Learning how to defend yourself is essential to your survival skills, no matter who you are. You’re never really safe if you don’t know at least some basic self-defense moves. Whether you’re in a tactical situation or not, danger is often closer than you think. You never know when you may come across a bar brawler, robber, rapist, or other person who wants to hurt you.

Arming yourself doesn’t always mean you’re safe. When you notice an unarmed attacker, it’s usually too late to pull out your gun, disengage the safety, take aim, and pull the trigger. Before you get the chance to shoot, they’re already hitting you. As a rule of thumb, 21 feet is the minimum distance you need to shoot someone coming at you. However, this varies depending on the person and situation.


Man in camo aiming a gun


While you may have more time to use a stun gun or pepper spray, the risk is still big that the attacker would get to you before you had a chance to use it. This will catch you off-guard as you’re readying your weapon.

A knife or baton in a tactical belt may save you, but what about those situations where you’re not in gear and have no weapon in reach? For example, what do you do in case of a sudden home invasion? This is why it’s worth repeating that, no matter who you are, you’re never really prepared if you don’t know proper self-defense.


Prevention is the Best Defense

When it comes to staying safe from harm, nothing beats preventing the potential harmful situations. Self-defense techniques and weapons are important, but it’s best if you don’t have to use them. Avoiding direct confrontation is the first step toward good self-defense.

The typical perpetrator looks for easy targets who they think can’t fight back very well. There are some simple adjustments you can make to avoid putting yourself in situations where you look like a suitable victim.



First of all, attackers like to wait until the target is distracted. When you stop to open a door or get in your car, that’s when they tend to strike. If you fumble for your keys, they’ll have plenty of time to strike while you’re distracted. It’s best to keep your keys in your hand as you walk toward the door. This way you reduce the time it takes, and you can also use the keys as a weapon.

Always look around before you approach the door to make sure there’s nobody following you. Keep the light on outside your home, and always park in a well-lit place.

Some attackers stalk their target for a long time in order to learn when and where they’re vulnerable. For this reason, it’s important to avoid taking the same route every time. If your path is predictable, the attacker can ambush you with ease. Make sure to avoid dark alleys, wooded areas, and places where few people walk. Try to stick to places with many people as much as possible.


Crowded city street


If you need to cross a risky area, don’t wear anything expensive in a visible spot. The less an attacker thinks he can get out of attacking you, the less likely it is that he would. Last but not least, if you feel threatened, run. Don’t hesitate. Flight is the best line of defense in most cases. Unless you see a gun pointed straight at you, run right away.

General Self-Defense Tips

Sometimes a confrontation is unavoidable. When push comes to shove, you need to be prepared. Before diving into specific moves, it’s best to get a decent understanding of the basics of close combat. These are some basic tactics that will improve your chances of successful self-defense regardless of your fighting proficiency.



The first thing to do when under attack is to shout and scream. This will startle the attacker and can give you an opportunity to flee or strike. A battle cry will release the tension that could otherwise make you freeze up. It will increase your energy and courage.

It’s also a call for help, letting people know that you’re in need and where you are. This deters attackers, they don’t want to draw attention to the crime. Many times, this will scare the attacker away.


Use Your Knees, Elbows, and Forehead

Many people think of fighting as a flurry of punches and kicks, nothing else. This is far from effective self-defense. Hands and feet are full of sensitive ligaments that often get damaged when fighting. Not to mention all that fleshy padding that softens blows. You won’t always have the space or angles that allow for good kicks or punches either.

Bony knees and elbows can inflict more damage, and they work well when the opponent is too close for a solid punch. These hard, pointy weapons let you put more pressure on weak spots. And they can cause a cut in your adversary’s face, which can in turn blind him with his own blood. Your forehead can smash an opponent’s face or break an incoming fist without taking any real damage.


Closeup of a man’s forehead


Various Objects can Double as Weapons

Think of the personal items you carry around. Which ones can you use to hurt an attacker? Make this mental connection so you’re prepared to use them if you’re attacked when you don’t have any real weapons.

Keys and pens make scary weapons if you hold them between your fingers. Whenever you feel unsafe, hold a sharp item like this so you’re prepared if something happens. Look around you for items you could wield as weapons. Rocks, planks, and pipes are perfect examples.


Blind the Attacker

Pepper spray isn’t the only way to blind an enemy. More or less any kind of spray will do this job. Once again, keep it ready in your hand whenever you feel unsafe. If you have nothing to spray, you can grab some sand or dust off the ground and throw it in your attacker’s face. An attacker with a hat or scarf gives you another opportunity to block his vision. Pull it over his eyes, then run or knock him out.


