We all fancy ourselves strong, independent women, but there comes a time when that might not always be true, and that is in the realm of self-defense. Many girls don’t know the proper ways to protect ourselves and we often don’t take steps to figure it out. But Her Campus is here to fix that, with the help of Professor Abdullah Ameen Asad, Grandmaster Soke and self-defense professional and Nisha Phatak, Carnegie Mellon senior and a second degree black belt.
Self-defense is important to learn, Grandmaster Asad says, because usually animals in the wild innately know how to defend themselves. Humans once had these natural instincts, but have been domesticated. Because of this, we have lost our natural instincts and have to be retrained through self-defense courses.
According to Grandmaster Asad, “self-confidence gives an individual a sense of well-being and confidence,” that goes beyond just personal confidence. When you can defend yourself, you gain an independence and authority over yourself that you wouldn’t have otherwise. Knowledge of self-defense is necessary both in broad daylight and in the dark because, really, you can be attacked at any time.
Here are some self-defense pointers to keep in mind so you can begin to retrain your self-defense senses for when you are walking alone or confronted by an attacker.
Be Conscious of Your Surroundings (and Belongings)
Grandmaster Asad says this is the most important concept to remember when it comes to self-defense. “You should have a healthy sense of paranoia,” he says. “Be as aware as possible of your surroundings and don’t assume anything is completely safe. Visualize and verify your environment.” Look around and make sure everything is safe—be aware of alleyways, doorways and side streets, especially.
To further protect yourself, Grandmaster Asad says: “You have things in your purse right now that can be used as a weapon that you aren’t even aware of.” Pens, pencils, and notebooks are just some of these things, but take a look in your bag and see what else you could use—nail files, scissors? The list is endless, but you first have to look in your bag and be conscious that you can use these everyday items to protect yourself when necessary.
Additionally, there might be people around to help you, but it’s unlikely they’ll step in to help unless you ask, just because people naturally don’t register that someone might need help.“Your voice is your first line of defense,” Grandmaster Asad says, and this is something he teaches in all of his defense classes, from preschool-aged children to adults. “Shout ‘NO!’ or ‘STOP!’ or ‘FIRE’ especially so people don’t just think you’re in the middle of a domestic quarrel that they don’t want to get involved in.” Be loud and don’t worry about making a fool of yourself—it’s better to do that than to be harmed by an attacker.
Don’t Be an Attractive Victim
This doesn’t mean don’t look pretty—it means don’t make yourself an easy target for attackers to prey upon. For example, if you’re carrying your purse in your hand and swinging it around, it’s going to be a lot easier for someone to steal your bag than if you’re wearing your bag across your body. “Wear your bag on the inside of the space between you and a building or you and a car,” says Grandmaster Asad. This is directly related to being conscious of your surroundings. If you wear your bag between yourself and a building or a car, it’s more difficult to grab then if you’re holding it in the middle of the street, practically asking someone to steal it.
Another way to avoid being an attractive victim is by walking around with confidence; stand up straight and make eye contact with those you pass. If you look scared and like a wounded animal, it makes you easier to prey upon. Be confident and be conscious of your surroundings and you’re that much less likely to be a victim.
Go Above and Beyond
“Never hesitate,” says Grandmaster Asad. “A lot of people fail to respond because they have a false sense of security and reality. They can’t distinguish between what’s real and what’s a movie.” Realize that yes, something is happening to you, someone’s attacking you, and you need to protect yourself. If you have the instinct to attack, use it and don’t question yourself. You never want to come out of a situation thinking you could have done something more—kick, punch, slap, bite if necessary. Grandmaster Asad says, “Remember your natural weapons, the ones you carry with you at all times, your hands and feet.”
Get Ready to Kick Butt
In addition to these important features of self-defense, Carnegie Mellon senior and second degree black belt Nisha Phatak demonstrated some of the different tactics you can use to defend yourself (assisted by Ashley Baker, Carnegie Mellon sophomore).
If you find yourself in a confrontational situation, like if someone’s coming toward you, adopt this stance so you can stay balanced. Place your feet diagonally so you can’t be shoved front, back, or to either side.
If someone comes at you from behind, you want to be able to turn around as quickly as possible. If someone is behind you, he’s in control, and you don’t want that. Keep your hands on his so he can’t move. Swing your other arm over, locking his two arms together. Nisha says this is easy to do, and when it’s done quickly it’s flabbergasting—he won’t know what’s happening, which is good, so you can get out of there.
If someone throws a punch at you, be ready to block it immediately. If he’s coming forward with a punch, which he likely will do, he will have less strength from side to side than coming forward, so to block his punch, move your arm across from the side in an X formation.
Once you have the X formation, he’ll be completely caught off guard. Then, you twist his arms to both hurt him and put him off balance. Twisting his arm this way also makes him lower than you, which puts him at even more of a disadvantage.
Remember it’s defense first, then offense because offense by itself doesn’t work: it’s not enough to just try to hurt someone. You have to make sure you’re safe first.
This is mostly instinct, which has to be acquired, but if you can’t block exactly like this, do whatever you can to move your attacker’s arm away from you. Just don’t duck, however, because this places you lower than your assailant and puts him in control.
If someone tries to steal your purse, you shouldn’t let go of the purse unless you see that you’d be putting yourself directly in harm’s way, says Grandmaster Asad. You can hold onto it to give yourself leverage while you kick your attacker. Nisha says women usually have more strength in their legs than their upper bodies which you can use to your advantage. Legs can also cover more distance than arms.
You can also pull on the purse to bring yourself closer to him, punching them in the face. Remember to always follow through with your punches, though, because the follow-through is where most of the power is.
So as you go out into the world and kick butt at life, don’t forget these simple ways to kick some literal butt. Self-defense is important because it allows you to have a part of yourself that’s completely independent—you don’t need someone else to defend you—which thereby gives you confidence. And now you can go forth and kick butt with confidence.
By Elyssa Goodman for Her Campus