Intro to Self Defense for Women

A burglary occurs every 12 seconds, an assault occurs every 29 seconds, a rape occurs every 5 minutes, and a murder occurs every 24 minutes. The majority of us know someone, know of someone or ourselves have either been physically confronted or felt “unsafe” at some point in our life. We like to think it will never happen to us, but at some point in your life you may feel unsafe or may be confronted in a physical situation where you may have to defend yourself. I’m not an advocate for teaching women to become “paranoid” about their safety, but I am a huge supporter of women and girls knowing the basics of self defense. I’ve been fortunate to have trained in the martial arts for the past 7 years. I have been teaching for the past 3 years and this blog is an opportunity for me to pass on some basics for the ladies out there!

First and foremost, as important as it is for you to be prepared it’s also important not to live your life in constant fear of what might happen. After all, lots of things might happen. I could get hit by a bus, get in a car accident, or trip down the stairs. But I’m not going to stop walking on the street, stop driving a car, or never take the stairs for fear that something could happen. The same applies to your personal safety. You must be able to assess your situation, the area you are in, the potential risk. Otherwise, telling ladies to always look under your car for a potential attacker, to not travel alone, and to carry mace with you everywhere you go results in living your life ruled by fear and, in my opinion, that’s no way to “live” your life!

The first key component to defending yourself has to do with how you carry yourself and your own personal confidence. Do you look like you are afraid that someone might jump out at you at any moment, staring straight ahead at your destination? Or, do you carry yourself with confidence and are you observant of your surroundings? For many of us that confidence may come in knowing that we could execute a few basic moves that may make the difference in our own personal safety. In this blog entry I’ll cover a couple of basic techniques: Being able to release yourself from someone grabbing your wrist and from someone grabbing you in a “bear hug.”

Wrist ReleaseWrist Release. How would you react if someone came up and grabbed you by the wrist, trying to drag you with them? Our first reaction is typically to dig in and pull in the opposite direction. But with my hand in a fist, tugging against their grip, all I give the attacker is a great handle to hold onto that will be very difficult for the average-sized woman to break free of against a male attacker who could outweigh you by 30+ pounds! The weak point in the grip is the place where the thumb meets the middle and index finger. Opening your hand big expands the muscles in the wrist just enough to allow wiggle room. Rotating your hand and shifting your body to leverage your weight, turn your hand so the skinniest part of your wrist is pointed at the place where the attacker’s fingers come together. You will be able to slide your hand through that weak point. Drop your weight into a quick yank in the process and use a loosener, as I’ll discuss in a minute, and you can escape from the grip of even a really big man.

Bear Hug Release. This is when an attacker comes up from behind you and “hugs” you in an effort to pick you up and take you with them. We teach this to our kids in the dojo as it’s a common method for picking up a little person. Again, we’ll apply a loosener and then forcefully drop our weight down like we are sitting into a chair. Shoot your hands out in front of you simultaneously. As your drive your rear back with force this will hit right to the groin level on many men. The hands shooting forward loosens their grip around your arms. I can tell you that the first time I learned this I practiced on my husband without thinking exactly where my rear was going to strike him! Yes, it did the job just fine.

Looseners. Anything we can do to get an attacker to loosen their grip is referred to as a loosener. Stomp on their feet. If you’re wearing heals, great — drive your heel into the top of their foot or scrape it up their shin. Drive a fist or a knee into their groin. Women's Self Defense LoosenersDrive the heel of your palm to their nose. Fingernails make a great tool for scratching face and eyes and if it comes to it, skin cells under your nails can become key DNA evidence. Keys in your hand can protrude from your knuckles to gouge at eyes and scrape the body. I had a young teen girl in one of my recent women’s self defense classes tell me that scratching is so “girly.” Well, when it comes to my life or theirs, believe me — I’ll scratch. There’s nothing too girly when it comes to your life ladies!

In my time teaching women’s self defense, the one thing I would tell all women is to get some sort of training. At my dojo we offer personalized programs and some 6-week specialized training programs as well. Reading about a technique is not the same as actually trying it with other students. I’m always surprised by the reactions I get from ladies trying a technique for the first time on a bag, on a person, or on an instructor in a red-man suit. It’s a foreign sensation for many to actually strike something, yet that is what will matter most in a real life situation. Find an instructor, practice hitting pads, and practice a lot. No number of techniques can help you if they haven’t been practiced enough to come out on their own when your life may be at risk. After all, your attacker isn’t going to pause while you try to recall how to do a technique. The force it takes to strike a person with intention, the feeling of the recoil when contact is made, how hard a man can actually grip you are all things that you can’t anticipate.

In the art, we often say that repetition is the mother and consistency is the father of our training. A technique may be practiced hundreds and hundreds of times before it might become a “natural” response in sparring. Don’t underestimate the value in training.


April 05, 2012 at 7:09 am


GREAT blog! My 6th grade teacher and gymnastics coach had a black-belt in karate and gave us all self-defense training. She taught us all the same things you discuss and more (which I’m sure you do in your classes as well). The techniques really do work! I’ve started teaching them to my own kids because they, like their mom, are very small for their ages and I don’t want them to appear vulnerable. Keep up the great work!

Jody - Fit at 54

April 05, 2012 at 11:56 am

Love this post & living where I do, yes, we all have to be aware…. great workout too & stress relief too! 😉

Jill Robinson

April 13, 2012 at 11:48 am

This is so helpful! Thank you for spending the time to explain it all.


December 05, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Grateful for this tutorial. It was very eye opening and it helped me alot!

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