The Most Effective Body Parts to Hit

If you have to fight, you need to hit the attacker where it counts. This is more important than which attack you choose. You only have a brief moment to attack before your enemy gets full control. You want to inflict as much pain and stall as much as possible while retaining as much energy as you can. Aim to cause an injury so you can flee without being followed. Don’t hesitate, it’s hurt or get hurt. This is why striking at the weakest spots is the most important aspect of effective self-defense.

Aim for the nose, eyes, ears, or throat with your strikes. Or kick his knees and groin with your legs. Knees and toes are excellent targets because they’re difficult to guard and very sensitive to pain.


Weak areas of the body to aim for

Image via Combatical.com


You have plenty of weak spots to choose from, so don’t focus too much on hitting a particular one. See which one is unguarded and within your reach from the current position. If you can kick him in the knee, don’t step in to hit his face. Go for whichever spot seems the safest for you in the moment.

Since most attackers you may face are men, aim for the groin. They say there is no pain like a kick to the crotch. The impact will stun and blind your enemy for a few moments, and he’ll often bend or fall over with pain. Even female attackers are weak against crotch kicks, so don’t hesitate.

Now let’s look at some specific and very useful self-defense techniques.


Self-Defense Techniques for Breaking Out of Holds

Learning to break free from the clutches of an enemy is the most important aspect of self-defense training. First of all, because you can neither strike nor flee when you’re pinned down or held up.

The second reason is the fact that grabbing and grappling is such a common way of attack. A perpetrator trying to abduct a victim or force them into submission will often run up from behind and grab the victim. Street fights and bar brawls also take to the ground more often than not.

Without a way to defend against these strategies, you’ll be helpless when an attacker grabs you. So you need to learn the following basic escape moves.


Escaping a Wrist Hold

If someone grabs your wrist, your most likely first reaction is to try to pull your arm away. This does not work, and it will give your enemy an opportunity to use your momentum and get even more control over you.

The key to breaking free is exploiting the weakest part of the grip. The space between the thumb and index finger is the weak spot you need to exploit. You achieve this by rotating your arm to align the narrow side of your forearm with the space. Now push your arm forward and bend it with a quick, jerking motion. Pull with your hip to ensure sufficient power.

No matter how strong the attacker’s grip is, there’s not enough friction to prevent you from twisting and yanking your arm free this way. And as your arm slides forward, the increasing width of your arm will force his grip to open. Try it on yourself to get a better understanding.

Breaking free like this will often surprise your enemy for a moment and give you a chance to attack a weak spot.


Choke Defense

If your enemy gets you into a choke hold, don’t try to pull his arms away. You won’t succeed, especially not against a bigger enemy. There are other things you can do which will get you free.

If your attacker is in front of you, choking you with his hands, it won’t be too hard. Put one of your hands on the attacker’s throat and push it hard. Pull your neck away from your attacker as you drive your fingers into his throat. The pain should make your adversary flinch and give you a chance to break free.

If you can’t reach the attacker’s throat, grab his thumbs. Hook your fingers and thumbs and try to get them in between the attacker’s thumbs and your neck. If you can’t, try plucking his thumbs instead. Meanwhile, kick his legs or groin, or stomp his toes. This will throw off his focus and make it easier to pull his thumbs off your throat.

If the attacker is choking you with his arms from a different angle, things will be harder. The same general rule applies though, don’t try to pull the arms away. Find the weakest part and attack it. Try to reach his fingers and break them. Bite anything that’s in biting distance. Stomp his feet and try to drive your heel into his groin.

You need to act fast. It only takes around 5 seconds after you start running out of oxygen and getting weaker. If you don’t use enough force at once, the attacker can render you unconscious with ease.


Bear Hug Breakout

The bear hug is a common attack, especially when a man attacks a woman. The attacker wraps his arms around the victim’s arms and torso, often from behind. This pins the arms down and makes it hard to move. It’s difficult to break free from the bear hug if you’re not prepared, but there are ways.


Man bear hugging an opponent

Image via YouTube.com


Instead of trying to pry the arms off, which is a futile effort, the trick is to drop down. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, it makes it harder for the attacker to lift you. It also gives you better access to his knees, shins, and groin area.

