The best self-defence strategies and techniques work equally well for men and women, but let’s face it: Women really need them because they’re assaulted more often than men. Statistics indicate that one in three women will be the victim of some type of violent attack in her lifetime. Women also endure more incidents of verbal and sexual harassment. Although most women’s self-defence courses focus on skills for quickly and efficiently dealing with an attacker, self-defence training should also include methods for preventing a confrontation from turning physical in the first place. Learning how to steer away from a threat may not sound as exciting as ripping out an attacker’s heart; but, as they say in every beginner’s class, evading an attack is almost always superior to blocking one.
These techniques are intended to be simple because, in an assault, you’ll experience fear and panic, along with a natural adrenaline rush. Despite the superhuman effects adrenaline can produce — we’ve all heard stories about the grandmother who lifted a car off her trapped grandchild — it doesn’t always work in your favour. You may experience tunnel vision, auditory exclusion and loss of fine motor skills. Consequently, it will be hard to see and hear, and complex martial arts techniques may be impossible to perform. If you stick with proven strategies and simple gross-motor-movement techniques — such as the 10 described here — your chance of surviving will increase drastically.
#1 Trust your instincts
Too many women enrol in a self-defence class after they’ve been assaulted. When they recount the incident, they often say the same thing: “I had this bad feeling, but I told myself not to be paranoid,” or “I knew I shouldn’t have gone, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.”
If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t safe — that’s the bottom line. Many women have been conditioned to ignore the little voice that tells them trouble is coming. Your instinct is the best detector of danger. The next time you hear that little voice, listen to what it’s saying.
#2 Practice target denial
Don’t make yourself an accessible target. The outcome of a battle is often determined before the first blow is struck. When you have the opportunity to escape from a situation before it turns bad, take it. If an approaching person gives you the creeps, walk to the other side of the street. If an elevator door opens and the guy standing inside makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, wait for the next elevator. Those actions aren’t cowardly; rather, they’re a smart way to eliminate danger.
Women, even strangers, are often happy to help other women out in these situations. It may seem awkward to ask a stranger to help you out, but most women have been in dangerous situations themselves and are happy to walk with you to the bathroom, pretend to be a friend ‘just running into you’ in a bar or use her phone to call you a taxi. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if there are other women present.
#3 Present yourself with confidence
Be aware of the message your body sends to those around you. Like animals, human predators target those they consider the weakest or most vulnerable. Attackers search for women who appear isolated, frightened, confused or distracted. They look for women who walk with their head down and their hands stuffed in their pockets, or perhaps one who’s overburdened with packages or distracted by children.
Remember that attackers do not want to start a fight; they want an easy mark. By walking with confidence and awareness — looking around and keeping your head up and shoulders back — you’ll dramatically reduce the likelihood of becoming a target in the first place.
#4 Set strong verbal boundaries
Good verbal skills are an effective self-defence tool, one you’re likely to use more frequently and successfully than any physical technique. When a predator engages you in conversation, he’s actually “interviewing” you to see if you’ll make a good victim. An experienced attacker is practiced at using his words to freeze you with fear, thus reducing the chance that you’ll try to defend yourself.
Although an aggressive verbal confrontation can be terrifying, you have to be strong enough to show the attacker he’s picked the wrong victim. If you stand tall, make eye contact, remain calm and respond confidently and assertively, you’ll probably “fail” his interview. The power of your voice alone can cause him to seek an easier target. Although every situation is different, if you can respond to catcalls or threats with disdain or disappointment rather than disgust or fear, this may defuse the situation enough to give you time to move away. Try not to react with anger or aggression as this can escalate the situation.
If you are approached in an area with other people present, use your voice and eye contact to attract attention. Saying things like “no!” or “I don’t know you” or “I don’t want to go anywhere with you” loudly may put the attacker off, but can also get the attention of bystanders who can help you avoid the situation, get a ride home or otherwise remove yourself from the attacker’s vicinity. Bystanders are often loath to get involved when they don’t understand a situation, so make eye contact and loudly describe what’s happening and why you feel threatened. One way to do this is to describe your attacker loudly while describing the situation, for example “Man in the blue shirt, stop touching me. This is harassment.”
