How did that title work for you? Was it click-baity enough? Because the unfortunate reality is that most people start slinking off around the corner as soon as the subject of self-defense comes up. However, I’m determined to make this as painless as possible for you all and have broken down the pages and pages of things I’d like to say on the subject into just a few bullet points for you—and your characters, for the authors out there—to remember.
- Don’t start a fight you don’t want to finish. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s also true that when people are acting on emotion they can be a bit…brainless. That’s so when we feel we’ve been insulted or emotionally wounded, and it’s true when we feel someone has messed with our world reality. What do I mean by that? Well, when you feel you have a right to go someplace or do something (and in truth, it’s something that shouldn’t be any problem to anyone) you may insist on doing that even in the face of clear danger signals or aggression. The key is to remember that keeping your own behavior in check will help you to avoid escalating a problem and in turn will often allow you to avoid a violent situation.
- When transitioning from one place to another, be present and aware. This one’s pretty simple—so yay for easy, yes? As we leave our house and head to our car, or leave the car and head into work, or leave the party and head home, we tend to either think ahead on where we’re going or think back on what just happened. It’s human nature! The trouble is, these transitional places, in which we’re no longer in a safe zone with lots of people around us, are ideal for a predators or persons of ill intent. Doubly so if your mind isn’t with you, and you’re unaware. So fish your keys out before exiting the store or building, and keep your head up. This is also true of stairwells, empty hallways, even elevators. Anywhere you’re away from the other happy folk and don’t have immediate access to help.
- Listen to your friend Murphy and have a backup plan in place. Me, personally, I’d prefer you had one in place all the time. Really. But I’ll settle for you having a backup plan in place for those situations where coming up with a plan on the fly would be difficult. This means having an alternative ride home (or a way to pay for a cab, and the number in your phone) before heading to a party with a friend, in case they become too drunk to drive or they disappear on you. Sound like something your mom would tell you? Well, maybe your mom’s pretty smart. 😉 But this also means letting someone know—even if it’s just a quick text or note on the fridge—when you head out for a run where you’re going to be. And it means that in an emergency, before you react to the situation—because your car just broke down, or you hit a deer, or the snow came sooner than expected and you’re stranded at work—you come up with two plans. The easy one that you want to follow, and the backup in case that one doesn’t play out how you hoped. Always stay aware, and have an alternative plan ready to go.
- You’re not as big or tough as you think you are. And, moreover, there’s someone out there bigger and tougher than you. This applies to people who know how to break a brick in three places just by looking at it, and it also applies to soccer moms who shudder at the thought of punching someone…but are comfortable in their status as President of the PTA. Whoever you are and whatever your status, there’s almost guaranteed to be someone out there who is willing to inflict pain more readily than you are, and is more capable of doing so—triply so if they’ve got friends and outnumber you. Keep that in mind when you walk into any given situation. You’ll live a more peaceful life if you’re not always trying to prove you should be the one person top of your community’s Bunker Hill.
- Set aside the social rules—are your safe places still safe? That was maybe a bit cryptic, so let me try to explain. When people feel frightened, their natural instinct is to head for safety. And that’s perfectly normal! The catch is that some places are only well and truly safe if everyone else is obeying the social rules that govern our society. By those rules, men don’t follow a woman into the ladies’ restroom, or vice versa. Going into your house and shutting the door means the conversation is over. But the trouble is that once a violent crime is imminent, those rules will likely be disregarded. So, where is actually safe? That’s going to depend on the situation, but the advice I like is for individuals to head toward the lights and noise. That means that you don’t lead the person you suspect of following you to your house—if on foot go to a neighbor’s house that looks lively, and if in a car head to the nearest busy shopping center or police station. By the same rule, if you’re uneasy about the people in the parking lot, turn around and go back into the store. Get to the lights and noise and enlist help from other people—so your safe places can remain truly safe.
- Are your friends truly trustworthy? What about your family? What about your friends’ friends? One of the key areas most people overlook when considering self-defense is their own social circle, yet that’s the most likely source of any conflict or violence. So, be honest with yourself. If you associate with people who are emotionally unstable or manipulative and/or prepared to commit violence, there’s a good chance that’s going to blow up in your face one day. If your gut says this describes your situation, what can you do about it? Well, if you can’t remove yourself from this person’s sphere of influence, you can still acknowledge the problem and take steps to mitigate the danger. If the person is your ex, you could arrange to exchange your kids at a neutral location rather than at your home. If this person is your boss, you might take steps to make sure you’re never the only person in the office. If this person is your sibling’s spouse you might arrange any get-togethers at public places like restaurants. Odds are good the situation is going to be painful and difficult to deal with, but being honest about the problem is the first step toward addressing it.
