Katie is a 3rd degree black belt in Taekwondo. She has competed with Team USA in the Goodwill Games and has taught martial arts for 15 yr+.
Self-Defense Preparation Is a Necessity for Every Woman
Unfortunately, we live in a world where people do bad things sometimes. We live in a world where people hurt each other sometimes. We live in a world where basic self-defense skills are required in order to stay safe.
We live in a world in which one in three women will be victims of either an attempted or actual rape. And, we live in a world in which 86.4% of violent crimes are committed by someone who knows their victim intimately (e.g., a family member, romantic partner, long-term clergy, neighbor).
However, none of these facts mean that you need to live in fear. Those facts simply mean you need to be prepared.
You Are Worth Defending
Conduct Personal Self-Defense Classes
When the body senses danger, it responds by releasing adrenaline into your system. You then have three options: fight, flight, or freeze. Flight is preferred. However, fighting may be necessary. Freezing, on the other hand, can have horrific results. In order to avoid freezing in an emergency, you need to make some important decisions and come to some important understandings now, before you're under pressure.
Decide now that you could harm another human being if absolutely necessary to preserve life or limb or prevent rape or kidnapping. Stop and think of all the people your death would affect: your family, co-workers, neighbors, friends, congregation members. Those people would want you to do whatever was necessary for you to come home safe. There is a much better chance of you doing good for this world than someone who is in a dark enough place to seriously harm another human being. Your assailant decided someone was going to get hurt. You get to decide if it’s going to be you or them. You are worth defending. Decide now that you would do what was necessary to defend yourself.
Once you have honestly, thoroughly, and wholeheartedly accepted these concepts, come up with plans of how you would respond if you were attacked. Think through all different possible situations. Decide how you would respond if you were attacked from behind, from the front, from the side, etc. (We’ll address specific responses to each type of later in the article.) Decide how you would respond to each scenario and practice it until it becomes second nature. This way you’ll spend your precious time responding in the event of an attack, instead of freezing, trying to decide what to do, or ineffectively responding.
Attitude Is an Important Part of Self Defense
Pay Attention to Your Surroundings
In order to put your plan into action in an emergency situation, you need to be aware of your surroundings. Put your phone and headphones away, and look around. Walking down the street with headphones in, starring at your text messages, is essentially walking down the street blind and deaf. You are only aware of what is within about one foot of you. That doesn’t give you enough time to respond to an attack appropriately.
Look people in the eye as you pass them. Smile, nod and acknowledge their presence. Doing this shows confidence. People who are looking for someone to attack lack self-esteem. They don’t want to attack someone they might not win against. That smile and acknowledgment might be what prevents you from being their next victim.
As you go throughout your day, run scenarios in your head occasionally. This will help you know how to respond in different environments. Where would you run to? Who would you tell? Who could come to your aid and how would you attract their attention? I’m not suggesting you become paranoid and afraid that everyone is out to attack you. I’m suggesting you visualize your response so that in the unlikely case that you are attacked in a similar situation, the next day you know exactly how to respond.
Use Your Voice
Your voice is one of your most important weapons. If you're attacked or feel that you're safety is threatened, use your to call attention to the situation, to dissuade your attacker from continuing, and to report the incident immediately thereafter. If the situation permits, try talking to your assailant. If they don't make it clear, ask them exactly what they want. If they want money, throw your wallet low and at the ground in the opposite direction of the door or your exit path and run.
One of the most important uses of your voice in an emergency situation is using it to alert other people that something is going on, it isn't okay, and you need their assistance. Avoid yelling words like “Help” or “Rape” which are over-used in games. Use phrases like “I don’t know you,” “Call the Police,” “Don’t Touch Me,” or better yet, “Fire.” “Fire” is a great word to yell because it will attract the attention of anyone in the area and it isn’t nearly as over-used as other cries for help.
Whenever you get away, be sure to report it immediately. Although these incidents are unpleasant to describe, it's important to do so because many abusers become repeat offenders. Even if justice isn’t served for your specific case, there’s a better chance of future events being prevented if all cases are reported promptly.
In order to give a helpful report to law enforcement, you need to be prepared to give an accurate description of your attacker—notice permanent characteristics like height, weight, hair color, and eye color. While characteristics like clothing, accessories, or shoes can be helpful during the immediate pursuit, they aren’t as helpful in the long run. Look for birthmarks, scars or distinguishing features. Try to get license plate numbers and remember as many identifying details as you can. The more permanent the detail, the better (e.g., clothing should be remembered, but it can be changed. Birthmarks are more permanent).
Self Defense Target Areas
While being aware and using your voice will do a lot in an emergency situation, sometimes it just isn't enough. Unfortunately, I can’t demonstrate lots of great physical techniques and escape methods for you in this article. But, I can tell you that in the event of an attack, your best bet is to put the hard parts of your body into the soft parts of your attacker’s body, repeatedly. That sounds a little silly, but it should help you remember it, and it works. It's important, so let me repeat it:
- Put the hard parts of your body into the soft parts of your attacker's body, repeatedly and with great force!