#5 Maintain a non-confrontational stance
In a self-defence situation, one of your secret weapons is the element of surprise. Most predators feel confident that you won’t defend yourself, and you should capitalise on that misconception. If you assume a martial arts stance, it immediately tells the attacker that you know how to fight. In response, he’s likely to be more aggressive.
Instead, use a confident, relaxed stance in which your hips and shoulders are forward, your arms are bent, and your hands are up and open. This conciliatory posture may mislead the attacker into thinking you’re willing to comply. If it becomes necessary for you to strike, he probably won’t be prepared for it.
#6 Keep a safe distance
Everyone has a comfort zone or personal space. When an aggressor enters that zone, you’re uncomfortable because you know you’d need that space if you had to fight back. When you’re in an adrenalised state, you need a quarter of a second to react to an assault. This “reactionary gap” should be anticipated when you think about your comfort zone. You should try to maintain approximately one to one-and-a-half arm lengths between yourself and the aggressor. If he starts closing in, you need to use verbal boundaries. If he still doesn’t back off, it’s time to get physical.
#7 Use the element of surprise
Most predators assume you cannot defend yourself. Therefore, you should take advantage of the element of surprise. If you’re engaged in a conversation, you have the opportunity to use verbal skills and a non-confrontational stance to entice the aggressor into dropping his guard. If you’re grabbed from behind, you must respond immediately. In either case, putting up a fight can surprise him and increase your chance of landing the first blow.
#8 Keep your techniques simple
One of the main effects of an adrenaline release is the loss of fine motor skills. That means simple gestures such as unlacing your fingers or pulling your hands out of your pockets can become much more challenging. And the odds of your executing a beautiful joint lock or high kick rapidly dwindle. No matter which martial art you practice, learn techniques that are basic and stick with them in a self-defence scenario. The following are recommended:
Ø Heel-palm strike
Ø Eye strike
Ø Knee strike
#9 Don’t panic if you’re knocked down
More often than not, women end up on the ground when they’re assaulted. The good news is that most assailants are not skilled ground fighters; they’re bullies who are used to knocking women down and forcing them to comply. Remember that the heel-palm strike and eye strike work well on the ground. Thrust kicks also function in a variety of scenarios. If you’re on the ground and your assailant is standing, it gives you an advantage because your legs are longer than his arms. That means he’ll have to expose his body to your kick if he wants to reach you.
Knee strikes also function effectively on the ground. While you struggle with your attacker, he probably won’t protect his groin. Once you see an opening, get close enough to strike upward into his crotch.
#10 Follow through
The fight isn’t over until the threat no longer exists. Therefore, you must be 110% committed to the battle. If you fight back and then pause, you give up the initial advantage you gained from using the element of surprise. Once your opponent knows you can fight, it becomes more difficult for you to prevail. To survive, you must continue your barrage until it’s safe to stop striking and escape.
Some of these tips might seem strange at first but you’ll see what we mean quickly enough. Also, there is not one single tip that explains how to throw a punch or do any other physical technique. This will be explained at the end.
This isn’t a definitive list. There’s obviously a lot more to say about this topic but the concept of a “tip” revolves around practical information you can use relatively quickly or it serves as an eye-opener. It gives you specific information for direct use or it makes you understand something crucial. This is in stark contrast with “studying”, which means working hard and continuously to increase knowledge, understanding and skill. So, think of these tips as a bunch of ideas for you to think about right now and see how you can implement them. They aren’t rocket science, there’s nothing in them that you can’t understand. The challenge is only in doing them.
Another point is that this is written with men and their typical mindset in mind. Sure, there will be overlap for women, but that’s not the focus here. These tips are mostly geared towards handling social violence. They are not as applicable to dealing with criminal violence where the rules are a little different.
