down at their waste before it came at you), the block would be… bloody, no? What do you think?

    Some other martial arts–like krav maga and wing chun–advocate some different styles of blocking as the default for this very reason.

    Thanks again for the awesome blog post.



    • Brian,

      One thing ive learned in my short time learning martial arts is that whenever a bladed weapon or any kind of sharp object is introduced into the fight, someone will be cut, its extremely difficult and improbable to get out of a knife fight unscathed.

      But at the end of the day, a couple cuts on the arm is better than one bad cut where it counts. Hope this was helpful!


    • Theres different techniques for empty hand vs armed opponents.Like in Kali for a stab @ the neck.You would pivot(hip out) and block w/opposite forearm,fingers toward sky and then blast them as move the knife in a circular motion and then attempt a disarm. As opposed to a boxing style shield vs a hook.That would transition into a severe abdomen cut.Hope this helps john.As they say in a knife fight”He who trickles wins,he who gushed loses”


  3. I wonder how young one has to be to start practicing BJJ, I’m 26 and I’ve thinking about it as sport and discipline. Not looking to win any championship. Nices videos, a little old though! :p


    • Joel:

      Look up John Danaher. He is one of the most respected BJJ teachers. I first heard about him through Dave C. He called John one of the greatest BJJ instructors. He put on white belt at age 28.


    • Joel,

      My teacher’s teacher is Guru Dan Inosanto. He is 75 and can do some insane BJJ moves.

      It is NEVER too late to start. Just make sure you don’t go more then 1% past your physical limits and give yourself ample recovery time after a workout.


    • If you just want to do it for sport, discipline or fun, it doesn’t matter how old you are. If you wanted to compete, it might be a different story…:) One important thing to keep in mind is that the human body can preserve the same strength until 55 years of age with regular exercise.
      I started practicing American Jiu Jitsu when I was 27 and BJJ when I was 30. I love it and am still doing it! :)


    • Joel, you’d be young in the sport. There are a lot of people much older than you. Jiu Jitsu attracts a lot of “professionals” among others so it’s very common to find people in their 40 and 50s rolling on the mat.


  4. Joel, you’re definitely not too old. If judoka can go until their 90’s, you can certainly start now! Just learn from someone who relies on technique vs. attributes and you’ll be in good shape. Position before submission.


      • It definitely has useful information, but Bas is such an charismatic guy it’ll still be a good watch without.

        One thing he brings up over and over, is to ‘AVOID going to the ground’ and in essence taking much BJJ out of the scenario.


  5. Dave Cam rules!

    Had the opportunity to train under him and receive my belt from him a few years ago. Great mentor, teacher…

    I have used the move above in sparring many times. The trickiest part for me has been locking kimura grip, while the guy is holding on tight to you leg. Also I have kept my left leg outside and put my shin against the bottom guy ribs, squeezing knees together while failing back to finish the arm. Jumping on the opponents and putting the left leg cross body is awesome. I am going to play with it.

    Are you training regularly these days? It would be great if you drop in for some friendly sparring at 10thplanetsf. It’s Denny P school and he is awesome teacher and good bunch of people


  6. One thing BJJ enthusiasts seem to miss in terms of real world fighting and self defense is its close range vulnerability to biting, skin tearing, eye gouging, etc.


    • You’re exactly right, but it’s not just BJJ that misses this. Many of these skills work well in the setting of MMA/UFC and the like where it is a controlled environment (limited rules…but still rules – no groin shots, eye attacks, trachea attacks etc.) and the fighters are both secure in this knowledge and have gone into the fight mentally prepared.
      Often a street attack will occur out of nowhere, leaving the victim scrambling to mount a protection/defence. This often renders fine motor skills or complex movements pointless and the brain somewhat fuzzy thanks to flight or fight adrenalin.
      This is why I am such a proponent of military hand to hand combat training (CQC/CQB). It teaches largely gross motor coordination (that is easily remembered as muscle memory when being attacked) and how to use the weaknesses of the eyes, groin, throat, central nervous system etc as primary ‘threat elimination zones’. It’s pointless as a fighting sport skill, but deadly as a self protection skill. Also it is built around a foundation of commonality in all things, meaning that defence moves against hand strikes can be utlised against knife attacks etc.


