Lately, the world seems a lot darker. And threats can be anywhere — even our own street corners. Experts say we should arm ourselves with street smarts, situational awareness and basic defensive moves. Anyone can benefit from knowing a few simple moves to stay better protected. We asked self-defense experts familiar with fighting for one favorite move they recommend that everyone learn. Following are their tips — from defensive moves to using your body weight to make it harder to be taken.
Before even teaching defensive measures, Avital Zeisler, creator of the Soteria Method self-defense program, first preaches the importance of situational awareness. Paying attention to your surroundings is paramount, she said. But if you should find yourself caught off guard, one of her top protective moves - pretty much a good one in anybody’s book - is a defensive push kick. Target the groin, she said, and use your hip to thrust your foot forward in a kick. Drive the ball of your foot into the attacker’s groin, the idea being to push the attacker back. She suggests the more conventional groin kick with the top of the foot as another option, but pushing back is preferred if you’re trying to keep the attacker at bay.
Use your arms to protect yourself with this basic move, suggests hand-to-hand combat expert Zeisler, who recently launched a site for her tips and workouts. You want to try and hit the attacker in the face, back of the head or groin, depending on what angle the attacker is facing. Use the meaty side of your fist to strike out, and twist your body to slam your fist into the attacker. Use a downward motion to drive the side of your fist down on the attacker’s face. If the attacker doubles over, strike again in the back of the neck. Think of banging on a door, Zeisler said.
Target the Adam’s apple and jugular
Hitting the most vulnerable part of the attacker quickly - and with as much power - as possible is Tony Schiena’s top tip. Schiena provides counterterrorism training and defensive tactics through Multi Operational Security Agency Intelligence Co. “This area is the most exposed and unprotected by cartilage or bone,” he noted. “A strike can easily damage or crush the Adam’s apple, causing suffocation, and even a light blow can temporarily disrupt breathing, giving enough of a shock to allow escape.” And, he added, “a high heel or long fingernails can also be used as a weapon.”
Lower your center of gravity
A bear-hug attack brings with it a dangerous potential for an attacker to control and lift the body. “Once the attacker controls your body, they can lift you and carry you away,” said Ross Cascio from Krav Maga Worldwide, which runs self-defense fighting programs. To fight back right away, he teaches students to drop their “base.” In other words, make yourself “heavy” so it’s harder to be dragged to a second location. Bend your legs, and drop the level of your hips, similar to a squat. Sit slightly back and into the attacker with your head up, not forward. This lowers your center of gravity, making it tougher to lift.
Create space to escape
Cascio tells his students to remember the phrase “base and space” to help maneuver an escape. The “space” part means creating distance from the attacker. “You cannot let the attacker stay close to you in a bear hug,” Cascio said. Just like if you’re moving a piece of furniture, it’s easier to lug someone the closer they are. So you want to get away. With your center of gravity, or “base,” low, send strikes with your fists in a side-to-side motion to vulnerable areas. For example, strikes to the groin with the hands or fists, or to the head with elbows if the attacker is behind. He teaches Krav Maga students to hit the groin first, in aggressive and side-to-side motions, which also makes it harder to grab the defender. “It’s more difficult to hold on to someone who is constantly wriggling than it is to hold on to someone who is static,” he said. Krav Maga students are taught to recognize when sufficient space has been created to turn and fight.
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