The world is, and has always been, a dangerous place. It really doesn’t matter if you’re 4’9″ in high heels or 6’2″, any of us can find ourselves in a really bad situation without warning. Stupid self defense advice, though, will get you killed.
While men face their own particular challenges when it comes to violence, we women are usually far more vulnerable.
Why? Well, it comes down to “easier pickings”.
Take a look at me and my husband.
I’m five feet tall. While I am pudgy and cuddly now – 45 and a mother of 6 – I used to be just … tiny. I have a little rocking chair that my parents bought me as a toddler, and I could fit into it until after my second child.
He, on the other hand, works at a gravel yard and splits the shoulders out of his shirts all the time even though I buy him extra large. Our pastor described him to someone as “this huge beast of a man who squeezes into a tiny Echo because he ain’t got nothing to prove to no one.”
There’s no doubt he can saunter down almost any street (at least here in Canada), any time of the day or night, without worrying about his physical safety. He tends to look rather intimidating when you see him coming.
Me … not so much. For good reason, anyone with violent intent would see me as smaller, weaker and easier to overpower.
I’ve lived in low income, crime-ridden areas of several Canadian cities and one thing I learned was how to walk around without attracting that kind of attention.
And before you say “How violent can a Canadian city be?” … well, there was the time I called the police because a man was being beaten right outside my bedroom window in the late afternoon (yes, broad daylight), twice when people were shot in the next door apartment, and then there was the place I lived where the police patrolled twice a day to pick up the drug dealers. When my eldest son rented an apartment for the summer in an area where I used to live, two different people attempted to mug him in his first two weeks there. I have spent time around bikers and drug dealers and prostitutes – because they were my neighbours.
So perhaps it doesn’t reach the level of inner cities in the United States, but I haven’t always lived in safe little villages. (Today we do live in a safe, wonderful little village in rural Nova Scotia.)
And, because you probably realize I do a lot of research when I write these long posts, I checked with ex-military guys. (If you think I write without research because I’m just that brilliant, I’m so sorry to burst your bubble.)
In this article, you’ll learn 5 self-defense tips that will give you that added edge when it comes to defending yourself from would-be assailants and people who intend to do you harm … even if you’re a tiny little five foot tall munchkin like I am.
It’s always wise to look into self-defense training. There are professionals out there who will equip you with the skills you need in order to face and deal with immediate danger. That is, in fact, the first suggestion I was given regarding how women could keep themselves safe.
Table of Contents
No matter where you are, you should be in constant awareness of your surroundings.
This is especially important if you are in an isolated place, if it’s really dark, or if it’s late at night. Of course it’s best to minimize these situations, but they can’t always be avoided. If you’ve had a late night at the office and you’re heading to your car, walk with confidence and scan your surroundings as you approach the vehicle.
Criminals want weak prey. Very rarely are they interested in someone who will fight back. Most of them, bullies at heart, can instinctively feel when a woman might be just too much for them to handle.
So walk confidently, with a full awareness of everything around you, and give off an air of toughness.
More specifically, do not bury your head in your cell phone and briskly walk to your car without knowing what’s going on around you. Keep your head up and move your gaze around purposefully but not fearfully. Don’t let anyone take you by surprise. Even a few seconds of awareness before an attack can give you an edge.
This is the place where your strong self-confidence and plenty of practice (in safe settings) will do you well.
Despite precautions, you are cornered and are about to get raped or robbed or worse. There’s no knight in shining armour coming to save you, so it’s all up to you. The first and most important thing to remember is that you must always remain in control of the situation.
You’re reading this, so I know you’re not a weakling who will give up. You have a survival instinct so use it.
If a stranger approaches you and your ‘spidey sense’ goes off, act on it. Immediately raise your voice and tell them to back off. That is literally all you need to say – “Back OFF!” Don’t worry about attracting attention.
Or rather, aim to attract attention.
Most criminals do not want you to draw any attention to them since the public or police might step in to help. Would you not rather deal with ‘What’s your problem, lady? I’m just walking to my car!’ than to be attacked?
So don’t make it easier for an attacker.
Anyone approaching you in a vulnerable setting, especially if your instincts set off alarms, is up to no good. Trust your instincts and take control.
This applies whether you’re going to be robbed or attacked. The first minute or so will immediately set the stage as to how the rest of the encounter will turn out.
If the criminal has a weapon and all he wants to do is rob you, toss your purse or belongings on the ground. Do NOT give it to him. This is another way of maintaining control of the situation. By tossing the items on the ground, the robber will be forced to quickly bend and pick them up if his intention is to only rob you. Do not fight over the contents of your purse. They are replaceable but you are not.
This will give you the chance to escape. Do NOT resist a robbery. Let them have your possessions and do everything you can to get out of there with your life intact.
Let the police track them down later.
I found it interesting that this advice is provided by the Canadian government for travelers. The official advice is to give your wallet, purse or possessions to the criminal and do everything in your power to get away.
