10 Most Effective & Essential Self Defense Techniques

Violence is never the answer — unless you're faced with an attacker and no other way to escape the situation. In that case, you should kick, hit, and scratch your way to safety. Running is the best self defense move, and putting distance between you and your assailant should always be your first priority. But if you don't have the option to run immediately, here are the 10 most effective techniques to use until you have the chance to get away. Use as many as it takes to flee, and don't be afraid to cause a little damage if that's what it takes.

  1. Wrist grab release: If you're being attacked, there's a good chance that the bad guy is going to grab you by the wrist at some point, whether it's to force you to go somewhere with him or to keep you from hitting back. To get out of this hold, remember that the weakest point of his grip is where his thumb and fingers meet. Rotate your wrist so that the thumb-side of your forearm is at the weak point in his grip, and pull your arm out of his hand in that direction. If he's much stronger than you, use your free hand to grab your fist and put more power behind your pull. Some self-defense experts suggest following up with a strike to the throat or another sensitive area as soon as you're free from his grip to keep him from grabbing you again.

  2. Stomp kick: Because your legs are so much stronger than your arms, using a simple kick can be a fast way to get away from an attacker. To get the full force of your leg behind the kick, use the heel of your foot to make contact with the assailant. In a stomp kick, you bring your knee up and drive your heel down as hard as possible. If you do this on an attacker's foot, you might be able to break some of the many tiny bones down there and keep him from running after you. For the best results, stomp kick on his instep, or the shoelace part of his foot, rather than his toes. This can also work if you're wearing heels since the stiletto can act as a dangerous spike.

  3. Waist grab release: Similar to the self defense taught in Miss Congeniality, the way to get out of an attack from behind is to go for the assailant's sensitive areas. If you're grabbed around the waist, stomp hard on his instep and follow it with a kick to the groin, bringing your foot up behind you between his legs so your heel makes contact with his tender bits. Then pry his hands off of you by yanking back his fingers, and finish it off with an elbow to the face. Sandra Bullock's version goes in a slightly different order: solar plexus, instep, nose, and groin, or SING for short.

  4. Palm strike to the chin: Hitting with the heel of your palm is often more useful and less painful (for you) than throwing a punch. With a punch, you have the potential to injure your wrist or knuckles, but a palm strike allows you to pack some power into your counter-attack with less potential of hurting yourself. Strike your assailant under the chin with your palm. Put as much power behind the hit as you can, using not just your arms, but your legs and hips to provide more strength, and be sure to follow through. Spread your legs about shoulder width apart before you hit to give yourself a stable base and crouch down a bit as a sort of windup. This is a good move to use when you're pinned against a wall, even if the attacker is very close.

  5. Front choke hold release: When someone comes at you from the front and grabs you by the neck, your first reaction will probably be to panic. But it's important to stay as calm as possible during this situation so that you'll be able to think straight and escape. Rather than clawing at his hands, which might be your natural reaction, you should take advantage of his weak areas since you have both your hands and your legs free. His throat is probably the best place to hit first, whether it's with a palm strike, a punch, or two fingers jabbed into his trachea at the base of his throat. This will probably cause him to release you, and you can follow up with another blow to the throat and a groin kick if you want.

  6. Back choke hold release: If you have an older brother, you're probably familiar with the rear choke hold (and way too many other wrestling moves), but if an attacker uses it, you won't have your mom there to tell him to stop. Instead, you should regain the advantage by knocking him off balance. With the attacker behind you, reposition your body and move your left leg and hip behind his right leg. If his left arm was around your neck, you'd do it the opposite way. Then using your arm and elbow against his chest, push him backwards so that he falls over your leg onto the ground.

  7. Eye gouge: Attacking the eyes is a great method to get someone to pull back and let go of you. They will instinctively reach for their eyes and your hands, which will at least give you room to kick and maybe move away. There are a few different types of eye gouges. One is the easy Three Stooges-style poking motion using your index and middle finger to stab both eyes. You'll want to poke their eyes much harder than a Stooge would, though, and don't expect them to respond by calling you a knucklehead. In fact, if you don't take them by surprise, attackers can often turn their heads and avoid this move. A more effective eye-gouging method is to use your thumbs. Using both hands, put your hands on the sides of his face; your thumbs should be in position now to dig into his eyes.

  8. Groin kick: If you've ever seen an episode of America's Funniest Home Videos, you know that a blow to the groin is extremely painful for men (and apparently hilarious to TV audiences). Under pressure and likely with limited resources, you're not going to be able to give your attacker a funny slapstick hit with a seesaw or softball, but striking their groin with your knee or shin will be just as effective and give you time to run. The key to delivering a crippling groin kick is maintaining the element of surprise. To do this, put your fists up like a boxer would and keep your gaze around the attacker's neck. Don't look where you're going to kick him, because you'll give him time to protect himself. And when you strike, hit him hard using your knee or shin to ensure you hit your target.

  9. The Grab, Twist, and Pull: If you can remember the name of this move, you'll remember how to do it. Of course, if you're facing a woman attacker, this probably shouldn't be your go-to method. The grab, twist, and pull (or in long-form, the grab, twist, and pull testicles) technique is an effective way to incapacitate an attacker for several seconds, enough time to run away or use another defense move on him. The steps are simple: grab the testicles, twist quickly (or squeeze tightly), and pull as hard as you can.

  10. Headbutt: The headbutt can be an incredibly effective self defense tool if you do it right, but it can hurt you more than the other person if you do it wrong. Because of this, it should probably be one of your last resorts. The idea behind the headbutt is to hit sensitive parts of your attacker's face (nose, cheekbone, eye) with your much-less-sensitive forehead (near your hairline). You want to avoid hitting their forehead with yours. The basic move for a headbutt is a quick, downward motion, often compared to that of a sneeze, aiming between their forehead and their mouth. If you're assailant is behind you in close proximity, you could also try to use the back of your head to hit their nose. The amount of blood that comes from a broken nose will probably stun them long enough for you to get away.

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