Did you know that The National Sexual Violence Resource Center estimates nearly 1 in 5 women in the United States have experienced an attempted rape or assault? That statistic is so not O.K. Oh, and approximately 7 out of 10 victims actually know their assailants, which means it’s never a bad time to learn self-defense moves to practice at home, in case you’re ever in one of these situations.
As a young woman who has lived in this country for her entire life, I will tell you without hesitation that getting attacked/raped/kidnapped is my biggest fear. It’s not that I feel helpless, but the fact alone that these incidents are so common is just plain terrifying. Even verbal assault (that includes cat-calling) is enough to make many of us women want to stay inside and cover up what our mamas gave us. But are we going to stop going about our everyday lives? Of course not. We have shit to do (important shit, at that).
You can never be too cautious, especially if you have a gut feeling. And unfortunately, I’ve had to live my life with a fear in my heart every time I’m walking alone. Every time I’m running alone. Every time I’m anywhere alone, I have to constantly look behind me to make sure no one’s following. I have to let people know where I am at all times because I want to make sure the police have a starting point in case I go missing. I’ve got to keep my key wedged between my fingers like a makeshift dagger each time I head out to a parking lot, just in case some psycho is waiting to pounce. Is that a way to live? No, but it’s my reality.
A Real-Life Victim Who Fought Back (and Won)
Especially as a runner, I know I can speak for most of us females when I say that it can be scary running alone. Not only do you get stared at and cat-called (thank God for headphones), but there’s also the possibility of someone just driving up next to you and trying to grab you. A huge story broke last week about a female marathoner in Seattle who was attacked by a convicted sex offender. The attack took place in a public restroom along her running route. But she fought back. She posted about it on Instagram, including images of her battle wounds and the pattern of her steps while she was fighting for her life. My favorite part about it?
All the while, she was screaming, “Not today, mother f*cker!”
Not today, indeed. She kicked her assailant’s ass thanks to a self-defense class she took with work a few days prior. Then, she managed to squeeze out of the stall and a passerby helped her lock the offender in the bathroom until authorities arrived.
Krav Maga Self Defense Moves to Practice at Home
So maybe you can’t afford a self-defense class or simply don’t have the time. Luckily, there are some life-saving self-defense techniques that you can learn right in the comfort of your own home. Krav Maga is the most effective self-defense system for real-world instances, and it was originally developed for the Israeli military. Now, it’s used worldwide to help people defend themselves, mostly because Krav Maga builds off of your instinctive movements, helping you better fight in the way your body wants to fight naturally.
Below are self-defense moves and advice from the experts over at Krav Maga Worldwide.
Self Defense Move #1 – Straight Punch
The gist: Hips and shoulders rotate forward explosively. Use the “top two” knuckles to make contact with the soft targets of the attacker’s face.
How-to: The basic movement behind a straight punch is to rotate your hips and shoulders and extend your arm as if you were reaching to grab something that is just out of reach in front of you. It’s this movement through your hips, shoulders, and arms that generates power and sends your punch flying. When delivering a straight punch, it’s ideal to punch with the “top two” knuckles of the fist, which are the pointer and middle finger.
Self Defense Move #2 – Front Kick to the Groin
The gist: Drive your hips forward with the knee bent, extend the leg, and kick up and through the groin with the foot flat (shoelaces up).
How-to: The front kick to the groin travels on a vertical plane up the “A-frame” form of an attacker’s legs and lower body. To deliver the kick, drive your hips forward with your knee bent so your heel is back. Let your knee and leg extend and, with your foot flat (shoelaces up and toes forward gives the most striking surface), kick up and through the attacker’s groin. Imagine that your kick will travel through the attacker’s groin and out the top of their head, as if you were going to split them in two from the groin up. Recoil your leg back to its original position. Boom.
Self Defense Move #3 – Knees
The gist: Establish your grip and position (if close enough), then drive the hips forward and strike the attacker in the groin or knee, with the knee traveling forward. Recoil and continue as needed.
