Humans have an instinctive ability to use physical force to defend ourselves—skills that have evolved over many thousands of years of survival. But there are some basic principles you can practice that will increase the effectiveness of any physical self defense you might need to employ. Generally, we want to use a hard weapon to strike a soft target on the body
1. First, familiarize yourself with the best targets. The human body is full of vulnerable areas, but we’ll focus on the easiest ones to remember and reach. Stand in front of a mirror, or look at someone else, and identify each of the following:
2. Next, try forming some of the natural weapons you have available to you:
- Fingers/fingernails: Rake your fingernails across at eye level, from one side to another. Raking downward works too!
- Palm heel: Pull back your fingers and thrust forward with the bottom half of your palm. This is a great strike to throw upward into the bottom of someone’s jaw, beneath the chin.
- Hammerfist: Make a tight fist and drop the butt end of it–the pinkie and outer edge of your palm–into your other palm, as if you’re hammering in a nail. This weapon works great against an opponent’s nose or throat, and you can also swing it sideways into the temple.
- Knee: Knee kicks are especially good if your opponent is already holding on to you, because he’ll provide you with extra stability. The groin and midsection are good targets. If your opponent is bent over, a knee to the face can be devastating.
- Heel: Stomping down onto the instep or toes can cause a lot of damage to the small bones of the foot, disabling your opponent.
This video runs through the basic targets and weapons in the first 1:20, and then you can watch me beat up my husband Scott for a while.
You might want to try out some of these weapons on a pillow or a soft piece of furniture. Go easy–in a real fight, you’d be willing to damage your fingers a little to get away, but there’s no need to do that when you’re just practicing.
For the rest of the week, take an opportunity once or twice a day to identify the targets on a person near you. If you’re sitting next to someone on the bus, consider: Which targets would be easiest to reach? Which weapons might you use? Try to identify at least three potential targets on their body. For self defense, remember: if you can’t reach the target you want, strike any target. The key to success is to continue striking and causing damage until you can get away safely.
By Friday, you should be much more aware of the options available to you in a physical confrontation, and better able to think strategically about what you’d need to do to escape an attacker. You may also find that this skill helps you in less drastic circumstances. For example, visualizing targets on another person can be a good way to calm yourself down in a tense situation. It will remind you that the other person is really quite vulnerable. Focusing on their vulnerability rather than your own anger can help de-escalate the conflict.
Let’s use the next five days to make ourselves safer and more powerful! Check in below in the comments to share how things are going—or Tweet your responses to @SusanSchorn, hashtag #FearLessFridays. You can find all the FearLess Fridays activities on the main page.