Basic Self-Defense Tips for Women
By learning some of the basic principles of self-defense you can take control of your life and your safety whether you’re at home, in the parking lot of the mall, or in the clutches of an attacker.
I was walking my dog recently on one of the many wooded trails near my house. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the sky was an intense Colorado blue. In short, it was a beautiful morning. As I crossed over the bridge from the public area of the park to the more densely wooded part of the trail, I passed a man walking alone. He greeted me, and we walked on in our separate directions. I didn’t think much of him, but out of habit, I glanced back. He had turned around about thirty feet away and was walking back towards me.
I was sure he was a good-looking, reasonable man just out for his morning walk, but an unpleasant tingle started at the base of my spine nonetheless. The trail gets deserted for as far as I could see, and I was alone but for this man and my large, but a mild-mannered dog who was chewing on a flower. I turned my dog around and hot-footed it back to the public area, passing him again on the way. He commented on my dog as we move.
Was I being paranoid? Was I being rude? Perhaps, but I decided as I dragged my dog home that being slightly paranoid or appearing somewhat rude was worth it if it kept me from being a tagline on the nightly news someday. As a woman in twenty-first century America, my life is abundantly blessed. I enjoy freedoms that women in other countries only dream. Unfortunately, although my liberty at the moment is guaranteed, my safety as a woman isn’t. One in three women in America gets sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Think of yourself and two female relatives or friends. Statistically, one of you is going down.
Frightening? It doesn’t have to be. By learning some of the fundamental principles of self-defence, you can take control of your life and your safety whether you’re at home, in the parking lot of the mall, or in the clutches of an attacker.
There are some pervasive sense ways to keep yourself safe, things your mom may have drilled into your brain while you were growing up: don’t walk in dark alleys alone, check the backseat of your car before you get in, etc. However, even the best of intentions may not keep you from a dangerous situation, and when you find yourself in that situation, your only hope is to stay prepared.
Fight or Flight
When confronted by an attacker, you will probably only have a split second to decide whether to run for help or stay and fight. Contrary to your instincts, running away isn’t always the best solution. If there is nowhere to get help nearby, there is a good chance your attacker will catch up with you, at which point it’s futile to try to intimidate him or tell him to “back off” because he already knows you’re afraid. Only run away if there is a way to get help within sprinting distance or if you’ve physically disabled your attacker enough to get away. Otherwise, your best option is to convince your attacker to leave you alone through what you say or through physical force.
Using Your Body as a Weapon
To successfully fight your way out of a dangerous situation you need to know which parts of your body make the best weapons and how to use them. Here are six natural armaments every woman possesses:
Hands – Despite what Hollywood tells us, a punch is not the most effective way to take a person down. For most women, a punch will be ineffective in stopping an attacker and may hurt the victim as much as the perpetrator. Instead, use hands for grabbing and tearing at soft flesh to inflict maximum pain. The underside of the arm and the inner thigh are two right areas to aim.
Elbows – The elbow and forearm make for great weapons against an assailant. The key is to twist at the waist and throw all the weight and power of both your upper and lower body into the hit. When used correctly, the elbow can cause a lot of pain in the ribs, sternum, diaphragm, throat, and groin.
Knees – A woman’s legs are the strongest part of her body. The area around the kneecap can do incredible damage when brought up between an attacker’s legs.
Head – The skull is a tough bone that can do a lot of damage when brought in contact with the fragile parts of an assailant’s face, particularly the nose. Whether you’ve been grabbed from the front or behind, slamming your head into an attacker’s face can cause a lot of pain.
Feet – Use the ball of your foot to kick an attacker’s ankle, calf, or Achilles’ tendon or use your heel to stomp down on their instep.
Teeth – It takes no training to know how to bite, and a bite will hurt no matter where you made it. One thing to consider: when biting, it’s possible to end up with the attacker’s blood in your mouth, which may carry any of some infectious diseases. Use your judgment to decide whether or not a situation requires you to bite.
Hit them Where it Hurts
To honestly end an attack and make a successful escape you’ll need to know which parts of your attacker’s body are the most vulnerable and the most vital. I like to use the acronym “GET” to help me remember, as in, “Get lost creep or I might have to hurt you.”
- Groin – Don’t try to kick a man in the groin. There’s a good chance you’ll lose your balance or your attacker will grab your foot or leg. Instead, aim for the assailant’s testicles with your knee or crush or swat this area with your hand or fist. Even a tap in this most sensitive of places can bring an attacker down. When you grab or knee your assailant in the groin, be sure to stand to either side of him and not in front as his first instinct will be to fall forward at the waist.
- Eyes – While the eye socket may be sturdy, the eye itself is wholly unprotected. If an attacker grabs you, it means he has occupied his hands. Use one hand to grab the back of his neck and pull him down. With your other hand grind your thumb into the inner corner of his eye. Wrap the rest of your fingers around his ear or skull to stabilize your hand for this attack and dig away.
- Throat – The windpipe is a delicate area that can be severely damaged by a strike or grab. To strike the windpipe, keep your hand open (as if you’re holding a glass), and strike at the front of the throat with full force. Punch through the neck, as if you’re trying to knock his windpipe out the back of his neck. Remember to hit or strike with a sharp movement instead of just shoving. To grab a windpipe, move your free hand or hands up your attacker’s throat, sink your thumb and fingers into his voice box or windpipe, and squeeze as if you’re trying to make a fist. Squeeze with all your strength and pull outward, as if you’re trying to rip his windpipe out. This kind of counter-attack can be useful even with very little force.
Practice Makes Perfect
For any of these moves to be effective, you need to practice them in a safe environment. Don’t expect to know or remember what to do in the heat of the moment when you’re feeling afraid. Instead, grab a friend or spouse and practice on them. One word of caution: all of these moves can cause severe damage to the body, even when done with little force. Only practice these techniques in slow motion with no applied force. You’ll still learn to feel comfortable with the actual movements.
Knowledge is Power
You don’t have to live in fear. While avoiding dangerous situations in the first place by being aware of your surroundings is by far the better choice, knowing how to take down an attacker if you have to is vital to your safety. Study and practice some of the basic moves of self-defence until they feel like second nature to you. Learn to explore your strength and be comfortable with the way your body moves. Most of all, be mentally prepared to react even in the worst of situations. You might save your own life someday, but also if you never need to employ these skills, the strength and empowerment you’ll feel as a result are a fantastic bonus.