12 Martial Artists Reveal Easy Self Defense Moves For Women & Men
Self-defense is demanding our attention in the modern world. Whether you're a man or women, a simple self-defense move or technique can be of life or death. Are you prepared?
Think about it. If a hooded figure approached you with a knife during your daily routine, would you be able to defend yourself?
If you’re unsure of the answer, don’t fret! We approached twelve well-known martial arts experts from different disciplines and asked them one simple question:
What self-defense move would you recommend to someone with no fighting experience to protect themselves?
Here are the top responses:
- Situational awareness (5)
- Eye & groin strikes (3)
- Fall & roll technique
- Elbow strikes
- Snap kicks
- Krav Maga
The most mentioned and winning self-defense strategy we received was clearly situational awareness. The ability to be aware of any potential threat is one of the best habits you can develop this year. This is not an exact martial arts move, but it is a strategy. You have the upper hand if you know what’s coming.
The runner up for best self-defense method was eye & groin strikes. The famous, classic escape from predators remains a top strategy; Kicking the groin area. Doing a quick front kick to the groins or a jab to the eyes will instantly give you time to flee.
It makes sense, the eye and groin are the two most sensitive areas of the human body. This technique is specifically effective when you are against someone twice your size which makes it the perfect defense tactic for women. Read on to learn how you can perfect this technique, and more, in case the worse comes to worst.
“With no fighting experience, I usually tell my students to make sure to always carry something in hand that they can throw at the aggressor and to use snap/front kicks below the belt.”
Emerson Turnier is one of the leading fighters in Montreal. He is a 2nd-degree black belt and has experience in a variety of fighting styles.
His first suggestion is simple: Carry something you can throw or attack at the perpetrator. Distracting the perpetrator is a legitimate technique: it stalls the attack and keeps him from focusing on what he planned to do to you. It can become even better if that “something” is a weapon such as a self-defense keychain.
Think about the last time you heard someone shout: “HEADS UP!” or “WATCH OUT!” Your reaction was probably somewhere between stopping your train of thought and looking around to ducking and covering your head with both hands.
Taking some of the steam out of an assault gives you a better chance of defending yourself or getting away.
His second suggestion is to use a self-defense move called a snap kick, specifically aiming to land them below the belt. The target is essential: even if you’re not likely to do a significant amount of damage, we’re programmed at a biological level to protect our privates, causing an attacker to focus (even if it’s just temporarily) on self-preservation above assaulting you.
The technique here is simple: forget all of the fancy sidekicks you’ve seen on the movies. Stand facing your attacker, bring one leg up to about waist level, then “snap” your lower leg out to drive it straight into an attacker’s groin.
“Elbow strikes. They are good at close range, can be delivered in many directions. They are powerful with very little risk of injury. They can be used from a standing position or if you are on the ground.”
Louis Skidmore is the head instructor of Dragon Fire Martial Arts in Sacramento, California. He has more than 30 years of teaching experience in a number of martial arts, including Tae Kwon Do, Judo, and street defense.
Throwing a punch involves more technique than most people realize. When done incorrectly, a punch is not only ineffective, but it can also be a recipe for a number of hand and wrist injuries, hurting you more than it does the attacker.
Elbow strikes have a number of advantages. They can be used on an attacker who is in front of, beside, or behind you, making them very versatile. Since you’re using a hard, bony part of your body as the strike point, your attacker is going to feel it.
The technique is also relatively simple to master. Bring your hand close to your body, then practice throwing your elbow out towards an imaginary opponent. Elbow strikes can be used upward (similar to an uppercut), downward (in a slashing motion), and across your body. You can also throw them to the side to strike someone attacking you from behind or the side.
“If you can, run away--this is usually the safest thing to do.”
“If you can, run away--this is usually the safest thing to do.”
Master Pius is an expert in Tae Kwon Do and has been practicing this martial art for nearly 40 years.
Becoming proficient in a martial art can take a lot of practice, and sometimes the most effective technique is to run away. Attackers often prey on targets of opportunity, so quickly removing yourself from a situation is often your best bet.
“Awareness. Always be aware of your surroundings.
Be aware of potential threats.
So they can be avoided before they happen.”
Steven Bongiorno is a lifelong student of the martial arts. He began studying Tae Kwon Do at the age of ten before finding his true passion in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. He holds black belts in both arts.
Situational awareness is the single most crucial aspect of martial arts. If you can perceive dangerous situations as they’re developing, you can often avoid the threat altogether.
Even when something does go wrong if you’re fully aware of what is happening you can come up with a plan of action and execute it. When you fail to pay attention, you’re at the mercy of your surroundings.
“If it’s just a martial art self-defense technique....I would say awareness...always be aware of your surroundings...and maybe a good groin strike.”
Anthony Figueroa has a long history with various martial arts and is currently the 7th-ranked flyweight (of 83 active fighters) in California. He runs AntDawgs MMA, which focuses on teaching fitness and conditioning as well as a fighting technique.
