Self Defense for Women

10 Self-Defense Strategies Every Woman Needs to Know to Survive

The best self-defense strategies and techniques work equally well for men and women, but let’s face it: Women really need them because they’re assaulted more often than men. Statistics indicate that one in three women will be the victim of some type of violent attack in her lifetime. Women also endure more incidents of verbal and sexual harassment.

Although most women’s self-defense courses focus on skills for quickly and efficiently destroying an attacker, self-defense training also should include methods for preventing a confrontation from turning physical in the first place. Learning how to steer away from a threat may not sound as exciting as ripping out an attacker’s heart, but as they say in every beginner’s class, evading an attack is almost always superior to blocking an attack.

After years of research, the staff of the Rocky Mountain Combat Applications Training center discovered a number of effective self-defense concepts and techniques and incorporated them into its curriculum. If you’re an experienced martial artist, the physical techniques may appear familiar or even surprisingly basic, but that’s fine. They’re intended to be simple because in an assault, you’ll experience fear and panic, along with a natural adrenaline rush. Despite the superhuman effects adrenaline can produce — we’ve all heard stories about the grandmother who lifted a car off her trapped grandchild — it doesn’t always work in your favor. You may experience tunnel vision, auditory exclusion and loss of fine motor skills. Consequently, it will be hard to see and hear, and complex martial arts techniques may be impossible to perform.

If you stick with proven strategies and simple gross-motor-movement techniques — such as the 10 described here — your chance of surviving will increase drastically.


Too many women enroll in a self-defense class after they’ve been assaulted. When they recount the incident, they often say the same thing: “I had this bad feeling, but I told myself not to be paranoid,” or “I knew I shouldn’t have gone, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.”

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If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t safe — that’s the bottom line. Many women have been conditioned to ignore the little voice that tells them trouble is coming. Your instinct is the best detector of danger. The next time you hear that little voice, listen to what it’s saying.


Don’t make yourself an accessible target. The outcome of a battle is often determined before the first blow is struck. When you have the opportunity to escape from a situation before it turns bad, take it.

Want to know what it’s like to train with Meredith Gold, the author of this post? Click here to get the full story!

If an approaching person gives you the creeps, walk to the other side of the street. If an elevator door opens and the guy standing inside makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, wait for the next elevator. Those actions aren’t cowardly; rather, they’re a smart way to eliminate danger.


Be aware of the message your body sends to those around you. Like animals, human predators target those they consider the weakest or most vulnerable. Attackers search for women who appear frightened, confused or distracted. They look for women who walk with their head down and their hands stuffed in their pockets, or perhaps one who’s overburdened with packages or distracted by children.

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Remember that attackers do not want to bait a fight; they want an easy mark. By walking with confidence and awareness — looking around and keeping your head up and shoulders back — you’ll dramatically reduce the likelihood of becoming a target in the first place.


Good verbal skills are an effective self-defense tool, one you’re likely to use more frequently and successfully than any physical technique. When a predator engages you in conversation, he’s actually “interviewing” you to see if you’ll make a good victim. An experienced attacker is practiced at using his words to freeze you with fear, thus reducing the chance that you’ll try to defend yourself.

Although an aggressive verbal confrontation can be terrifying, you have to be strong enough to show the attacker he’s picked the wrong victim. If you stand tall, remain calm and respond confidently and assertively, you’ll probably “fail” his interview. The power of …

Teenage Girl Forced to Take Self-Defense Class, Results Unexpected

“Watch the movie Taken!” were the first words out of my parents’ mouths when I told them about my plans to study in Paris. They weren’t trying to scare me out of going (although my dad might have been); they simply wanted me to understand the dangers a girl faces when living alone in a large foreign city. Being my teenage and carefree self, I blew it off.

Time passed, and although my departure was still six months away, my dad insisted on my participation in a self-defense class. I mumbled. I grumbled. I pouted. I didn’t want to go. I could not have cared less about learning how to throw a punch or how to scream “No!” and run away. And I certainly didn’t want to spend five hours learning those things when I could just as easily be watching YouTube videos.

But I went.

Black Belt magazine cover featuring Meredith Gold

Meredith Gold, the self-defense instructor who taught the course.

My dad and I arrived at the studio after driving for an eternity. It was hot, and I didn’t want to be there.

We were the first ones at the school, and as my dad chatted with the owner about a bunch of martial arts hullabaloo, I amused myself on my phone. I noticed the padded floor — great! That probably meant I’d be expected to perform some kind of self-defense move.

One by one, women trickled in until we were six, and my dad took his cue and left. The teachers — Meredith Gold and Mike Belzer — joined us, and before long, we were all sitting cross-legged in a circle. Inwardly, I rolled my eyes. I wasn’t thrilled to be mock kicking butt in front of a crowd, but I also wasn’t thrilled to be sitting in a circle, holding hands and singing Kumbaya. But as I had no choice, I listened. And what I heard was actually inspiring.