Your knees, forearms, fists, and the back of your head are great parts of your body to use for striking. And, their knees, throat, solar plexus, bridge of the nose, instep and floating ribs are great targets for you to strike. Pick a hard part of your body and strike a soft part of their body with as much force as you can muster several times. Your goal is to leave them unable to come after you and then get out of there.
In addition to the tips in this article, you should consider taking a self-defense class locally. An instructor can give you feedback and make sure you're striking in a way that won't hurt you more than it hurts your opponent. However, if there isn't one available, get a kick pad and practice hitting it with your knees.
Be confident that you could leave someone unable to come after you with 3–4 knees to the solar plexus or floating ribs. If your attacker is too tall for that to be effective, aim for the outside of the thigh. Striking the nerve on the outside of the leg repeatedly will give your attacker a dead leg and leave them unable to come after you. Grab the top of the pad or the shoulders of whoever is holding it for you and pull your opponent into your strikes.
Practice until you are comfortable with this and confident in your abilities and then do the same thing with forearm strikes. Be sure you are stepping into it in a way that lets you use your hips to drive your forearm strikes into their targets. (Floating ribs or throat are most likely the best targets to aim for.)
Another effective technique is breaking the knee. Place the outside blade edge of your foot just above the attacker’s kneecap on the leg which has the majority of their weight. Push straight back. It doesn’t take much pressure to break a knee, and it’ll buy you enough time to get away.
Another great target is the throat. If an attacker rushes you, step offline and close-line them. Use their momentum against them. Stomping on their throat or instep, where the foot meets the ankle, is another painful, effective technique.
Keep in mind that if your attacker has used drugs or alcohol recently, he or she may be somewhat immune to pain. If this is the case, you will need to do enough structural damage that he or she cannot come after you. Inflicting pain without doing structural damage will only make them angrier.
Breaking ribs or a knee or rendering them unconscious may also cause pain and make them angry, but it’ll also slow their progress, give you the time you need to get to safety and keep them from causing you more harm.
Whatever techniques you decide you are most comfortable with, make sure you have a plan, and you’ve practiced it. Remind yourself that you are worth being prepared to save, and you are worth harming another human being to save, if absolutely necessary. And, be sure to report any incidents that do occur.
Kubatons, Self-Defense Weapons, Mace, and Pepper Spray
Whenever I teach a self-defense class, I'm always asked about self-defense weapons. The short answer is: focus on everything else I've said first. If after you are confident with all of that and you still want to talk about weapons let me know.
To be completely honest, I don’t recommend carrying a self-defense weapon unless you have a lot of practice with it and you can access it easily at all times. Should your attacker get to it before you do, or should you freeze before using it, your attacker can use it against you.
Mace and pepper spray are both efficient options, but only if you are absolutely sure that you will be able to aim and spray effectively and that it won’t be used against you. Should you choose to carry a weapon, like a kubaton, or a self-defense baton, be sure using it becomes second nature. You won’t have time to read the instructions in the event of an attack.
Responding to Attackers With a Weapon
While you can control if you have a weapon, you can't control if your attacker has a weapon. Considerable training is necessary to be able to thoroughly defend yourself against a weapon, but I'll present a few basic things that anyone at any level of training can successfully apply in the event you're attacked by someone who has a weapon.
A person’s choice of weapon says a lot about him or her. For example, if a gunman wanted to kill you, you would already be dead, not staring at the gun. And, if the gunman wanted to harm you, he wouldn’t be holding a gun, he'd be holding a knife. Should you find yourself staring at the end of a gun, try to reason with the gunman. Give them what they want to whatever extent you can and get out of there as quickly as you can. Run in a zig-zag pattern as you leave. It’s much more difficult to shoot a moving target than a stationary target, so move in as many dimensions as you can. (Horizontally and distance.)
Someone who is holding a knife or a stick has a much higher chance of wanting to cause pain. There’s a much lower chance of reasoning with this attacker. Try to stay out of range. Use re-directing motions should an attack come and try to protect your most vital organs. Again, run as soon as you can. If you get a hold of the knife, use it to cut tendons in the heels or back of the knee to prevent your attacker from coming after you. Cutting across the forehead will cause a great deal of blood to run into your attacker’s eyes, which will make it harder for him to chase you. Keep the knife with you as you run, don’t give it back to your attacker or leave it where he could retrieve it and come after you again.
Self-Defense Preparation Requires Practice
The author of this article is a third-degree black belt and has taught self-defense classes for over a decade. She would be happy to address any questions you have either in a follow-up article or in comments in this article. Please leave any questions, comments, or requests for future articles in the comment section.
Who are you?
© 2015 kbdressman
Patrick on January 21, 2020:
I am a teacher trying to work the importance of girls' self-defense into a story.
kbdressman (author) from Harlem, New York on July 22, 2017:
I'm so sorry you've had those experiences Mary! I really wish we didn't live in a world where people treated each other so poorly. However, I'm so glad that you were prepared and able to defend yourself!
