5 Simple Self-Defense Moves Every Woman Should Know
If you’re a woman, you’ve probably experienced a nervous, sinking feeling when walking alone at night, fearing what’s lurking around a dark corner. There’s also a good chance you’ve felt your heart rate speed uncontrollably when you thought you were being followed—or worse, perhaps you were followed and possibly even attacked.
Kelly Campbell, a third-degree black belt and director of instructor development for Krav Maga Worldwide, says these fears are common. “At some point, most women ask themselves the question, ‘Would I be able to fight back if I were attacked?'” says Campbell. Here’s the good news: Learning just a few simple self-defense moves can give you the skills and confidence you need to answer that question with a resounding “yes.”
“When you have a sense of what you could do in the event that you were attacked and believe you could do something to help yourself, the likelihood that you’ll actually do something increases,” says Campbell. “I think more important than any specific technique is your mentality. Being willing to fight back is the most important thing.”
Here, Campbell shares the 5 self-defense techniques every woman should know to give herself the best shot at escaping an attacker. While they may seem obvious, that’s the point, she says. “All of these moves are inspired by your natural instincts, which means that when you’re under stress, they’ll be easier to recall.” Also important to keep in mind: If you’re in a situation where you have to use one or more of these moves, remember that being aggressive is crucial. “Aggression can go a long way toward making up for technical proficiency,” says Campbell.
If someone is in front of you and you’ve ID’d him or her as a threat (read: you’ve usedverbal communication to try to get this person out of your personal space, or his or her hands are on you), a straight punch can be very effective.
Push from the ball of your foot and thrust your hip and fist forward at the same time, which will maximize your strength, says Campbell. “Really drive from the ground, and don’t let your elbow flip up; your contact area should be the pointer and middle finger knuckles, not your ring and pinky finger knuckles.” Also, keep in mind that aiming your punch for a vulnerable area—for example, your attacker’s eyes, nose, or throat—will be most effective, says Campbell.
Similar to the straight punch, the front kick to the groin is a powerful move to a vulnerable spot that can help you go on the offensive, says Campbell. To deliver this kick, drive your hips forward with your knee bent and heel back, then extend your knee and leg with force, making contact with your attacker’s groin area with the top of your foot (the area where your shoelaces are, if you’re wearing running shoes). Practice lunging to strengthen your legs for this move.
“Imagine that your kick could travel through the attacker’s groin and out the top of his or her head,” says Campbell, “as if you were going to split that person in two from the groin up.” After you’ve kicked, recoil your leg back to its original position as quickly as possible. “This strike can give you enough of an opportunity to get away, or might catch your attacker off guard so that you’re able to deliver a few more blows to other vulnerable areas, such as the eyes, ears, or throat, to finish the fight,” she says.
If the person is close to your body, the attacker may be too close for you to throw a straight punch. If that’s the case, kicking with your knee can be very effective, says Campbell. “Use this if someone is in front of you, inside your personal space, and powerfully drive your knee straight up to hit the groin of your attacker,” she says. Keep in mind you want to use the bony tip of your knee, not your thigh—this will cause more pain. If possible, before you throw the knee kick, try to grab your attacker between the person’s neck and shoulders, and hold on to as much skin, muscle, or clothing as possible. This will give you more leverage to knee-kick harder.
If your attacker tries to “bear hug” you—a common type of move when it’s a male attacking a female, says Campbell, where the attacker grabs his victim from the front or behind around the shoulders—your first reaction might be to grab his elbows to try to pry arms away from your body. However, your best defense is to drop as low as you can toward the ground and squirm as much as you can to wriggle out of your attacker’s hold, advises Campbell.
“Think about how a cat would respond if you put it in a tub of water,” she says. “You want to act like that cat—be as difficult as possible to control.” Lowering your center of gravity has another big benefit: It makes you more stable and harder to lift, and it gives you a new angle from which you can knee-strike, groin-kick, or throw a punch or elbow to your attacker’s eyes, throat, neck, or ears, giving you more time to get away.
If your attacker starts to choke you, there’s a good chance you’ll immediately move your hands toward your neck. However, instead of trying to pull the attacker’s hands off of your neck—a feat you’re unlikely to succeed at, especially if you’re smaller than your attacker—use your hands like hooks (with your thumbs against your pointer fingers and hands in a “C” shape) and “pluck” at your attacker’s thumbs. (If possible, kick at the same time.) If you’re able to pluck your attacker’s thumbs away, it’ll be harder for him or her to maintain a choke, giving you time to strike back and get away. “Keep in mind you only have between 3 and 8 seconds to get your attacker’s hands off your throat before you start to lose oxygen and pass out,” says Campbell.