We talked about what we hoped to gain from the class. A point recognized by Meredith was that we all wanted to get a better sense of personal security and strength. She explained how the class would help us obtain those things and that it was a shame that because of our gender, we had to waste an entire day learning how to protect ourselves.

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She said the class would spend time on the establishment of boundaries. Most conflicts can be avoided, she explained, if we establish clear boundaries. Are you kidding me? This was supposed to be a self-defense class, and we were going to learn how to talk our way out of a potentially problematic situation? I sighed. I whined. I groaned. I rolled my eyes again. Inwardly, of course. Then we began.

Meredith outlined the importance of speaking firmly and clearly and meaning what we say. Predators and other evildoers can detect a lack of belief in oneself. Therefore, it’s necessary to set personal boundaries and express those boundaries in a nonconfrontational yet effective way. This can be conveyed via body language: Stand with your feet planted, roughly shoulder-width apart and staggered — this makes physical defense easier, should it be necessary, she said. Shuffling away from the adversary is generally discouraged, although a moderate amount of repositioning is OK. Continually sliding away from a potential attacker can be interpreted as fear, she said, and that’s the opposite of what you want.

If the situation escalates, your hands must be in front of your upper body to ward off the attacker, Meredith said. She noted, however, that this protective stance can be assumed without stiff arms and flat palms, which communicate insecurity through overcompensation. A more relaxed state is less confrontational and less likely to infuriate the aggressor.

We stood up and practiced.

palm strike from Meredith Gold self-defense seminar

Mike and his assistant donned caps and glasses, posing as shady men. One by one, they would approach us, sometimes saying vulgar things and other times asking for assistance. It was our job to clearly communicate when a decent amount of personal space had been breached and say we’d be happy to assist from a safe distance. We were told not to apologize unless it truly was necessary because an apologetic state conveys vulnerability.

Sometimes, the aggressor would grumble, call us names and sulk off. Other times, he’d become frustrated and start yelling.

My scenario unfolded like this: A man approached me, excited. He cried out, begging me to help him because someone had been hurt. He inched closer until I put my hands up and said, “Stop!” He halted in his tracks.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” he asked. “Someone is hurt!” I responded with “If there’s been an accident, I can call 911 for you, but …

The Art of Teaching Women’s Self-Defense: Less Is Best

Karate and taekwondo are popular styles for women's self-defense classes.
In an age when the crime rate seems to be climbing out of control, it’s no surprise women are attending self-defense classes in record numbers. Self-defense instructors often assume that participants absorb all the information taught in a course, but the unfortunate reality is that many self-defense class participants are receiving something far more frightening than a confrontation with an assailant; they’re getting a false sense of security.

Keeping in mind that the average woman participating in a self-defense course falls between the ages of 30 and 50 and has a minimal physical-fitness background, instructors take on a tremendous amount of responsibility whenever they attempt to teach hand-to-hand combat skills in such a setting.

Learn how to use an attacker’s weak spots to your
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Self-Defense Moves for Women: How to Fight Someone
Bigger Than You by Exploiting Vital Targets

There is, however, a way to teach a self-defense course that’s effective, as well as fun, simple and realistic. I call this method the Five Point System because of the five areas of instruction that need to be covered.


Because many self-defense instructors have an extensive martial arts or combat background, they often lose touch with the viewpoint of their students. Instructors must remain aware that most participants are apprehensive about attending the course. The instructors’ primary goal should be to eliminate the students’ fear by providing them with an easy-to-understand class overview on paper. This should include a class schedule, course format, class-by-class itinerary and workbook. When the participants have been given a clear understanding of what they’ll be taught and have been told what’s expected of them, instructors and students can work together to achieve maximum results.

During the first class, small details can make a big difference. Instructors should provide name tags for the students, allow them to interact with one another and encourage a sense of purpose for them. This is a great time to discuss individual goals. Instructors should be personable and answer any questions participants may have. Women are not there to be impressed by the martial arts, so instructors need to be cautious about being too harsh, too stern or too commanding.


Many self-defense courses are ineffective because the material is taught from a technical, rather than conceptual, point of view. Most students can mimic a technique they learn in class, but if they don’t fully understand the reasoning behind it, they’ll have trouble recalling it exactly if they need to use it.

A more effective method involves teaching basic concepts rather than specific techniques. Obviously, at some point participants must learn techniques, but when they understand the reasoning behind a defense, they can create endless counters rather than the few they practice in class.

Instructors can begin by introducing two basic principles. The first is the principle of the centerline. Participants need to understand that speed, power and focus are most easily attained through the use of the centerline theory.

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The second principle involves rotation, torque and pivoting. Many women have no idea they can double or triple their striking power through body movement. Good self-defense instructors will take the time to show them how a simple rotation can produce maximum force.

Another vital concept is explosiveness. While martial artists are accustomed to yelling during workouts, most self-defense course participants would rather do almost anything than make those noises in a room full of people. Instructors need to take extra time to explain the necessity of the kihap.