He agrees that the most important aspect of self-defense is situational awareness. Whether you’re a trained fighter or someone with no experience at all, knowing what’s going on around you is critical to maintaining your safety.
...And, if you have a chance, a well-placed groin strike is always discouraging to attackers.
“I teach all of my students how to appropriately fall and roll. In the grand scheme of things, it is highly unlikely to have to actually defend yourself against an attacker. I can almost guarantee everyone will need to protect themselves against themselves.
Learning how to survive a fall without injuring yourself is probably the most essential self-defense technique. Defending yourself against yourself.”
Falling properly is an actual technique, and it’s far more important than most people think. If you take any scenario where you might be assaulted, adding a hard fall with the possibility of striking your head on something makes it much worse.
Most perpetrators aren’t trying to hurt you. They might be willing to hurt you to get what you want, but causing you pain isn’t their primary goal. Eliminating the risk that you’ll hurt yourself by knowing how to handle a single punch or a hard shove will do far more than most offensive techniques to keep you safe.
Jerry Lebeau is a mixed martial arts instructor with experience in a number of fighting styles, including Tae Kwon Do and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Like Steven Bongiorno, Lebeau knows that understanding what is going on and orienting yourself to the threat will do more to protect you than any other single technique.
Think of a fight like a car wreck: if you could see three seconds into the future, you might still get into a fender-bender, but the likelihood of severe damage all but disappears.
Paying attention to your surroundings is critical: the upcoming alleyway on your left or the suspicious looking character on your right could be nothing, or they could be threats. Knowing what to avoid and when to leave can keep you out of trouble.
“I am partial to eye strikes and groin strikes. Easy to learn and both are very effective.”
Chuck Hutchison has been involved in martial arts since he was 13 and has explored a variety of different styles. He currently teaches Karate, Tae Kwon Do, and is deeply involved with his personal favorite, Ko Am Mu Do, in which he holds a black belt.
His advice is simply a self-defense application of a well-known military strategy: strike an enemy hard where he’s most vulnerable. An attacker’s mindset is simple: he sees himself as the predator and you as the weak, passive victim. A single well-placed punch, kick, or elbow to his eyes or groin quickly turns the tables and can render him unable to continue the attack.
“The simplest answer is Awareness. Personal safety begins well before a person gets within striking distance. To the untrained, be aware of where you're at, who is around you, and what people are doing. There are always indicators of something not being right.”
David Mitchell is a long-time practitioner of the martial arts, with a black belt in Jeet Kune Do. He is also a certified instructor in Combat Hard Pistol Combatives and specializes in self-defense.
He knows that a situation begins developing long before it gets to you. If someone appears shifty, is making a direct line towards you, and is concealing their hands, your ability to spot the situation that’s brewing will allow you to avoid or stop it before it starts.
David believes that you should always know what’s happening around you and have a plan in place to get out of trouble safely.
Paul D’ Ambrosio
“The best self-defense tool is awareness. Paying attention to your surroundings and being aware of who and what is going on around you allows you to minimize situations where you could potentially be in danger.”
Paul D’Ambrosio is a 6th Degree Master Instructor in Tae Kwon Do, as well as owner and primary instructor at Aliso Hills Tae Kwon Do. He began his instruction at the age of 15 and considers himself a lifelong student of the martial arts.
As someone who has “been there, done that, and seen it all,” Paul’s advice carries additional weight. Of all the techniques he’s trained with for decades, the most foundational one is knowing what’s going on around you.
In the 1970s, an Air Force colonel name John Boyd proposed the idea of the “OODA Loop.” OODA is an acronym that stands for “Observe, Orient, Decide, Act,” and summarizes the decision-making process in a combat situation. Before you can act, you must decide what to do; before you can decide, you have to orient yourself to what’s happening; the first step in the whole process is actually knowing what’s going on.
The OODA loop revolutionized fighter theory and drove a tactical revolution in the Air Force, but completely changed the way we design fighters, emphasizing situational awareness above all else. The sooner you observe something and orient yourself to what’s happening, the sooner you can decide what you should do.
Paul and Colonel Boyd both know that regardless of whether your fight takes place at 30,000 feet or in a dark alleyway, the same principles apply. Be aware of what’s going on and your chances of surviving and escaping unscathed go up drastically.
“If a person has no fighting experience then just one technique most likely won’t do much good. You need to fight with a conditioned reflex and that would take 3 to 6 months to achieve. I would recommend arming myself with pepper spray or an electric shocking device.”
Becoming a fighting master in one day is just not realistic. Bill Hulsey compounds this with the easy self-defense move, buying a self-defense weapon like a stun gun, pepper spray, or even a taser gun. These weapons are the quickest and most efficient way to protect yourself.
Bill Hulsey has a huge repertoire of experience in fighting and martial arts. He was the student of Jimmy Woo who originally brought Kung Fu San Soo to the United States. He has been extraordinary since 1975 when he first opened his studio, and he continues the legacy of Kung Fu San Soo.
