By the time my “What do you wish you knew more about?” poll on Twitter had closed, self-defense was the #1 topic people wanted. The first thing I have to tell you is that teaching self-defense over the internet is not sufficient. You need practice in order to avoid panicking in the moment. You need to adjust your life and go prepared. You need to do things that reading this blog won’t do for you.
But we can get you started.
The very first thing is that in self-defense, leaving is your primary goal. You don’t want to kill anyone. You don’t want to be an action movie hero. You just want to get somewhere safe. So if you have a chance to get out of a situation before someone aggressive ever touches you, that is the best thing to do. Yeah. I’m telling you to run. Running gives you a chance to call 911, to turn your phone camera on an aggressor from a safe distance, and most importantly, to avoid getting hurt.
If someone has attacked you, your goal does not change. You want to be able to leave. But this is the point where your method changes from escaping to incapacitating in order to escape. That’s what the rest of this will cover, but don’t get in into your head that want to fight any more than you need to. Fighting sucks. People get hurt. Trust me on this.
THE MOST BASIC THINGS.
Travel in pairs. Keep your phone charged. If there is a self-defense class in your area, attend.
Life is not a kung fu movie, and you have not practiced for years. Sometimes you will miss. Sometimes the other person won’t react to a hit like you expect them to. But they’re still good to know, especially to break someone’s grip on you and buy yourself a second to get away.
We’re not going to get all mystical about this.
If you need to go after one of these areas, do it hard.
Eyes, nose, groin, fingers, and toes are all good targets to hurt someone.
If you’re just going to haul off and hit someone in the head, do not REPEAT DO NOT punch them in the cheekbone. That’s probably gonna hurt you more than them. Bring the heel of your palm up into their nose. In a situation where your life is in danger, aim for the temple, but never do that with a practice partner. If you use too much force, you can seriously injure or even kill them.
For a good demonstration of where to hit someone’s arm to make them let go, see this video. If you just want to see a woman kick some ass (TW), click here. For the most practical real-world non-expert places to strike, watch this one.
Experiment time: Grab your own leg. Now use your other hand to pry your pinkie finger away. You won’t be able to hold on to your leg. The pinkie is the best finger to target if someone grabs you.
Pepper spray, tasers, self-defense rings, piercing alarm fobs, keys, knives, sticks, mech suits. What works and what doesn’t? (Well, okay, the mech suit would probably work, but the odds of having one in your pocket are slim.)
Look. Whatever self-defense product you look at, there’s gonna be some military-looking dude telling you that it has the power to drive off an army of stampeding bears. It doesn’t. It’s good to have some kind of non-lethal weapon on you, but don’t believe that any of them are magic, and don’t forget that you can use whatever is handy.
Pepper spray and tasers, if they’re legal where you live (check here), can be useful as long as you know how to use them. If you aim pepper spray the wrong way, it won’t go well for you. If your taser isn’t charged, it’s useless. So if you carry these things, maintain them, keep them somewhere easy to reach, and know how they work.
Alarm fobs and alarm apps are only good in populated areas. Honestly, you should opt for a phone app that can send emergency messages to your contacts or 911 if you hit a panic button or fail to check in. Some of these apps will also record live video or send your last known location. They are a good idea. (Inform your emergency contact if you install one of these, so they know what to do if they get the signal.)
More than anything else, use what you’ve got. Loose glitter or perfume in the eyes can be just as effective as pepper spray for those few seconds you might need. If you’re going to a party you’re not sure is safe, wear a spiked collar and bracelets. (Not only are they punk af, they also say “Don’t touch me.”) Wear good boots. If you only have a second to react, crack an attacker in the nose with the edge of your phone. Anything that works. Humans are basically fragile and you can kill one with a skateboard.
Final note: Do not bring a knife or a gun out unless you plan to use it and fast. The odds of it being used against you are too high.
You have the right to defend yourself against physical aggression or intimidation. You do not have the right to attack someone because you don’t like their shirt or they insulted your mother. Everything you read above only applies if you are in danger.
A key phrase to keep in mind in all situations is proportional violence. If a co-worker backs you into a corner or a stranger puts a hand on your knee on the subway, you can slap them in the ear and leave it ringing or bend their pinkie finger back to make them let go, but you probably don’t need to tase them. LIKEWISE, if someone is trying to physically injure you or sexually assault you, any force needed to escape is justified, so you need to let your social training drop and knock them down.
Practicing both of these mindsets is helpful, but don’t practice the latter on a partner.
Stay safe, friends.