What images come to mind? Bright white karate uniforms? Bedazzled pepper spray? Or maybe those assault whistles you’re given by Resident Advisors at orientation when you move into University campus housing.
Products such as these can assist in self defense but women need more than pepper spray to be properly educated and equipped for how to prevent, avoid, de-escalate, defend, and fight (if necessary) when they’re in danger.
Do You Really Need to Learn Self Defense?
According to a recent Crime survey of more than 510,000 women, 3.1% of all respondents aged 16-59 reported they experienced some type of sexual assault in the past year. That means that 1 in 5 women in the UK and Wales have been sexually assaulted.
Over the past few years, staggering statistics such as these have inspired international movements bringing resources such as self defense for women into the spotlight.
The National Institute of Justice found that in assaults against women, most self-defensive tactics reduce the risk of injury and rape compared to nonresistance. So while learning self defense may not necessarily prevent you from being attacked, it can certainly keep you from becoming another victim.
6 Women’s Self Defense Techniques You Need to Know
Self defense moves and techniques stem from a wide range of martial arts systems (everything from karate to Krav Maga). While each martial art aims to provide a system of moves applicable to a variety of use cases, teaching women effective self defense goes beyond learning a heel strike or pepper spray.
Learning self defense not only helps a woman physically defend herself in an attack but brings a sense of achievement, confidence, and independence that can lead to awareness and prevention.
Below we will discuss both physical and non-physical self defense tactics you can use.
Self Defense for Women: Non-Physical Techniques
Walk with confidence
Most attackers will choose their victims based on two factors: someone who isn’t paying attention and someone who looks easy to dominate.
When you’re walking alone it’s important to put the cell phone away, turn off the music, and keep your eyes and ears focused on your surroundings.
Walk with confidence. That means keeping your head help up high, shoulders back, eyes focused, and with a self-assured, consistent pace. Someone who is alert is more likely to react faster and able to identify their attacker. Attackers search for vulnerability and easy targets. The stronger and more aware you are, the less vulnerable you appear.
Verbal Self Defense
Strong verbal skills are a surprisingly effective tool in self defense. Not all encounters will begin with a physical attack. Predators may first engage you in conversation in the form of an “interview” in order to size you up as a victim. If you’re scared, unsure, or nervous, all of these emotions can trigger a weakness in your voice which can mark you as physically weak as well.
Experienced predators are skilled at using their words and voice tone to emotionally disarm you. Don’t allow your fears to show. Speak with confidence and a steady voice. Stand tall and look your attacker in the eye. Don’t shy away. You want to fail his interview. The power of your voice and presence alone could be enough to change his mind.
Self Defense for Women: Physical Techniques
From an early age, women are taught that a groin kick is one of the fastest ways to disarm a man. A well-placed kick to the groin can be extremely painful and even if it doesn’t take your assailant down, it can certainly buy you some time to escape or further disarm him.
The truth is your attacker, especially if he’s a man, will probably expect a groin kick. Being one of the most vulnerable and sensitive areas on a man’s body, his natural defensive instinct may prevent a successful attempt at a kick.
One of the best ways to land a successful groin kick is through the element of surprise. If your attacker isn’t expecting an assault it can be all the more painful and disarming.
Here are some tips for executing a groin kick:
Properly Gauge Your Range
Gauge your distance. If you’re too close to your attacker you may not have the full power behind the kick. In this case, a strong knee strike may be a better option. Practicing different scenarios will help you learn how to appropriately gauge distance.
Kick with Power
To deliver a powerful kick, drive your hips forward with your knee bent and heel back, then extend your knee and leg with force, kicking the attacker's groin area with the top of your foot. If you’re close enough to where a knee strike is more appropriate, grabbing your attackers shoulders as you make contact with the groin will help you maintain balance and generate more force.
Open Hand Strike
Using an open hand strike reduces the risk of breaking bones or causing damage to your knuckles in a punch. Since using your palm to hit can be easily delivered from a non-confrontational stance, you can take advantage of the element of surprise.
An open hand strike should focus on driving the heel of the palm into some of the most vulnerable areas of a person’s face. A strong open hand strike to the nose can be extremely painful and cause the eyes to water. The eyes and both the front and back of the neck are also vulnerable targets.
If your attacker is close to you, a punch may not be the best option. This is where an elbow strike comes in. Since the elbow is closer to your core, it delivers more power. The elbow also consists of strong, sharp bones which are less likely to break than bones in the hand.
Using power from your core, throw your elbow from the side to hit the head or upwards to hit the chin or throat. An elbow hit is one of the strongest and if you can drive enough power into a sensitive area like an eye or neck, it may disorient your attacker long enough for you to escape.
Break Free From a Wrist Hold
An attackers’ first move might be to grab you by the arm or wrist. Your immediate reaction is to pull back but your attacker is presumably stronger than you and chances of you winning a tug of war are slim.
Instead of struggling, get into a strong stance, lean forward and bend your elbow towards your attacker into their body until they’re forced to let go. You can also bend your wrist towards their thumb until their grip is weakened and you can yank your hand free.
Prevention Safety Tips
While you can’t always control the situation or the actions of others, there are certain steps you can take and situations to avoid that will cut down the risk of being targeted.
- Don’t walk alone at night. Avoid side roads and dimly lit areas.
- If walking to your car in a car park or garage, hold your keys in your hand so you can easily and quickly unlock your door. When held between your fingers, keys can also act as a weapon. Lock your car as soon as you get into it.
- Never accept a drink from a stranger or leave it unattended.
- Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right get out of that situation immediately.
- Take self defense classes such as MMA or Krav Maga. Becoming involved in MMA sports for women can help build both confidence and skill.
The truth is, we hope that every single person who reads this article never finds themselves in a situation where they’re forced to use these techniques. However, the statistics show that it’s certainly better to be prepared, educated, and know how to defend yourself if necessary.