Make yourself difficult to control. Squirm as much as possible, try to wiggle your body free, kick and bite whenever there’s an opportunity. Imagine a cat that’s about to get a bath, and mimic its instinctual actions. Sink down lower, flail, and make yourself impossible to control.


Mount position

The mount is when you’re on your back and your enemy straddles your body. This is probably the worst position you could find yourself in. It’s a dangerous position where the attacker has many opportunities to strike, choke you, or worse. It’s also a very hard position to escape, especially if the attacker pins your arms down. The heavier the opponent, the harder it gets.

However, it is possible to escape. And learning how to do this is perhaps the most valuable self-defense lesson you can get. First, it’s good to know some basic tips.

You won’t be able to push your opponent off. The position is in his favor, you can’t push him off. Striking or choking the attacker will also mean working against gravity, while he has gravity on his side. You’ll lose that way. While guarding your face is a good idea, you can’t keep it up for long.

Thanks to wrestling and jiu-jitsu, people have found a number of ways to break free from this devastating position. The following video shows you one effective way that works even if your enemy is a lot bigger than you.

These are some of the common holds you may find yourself in during a fight. The techniques and principles you’ve learned here can also help you get out of many other holds. Keep in mind that the theory of grappling and breaking free is only part of learning to defend yourself, you also need to practice until it comes naturally. Find someone to practice with, and you’ll be prepared if, one day, a scumbag grabs you or pins you down.

Once you’re free from a hold, the best thing to do is to run. It’s safer than trying to finish the fight. Also, keep in mind that in society, you’ll be guilty of aggravated assault if you keep fighting your attacker after incapacitating him. Unless you’re in a lawless environment, you risk having to go to court.


Striking Moves for Self-Defense

Techniques for breaking free came first because being held down is the most dangerous situation. In a good self-defense scenario, it shouldn’t come to that. With the right attacks, you can keep your opponent at a distance, or break his hold before he completes it. So the next thing to learn is a combination of moves that inflict pain and incapacitate enemies.


The Knee Kick

Also known as low kick, the knee is a perfect target in a self-defense target. It’s vulnerable from all angles, it’s difficult to guard, and you don’t risk having your foot grabbed. A kick to the side of the knee can cause injury and serious pain. The biggest advantage of this kick, however, is how it will throw off the opponent’s balance and may cause him to fall. A kick to the back of the knee is less harmful but more likely to make the enemy collapse and fall on his back.

A kick to the front of the knee will cause extreme pain and a high risk of breaking the leg. To achieve this, use a front kick. Push the sole of your foot with plenty of force toward the attacker’s knee cap. Aim to kick through it. After a successful hit, you’re free to run away because the attacker won’t be able to follow.


Two men practicing knee kick with pad

Image via YouTube.com


Another thing that makes knee kicks so effective is that there’s little need for precision. The whole area around the knee is one of the most fragile parts of a standing human body. If your kick lands close to the knee, it’s effective. The shin is also very sensitive to pain and easy to break.


The Nose Buster

Humans, like many animals, have a massive weak spot on the face. Very sensitive, fragile, and jutting out, the nose is a primary target in most fights. A good blow to the nose can stun and blind an enemy for a moment, impair their breathing, and blind him with blood. A hard enough blow can be lethal.

However, going for the nose with a fist is unwise. The face is harder than the fist, and punching someone in the face often leads to hand injuries. There are instincts that guard our noses from incoming blows, and a fist coming toward it will usually end up on the hard, bony forehead. This spells torn knuckles for the thrower of the punch.

Instead, drive your palm forward and upward. Put your body weight into it, as if you were throwing a mighty uppercut punch. When the heel of your hand connects with the attacker’s nasal bone, he’ll be unable to fight for at least a few seconds. If he’s holding you, this will loosen his grip. If you landed a good hit, he’ll be knocked out for a while, or at least rendered unfit to fight well enough to stand a chance.


Man holding his nose with fingers in obvious pain


If your opponent attacks you from the back or side, try to break his nose with your elbow or the back of your fist. While the upward strike is the most effective against the nose, a sideways strike is also very effective.


Striking the Neck

People tend to overlook the neck when it comes to fighting. It’s a great target with multiple weak spots. The sides of the human neck make big targets that you’ll have no difficulty hitting with the side of your hand. The jugular vein and carotid artery both pass here, and a knife hand strike to one of these will stun your enemy for a while.

The knife hand strike, or karate chop, is when you hold all your fingers straight and hit with the side of the hand. The vagus nerve is vulnerable right below the ear. Hitting it in this manner will cause immense pain and muscle spasms. A hard blow can knock an enemy out or even kill him.