Lastly, students need to understand the relationship between their breathing pattern and state of mind. They should practice slow, controlled breathing that will help them stay calm and, therefore, remain more effective in making rational decisions.


By the third class, participants should have a clear understanding of breathing patterns, body mechanics and explosiveness. It’s now appropriate to begin teaching the physical aspects of self-defense. Before instructors begin reviewing techniques with the class, though, they need to point out the most effective targets on the body.

A good teaching aid during this section of the program would be a page in the course manual illustrating the most effective targets on an attacker.


Teaching combative techniques can present the greatest challenge for instructors. To surmount this, a few rules should be followed to ensure students aren’t learning ineffective skills.

The first rule is to keep techniques simple and to the point. The second is to use realistic techniques so the participants don’t develop a false sense of security.

One of the greatest errors for instructors is making the material overly complicated. Many teachers want to show the most impressive techniques …

Improvised Self-Defense Weapons: How to Turn Everyday Objects to Your Advantage

Betty Jo is home alone, wearing her favorite flannel nightgown. She shuffles into her U-shaped kitchen and fixes herself a cup of Sweet Dreams tea. Suddenly, the kitchen door is kicked in and the prospect of sweet dreams turns into her worst nightmare. “Shut up! Shut the f*** up!” the hulking man spews as he closes in. Fearing for her life, Betty Jo backpedals in horror, becoming trapped in a corner. The attacker slaps and punches her, knocking her to the floor. … The rest of Betty Jo’s nightmare appears in the morning papers.

It didn’t have to be this way, however. Quick thinking, savage instincts, a surly survival mindset and some basic self-defense moves coupled with some improvised self-defense weapons could have turned her nightmare into his horror story.

Let’s replay this with a different ending, taking it from the moment the attacker enters: In spite of her terror, Betty Jo glances around, hunting for and maneuvering toward self-defense weapons of opportunity. She feigns weakness, pleading to buy time, but has already made up her mind: The only way out is through. Taking matters into her own hands, Betty Jo erupts like a fireball.

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She grabs a nearby metal colander and whips it at his eyes. He flinches, and by the time he recovers, she has already snatched the boiling pot of water from the stove and thrown it in his face. Backed up by all her might and a bellicose war cry, she slams her handy cast-iron pot cover into his mug.

As his hands reach for his pained face, she assails him with knee strikes. In spite of fearing his counterattack, the wonder drug of adrenaline propels Betty Jo into some fierce self-defense moves. She grabs her attacker by the hair, smashing him face-first onto her granite countertop. She kicks his legs out from under him, grabs a knife from the counter and bolts out the door.

The morning paper reads: Betty Jo Goes Ballistic! Serial Rapist in Prison Hospital!

My version is dramatic and idealized. I don’t mean to suggest that striking back is always the best or safest option, but it illustrates a crucial lesson: Self-defense moves are most effective when you can be adaptive. To be prepared, you must own your world and learn to transform everyday objects into self-defense weapons.

Self-Defense Weapons Always Depend on Being Ready to Execute Aggressive Self-Defense Moves

Today’s technology should work for us, right? Why “get physical” and ruin my makeup doing self-defense moves if I can zap a bad guy with my stun gun and make it to dinner on time?

However, relying too much on your firearm, pepper spray or device-du-jour is dangerous. Violence pops up when women least expect it. Your body and whatever is within arm’s reach is all you can count on in such situations.

Once you know how to use your body to generate power for self-defense moves and you possess resolve (the deep muscle that funds all acts of self-protection), a pen in your hand, junk on the street or a hallway fire extinguisher can become effective self-defense weapons when used against vulnerable targets.

However, even with a “weapon” in hand, never expect one strike or a surprise attack using improvised self-defense weapons — such as hot liquid in the face — to enable your escape. A pumped-up aggressor can take a lot of punishment, so get your mojo in gear and prepare to let loose!

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Improvised Self-Defense Weapons Are Everywhere!

Ballpoint Pen: This everyday writing tool can become a deadly weapon for self-defense moves when thrust into the soft tissue of the throat, under the jaw line or — in a life-and-death encounter — the eyes. The point also can be driven into a groin or “punched” into the thin-skinned back of a hand.

Sticklike Implements: Golf clubs, broomsticks and wine bottles, etc., can make great self-defense weapons because they can be thrust into vulnerable areas or used to strike (and bust) knees, hands or the head during intense self-defense moves. When held sideways, sticklike self-defense weapons (including umbrellas!) also can be rammed into a neck or face.

Self-defense weapons can be made from objects in a kitchen and used in fierce self-defense moves, says Melissa Soalt, the Black Belt Hall of Fame 2002 Woman of the Year.

How many objects in this kitchen could be used as a weapon? Practically all of them, according to Melissa Soalt, the Black Belt Hall of Fame 2002 Woman of the Year.

In the Kitchen: Choose from cutlery, pots and pans (a pot cover worn on the hand will add zing to any palm strike!), cutting boards or piping-hot coffee. A metal soup can, jar or ceramic mug can be struck into the temples …

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