Women always have to be on high alert, and it sucks. I regularly replay the self-defense moves I learned a couple years ago in my mind, even in the middle of the day in broad daylight as I take my dogs for walks in my "safe" neighborhood. Why? Because as women, we never know what may be lurking around the next corner—the sad truth is that there's the potential for an assault. From unwanted sexual advances to indecent exposure to physical abuse to rape, unfortunately, all too many of us have #MeToo stories.
while the root of the problem lies with the assailant, women can take steps to equip themselves with life-saving knowledge that can help prevent a sexual assault. Below, Ross Cascio, elite instructor at Krav Maga Worldwide, with studios that provide real-world self-defense, high-intensity fitness and full-contact fight classes, shows us important self-defense moves every woman should know.
"There is no one specific self-defense technique that is better to know than another because it’s impossible to predict which self-defense technique could factor into an attack. It is because of this that Krav Maga Worldwide training utilizes the body’s natural reaction to being attacked...essentially, your body already knows what to do, and training will teach you to utilize those movements as a part of aggressively fighting back," explains Cascio.
Remember: the goal here is for you to startle, hurt and create the space you need to get away to safety as quickly as possible.
1. Straight Punch
The basic movement behind a straight punch is to rotate your hips and shoulders and extend your arm as if you were reaching to grab something that is just out of reach in front of you. It’s this movement through your hips, shoulders and arms that sends the punch out and generates power. Your fist is what delivers the punch. When delivering a straight punch, it’s ideal to punch with the “top two” knuckles of the fist, which are the pointer and middle finger.
- Hips and shoulders rotate forward explosively
- Use the top two knuckles to make contact with the soft targets of the attacker’s face
- Get away if you can, or use one of the next moves...
2. Front Kick to the Groin
The front kick to the groin travels on a vertical plane up the “A frame” form of an attacker's legs and lower body. To deliver the kick, drive your hips forward with your knee bent so your heel is back. Let your knee and leg extend and, with your foot flat (shoelaces up and toes forward gives the most striking surface), kick up and through the attacker’s groin. Imagine that your kick will travel through his groin and out the top of his head, as if you were going to split him in two! Recoil your leg back to its original position.
- Drive your hips forward with the knee bent
- Extend the leg
- Kick up and through the groin with the foot flat (shoelaces up)
- Get away
3. Knee Strikes
Knee strikes are very useful for creating damage at close range. If the attacker is close enough to grab you, that means you can grab him! Grab as much skin, muscle and whatever fabric the attacker is wearing at the spot between the back his neck and shoulders. Keep the elbow of your arm that's grabbing him pointed down (see above photo) so you can brace yourself as he comes forward. Use your other hand to hold behind the elbow on the same side of the body that you are on. This grip will help you maintain a position from which to knee. Next, drive your hips forward with your heel back (so your leg makes a triangle in profile view) and imagine that you are going to punch your knee straight through the groin or midsection of the attacker. Recoil your knee by bringing your foot back to the ground, and continue to deliver knees until you can get away safe.
- Establish your grip and position (if close enough)
- Drive the hips forward and strike the attacker in the groin or knee, with the knee traveling forward
- Recoil, and continue as needed until you can get away
4. Bear Hug Defense
If you are grabbed in a bear hug from the front or from behind, the key to getting out is to start fighting back right away. To start fighting back, you need to establish two things: base and space. When the attack comes on, lower your center of gravity and “base out” by bending your legs and widening your feet. You will immediately become more difficult to lift off of your feet, and just more difficult to move, in general. (Think about a child who is protesting going to bed or to school; they will drop their level/center of gravity and make themselves very heavy and difficult to move around.) As soon as you’ve established a solid base, immediately begin striking at any open and vulnerable areas that the attacker presents. These will change depending on the direction the bear hug comes from and the position of your arms when grabbed. Continue to strike (knees, kicks, punches, bites) until there is sufficient space for you to turn in (if attacked from behind) and get away, or to simply separate and run away.
- Widen your base
- Fight back aggressively to create space
- Run away
5. Hand Choke Defense
If you are being choked by an attacker's hands, “pluck” his hands away and immediately being to strike back. Instead of trying to pull the attacker’s hands off of the neck (a natural reflex), which could be impossible, use your hands like meathooks—thumbs against pointer fingers, hands in a “C” shape—and pluck at the attacker's thumbs. The attacker cannot maintain a choke using their hands if their thumbs are pulled off of your neck. Immediately begin to strike back to vulnerable areas on the attacker's body.
- Use your hands like meathooks to pluck his thumbs away
- Fight back aggressively
- Get away
Reading about these self-defense moves and practicing at home with your friend or partner is a great first step to being prepared to fight off an assailant, but nothing beats an in-person self-defense class. It will help you really get the movements down pat and feel more confident. Bonus: if you're into fighting techniques as a workout and keep it up, you'll be faster, stronger and leaner, too.
Always listen to your gut instinct. Find out more about how to better tap into your intuition here.