#1 Forget what you see on the screen
The vast majority of movies and TV series fail miserably when it comes to portraying realistic violence and self-defence. Unfortunately, there is just so much nonsense on the screen that it makes its way into the collective psyche and many men think that’s how it really is. Then they get into a fight and discover they were wrong. For example, telling a gangbanger “he doesn’t have the guts” to shoot you when he demands your wallet is a surefire way to get killed. Not for Bruce Willis or Jason Statham in the movies but for you, yes it is.
You’d think that all men would get this, and when they’re sober and alone they generally do. But pour a few beers into them, get them together with their mates and they’re chest-thumping and boasting while they get right into that gangbanger’s face. And then they don’t understand why they get shot. This is just an example and an extreme one at that but there are many more. Replace the gangbanger robbing you with a guy who quickly drove into “your” parking spot and the same thing applies: common sense is often lacking with men when they are faced with such a situation.
The point is this, the human mind, like nature, abhors a vacuum. It will fill in that vacuum in any way it can. So, if you have no actual experience with violence, you will form your opinions about it somehow. And no matter how much you tell yourself that “it’s just a movie” your mind is still absorbing that information subconsciously. Given enough repetition, you might be surprised at how much disinformation you actually soak up. So forget about the movie violence or the way they portray self-defence situations and how to handle them. 99.99% of the time, they get it wrong. If you do have experience with violence, you already know this is true.
#2 Live, love and be happy
Say what? Yes indeed. Live a good life. Love your significant other, family and friends. And be as happy as you can be, every single day. If you focus on those things, you are less likely to make the mistakes that get you in the kind of trouble that results in violence. You’ll be able to let go of the issues that aren’t worth fighting over simply because you have something worth losing: an awesome life.
The trouble with violence is that it tends to escalate and become uncontrollable real fast. It is also an unpredictable beast. So, especially if you practice martial arts or combatives, think twice before you let your ego and emotions take you places you will regret going. It’s easy to go there in the heat of the moment though, adrenaline and tempers being what they are. But if you have an awesome life to get back to, it’s much easier to walk away when somebody smudges your Pumas.
#3 Know yourself
The focus of men who want to learn self-defence skills is usually on the bad guys, the aggressors they’ll have to handle when things take a wrong turn.
That is definitely an important issue but it isn’t the only one. Because it assumes that the problem will always be with somebody else, which is not always true. You’re half of the equation in a fight, your motivations and actions will definitely influence whether it turns to blows or not.
Sure, there are situations you can’t deescalate. Some people will go out of their way to pick a fight. But a lot (perhaps even most) of the potential conflicts can be avoided if you keep your head screwed on correctly. If you can keep it together, you’ll be able to focus on finding solutions for the problem, not taking his bait or just leave. To be able to do that, you need to stay cool. To be able to stay cool, you need to know what sets you off.
We all have our hot buttons, not much you can do about that. But you can be aware of them and make sure they don’t get pushed. Or at the very least, recognize when they are being pushed and then getting clear of the person doing the pushing. Before you do something you’ll regret later on or you end up escalating the conflict into violence because the bloke pissed you off.
Putting it a bit differently, you can avoid the need for self-defence if you avoid the conflict. Avoiding a conflict is easier done with a cool head. So make sure you know what makes you lose your cool.
#4 He’s human too
That guy who’s in your face calling you names? The guy who cuts you off in traffic and flips you the bird? The one who’s eyeballing you with murder in his eyes because you bumped his shoulder? He’s human, just like you. There are reasons why he acts like that. Reasons you may never know or understand, but they are real to him. Everything in tip #2 applies to him too, but it looks like he’s throwing that advice to the wind. Something (You? Somebody else? Some pre-existing problem?) is making him act like that and you can be sure he feels he is in the right and you are wrong.
This is true for most people, barring certain criminals, he isn’t the bad guy in his own mind. He’s the hero in the movie of his life that plays inside his head. To him, you are the bad guy. Obviously, you feel the same way about him but here’s the thing: you can both be right. Conflicts are not always black and white. You could very well both be to blame for whatever you’re getting into a fight over.