I completely agree with you that the best self defense is avoiding a situation in which you might not be safe! You can't lose a fight you don't get into.
I'm also really glad that you mention you're willing to talk about your experiences. It can be really difficult to talk about these experiences, but it helps bring awareness to the need for self defense and helps these threats seem more real. It's all too easy for us to assume that "those things only happen to other people" and not fully understand the possibility that we could be the person that needs to defend ourselves someday.
Mary Wickison from Brazil on July 22, 2017:
Since living in Brazil we have had two incidents, which at a later point in time I will go into more.
Both of those have made me hyper suspicious and I try to be alert wherever I am. I think it is necessary to avoid a situation if possible but if not, at least have a plan.
Our last incident which happened we had a plan and it saved our lives.
Your article gives crucial advice but not just for girls and women, for anyone who might become a victim.
kbdressman (author) from Harlem, New York on November 18, 2016:
Billybuc, I'm so glad to hear you've discussed these things with your daughter. These conversations are critical, and it always astounds me to hear how many parents don't have these conversations with their kids!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 18, 2016:
These are things I have impressed upon our teenage daughter. It takes very little force to incapacitate an attacker. One well-placed strike will leave a man crying for his mommy. Loved this article.
kbdressman (author) from Harlem, New York on April 26, 2016:
Gald you enjoyed it ChitrangadaSharan! Please pass it on to as many women (and men for that matter) as you can! Approximately 1 in 3 girls will be raped in their lifetime and 80% of sexual crimes are committed by someone the victim knows very well. I hope that through sharing this kind of information we can help reduce those statistics!
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on April 26, 2016:
Very useful and informative hub about self -defense. I am sure this information is important and helpful to everyone. Passing this on to some of my close ones.
Thanks for sharing!
kbdressman (author) from Harlem, New York on September 20, 2015:
Thanks for stopping by, Cherlyn! I hope you never have to use this information, but if you are ever in a situation in which you need to use it, that you're able to!
cherlyn harriman on September 19, 2015:
You worded it perfectly. Thank you for this advice. I live in north las vegas nevada. I try not to walk alone day or night but sometimes we get into situations.
kbdressman (author) from Harlem, New York on April 01, 2015:
Thank you for sharing your experience, Say Yes to Life! There are a handful of topics that are taboo that I think we need to start talking about. Topics like Self-defense, rape prevention, mental illness, weight and food issues, etc. I know some people are uncomfortable with discussing these topics, but I think that means we need to discuss them more not that we need to stop discussing them! And, I'd rather have 50 uncomfortable person and someone who survives an attack than 50 comfortable people and a dead body. Maybe I'll write a hub about taboo. Hmm...thanks for the idea!
I'm glad your experience with your knife attacker ended the way it did. Kudos to you for having the where-withal to handle it the way you did! I wanted to be less harsh about my "just don't carry spray" advice because I do think it has its place, but I feared that the girls that shouldn't be carrying it would be the first ones to misread what I was saying and go purchase it and end up having it used on them. So, I aired on the side of caution and said just don't unless your absolutely sure you can handle it and it won't be used against you. Maybe I'll have to tweak that balance when I figure out a better way to word it.
Yoleen Lucas from Big Island of Hawaii on April 01, 2015:
Excellent article! I grew up in a high crime area, and have dealt with this issue multiple times. I was also unfortunate to come from a background where self-defense was frowned upon. Thus, I find this information EXREMELY important.
Once, when I was walking home late at night from a bus stop, someone came up and pulled a knife on me. Fortunately, I had not listened to the "advice" of the people around me, and had mace ready. I sprayed him, and he ran off. The advantage of being faced with a knife rather than a gun is that mace, or pepper spray, is more likely to work. I heard of a story where a woman maced a man with a gun, and he shot her dead (personally, I'd take my chances anyway).
Thank you for this highly useful article!
kbdressman (author) from Harlem, New York on March 27, 2015:
I'm glad to hear they teach it in schools there! They don't here. I'm also glad to hear that your daughter enjoys it and is safe! Hopefully she is able to teach others those same skills and pass her abilities on!
Consolacion Miravite from Philippines on March 27, 2015:
I think, it is part of the school curriculum. But my daughter still takes it for self defense and to keep herself fit. She never walks without a pepper spray and a stun gun, too.
kbdressman (author) from Harlem, New York on March 27, 2015:
Thank you, csmiravite-blogs! I wish self defense were taught as part of Physical Education courses! They're usually divided by gender already, and like you mentioned, martial arts is great exercise as well! Not only would they get the exercise they need, but they'd learn valuable skills that could save their lives later. Thanks for stopping by!
Consolacion Miravite from Philippines on March 27, 2015:
This hub is nicely written and I appreciate it since I have an only daughter who is into taekwondo and kick boxing. It is for exercise and self defence. I think, every woman should learn martial arts or boxing to defend herself if she is attacked. Nice hub!