While the front is better guarded and harder to hit, it’s a very good target. A punch, chop, or elbow to the throat can end the fight in an instant. In addition to the pain, the adversary will find it hard to breathe. This is a perfect opportunity to run away or land a finishing blow.


The Ear Slap

This unorthodox move has incredible stopping power and it’s very simple. Cup your hand and swing for the attacker’s ear. The impact sends an air blast into the enemy’s ear, increasing the pressure that has nowhere else to go. This causes extreme pain and disorientation, in part due to the fact that the inner ear is responsible for balance. A blow like this can knock the opponent out.

The pressure can pop the ear drum. If you use both hands and clap the ears together, the buildup of pressure inside the enemy’s head can cause serious damage. It’s unlikely, however, that this opportunity would appear in a self-defense scenario. It’s best to use this move to stun the attacker and flee while he’s dizzy.


Man holding his ear in pain

Image via Medicalnewstoday.com


Go for the Eyes

While it may sound scary and exaggerated, this move is very useful in survival situations. Remember, it’s harm or be harmed. The eyes are perhaps the most serious weak spot of all, and if a person attacks you, it’s wise to exploit it.

Punching, scratching, or poking the enemy’s eyes will help you out a lot. Forget that it’s a scary thing or a dirty trick, none of that matters when you risk getting killed or raped. If you need to gouge an attacker’s eyes for an easy escape, do it. The pain and blindness will make it very hard for your enemy to fight or follow you. So you have more or less won the moment you apply this technique.


The Knee Thrust

If your attacker gets up close to grab or choke you, a knee thrust is the perfect response. You have access to multiple weak spots, the most important ones being the solar plexus and the groin. If you’ve never taken a blow to the solar plexus, you’ll be amazed at how crippling this weak spot can be. You’ll find it where the ribcage divides, below the sternum.

If you don’t believe there’s a major weak spot there, try pushing on your own. Now imagine if that gentle push was replaced by a forceful knee thrust. That’s enough to stun most people for a while. And the effect increases if you hit it again. You don’t need perfect aim; the spot is big enough to hit. And even if you miss, a knee to the liver or the guts will also be effective.

After a knee to the groin or solar plexus, your enemy is likely to bend down as a reflex. This is when another knee thrust, this time to the face, becomes the perfect way to end the battle.


The Perfect Headbutt

As mentioned earlier, the thick bones of your forehead can serve as a great weapon. The best way to do this is to catch the attacker off guard and smash his face with it. Grab the attacker’s shirt collar or his shoulders, push him back then pull him toward you. This will get him off balance and open up his upper body. As you pull him toward you, turn your head down and look at the ground.


Display of strongest part of head for head butt

Image via YouTube.com


His nose and other sensitive parts of his face will collide with the thick, hard bone of your skull. I’m sure you can predict the outcome of this.


Defensive Self-Defense Moves

While attack is often the best line of defense, defensive maneuvers are crucial for self-defense and being a good fighter. In addition to avoiding or reducing the impact of incoming attacks, a good defensive move will open the enemy up for your attacks.


Proper Fighting Stance

A solid fighting stance is essential to good self-defense. This has a few different purposes. First of all, it puts you in a position that makes it easier for you to attack, dodge and defend. It also makes you more stable and puts parts of you out of your opponent’s reach.

Start by standing with your legs about hip-width apart. Now put one leg forward and turn your trunk a bit toward it. Most people put their non-dominant leg forward, but it’s up to you. Raise the front foot onto its toes. Now raise your hands up in front of your face, keep them half-open. Tuck your chin a bit to defend against throat punches and uppercuts.

Your front hand will block attacks and throw jabs to open up the enemy’s defense. Your front leg will deal front kicks and block incoming low kicks. The back leg and arm are what you’ll use for more powerful attacks. Twist your body to put more power into your power punches and kicks. Push with your back foot when you throw a hard punch.


Display of proper punching stance for the most force

Image via Wikihow.com


Dodging and Parrying

Dodging will not only reduce the amount of pain you feel, it will also help open your enemy up to attacks and drain his energy. Swaying or jumping to the side is the most effective way to dodge attacks. If the attacker puts a lot of force into the attack and you dodge, he may overshoot and fall. If he doesn’t, you can use the momentum to put him down. At the very least, you’ll be behind or beside him, which gives you an advantage.