    • I honestly don’t remember why the hell I did that, although it’s a bit of an instinct after getting knee barred a fair amount in Japan. In this case, since I’m having my arm snapped, it doesn’t matter much :)


  7. Hey Tim, it’s awesome seeing a blogger and fitness guy like yourself embrace MMA/BJJ for it’s self-defense applications.

    Your stuff helped inspire me to start my own blog with the intention of making a positive change in people’s daily lives through mixed martial arts, so just leaving a big thanks!


  8. Great stuff Tim! Any time you’re in Melbourne, Australia, and want to have a Judo practice let me know. Would be great to have you on the mat for a session or two.

    Miki (4th Dan Black belt – Judo).


  9. Although BJJ is great for the use in the octagon or in any other controlled environment unfortunately it is not that very good for the use on the street.For anyone wanting to protect themselves on the street (without the use of any weapons) I would strongly advice to learn the basics of boxing and either freestyle or greco-roman wrestling.

    I would not rely on BJJ on the street for the following simple reasons:

    1.You never want to end up on the ground in the street.You are gonna get a kick in the head or into any other vital organs with a heavy object such as a shoe or a boot.Most streetfights rarely include 1 on 1 confrontations.Whilst you are putting an armbar on the aggressor his friend is stomping onto your head.Besides, BJJ does not deal with eyegouging, biting, small joint manipulation and other pesky little things which happen in real life.Easiest way of getting out of someone’s guard is pushing a finger into his eye or elbowing the groin area.In addition to this the real life environment is full of other objects which can always be used as weapons once you both hit the ground and there is no way of evading a brick to the head for example which could still be evaded in a stand-up phase of the fight.

    2.Even if it is a 1 on 1 confrontation and you do get your opponent into an armbar/kimura/omoplata or anything else you will have to finish the job and either break your aggressor’s bone/tendon or put him into sleep because there is no such thing as tapping out on the street.The problem arises that later on in court you will have to prove that breaking someone’s elbow or causing braindamage/death due to asphyxiation was a reasonable response to the aggressor’s actions.Therefore if you get into a brawl with some harmless drunk, overestimate the level of threat and accidentally kill him by locking on a triangle choke for too long you are going to be in a world of legal trouble.

    3.BJJ is practiced in comfortable clothes in the gym where there is a lot of free space.Most of the fights which go to the ground in real life happen in a spatially limited environment and often the combatants wear jeans or other uncomfortable clothes which doesn’t allow enough flexibility to be able to use even the most basic arsenal of moves.

    In my opinion the best method of self-defence without using any weapons is boxing and freestyle/greco-roman wrestling.Boxing will let you hold your own if you have to deal with more than 1 opponent and wrestling will actually help you to stay on your feet.Once you are taken down to the ground in a real life confrontation the chances are immediately against you.Therefore do not go to the ground at any costs.

    Loved your book “4 Hour Body” by the way, Tim, keep up the great work!


    • Nickolay,

      Agree with Boxing and wrestling being very effective and also you’re point about multiple opponents is a good one – however, I don’t think points 2 and 3 that you raised were valid. To be honest though, I thought the same way until I started training BJJ two years ago (now a blue belt 3 stripes).

      2) If someone who practices BJJ gets a hold of a limb.. the LAST thought going you’re mind is “let’s poke him in the eye”, ” let me just elbow him in the balls”… For a real life example – UFC 1, 2 & 3. Pretty much no rules at all – ball shots were allowed etc. Even with dirty, street moves allowed, Royce Gracie was able to beat everyone and win the events.

      2 moves that back up the point: Mata Leao (rear naked choke). When you do the rear naked choke, you’re effectively tucking your head/ face away from the opponent


    • Nickolay,

      Agree with Boxing and wrestling being very effective and also you’re point about multiple opponents is a good one – however, I don’t think points 2 and 3 that you raised were valid. To be honest though, I thought the same way until I started training BJJ two years ago (now a blue belt 3 stripes).

      2) If someone who practices BJJ gets a hold of a limb.. the LAST thought going you’re mind is “let’s poke him in the eye”, ” let me just elbow him in the balls”… For a real life example – UFC 1, 2 & 3. Pretty much no rules at all – ball shots were allowed etc. Even with dirty, street moves allowed, Royce Gracie was able to beat everyone and win the events.

