Self-defense skills are vital in helping you stay safe and protected. If you don’t have the budget to hire a full-time bodyguard, it’s imperative that you learn how to defend yourself against an attacker.
We’ve created a list of 12 basic self-defense tactics everyone should know. Whether you are a senior citizen or a 20-year-old athlete, these self-defense tips will help you stay safe and keep you from becoming the victim of an attack.
1. Keep Your Hands Free
The prime target for an attacker is a person who won’t fight back. A victim carrying six shopping bags, balanced on each side while attempting to sip a hot latte is exactly what perpetrators are hoping to find.
When your hands are occupied, you can’t protect yourself effectively or push an attacker away. You won’t even be able to access your cellphone quickly to call for help when you’re carrying multiple items. Keep your hands free and at the ready. If you’re shopping, push the cart full of bags to your car rather than carrying the bags themselves. It’s easier to let go of a shopping cart than to attempt to unload an armful of groceries and fumble for your phone or car keys in a hurry.
Recently, I was facilitating a situational awareness class for a group of middle school kids. I invited an officer from the Las Vegas Metro Police Department to come and talk with the students. He taught us a concept called JDFR. The officer explained that JDFR stands for ‘just doesn’t feel right.’ He told us that he uses JDFR every day while he’s on the job. If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your gut and get out of the situation. If someone is approaching you, and you know something is off about the person, walk or run away.
Don’t worry about being polite or hurting someone’s feelings. It is far better to appear rude than to end up a victim. Get away from anyone or any situation that gives you the creeps and keep yourself safe.
3. Carry a Defense Spray
To protect yourself against attacks from perpetrators on the street, carry pepper spray. A standard canister of civilian pepper spray contains about 10 percent capsaicin, which is enough to cause temporary blindness, labored breathing, anxiety, and panic. The effects will generally last 20 minutes or more. This allows ample time for you to flee the scene of an attack and contact authorities.
You can purchase pepper spray at most general purpose stores. You can also find it at sporting goods stores and online. Many stores that also sell guns and tactical gear will stock pepper spray. It’s a good nonlethal form of self-defense. However, check with your local law enforcement officials to verify that the use if this form is allowed. Some municipalities do not allow it.
4. Throw Your Purse or Wallet Away From You
Often, a criminal is purely after your money or valuables. If you are pursued by an attacker and you think he wants your cash, take out your wallet and throw it away from your person. The perp will go for the wallet, giving you a couple of minutes to run in the other direction while you contact authorities. The same story with your purse ― throw it away from yourself and run like mad in the opposite direction. It’s better to lose your money than get a black eye and a broken rib while you also lose your money.
5. Avoid Unsafe Situations
Often, common sense is your best self-defense. Don’t go to the automatic teller machine at 1 a.m. If you have to go out to a store late at night, choose a store with a well-lit parking lot. Also, if you have the option, choose a larger store that is likely to have a security guard overnight, rather than a store with a single employee at the cash register. Many 24-hour grocery stores employ security guards and an overnight work crew.
Steer clear of shady neighborhoods and dark alleys. Take the main streets rather than back roads when you’re driving at night. Avoid parking in desolate areas at any time of the day or night. If you see police activity, avoid the area entirely.
6. Look Tough
If a perpetrator is looking for someone to rob or harass, he or she is going to target someone who looks weak, shy or afraid. Make yourself look like anything but a victim. Walk with good posture, make eye contact and stay alert. Keep your shoulders back and carry yourself with a bit of attitude. Don’t slouch or keep your eyes down. Do your best to look tough and confident. Given the choice, an attacker will move onto someone who looks like they won’t fight back.
7. Put Your Phone Away
When you’re walking and texting, or you’ve got a phone to your ear, you aren’t tuned in with the world around you. You’re being cautious not to run into a pole or tree while you text or you’re distracted with the phone conversation you’re having. If you’re allowing yourself to be sidetracked by your phone, you’re an excellent target for an attacker. Muggers, rapists, pickpockets, and thieves are watching and waiting for people who aren’t paying attention to their surroundings and engaged in their phones. Stay off your phone and be aware.
