Staying Alive with Self-Defense Moves

Every man, woman, and child on the planet can gain confidence and boost the chance of thwarting an assailant by learning a few basic self-defense moves. These skills can save your life, no matter how young or old you happen to be.

Helen “Hellraiser” Harper is a leading British mixed martial arts instructor who specializes in Jui Jitsu. She sympathizes with women who are typically on alert when out in public alone because they feel small and vulnerable compared to men:

“In my opinion, women don’t have the confidence they should in life let alone in defence. Learning to fend off an attacker can not only help women to have peace of mind when walking alone, but also increase confidence, independence and a general sense of achievement.”

Sarah Brendlor teaches a self-defense strategy called Krav Maga in London, England.

If you’ve never heard of Krav Maga, you are not alone. The phrase means “unarmed combat.” This tactical defense system has its roots in instinctual behavior and is constantly evolving. It is the official hand-to-hand self-defense system of the Israeli Defense Forces.

Brendlor must attend at least nine days of training annually to keep her license and techniques current. “Krav Maga takes your natural instincts and makes them more efficient and effective,” she said.

A student named Julian from North London wrote a very positive review after learning Krav Maga techniques:

“Only eight weeks after my first lesson I managed to defend myself successfully against an attack. Thanks for your help.”

The secret to success with Krav Maga and other self-defense measures is to practice until the moves actually alter your muscle memory. Instructors train their students to focus on awareness and prevention, something along the lines of, “If you fight and run away, you will live to fight another day.”

Krav Maga teaches practitioners to avoid, prevent, de-escalate, defend, fight (if necessary), and then run. It drills students on five defensive moves everyone should know:

1. Open hand strike. Target the attacker’s head. Aim for the soft spots (face, eyes, neck, and ears) and strike hard with the heel of your hand. Many assailants expect little or no resistance from their prey and will recoil in surprise as much as pain.
Don’t advertise your intentions by pulling your arm back. Instead, keep your elbow in front of your ribs.

2. Groin kick. Men don’t even like to think about getting hit in their nutsack or “tender bits” in the groin area. When kicked with the toes or kneed forcefully, a male attacker will normally double up in pain, giving the victim time to escape.

3. 360 (outside defense). To prevent a circular attack from an assailant who approaches from the side or behind you to grab, punch, or slap, keep your arm at a right angle (90 degrees). Use the side of your wrist to block incoming blows. This forces some distance between you and your foe.

4. Handbag or other aggressive grab. When an attacker grabs your purse, arm, or hand, use the Aikido tactic of going with the flow. Use the attacker’s force to power your own hits and kicks instead of direct resistance or pulling away.

5. Ground attack. If you hit the ground, gauge the distance between you and your opponent before kicking back. When the attacker is looming over you, kick with both feet and lift your hips up for more power.

Remember not to stick around to finish the fight. At the first opportunity, high-tail it in another direction, away from danger.

In addition to the head and groin areas, the human knee is very vulnerable to injury, as is the instep of the foot. Aim for these soft spots.

When your life is on the line at the hands of an unexpected aggressor, use every resource at your disposal to disengage and escape. Even though the elbows, knees, and head are the most sensitive when struck, they are also the best built-in weapons for defending yourself because they are bone-hard. Drill on counter-attacking with these body parts.

Many women have learned to carry their car keys or a pointy pen when outside, just in case the need to jab back arises. Pull a cowboy fast one by throwing dirt or sand into the eyes of your adversary. Even a shot of hairspray or squirt of perfume can make an assailant’s eyes water enough to provide enough distraction to make a hasty get-away.

No matter how big or small you are, take advantage of your own body weight to counter an attack rather than rely on punches and kicks. Disengage as quickly as possible by inflicting injury through calculated, effective, and well-placed moves. Leverage your body weight to maximize the pain you inflict on your attacker’s sensitive spots and pressure points.

Here are some tips on how to defend against common holds or attacks:

1. Wrist hold. Don’t pull back, as noted above. Squat down instead into a strong stance, lean forward, and bend your elbow all the way toward the attacker’s forearm until it becomes impossible to maintain a grasp on your wrist.

2. Choke holds – front and back. Bend your elbows in before pushing upward to break the hold. Alternatively, swing one arm across to break the attacker’s hold. Then, with the other arm, use the elbow or hand in a knife strike position to jab the attacker.

3. Bear hug. If you are grabbed and held from behind, drop your weight and use your elbows to hit the attacker’s head or use your feet to stomp those of your adversary. If that fails, pull the antagonist’s fingers back to force him or her to release you, rotate out of the hold, and fight back with your knees and foot kicks. Sometimes, pulling the fingers of your attacker can break a choke hold.

4. Mount position. If you find your attacker is on top of you and has you pinned to the ground, turn the tables with a Jui-Jitsu move: Hook onto your opponent’s wrist with one hand. Use the other hand to grab behind your assailant’s elbow, and trap his/her arm to your chest. Then, use your foot to trap the enemy’s foot and leg, lift your hips up, and turn over onto your knees. You will be on top of the situation.

Train yourself in the martial art of self-defense before you need to use such skills. Not only will you gain confidence and a feeling of personal power, your odds of surviving an unexpected assault go up dramatically.

Always remember that many assailants expect no resistance whatsoever. Screaming, shouting for help, tooting an air horn, spraying mace or perfume, jabbing with a key, and using defensive moves may convince a would-be attacker that this prey simply isn’t worth getting hurt – or getting caught.