      2 moves that back up the point:

      i) Mata Leao (rear naked choke). When you do the rear naked choke, you’re effectively tucking your head/ face away from the opponent – leaving no real points for them to hurt you with (unless you cross your feet and get footlocked in the process)

      ii) Armbar – if you see a proper armbar applied, there leaves no real way to elbow the person in the nuts (I assume that when you were referring to someone being elbowed in the nuts, it was in relation to an armbar?) I had problems with setting up my armbars when I first started, and would always crush my own nuts, but after learning to keep your knees tight etc. etc. you realise that there is no possible way someone could effectively elbow you when you have them in that position. If they tried, all the would be doing would be cranking their own arm.

      Point 3 – the clothing part. I can see why you would think that jeans etc. could get in the way of using BJJ on the street, but if you think about it – most schools train with a Gi… having uncomfortable clothing could only be more helpful to the guy who has trained “jacket wrastling” ;)

      In any case, you do bring up some good points, and whilst BJJ isn’t the be all and end all of self defense, it sure as hell helps a lot!

      Also – check out Gracie combative – awesome resource for “Street JJ” :)




  10. I just enjoyed this post and watched the videos with my 13 year old. With just minimal training I can see how these techniques would be effective against some amateur throwing punches with the bar fight mentality. I think an interesting post would be looking into adults 35+ who have recently acquired a new physical skill set that are excelling in it. Thanks again Tim for always keeping the blog fresh and interesting.


  11. I hate to say it but this is terribly irresponsible. There’s is something called an adrenaline dump that happens when your life is threatened. Anyone serious about their own safety should look it up on the internet. Don’t take my word for it. What happens is blood is drained away from your brain. This takes away all of your ability to do fancy moves. Your blood mainly goes to arms and legs to be used in the fight or flight response. Your left with gross motor movements and target awareness if you train for it. There is nothing fancy or pretty about survival. Ask any experienced police officer attacks can be exteremely fast and brutal. Ask them how easy it is to do intricate moves when they are trying to arrest someone who has no qualms about killing or harming them.


  12. Yo Tim,

    When’s the “Lessons learnt in 2011″ post coming?

    I love hearing your reflections on your year and your crystal clear definition of what you have learnt.




  13. Tim, what about handling a knife attack? Any tips or videos there? I was recently rammed off my motorcycle in the middle of the night, surrounded in pitch black (and rain) by 3 young thugs here in Thailand, confronted with a machete… probably at least a foot long. (Worst and most confrontational incident I’ve had on my travels, and 3 years in Thailand)


    • Someone holds up a knife to you? “Give them your money” is the best response.

      I personally know heroes that tried disarming knives and guns and paid the price. You just get cut, if you’re lucky.


    • @Cody,
      that’s when you hand the nice gentlemen your wallet and say thank you very much, and have a nice day. Because a 3 on 1 when they have knives is not going to go well for you unless you are a VERY seriously trained martial artist that has been doing it for years at an intensive level and with real street-fights mixed in for realism. And even then you are most likely going to get killed unless you are one of literally a few dozen guys in the world, which I have probably trained with at some point.
      I have trained that way and have worked as a bodyguard etc. and have had more than a few streetfights, but if I was suddenly faced with three guys that have knives, as long as I was alone, that is not trying to protect my wife or child or something like that, if it was possible to run away at any point, that is what I would probably try first, whilst looking for a nice couple of bricks/rock as I go, to even out the odds if they give chase. If that was not possible I would try to play along unless I felt they were going to stab me anyway, in which case I would hit as viciously and as hard as possible in a way to cripple the first one as badly as possible. I would also use the fact I am 6’2″ and Thais are usually smallish to my advantage as much as I can, but the last thing I would want to do is get in a clinch with one of them. A machete is actually not as scary to me as a small knife as it’s mostly useless unless there is room to swing it, and I will take it away from you if I have one or two seconds alone with you, but that’s a long time in a streetfight.
      3 on 1 with knives, the best you can do is survive it. And if that means giving your money or whatever, then do so.