Women’s Self-Defense

It’s not always the creep in the alley (because you shouldn’t be in the alley in the first place!), or the guy hiding in the bushes. Sometimes, it’s the jerk at work, or an unsuspected neighbor. All sizes, and all ages are susceptible to attacks. It’s your own responsibility to always be prepared to protect yourself, and to at least learn the basics of women’s self-defense.

The necessity of women’s self-defense training can’t be overemphasized. Self-defense is about self-preservation. It should also include methods of prevention. No matter how much you train or practice, or how badass you think you are, when you’re attacked, you’re still going to experience fear and panic along with an adrenaline rush. Further, the adrenaline rush can dampen your senses, as well as cut your abilities in half. A big reason to train!

Woman walking

Statistically, women have a higher chance of falling victim to domestic violence, sex-related crimes, and random attacks. We’re also more vulnerable when we travel solo. The world is a dangerous place, especially for females. We’ve been conditioned as women to ignore our intuition – our gut feeling. When it speaks, you should listen to it. It’s there for a reason. Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Women’s Self-Defense – Mental Preparation

Mentally prepare for the stress of a self-defense situation. We always hope for nothing to ever happen, but we train, and we prepare for the worse-case scenario. Being prepared will better your odds of surviving, and will lessen the resulting impact of an attack. An important part of staying safe and being more confident is learning to defend yourself from those trying to cause you harm.

Everyone has fight, flight, and freeze reactions. The most common reaction to an attack is to freeze. This is usually because the victim has never even considered the situation, and their brain has no idea how to react, so it just doesn’t. The best way to prevent freezing is to think of scenarios that you might find yourself in such as being mugged or grabbed while walking through a parking lot, a park, or even your own neighborhood. Then, imagine how you would react. Would you try to fight? Would you try to run away? The only other option is to freeze like a deer in headlights.

Women’s Self-Defense Weapons

When it comes to carrying a women’s self-defense weapon, if you’re not going to train and practice with it, don’t carry it. You should ONLY carry a weapon if you’ve trained with it. A bad situation turns worse when you don’t train, and the assailant can easily take your self-defense weapon to use against you. Find something that’s easy, and comfortable for you to carry with you everywhere. If you feel like it’s a hassle to carry it, chances are you’ll eventually start leaving it behind.

When you find something to carry that you’re comfortable with, carry it! What’s the point if you don’t have it when you need it? I personally don’t recommend pepper spray. A simple wind shift while using it could result in you disabling yourself. A few different self-defense items that you can carry with you ( and might already) are: keys, a kubotan, a stun gun, a sharp pencil, or a self-defense keychain. Another important aspect of carrying a women’s self-defense weapon is training in weapon retention. Again, you don’t want the bad guy to take your weapon and use it against you.

Women’s Physical Self-Defense

While weapons are good, they’re a supplement. Learn to use your body as a self-defense tool as well. Learn a proper fighting stance (Below). When it comes to women’s self-defense, your size does sometimes make a difference, but not necessarily. Proper technique, speed, and some agility can outweigh brute strength. A larger person might have a harder hit, but a smaller person usually has more speed and agility. Also, you don’t get to choose the size of your attacker. Larger opponents usually call for a different set of skills, one of the reasons training is important.

A Proper Fighting Stance:

  • Slight squat at an angle to your attacker, with your dominant foot back.
  • Distribute your weight evenly between your feet; knees slightly bent.
  • Hands up protecting your face, but NOT clenched in fists.
  • Elbows tucked in to protect your ribs
Women's Self-Defense

Practice grappling! Grappling is close-proximity fighting, such as Jiu Jitsu. This is my LEAST favorite martial art skill to practice (I hate other people touching me!), BUT it is a necessary evil. Statistically, most fights go to the ground, and if your attacker gets you off your feet, you’re going to have a harder time running away. Learn to fight from the ground. Also, learn basic disengagements (breaking free and escaping) such as arm grabs, clothes grabs, bear hugs, and hair grabs.

Anxiety when you begin training will be normal, and you will feel awkward as all get out when you try learning a new move. You will definitely find all of those little, seldom-used muscles in places you didn’t even know existed, but repetition is the key to perfecting your technique. Eventually, muscle memory and familiarity will kick in. Pick a few specific techniques to learn at a time, and learn them. Once they’re mastered, pick a few more, and repeat.

When you’re under attack, the muscle memory that you’ve been working toward will automatically kick in. This is a good thing because when the stress of the situation hits, it will cloud your mental capacity, but your physical body will know what to do. This helps prevent the freeze reaction.

Martial arts classes and women’s self-defense classes are a great approach to learning how to defend yourself. Martial arts and self-defense training are effective cardio, strength, and flexibility training. It can also lead to a happier, healthier, and more productive life. This is because of the mental, physical, and emotional benefits that accompany it. Knowing martial arts, and self-defense is empowering, and it offers women more freedom. Martial arts classes build confidence and improve attitudes. They teach you to remain calm, and in control of yourself during a difficult situation.

Learn not only to use your hands and feet, but also learn to use your knees, and especially your elbows (the sharpest parts of your body). Learn to use your voice, as well as to maintain a safe distance. Go for eye pokes and throat punches. Aim for soft spots.

To succeed in a physical confrontation, you need to have a self-defense mindset. You also have to be willing to be more violent than your attacker is, but without using excessive force. In a lot of states, you have to be able to justify the amount of force that you use against another person. In Florida it’s called Justifiable Use of Force. Self-defense is all-or-nothing. You must be willing to do what needs to be done against another human being to protect yourself.

Both self-defense training, and defending against an attack will each come with their own level of physical injury. Sometimes, in training, this can be a good thing as it allows you to experience still having to, but more importantly, being able to fight back through the hurt. As Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Women’s Self-Defense – Situational Awareness

Focusing on realistic methods of self-defense, and prevention, as well as preparing your body, and your mind appropriately will allow you to better defend yourself. You should always try to avoid violence, but you can feel more comfortable when you must defend yourself. The most effective women’s self-defense practice is situational awareness. Always be aware of your surroundings, especially when walking, or when in an isolated area like a parking lot.

Predators look for women that are distracted, confused, or weak looking – head down, hands full, digging through her purse. Cut distractions. Don’t keep your phone in your face, and don’t block hearing someone sneak up behind you because of headphones. Keep your head up, your shoulders back, and your head on a swivel (looking around when you walk), and always leave at least one hand free. Exude confidence and awareness.

Distracted woman walking in a desolate landscape
Distracted woman walking and listening to music in a desolate urban landscape
Woman aware while walking
Woman aware while walking

The purpose of self-defense is to eliminate an imminent threat. Self-defense should be used for protection; for fighting back. It’s not for picking fights. If you’re picking fights, you need to check your ego. You should use physical techniques only when they are necessary, and they can’t be avoided. It’s more than knowing how to throw a punch. It’s about learning prevention, avoidance, and disengagement. It’s about perfecting your technique. If you don’t practice the techniques for different defenses, you won’t be able to execute them properly when the time comes.

The mental repercussions from not fighting back will be drastically different than if you do fight back. Don’t wait until after you’ve been assaulted to learn how to defend yourself.

Some beginner steps to women’s self-defense are:

  1. Mental preparation
  2. Situational awareness
  3. Walking safety
  4. Physical defense


April Iser - Iser Defense

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