How to Defend Yourself

Four Parts:Maintaining a Defensive PostureDefending Yourself from the FrontDefending Your BackAvoiding Confrontation

The difference between walking away and becoming tomorrow's newspaper headline is how well you are prepared to protect yourself in a bad situation. You can prepare some simple techniques to defend yourself before and during an attack, whether it be a fight or an ambush, ensuring your safety. You don't have to be Jean-Claude Van Damme to keep yourself from harm.

Part 1
Maintaining a Defensive Posture

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    Guard your face. If the attacker is trying to punch you or grab you from the front, put your hands on your forehead in a "Not in the face!" sort of gesture and your arms tight on your body. This may look like a weak defensive position, but that is to your advantage since it brings your opponent's guard down. In addition, this position protects your face and your ribs, two places you'll likely want to protect.
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    Stand with a wide base. Both left-to-right and back-to-front, keep your feet diagonal from each other in a kind of martial-arts stance. This will lessen your likelihood of getting knocked or pushed over.
    • You stand the best chance of winning a fight and getting away if you stay upright. Avoid taking the scuffle to the ground at all costs.
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    Assess your assailant. Look at their hands. If they were about to attack with their hands, they would have their hands out. However, if they are concealing a weapon, they will have them hidden or at their side.
    • If you're attacked by a person with a knife or a gun, you need to try to avoid confrontation and get away. If it's impossible to avoid a fight, you need to end the confrontation with a high-impact attack as quickly as possible, then run for help.
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    Take the defensive posture of running. Unless your attacker is making it impossible, trying to get away is the only guarantee of your safety. If you can avoid a fight, avoid it and run away.

Part 2
Defending Yourself from the Front

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    Go for the eyes and nose. If you have to end the fight as quickly as possible by striking first, strike hard, and strike as many times as you can, then run for help. Getting ambushed in an alley by a mugger isn't the time to worry about fighting honorably. Keep yourself safe by making the confrontation as quick as possible.[1] The eyes and nose are the most sensitive soft spots on your attacker's face and are vulnerable to elbows, knees, and your forehead.
    • With the hardest part of your forehead, right near the hairline, try to smash your assailant's nose by tensing your neck and driving your forehead into the middle of their face. This is the quickest and most unexpected way to end a fight completely. However strong, experienced, or violent your attacker, it's very difficult to quickly recover from a hard head-butt to the nose.
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    Kick or grab the groin of a male attacker. Bringing a knee sharply into the groin of an attacker or grabbing the groin with your hand and twisting is an instantly effective move that will take your attacker down. Again, this isn't the time to worry about fighting dirty. If your life is in danger, go for the groin.
    • If this doubles up your opponent, consider smashing your knee into his nose to ensure that he'll be down for the count.
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    Heel Stomp. If your being attacked from the back, chances are the attacker has his/her arms around your upper half. If your wearing heels or shoes such as heavy heel boots, this is especially effective. Move your foot near the attacker's, lift your foot up and bring it down on their foot as hard as you can. If they let you go run, if they don't try the next one.
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    Go for the kneecaps. If, for example, you are being choked, or your assailant has their hands up in your face, attacking their legs will give you the opportunity to open him up to more attacks, or allow you to escape. This is especially effective on larger attackers and easy to do from your guarded position.
    • Kick at shins and knees soccer-style, with the instep of your foot. This is a quick and painful kick. In addition, if his/her legs are close enough, lift your knees into their inner leg (femoral nerve), outer leg, knee, or groin. These will break down your attacker and may disable them, as only 12-16 pounds of pressure are needed to break a knee.
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    Follow up. Try to poke or press on the eyes. No one can defend an eye poke, regardless of your attacker's size. Clapping on the ears can stun or, if done perfectly, breaks the eardrums.
    • In some cases you may also want to attack your attacker's neck. To effectively choke someone, do not do the typical Hollywood "hands around the entire neck," but instead just put your thumb and fingers around the trachea (especially easy to find on men with large Adam's apples). Dig, drive, and sink your fingers into this notch and they will experience intense pain and probably fall down.
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    If you fall, try to fall on top of your attacker. You'll want to avoid taking the fight to the ground at all costs, but if it's unavoidable, use your weight to your advantage. While falling, keep the pointy parts of your body pointy (your knees and your elbows) and aim for your attacker's groin, ribs, and neck.
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    If an attacker attacks with a weapon, know where the weapon is effective. If your attacker has a knife, try to stay out of arm's length. If there is a gun, consider running and dodging from left to right.
    • If you get a chance to leave safely, go for it. Be sure that you're safe from your opponent when you decide to stop defending yourself.
    • In many cases, you can end the situation immediately by giving the attacker your wallet. This is a logical choice, especially if at knife or gunpoint. Your life is worth much more than the cash and cards you have on you. Toss the wallet away from you and run.