Hit First and Hit Hard
The situation has escalated and you have realized that the goal is not your wallet but your person.
The aggressor intends to rape or assault you.
Things are going to get ugly, and you had better be prepared for it. In this situation, you MUST hit first and hit hard.
Yes, I know, it doesn’t seem fair.
It doesn’t seem nice.
But think on this – you are a woman, already at a physical disadvantage, and an aggressive man is clearly planning to harm you. In most cases, he is bigger and stronger and he obviously has a violent intent.
This is one important reason to get proper self-defense training. If you think that you will ever be in a situation like this, in which the aggressor wants more than just your wallet, it’s important to get proper training. A course like that will teach you palm heel strikes, eye gouges, knees to the groin, etc. These techniques are highly effective and do not require a lot of strength to execute.
Now, I’ve checked with some people who know this things, and I’ve been assured that traditional martial arts are not what you need.
Karate and Taekwondo are only effective if you are really good. Most of us who are not likely to delve deeply into the art should look into Krav Maga, Eskrima, Close Combat Training, Systema, and martial arts in that vein. They are geared less towards the spiritual and more towards the brutal reality of self-defense.
In fact, martial arts like Eskrima will teach you defense against edged weapons, and you will learn dirty fighting techniques that let you take down opponents who are larger than you are.
Let’s face it – you need every advantage you can get.
There is no time to jump around and spar with your opponent. In a serious situation like this, you need to be fast, brutal and efficient. The goal is to quickly cause just enough damage to hurt your opponent so that they stop the assault and you can run off to safety.
The first step was to try and prevent the situation so that you can remain safe. The second was to give them your purse or belongings so they do not assault you and you can get away. The third step is to cause just enough damage that they stop and you can get to safety.
The goal is always escape.
Eighty percent of self-defense is running away. The other twenty percent is knowing when to fight and when to hide.
Whatever techniques you learn, remember to practice them, focusing on repetition until the moves are seared into your muscle memory. When needed, the moves will be second nature to you and your body will react on its own. Years ago, a boyfriend of mine decided to pin me down and tickle me. It was a bad move because my brain interpreted it as an attack and I had long ago learned to defend myself without thought. I felt very bad about hurting him, but he knew not to do it again.
Let me state up front – I am NOT in favour of weapons unless a) they are legal in your area and b) you are extremely educated in using the weapon in high-stress situations. If all of your shooting has been in a shooting range with earmuffs on, and you haven’t practiced keeping possession of your firearm, then I don’t care how many bulls-eyes you’ve hit, leave that thing at home.
If your legal weapon of choice is pepper spray, knives, Tasers or something else entirely, make sure that you know how to use it properly and that it is quickly accessible. Most dangerous situations escalate quickly. Pepper spray in the dashboard of your car is going to be useless in pretty much any situation.
“Hold on a second. I need to find my … ah, there it is!”
Be sure to practice holding onto your weapon during an attack. Unfortunately, weapons are far too often seized by the assailant. No one is going to use my knees, elbows, teeth, fingernails and the hard back of my skull against me.
Never Go to a Secondary Location
Sometimes you’re stuck with your assailant. What I mean is, you might be working a late night at a store. A man runs into the store to rob you. You can’t avoid the situation, so go to step two – give him all of the money or items that he wants. Presumably there are security cameras.
If he threatens you and tells you to follow him to the store room at the back or anywhere else, he’s trying to get you into a secondary location.
NEVER comply. Never, under any circumstances, should you comply with this demand.
There is absolutely no good that can come from going to a secondary location. The only reason he wants to get you somewhere more secluded is so he can assault or kill you without risk of being interrupted or seen.
There are two ways to handle this, according to experts I’ve spoken with.
You could try talking your assailant down. Appeal to his better nature and tell him to take the money and leave. Make it very clear that you have no intention of following him to a more secluded spot where he can hurt you without being seen. Most of the time, he will leave. Time is being wasted and that increases the chances that he will be caught.
If that is not an option, and if he insists, the only option is fighting. Remember what we said before about hitting first and hitting hard?
If you make the choice to fight (and if you are pacifist in all situations, perhaps you would choose not to), you must be brutal, ruthless and a force to be reckoned with.
Throw whatever items you can find at him.
Use anything you can grab as a weapon to distract him, to get his attention off you, and to get him immobilized long enough to get away.
Don’t worry about his weapon. I know that seems like a crazy thing to say but the plain and honest truth is this – if he gets you to the secondary location, you are probably not coming out alive. At least if you fight back like the love child of a honey badger and a Tasmanian devil, you have a change. Fight like your life depends on it in this situation, because it does.
This isn’t a boxing match. There aren’t Queensbury rules and a referee to scold you for breaking them. This is life or death, and your life is worth fighting for.
Too many of us – men and women, but mostly women – believe that violence only happens to other people. Don’t make this mistake. If you are prepared, then a would-be assault and potential murder can be turned into a simple robbery, or a robbery can be deterred entirely.
When you become ‘other people’, you can still avoid becoming a murder statistic.