Self Defense Tips

Stacy Zeiger
Woman warding off assailant

You can't control the actions of others, at least not entirely, but that doesn't mean you can't protect yourself. Knowing self-defense techniques will help you get out of dangerous situations both in public and in your own home. Being aware of the possibility of an attack can also help you from preventing them in the first place. Armed with this knowledge you can confidently say to any attackers, "Don't mess with me!"

Preventing an Attack

Part of staying safe and defending yourself involves preventing attack from happening in the first place. Simple steps such as being alert and trusting your gut can go a long way towards fending off an attacker.

In Your Home

To keep people from attacking you in your own home, the main key is to not let strangers get past your front door. The Hubbard Township Police Department offers tips to help prevent attacks in your home, including:

  • Using your door viewer to see who is at the door
  • Locking your doors, even when you're home
  • Changing the locks on the doors when you buy a new home or if you have previously been burglarized
  • Only opening your door a few inches when you don't know the person on the other side
  • Closing the blinds or curtains to make sure people can't see in
  • Making sure your home is well-lit inside and out

Outdoors

When you're outside of your home, you can still prevent an attack, particularly when you're going for a run or walking to your car. Being alert will prevent the most attacks, so make sure you avoid talking on the phone, listening to music, or texting if you're walking outside alone. You can also take other steps to stay safe, such as some of these from Take Defense:

  • Watching your food and drink so someone can't slip something in them
  • Carrying your car keys so you can unlock your car as soon as you get to it
  • Locking your car doors as soon as you get in the car
  • Making eye contact with strangers
  • Trusting your gut and getting out of any areas or away from people that feel unsafe
  • If you have long hair, keeping your hair down instead of in a ponytail that can be easily grabbed
  • Acting confident

Fending Off an Attacker

Despite taking precautions, it's still possible to become the victim of an attack. Knowing how to fend off an attacker can help you get out of the situation safely.

Always Fight Back

Whatever you do, don't believe the myth that if you don't fight back, your attacker will stop seeing you as a threat and back off. In every situation, even if you don't quite remember the right moves, fight back against your attacker. The only exception to fighting back is when you're running away from your attacker, in which case you should always try to run toward well-lighted areas and places where other people are around.

Remember that your goal when fighting back is to injure your attacker, not just cause pain. You'll want to focus on key areas of the attacker's body, such as the groin, the feet, the eyes, and the throat, to quickly do the most damage. A few ways you can fight back include:

  • Grabbing the attacker's hand that grabs you. Then use your free hand to scratch, hit or do other damage to your attacker's face.
  • If you cannot get a hand free, use your hips to push your attacker away and your knees and feet to kick your attacker in the groin or in the legs.
  • When being choked, tuck your chin, tense your throat, and use your hands to pull your attacker toward you and kick hard.
  • Avoid punching and kicking and instead focus all of your energy into a forceful strike.

When you're fighting back against an attacker, don't hesitate. Trying to get into the right stance or wait for the right moment can make it more difficult to survive. You'll also want to avoid focusing on what your attacker is doing to you. Instead, identify your target and quickly use as much force as possible.

Responding to Demands

In some cases, you should give in to your attacker's demands. In other cases, you'll want to get as far away from the attacker as possible or find a way to satisfy the attacker without giving in to those demands.

For example, if the attacker wants your purse or money, always give it to him. Don't fumble in your wallet for the money either, just hand it all over. The same if the attacker wants your car. However, if the attacker wants to take you to another location or have your drive him to an ATM, always say no. Getting in a vehicle with an attacker leaves you open to additional attacks in even more remote areas and greatly reduces your chance for survival.

Self-Defense Accessories

You can also purchase a lot of nifty accessories to help you defend yourself. However, if you're going to own some of these accessories, particularly mace or a stun gun, make sure you also know how to use them. Carrying around a can of mace or a stun gun without knowing how to use it won't do you any good if attacked and could actually give your attacker a chance to use these items against you.

Companies such as Damsels in Defense and Women on Guard sell self-defense products geared toward women and encourage women to educate themselves on how to use their products.

Alarms and Whistles

Alarms and whistles help alert others that you're being attacked. While useful in public areas, don't rely on these as your only form of self-defense because if there's no one around, they'll prove to be worthless.

Pepper Spray and Mace

Pepper spray and mace can help injure an attacker and buy you time to get away. Make sure you carry your pepper spray where it's easy to access or attach it to your keychain. Once you get it, practice using it in an open field so you can learn how to press the button, where the nozzle is, and what field of spray you get. When you're attacked, you'll know how close you need to get to the attacker before spraying 2-3 sprays directly into the attacker's face.

Stun Guns

Stun guns use high voltage to disable an attacker. However, fail to use it correctly and you could find yourself stunned. Aim your stun gun at your attacker and target the torso. This will cause the most damage, whereas just using it on an arm or a leg will only disable that limb. Stay back so your attacker can't grab the stun gun and use it on you.

Stun guns aren't legal everywhere, so before getting a stun gun, make sure it's legal to own one in your state.

Get Self-Defense Training

Being confident goes a long way in helping you defend yourself. One way to gain that confidence is by getting formal self-defense training. You may find sessions through a local hospital or community center or through a program such as the R.A.D. Systems of Self-Defense or Female Awareness.

During an attack, you may not remember everything you learned in a self-defense class, but it can still help you become more prepared and more aware of how to survive.

Self Defense Tips