Part 3
Defending Your Back

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    Deflect the hold. If an attacker tries to grab you from behind to choke you, press his forearm against your collarbone instead of trying to pull it directly off, which may be difficult if you're fighting with someone stronger than you. Put one hand above his elbow (on the forearm) and one hand below it (so your hands are on both sides of the elbow). Then, in one strong and determined movement, step and swing your entire body around like the arm is the hinge to your body's screen door.
    • This will get you out of his/her choke and leave his/her head, ribs, and legs wide open to your counterattack. When your attacker is behind you, the shins are right behind your legs and primed for your stomping and raking.
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    Sit down. If the attacker is trying to pick you up from behind, drop your hips quickly and violently as if you were plopping down on a love seat. This will make you harder to pick up and give you an extra moment to attack them and fend them off by stomping on their shins or repositioning for a frontal defense.
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    Get dirty. If the attacker is trying to choke you by wrapping his arms around your neck, bring the ball of your foot forward, as if you just kicked a soccer ball, and forcefully slam it into the area of their leg between their ankle and mid-leg, or the groin. This may break their leg or otherwise incapacitate your attacker.

Part 4
Avoiding Confrontation

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    Understand the stages of a fight. Preparing for each stage in a confrontation can help you avoid eventually ending up in a physical fight. Avoiding a serious fight should be your main goal, so you need to be bigger and more aware of the situation than your opponent. The stages of conflict include:
    • The wind up. This is the initial argument before the fight erupts. It might start out relatively harmless but escalate quickly and unexpectedly.
    • Verbal threats. When the arguing brings in the threat of physical confrontation. "I'm going to _____."
    • Shoving or other prodding behavior. Attempts to get you to escalate a conflict into a full-blown fight usually start not with punches or kicks but with nose-to-nose intimidation tactics and shoves. It's still possible to walk away at this point without getting into a full-blown fight.
    • The full-blown fight. You've stopped arguing and started throwing punches.[2]
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    Take all verbal or directional paths to non-confrontation. Each of the lead-up steps is an opportunity to end the argument. One will inevitably lead to another unless one of you backs down. Back down. Actual physical confrontation should be your last line of defense.
    • If you're in the middle of an argument, calm in down by lowering your voice. Macho dudes in a bar can escalate stupid things quickly but be ready to hug and buy you a drink by apologizing and distracting them. If you're calm, they'll cool down.
    • If you're being ambushed by an attacker, you need to get where people can see you and help you. It's less likely that you'll be grievously harmed if you're on a busy street-corner where people are passing by. The confrontation has less of a chance of escalating in public.
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    Avoid walking alone. If you've got a long walk home from the bus or train station at night after work, consider meeting a friend near the metro stop and walking together. Staying in groups is the safest way to avoid these kinds of situations.
    • If you must walk alone, gloom onto another group of walkers and stick close by. You don't have to know them to find safety in numbers.
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    Arm yourself. Mace and pepper spray are handy defense devices you should consider having at the ready. Knives and guns are dangerous weapons many consider useful, but can also be used against you if you're unprepared to use them yourself. Be very cautious and smart if you choose to carry a weapon and take the proper certification classes to make sure you know how to handle a weapon safely. Never carry one illegally.
    • Consider taking a self-defense class if you live in a dangerous area and are concerned for your well being.


  • Always look for vulnerable spots. On a male it is usually the groin. One good punch in the groin hurts bad. On a woman it is usually pulling the hair or in the armpits.
  • Stay cool. Do not panic if someone is acting hostile. That will make the attacker suspect you are weak.
  • Always look for a weak spots where they cannot block your hits. (An example would be if they do not block their feet, so you kick their feet out from underneath them).
  • If someone is attacking you, you are right and the other person is wrong. Their motivation is probably wanting your money or possessions or body, while yours is self-preservation. You have a basic human right to defend yourself and your loved ones. But remember, the first means of self defense is escape! In a court of law, if it should get to that point, you can justify your actions through "acting in self defense" only if you took every available opportunity to avoid the confrontation and every opportunity to escape. If it becomes clear that you had an opportunity to leave the area safely, but you did not, then it is no longer a case of self-defense, it is now disorderly conduct and assault. You are responsible for taking appropriate action. Being attacked is no cause for killing or maiming when you could have reasonably done less to defend yourself.
  • Always keep a phone with you so you can call for help.
  • A way to get someone on the ground is to put your arm near their neck and kick the back of their leg.
  • Always remember that the person who is trying to attack you will most likely have done this before. Avoid the confrontation. If this fails, use all you can to leave the situation as quickly and safely as possible.
  • If this is any sort of domestic situation, you may be wondering at what point it becomes bad enough to warrant you defending yourself. By legal standards, any unwarranted contact is an assault. It doesn't matter if he/she "only" pushed you, it's still an assault, can still be dangerous, and you still deserve to defend yourself.
  • Never be the one starting the fight against the mugger, attacker, ETC. The might have weapons or training in this particular area.
  • If you are concerned about muggers in a big city, take martial arts such as Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu, Or Judo.
  • If you are walking alone to go home, be sure to bring a flashlight and always look around to be safe.


  • Threatening an assailant with a weapon like a knife or firearm is a bad idea unless you fear for your life. It is not worth going to jail for murder, manslaughter or getting killed over your wallet. Remember, the assailant is most probably stronger and more experienced in fighting than you or he would not have chosen you.

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Categories: Self Defense