- Okay, fine, you say, but I clicked on this because I wanted to learn a new ninja move! That’s tricky because most the easy answers—like, just kick him in the groin!—aren’t as useful as they sound, and I haven’t yet mastered the ninja technique that allows me to teach moves through the ether. Working on it! In the meantime, I’ll give you this advice:
- If you’ve been grabbed in a chokehold, bear hug, or someone has a grip on your arm, don’t try to yank away. That’s the move the attacker is prepared for. Instead, step closer to your attacker and—
- Use your elbows and twist from your core. Even someone who isn’t in shape can do more damage and apply more force if they get their hips and core involved. So don’t simply swing your arm. Move your whole body so your arm—preferably your elbow—is an extension of the force you’ve tapped into by getting all of you involved. And as an extension of that–
- If you’re unsure how to break free, pivot, from a lowered center of gravity, with your elbows out and using your core. Because you at the center of the circle you can turn faster than your attacker, who is on the outside of your orbit. So pivot, and odds are good you’ll feel a slacking of your opponent’s grip, giving you the opportunity to break free. But remember, first you need to buy yourself some wiggle room by stepping closer to your attacker.
- If you have no choice but to go on the attack because you truly fear bodily harm or suspect you’ll otherwise be taken to a second location (which should be avoided at all cost) aim for the center-line of the body, and use the heel of your palm unless you have training and/or experience punching. This includes the groin, but that shouldn’t be your sole focus because it’s harder to make a direct hit to that area than most people think, and if the attacker is high or an experienced fighter (who will shift a leg to protect) all you’re going to do is make them really mad. The center line of the body also includes the softer body cavity, the solar plexus (just below the ribs) and the throat and face. The nose makes a nice target, and doubly so if you’re using the heel of your palm and simply smashing your hand upward on a trajectory to hit*.
- Keep your feet underneath you and don’t let the fight go to the ground. Unless you’ve got some serious judo or jujitsu skills, just—don’t.
There you have it—seven life hacks for self-defense. But, wait a minute, you say, what about the self-defense hack I won’t use? Well, the truth is it’s probably #4 or #6, but which one of the above you’ll ignore really depends on you. Or, in the case of authors, which one their character will ignore. I think of self-defense as management of one’s personal space and property in a world which will happily eat your chocolate, pocket your movie money, and run away with your car. Some find the entire concept intimidating, and it can be. There are so many different views and ways to go about it, and it’s easy to assume that whatever you do, you won’t be safe enough. It’s also easy to feel that paying attention to the possible dangers around you makes you paranoid. But I’ll bet you look both ways before you cross the street, even when there are no cars, right? Force of habit. Once you’ve implemented those self-defense strategies which make sense to you, they’ll become force of habit, too, and you’ll be safer than you were without any need to live in fear. Or slink around the corner when you see a self-defense blog post announced. 😉
*Lily Black (or whomever she really is) accepts no legal, social, or emotional responsibility for the actions of individuals who read this blog post. Not even if they win an MMA championship as a result of her stellar insights, and especially not if they go out and do something stupid.
Lily Black has trained in a variety of martial arts and studied other forms of self-defense in ways she’s not at liberty to disclose, in addition to earning a black belt in Chung Do Kwan Tai Kwon Do. She has been teaching (primarily) women’s self-defense seminars for approximately ten years, and in the spirit of being the best instructor she can be is always learning, as well. One of her favorite resources is www.nononsenseselfdefense.com. Her passion for self-defense has merged beautifully with her love of all things reading, writing, and books in her debut romantic suspense novel, Storm of Attraction. The novel features a female black belt, the former Ranger who broke her heart, and a seriously scary stalker. It takes place in the small town of Willowdale, where people dream big, love deeply, and kick butt if necessary. Learn more on her website www.lilyblackbooks.com. The book is available for review, so contact Lily at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have an interest in taking a look!