If you can understand that, it’s easier for you to walk away and avoid the conflict altogether. If you don’t feel the need to be right all the time and prove it to the world, you can walk away and leave the other guy to his illusion of being “right”. Mind you, you don’t have to like the guy or turn the other cheek. Not at all. Understanding his motivations in no way means approval of his actions. Feel free to think he’s an arsehole. Or do what Mr T did, and pity the fool and walk away, back to your awesome life of which he will no longer be a part of.
#5 Get over yourself
This tip is the flip side of the previous one: don’t be the bad guy to other people. A large portion of violent incidents can be avoided by simply getting over yourself, by not letting your ego or sense of entitlement make the decisions. Yes, it is your right to be loud and boisterous in a biker bar. But it’s not a smart move is it? It is absolutely your right to give that guy who cuts in line a piece of your mind; free speech and all that. But calling him a “shit-for-brains retard” is probably not going to do much to defuse the situation. And so on.
In so many cases, men let their testosterone take over and shoot from the hip instead of taking a step back. In part, this is because of how our brains are wired. But that doesn’t mean you have to accept this as an unchangeable fact of life. You can change your knee-jerk responses but only if you really want to. It takes a lot of trial and error, effort, time and determination, but it can most certainly be done. All it really takes is the conscious decision to get over yourself and then stick to it. Or to put it into a practical context:
Whenever you think “It’s my bloody right to…” right before you do or say something, pause for a second and consider if it’s worth bleeding or dying over. If not, maybe you shouldn’t take it to that next level. Just because it’s legal for you to be an asshole, doesn’t mean it’s the right or smart thing to do.
Watch any street fight on Youtube or when it makes the news and you’ll consistently see the same thing: a crowd of people standing close by. Violence attracts attention, especially in men. They want to keep looking at it to see what happens next; it’s almost as good as sports on TV and in some ways even better. Some men feel the urge to participate, which is why you so often see guys getting sucker punched by someone who wasn’t originally involved in the conflict. It doesn’t matter if you are just watching and have no intention of getting involved; violence is chaos in action and both the fighters as well as the crowd can turn on you in a heartbeat. One second you’re just standing there and the next you get punched in the back of the head.
The same goes for you as a combatant. Just because it starts one-on-one, that doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way. “Winning” doesn’t mean you’re safe from the crowd, even if they all left you alone throughout the fight. You can avoid all this by simply leaving. Don’t watch fights, don’t hang around. Just go. Of course, the same applies if you are involved in the build-up phase of a potential conflict: if you just leave, the other guy can’t hurt you, simply because you aren’t there anymore.
#7 Practical rules to avoid and deescalate violent situations
They are simple to understand and put the information explained in the previous tips into action very well. Here they are:
These rules are very clear and if you take the previous tips to heart, it won’t take long before you can use them in your daily life. But it once again takes a serious commitment before this can be the case. You need to want it to work. If you are secretly only looking for an excuse to go off on somebody, then you’ll fail miserably at implementing these rules and violence will come your way.
#8 Stick to the mission
These tips are useless to you if you don’t have a clear idea of what your ultimate goal is. You need a personal mission so you always work towards that goal instead of away from it. It is your commitment to that mission that will help you avoid violence and the need for physical self-defence techniques by implementing all the tips written here. If you aren’t committed to that mission, you risk straying from it and going into a direction that ultimately leads to violence, even if you don’t see that at first.
Don’t abandon the mission. Everybody’s mission is different and you need to decide on one for yourself.
So you haven’t found any physical techniques for self-defence here. In a majority of situations that can lead to violence, punching the other bloke isn’t the best solution.
Did you know that if your child is unprepared for bullying or unaware of their surroundings, they’re more likely to be targeted? No one wants their child to be defenceless when it comes to bullying. But if you do not prepare your kids in advance, they will be. Talk to you kids about how to deal with bullying before it happens. Discuss the importance of avoiding bullying hot spots, how to stay safe on the bus and how to stand up to bullies. Also, equip them with some self-defence techniques.