How-to: If the attacker is close enough to grab you, that means you can grab that attacker and start hurting them using your knees. Grab as much skin, muscle, and whatever fabric the attacker is wearing at the attacker’s trapezius (the spot between the neck and shoulder). Keep the elbow of the arm grabbing that spot pointed down so you can brace yourself if the attacker comes forward. Use your other hand to wrap behind the elbow on the same side of the body you are already grabbing.
Drive your hips forward with your heel back (so your leg makes a triangle in profile view) and imagine that you are going to punch your knee straight through the attacker in front of you. Think about using more of the kneecap surface of your knee as the striking surface in order to deliver the knee going forward.
You aren’t using the top of the knee, closer to the thigh. Also, you’re not kneeing up toward the ceiling unless the attacker has already lowered their head in front of you. Mainly think about kneeing forward through the groin or midsection of the attacker. Recoil your knee by bringing your foot back to the ground, and continue to deliver knees until you can get away safe.
Self Defense Move #4 – Bear Hug Defense
The gist: Base, space, fight back aggressively, then get away.
How-to: If you are grabbed in a bear hug, from the front or from behind, start fighting back right away. To fight back, you need to first establish base and space. When the attack comes on, lower your center of gravity and “base out” by bending your legs and widening your feet. You will immediately become more difficult to lift off of your feet (and just more difficult to move in general). Think about a child who is protesting going to bed or to school and how they will drop their level/center of gravity and make themselves very heavy and difficult to move around.
As soon as you’ve established a solid base, immediately begin striking at any open and vulnerable areas that the attacker presents. Krav Maga Worldwide students learn to target the groin and face whether the attack comes from the front or back. Continue to strike (headbutt, knees, kicks, punches, bites) until there is sufficient space for you to turn in (if attacked from behind) and get away, or to simply separate and run away.
Self Defense Move #5 – Choke Defense
The gist: Use the hands like meat hooks to pluck the thumbs away, fight back aggressively, then get away.
How-to: If a choke comes on from the front, back, or side, and that choke happens “in place” (which is to say that we are being attacked but generally standing in the same place, not being moved or pushed while the choke is on), Krav Maga Worldwide students are taught to “pluck” the choker’s hands away and immediately begin to strike back. Your body (meaning your hands) will want to immediately go toward your neck if a choke is put on you and will most likely end up on top of the attacker’s hands as they are already on the neck.
Instead of trying to pull the attacker’s hands off of the neck, which could be impossible if the defender is a much smaller person than the attacker, use your hands like meat hooks (thumbs against pointer fingers, hands in a “C” shape) and explosively pluck at the attacker’s thumbs. The attacker cannot maintain a choke using their hands if their thumbs are plucked off of the defender’s neck. Immediately begin to strike back to vulnerable areas on the attacker’s body.
Expert Tips to Defend Against Sexual Assault
Now that you’ve got some self defense moves to practice at home, you’ve got to get your mind and body up to speed to make sure you’re fending off attackers at all times. Below are some things KMW suggests to do to defend against sexual assault.
- Have a powerful mindset. Believe that your own safety is worth fighting for. Trust your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, leave immediately. Understand that attackers will generally not target people who are either in groups, familiar with and aware of their environment, or willing to fight back.
- Exude the right body language. Confident body language signals that you’re a tough target can deter an attack before it begins. Hold a posture with your back straight and chin up. Keep a balanced stance and walk with a sense of destination. Make eye contact to show that you’re aware of who and what is around you. Also keep your hands out of your pockets.
- Use assertive verbal skills. This reinforces confident body language and strength and draws attention from bystanders. It can be accomplished by using short, clear, declarative statements. Volume can range from speaking firmly and clearly to yelling, depending on the situation.
- Physical training is ideal. Practicing how to fend off an attacker will help you feel empowered, strong, and confident. Enroll in a reality-based self-defense program. The more often you can train, the better. Training will not only give you the physical skills necessary to defend attacks but also increase the effectiveness of your body language and verbal skills.
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