8. Keep Valuables Hidden
Don’t advertise that you’re carrying a wad of cash. Keep your money out of view. If you’re doing some shopping, and you’re carrying a large amount of cash, keep only a few bucks in your main wallet and use that as you pay for items on the street. Keep your large bills in another compartment so that you don’t have to take it all out to find smaller bills.
Also, when you’re going out at night, don’t wear your best jewelry and carry your most expensive bag along. If you advertise the fact that you’ve got valuables on hand, you’re more likely to be robbed.
As you’re driving alone, don’t keep valuables in the front passenger seat in sight of others. Every single day, people are carjacked when crooks see them at stoplights and smash in the passenger side window to steal a purse, laptop or expensive item from the car.
9. Remember Your Voice
One thing victims often forget during an attack is how to use their voices. Screaming as loud as you can for help is an effective way to get a would-be attacker to leave you alone. If you see someone coming toward you, scream and yell right away. Use your voice to alert everyone within earshot that something’s not right, and you need help.
10. Be Difficult
If a perpetrator grabs you from behind in a bear hug, pretend you’re a toddler that is refusing to be carried off. Drop your weight down to your legs and be a lead weight. Keep your elbows out and make it very difficult for someone to move you around. At your first opportunity, or when the attacker tries to get a better hold on you, run. If you’re put in a headlock, push up on the perp’s elbow and bring down the person’s wrist. Push against the captor’s hands and away from the bend of the arm.
11. Remember the Most Vulnerable Body Parts
If you have the opportunity to fight your attacker, remember that there are some extremely vulnerable body parts that will take them down. First, aim for the groin. Kick hard and follow through to injure the perp’s groin area. If you can’t get a good shot to the groin, consider the eyes. If you can hit, scratch or gouge the eyes of an attacker trying to harm you, do it. Another vulnerable place to inflict a blow is Adam’s apple at the center of the throat. Punching the bulging Adam’s apple can cause serious pain and trouble breathing.
12. Get Some Practice in a Class
Chances are your friends don’t want to play the bad guy while you spray them with mace or stamp on their foot. But a self-defense class is an ideal place to practice your skills. You can often find self-defense classes at community centers, martial arts studios, and gyms. Enroll in a class to keep your self-defense skills sharp.
A Note on Protecting Yourself at Home
Pretend you have an attack dog. Even if you have a toy poodle or no dog at all, make it look like you do. One self-defense expert told me that he recommends getting a large dog bowl and a spiked, choke collar to put on your front porch near the door. Creeps will think twice about trying to get into your home if there’s even the slightest chance that there’s a dog, complete advanced guard-dog skills, waiting just beyond the door. A friend of mine has a sign on his fence that says, “Warning: Police K9 Training on Premises.” My friend does have some large German shepherd dogs in his backyard, so a criminal reading that sign would be foolish to hang around the property.
When someone knocks at your door, let whoever it is known that you’re home, but never open the door unless you know the person or can verify his or her identity. If you remain still and quiet, a criminal may assume there’s no one home and attempt to break in. However, if you let the would-be intruder know that you’re home, he or she may leave your home immediately to avoid being reported to the police.
Keep your car keys near your bed. If you wake up hearing the sound of someone trying to break into your home, you can push the alarm button on your key fob to sound your car alarm. Do this as you are on the line with emergency services. The car alarm, which will normally wake your neighbors, may be enough to scare off a criminal trying to get in your house.
If you’re comfortable with a gun in the home, and you have the proper training and permits to own one, keep a gun secured in a fingerprint safe inside your house. If you don’t want a gun in your home, there are a few other options that can buy you some time if you encounter an intruder. A long-range pepper spray gun looks exactly like a typical handgun, but it holds pepper spray bullets. The bullets deliver a military-grade pepper spray and give you a few seconds to get out of the house or call the police.
Defend Yourself and Stay Safe
Commit these tips to memory so that you don’t become the unfortunate victim of an attack or violent crime. Remember JDFR to keep yourself away from danger. Pass this article onto friends, share it on social media and stay alert to dangerous situations.
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Harshman, J. (2017). Mace, pepper and bear spray: What are the differences? Retrieved from: https://www.selfdefenseguide.org/mace-pepper-bear-spray-differences/
Top 5 vulnerable pressure points to hit an attacker and escape. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.pepper- spray-store.com/pages/pressure-points