It's a harsh truth, but sometimes women need to protect themselves from violence. The world is often not a scary place, and it's definitely not our responsibility or our job to "avoid" being hurt. But if bad situations happen, it's best to be prepared — whether it's a mugging, an assault, or just somebody crossing the line and needing to be kept away from you. But it doesn't have to be difficult; there are easy steps to learn without needing a firearm or mace to keep yourself safe.
And it's not only the practical knowledge that will help you out. A study from the University of Oregon shows that women who know some self-defense, even if it's just a local course or some moves they've practiced on their own, are significantly less likely to be harassed — most likely, the scientists theorized, because they help women in threatening situations feel confident and stand their ground, knowing that they have some knowledge on their side. A confident woman staring you down? That's scary as hell.
So here's your basic guide to self-defense 101. This is meant to be a starting point; if you want proper training, find a special self-defense class in your area (there are often ones aimed specifically at women).
1. Use This Basic Jiu-Jitsu Unconsciousness Move
This is a pretty excellent move if the assailant is in a position to let you hold his or her neck. Grab either side of his collar with your hands, like in the video above, and roll your palms inwards: it'll knock them out by restricting blood flow to the brain. Good one to know.
2. Aim For Eyes, Nose, Throat And Knee
These are the most vulnerable places on a person. Going for the groin might seem like a very action-hero move, but making somebody leave you alone is more likely to happen if you get them in a place that physically hurts. Knees will cause them to buckle, though shins are all right too; a hand hard up into the nose will probably break it; if you've got a knife or other weapon, aim for the neck; and eyes are pretty self-explanatory. An elbow-hit to the throat is also a pretty damn good way to tell somebody to go away.
3. Get Out Of Their Grip
This is a great way to get out of a grip if somebody's got you by the wrist: move your wrist around so that it's palm-face down, and then pull it out from the weak part where their fingers and thumb meet. You may have to pull very hard, so don't worry if it doesn't work first time.
4. Throw Something Over Their Heads
This is something I learned at a very basic level as a small child: if your assailant isn't armed, throw something over their head so they can't see. It's only a temporary measure, but it might give you a second to flee or come up with another place to hit.
5. Make A Lot Of Noise
Screaming is a good move. Shouting "NO NO NO," drawing attention, and otherwise making a huge scene is going to do two things: startle your attacker, and make other people aware of the situation. Both are to your advantage. But don't do this first: you have little time to act when assaults happen, and the best first act is to cause an injury.
6. Use Your Elbows And Head, Not Your Fists
Your elbows and head won't crumple and you can put a lot of force behind them when hitting somebody. They also hurt like hell. Use your knees instead of your feet, too; this is not a football game, get dirty. If you do use your fist, don't curl your thumb inside it — that's a good way to break it on impact.
7. Check Out Ways To Get Out Of Common Holds
Lifehacker has a great series of videos on how to get out of common holds and grabs, from being held from behind to being pinned from above. All are completely possible even if you're a pint-sized woman; all that's required is fighting spirit.
8. Use What You've Got Around You
A keyring is a pretty good weapon in a pinch. Put it in the palm of your hand, place all the keys between your fingers, and use it as a knuckle-duster. It'll inflict serious damage. If you can't grab them, use whatever's around you — cutlery, cans, umbrellas, even a newspaper — as a weapon if it's easy to reach and will help you out. The body's fight-or-flight response actually makes you pretty sensitized to the weapon capabilities of items around you; use it.
9. Use Your Heels As Foot-Stompers
If you're wearing them, a stiletto heel through a foot is a pretty effective way to get somebody to leave you alone. No further elaboration needed.
10. Keep The Fancy Moves For The Gym
This is the time for fighting on instinct. Don't worry about hitting high or doing that great thing you learned in the karate class you took once. Unless you're highly trained, use your body weight against them, claw and kick, and be as animalistic as possible. Biting and scratching are totally ligit.
11. Focus On Hitting Hard, Not Hitting Often
The point of fighting back (and you should fight back rather than just try to be self-protective) is to get your attacker to go away — so focus your strength on hitting as hard as possible in the time that you have. Many small attacks and jabs may not be as effective as one massive one that gives them a shock.