When most people think of self-defence, they think of hitting back. But a large part of self-defence has nothing to do with hitting or striking another person. It involves being aware of your surroundings, listening to your gut, leaving before a problem erupts, using a confident voice and carrying yourself with confidence. Here are nine strategies kids can use to defend themselves against school bullies.
#1 Use Confident Body Language
One of the best ways to prevent bullying is to be sure your children have a healthy self-esteem and carry themselves with confidence. Being self-confident involves having good posture, walking with a purpose and making eye contact with those around them. By contrast, if children slouch and keep their eyes averted, this makes them appear weak and easy to target. Work with your children on these techniques. And remind them that, even when they do not feel confident, like when they walk into a crowded lunchroom for the first time, they should walk as if they are. “Fake it ‘til you make it” is standard gym-teacher-advice, but it really does work.
#2 Stay in a Group
Bullies are less likely to target someone who is with a group of friends. Be sure your child knows that it is best to go places in groups, especially if they have to pass through bullying hot spots at school. If your child does not have a group of friends, work with them to develop friends. Friendship is a protective factor against bullying. Even one close friend can go a long way in preventing bullying.
#3 Trust Your Gut
Teach your kids to be aware of their surroundings. Have them put their mobile phones away and look around them. Is there a group of rough-looking boys on the corner? Is there a strange car at the bus stop? What about the man in the back of the McDonald’s watching their every move? Do these things set off alarm bells inside? Does something not feel right in the pit of their stomach? Being aware of what’s going on around them and trusting their instincts, not only will help protect your children from bullying, but it is also an important life skill. Being aware of what is happening around them can help them avoid being mugged or attacked as an adult as well.
#4 Focus on Flight, Not Fight
Kids often do not realise that when things look like they could head the wrong direction, really they should just turn around and walk away. Be sure they know that it is not cowardly to walk away. Instead, remind them that it takes courage to walk away from a situation that is escalating. Stress to your kids that they need to leave a situation before it gets out of hand. Identifying when a situation is about to take a turn for the worse and walking away is one of the best ways to avoid bullying situations.
#5 Use a Strong Voice
If your child does find themself in a potential bullying situation, sometimes using a confident voice and being assertive will defuse the situation. Many times, bullies are looking for an easy target. A strong confident voice may cause bullies to back off. Have your children practice speaking assertively and in a strong voice at home. Then, when they are in a difficult situation it will come naturally. Make sure you teach them that they can say “No” even to adults if a situation is making them uncomfortable.
#6 Keep Your Eyes on the Exit
Sometimes kids will get into a situation where they cannot walk away immediately. Maybe their path is blocked or they feel it isn’t safe to make a run for it. In this case, they should still look for an exit and, when the opportunity presents itself, make a break for it. Remind them that it is not a sign of weakness to run from a bully. In fact, it takes courage and strength. It also keeps them safe.
#7 Attract Attention
Make sure your kids know that it is acceptable and encouraged to make a lot of noise if someone is threatening them or hurting them. Not only should they be using a strong voice, but they also can shout, yell or scream. The idea is to scare off a bully by attracting a lot of attention to the situation, especially from adults or teachers. This tactic is also important if the child is being attacked by a stranger during an attempted abduction. Being quiet and submissive is never a good idea.
#8 Use Self-Defence Techniques
Although it is never a good idea to encourage your child to fight, there are certain self-defence techniques they can use to protect themselves when attacked. For instance, there are techniques for blocking a punch that is thrown at them. There are also techniques for removing a bully’s fingers from their wrists as well as techniques on how to get free when being restrained. And there are techniques on how they can defend themselves from a group attack. All these strategies can be learned in a self-defence class.
Remember, when teaching your kids about self-defence skills against bullies, encourage them firstly to attempt to defuse the situation by using a strong voice or walking away.