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How to Defend Yourself Against an Attacker

woman defending against attacker

Source: OSTILL is Franck Camhi/

There are no rules in a life-and-death situation; it’s not only a reasonable but a responsible decision to want the most efficient tools for the job. But have you ever thought about what you would do if an attacker caught you without a weapon? Learn how unarmed self-defense can boost your confidence and improve your preparedness for dangerous situations.

Why Learn Unarmed Self-Defense?

Although it is wise to learn how to use a personal protection weapon, such as a firearm, a non-lethal stun gun, or a baton, it should not be the only way to defend yourself.

Have you ever asked yourself, “How long does pepper spray last?” What would you do if your canister goes past its shelf life, fails, or doesn’t work as intended?

Personal defense is akin to a toolbox; using a single tool for every situation is inadequate, at best, and very dangerous at worst. Don’t neglect learning about unarmed self-defense, so you can protect yourself if you’re ever attacked and can’t use a weapon. Your magazines may run dry, your stun gun battery might run out of power, and your pepper spray canisters have a limited capacity. In any of these situations, it is essential to know how to use your fists and feet to end a confrontation and save your life.

Order a Stun Gun So You Are Safe and Protected

 hand wraps for boxing

Source: JGA/

How to Stop a Threat Without Weapons

If you know how to shoot a firearm for defensive or combat purposes, you may have learned to aim at center mass. This area contains the highest concentration of vital organs, increasing the chance of stopping the fight when hit.

The same principle applies without weapons. You want to strike the parts of your attacker’s body with the highest chances of stopping the fight, allowing you to get out of the area and escape to safety.

The Face

The face is a natural target, and many people focus more on their opponent’s face than any other body part. To prevent hand injuries, avoid striking the face with a clenched fist. Although painful to the opponent, the skull is a hard surface, and striking it directly with a fist is also likely to hurt you and cause injuries, such as cuts or fractures.

Instead, use a straight, open-palm strike aimed at the nose; they are just as effective and painful to the opponent, yet less dangerous to you.

The Neck and Throat

A sufficiently powerful frontal strike to the neck with a clenched fist can temporarily incapacitate your opponent, crushing their windpipe and leaving them gasping for air. However, it’s challenging to land, and it’s unlikely you’ll have a good angle of attack to pull it off.

An alternative technique is to hit the side of the neck using a knife-hand strike, also known as a karate chop, in which you use the side of your hand opposite of where your thumb is or use one of your elbows. If you land it correctly, it can stun your opponent long enough for you to get out of the situation.

Make Sure You Have Pepper Spray, Too

The Groin

As most people know, a well-placed hit to the groin against a male opponent can cause extreme pain. With enough force, a kick to the groin can even leave them writhing on the ground. If you have an opportunity to kick this area, don’t hesitate to attack.

The Knees

Kneecaps are vulnerable to well-placed hits from almost all angles. A well-executed hit to the kneecaps can drop an opponent, no matter how powerful they are. There are two primary angles of attack to consider: the front of the kneecap and the side. A frontal hit can cause more damage, whereas a side hit can disturb their balance and cause them to stumble or even fall.

It’s also relatively challenging to defend against kicks to the kneecaps. Unless your opponent has significant martial arts training, there is little they can do to block it.

 woman elbowing attacker face

Source: Master1305/

The Takeaway

Although the techniques described here are relatively straightforward, they may still require practice to accomplish with confidence. Seeking the help of a martial arts or self-defense instructor can help you get the professional training and advice most suited to your age, physical condition, and experience.


Do I have to be young or fit to defend myself?

While having some degree of physical fitness and agility always helps, people of all ages, backgrounds, and fitness levels can perform unarmed self-defense techniques.

What about eye strikes?

Although potentially very effective, eye strikes are difficult to perform without missing or maiming your opponent. If you don’t have experience and training in eye strikes, avoid them entirely.

What should I do after stopping my opponent?

If you can stop your opponent, or if you have an opportunity to run away, cease fighting immediately and get to safety. Don’t continue striking your opponent, even if they attacked first.

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