“Without a doubt, Krav Maga is the best self-defense system for beginners to protect themselves! Every movement in Krav Maga is based on natural instincts. It was designed for anyone to be able to use whether you're a petite female or a large male.”
Devin Shirley has been studying Krav Maga for nearly 18 years and is a 2nd-degree black belt. He is a US Army veteran, with experience in boxing, wrestling, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, and close quarters combat. He is an expert in the field of self-defense with a vast array of experience to draw from. His instruction emphasizes teaching men and women of all sizes to defend against much larger attackers.
Krav Maga is a fighting system which was developed for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). As an art, it’s somewhat agnostic--meaning that it pulls from the most effective techniques of all martial arts, rather than placing a premium on the ancient tradition. Students of Krav Maga learn techniques from boxing, wrestling, Aikido, judo, and karate.
One of the cornerstones of this truly effective style is how it enables individuals with smaller frames, such as women, to leverage techniques against much larger attackers. A full third of the IDF is made up of women, so the fighting techniques they use have to be effective with people of all sizes and builds, and the perfect technique of self-defense for women
What To Take From This - How To Defend Yourself
We go through most of our life on a sort of auto-pilot. We go to work, school, or both and don’t usually give a second thought to personal safety. This makes sense! The likelihood you will be attacked tomorrow morning is very small, but it is not all that small when considering your whole lifetime. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, every 9 seconds a woman is abused or beaten. The statistics are, of course, less for men, but it is still a real possibility. Compounded on the threat of someone coming after you, you may encounter a situation where you will have to protect women or child from a predator.
We hope you take a good grasp of how to protect yourself and loved ones from this article. If you are serious, consider taking self-defense classes or any kind of martial arts class. How to defend yourself is a problem that takes time. We can’t teach it properly in only one article, but we hope we did a good introduction.
List of Self Defense Moves You Can Practice Today
Knee strikes are a close-in tactic where your opponent has entered your personal bubble and is 1-3 feet away. They’re too close to land a kick, so the goal here is to shorten your strike by using the knee rather than the foot. Imagine you’re facing your opponent head-on: simply thrust your leg upward, bending at the knee as you go, and picture connecting your kneecap with his crotch. Pointing your toes down toward the ground as your knee travels up can help keep your form on point.
Forget fancy sidekicks, spin kicks, or anything that requires you to leap into the air: the snap kick is the most straightforward move you can execute with your leg. It starts with your stance: face your (hopefully imagined) opponent and square your body with them. Lift your leading leg slightly, as if you’re pointing your knee at him, and then snap your foot upward. The intended target for a snap kick is usually the groin, so imagine yourself landing the kick between the bad guy’s legs every time you practice.
Elbow strikes are one of the most universal techniques because you can use them if your opponent is in front of you, behind you, or to your side. To get an idea of how this works, imagine that your arm is limited to the distance between your shoulder and elbow, then picture an opponent in front of you. You can land an elbow by either swinging it from your waist up (similar to an uppercut) or from the side (like you’re throwing a hook). If the opponent is standing to your side or behind you, you’ll throw your elbow horizontally, starting with your arm straight out in front of you and swinging to the side until you connect with the bad guy.
Fall and Roll
One of the greatest dangers in a fight is, surprisingly enough, falling correctly so you don’t hurt yourself. It’s easy to fall on a flat, carpeted floor, but what if you’re standing on the street and there’s a sidewalk behind you that’s six to eight inches higher? What if there’s a fire hydrant or cafe furniture? The correct way to break your fall is to place your arms approximately one foot away from your side, palms flattened and facing towards your backside. Focus on sitting down rather than falling straight back as you stand up: this decreases the distance your body has to travel before it impacts on the ground. Break your fall with your hands and gently roll backward to transfer some of the energy that force you down into a roll. This will give you the best chance of avoiding injury regardless of what’s behind you.
Palm Strike to the Nose
We’ve all experienced being slammed on the nose by something, whether it’s a cabinet door or a 2-year-old’s forehead, the pain is intense and debilitating. Your eyes instantly tear up and you’re distracted from everything else. The best way to make an attacker feel this is not with a closed fist, but rather with an open hand. Imagine yourself facing your attacker with your body squared to his: take your open hand and push it straight towards his face as if you were making the “stop!” motion. Instead of stopping in front of his face, however, picture yourself driving through his face. You want the heel of your hand to land on the bridge of his nose: this puts your palm in the best alignment with your arm and allows for a complete transfer of the force you’re putting into it.
Groin & Eye Strikes
Let’s change our focus from how we’re sending force and think about where we want an attacker to receive the blow. You always want to match your strengths to his weaknesses, and the groin and eyes are some of the most sensitive areas on the human body. It doesn’t really matter how you reach the target: we’ve listed a number of different ways above, and you can do something as simple as driving your finger into his eye or swinging a handbag or backpack upward to connect between his legs. This technique is particularly helpful for women, who typically have smaller builds than men. In the rock-paper-scissors game of life, hands/feet/knees/elbows always beat eyes or groin.