When your opponent throws a punch, sway to the side and, if possible, grab his forearm. Then follow up with a strike to the nose or temple with your free hand. Practice this sequence until you’ve got it down, this will improve your self-defense ability a lot. If your enemy attacks with a blade or club of some kind, this maneuver is crucial for disarming him.

If the attacker gets too close, raise your hand in front of your face to block incoming punches with your hand and forearm. Use both hands if necessary, and let your legs do the striking. If you get the opportunity, seize his forearm. This gives you more control.

If your enemy tries to kick you, use your front leg to block it. Sometimes you need to lift your leg, this will also help reduce harm to your knee.


The Forehead Shield

Inexperienced fighters tend to initiate a brawl by throwing a punch toward the opponent’s face. This is a big mistake. All you need to do in that situation is dip your head, and the punch will land on the thick part of your forehead. This will hurt the attacker’s hand, often injuring the finger joints. This will stun him for a moment, and any time he punches with that hand it will hurt more.

When you’ve caught a punch with your forehead, counter with a punch to the gut or a knee to the groin. If your opponent staggers backward, knock him over or attack his jaw from below to knock him out. If he bends forward, kick him in the face or hit him in the back of the head.


Back of a man’s head

Image via Reference.com


Self-Defense Takedowns and Holds

You may not always be able to run away or knock your opponent out. Especially if you’ve been injured during the fight. And in a tactical scenario, you may sometimes need to subdue an attacker without causing injury or death. That’s why learning a few ways to hold your opponent down or force him into submission is important for your self-defense abilities.


The Standing Arm Bar

This grappling technique works as a takedown but can also serve as a submission hold. It’s a straightforward technique. Step out to the side and grab your enemy’s wrist or forearm with both hands. The best opportunity for this is when he throws a punch.

When both hands are in place, twist your body and rotate your arms so that the enemy’s elbow ends up under your armpit. Put pressure on the elbow joint. The pain and the fear of having his arm broken will make your enemy easy to control. If you lower your body, you can force him to the ground. If he’s still trying to fight, don’t bother with the submission aspect, go ahead and snap the arm.

The Guillotine Choke

This is a common Jiu-Jitsu submission hold that’s popular in MMA. The great thing is that it works both from a standing position and on the ground, this makes it an ideal defensive choke.

The first step is to get the attacker’s head down in front of you. If the attacker tries to pick you up or take you down, or if he’s bending over in pain, you’re already in position. Pull his head to the side and reach one arm under his throat. Slide the forearm across the throat and bend your arm. Now lock both hands together. Twist and squeeze tight until your enemy passes out.


Jiu-Jitsu Arm Bar

This version of the arm bar is easier and more effective, but it requires getting down on the ground. If a fight takes to the ground, this will be your way to win against a bigger opponent.

This will work best if your enemy is already on his back. Get beside him, position yourself next to his shoulder and grab his arm with both of yours. Get your legs on top of him, one across the lower chest and one across the neck. Now lie back, pull his arm, and arch your back. This will cause enormous pain in and around his elbow, and if you put enough force into it, the arm will break.


Grab a Weak Spot

Now, those fancy techniques above will be very effective in many scenarios. But there is often a simpler solution. If you want an easy way to put your opponent on the ground or force him into submission, just grab something sensitive.

The ears and nose are classic examples. If you grab and twist, you can get your enemy where you want him most of the time. If your attacker has long hair, grab it, pull and twist. Once again, that famous weak spot between the legs will give you a lot of control if you grab it.

Any body part that where you’ve already hurt the attacker will also help you take him down. Just grab the bruise, fracture, or cut, and pull with a firm grip. This doesn’t mean you should abandon learning proper takedowns. It’s good to have an arsenal of grappling techniques up your sleeve. You can find a lot of easy, useful ones by looking up Judo, Jiu-Jitsu or Greco-Roman wrestling.



Tactical scenarios and everyday life alike are full of potential dangerous surprises. You never know when you may run into a mugger, rapist, or other attacker who wants to harm you or someone close to you. Knowing at least the basics of self-defense is crucial for personal safety and preparedness for a crisis. If you can’t fight back against an attacker, you’re never really safe.

By applying the advice found in this article, you’ll make yourself prepared for the worst. And even if you never have to use this ability, at least you won’t have to worry as much. And you won’t be an easy target for aggressive criminals, so they’re less likely to attack you. Remember that theory doesn’t do much to save you in an emergency, good self-defense requires practice.

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