I love that scene in the movie Miss Congeniality when Gracie does her self-defense routine as a contestant for Miss United States and the crowd goes wild. There’s something very empowering about a woman that has the skills to protect herself.
I believe strongly that every woman should have the tools and tips needed to protect herself and her children. I wish we lived in a world where that wasn’t necessary, but we don’t, so it’s important that we have these conversations with our friends, family, daughters (and even sons) in the hopes that we can eventually see the statistics change.
Why Should Women Learn Self-Defense?
The facts are staggering: 1 out of 4 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, the vast majority of those coming from people the woman or child knew and/or trusted. This does not include random attacks, thefts, and other attacks on women.
I can remember a few years back, there was a wave of attackers targeting moms in parking lots in my area, because they were often taking a long time to get in their car with kids and would just give them their purses and wedding rings quickly (good call, definitely give up the purse). This made for easy money with very little risk.
But, if we are more likely to be attacked by someone we knew – then what good does training for years in a martial arts facility do for you? Or, trying to follow all of those “never” rules for women, that can easily become stifling and unrealistic, like: never walk alone, never be alone at night, never go places alone, never park in a dark parking structure, never go out with a man you don’t know alone, and on and on it goes.
So, the reality is, women need not just tools and tips to protect themselves, including some quick reaction defense moves, but also the confidence to speak up and project her own strength in situations where attackers are sitting in plain sight – in the board room, the family room, or the neighborhood.
Important Self-Defense Risks:
Before we dive in to the list of self-defense tips, I want to share a few things that I’ve learned and that were taught to me growing up by my dad and older brothers.
- Any weapon you use can be taken from you and used against you. Don’t wield a weapon you don’t know how to use and be prepared for them to try to take it from you.
- The best defense is offense. Pay attention to your surroundings, listen to your gut, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and make a scene if needed.
- Look out for other women. We can help each other.
Let’s take a commercial break for a quick story on #3. I will never forget one night I had met up with friends in a downtown restaurant. I had to park in an underground parking structure, which I usually avoided, but I couldn’t find parking anywhere. I was alone walking back to my car and it was late and dark out.
As I was walking in the dark underground lot, going as quickly as I could in heels, I noticed that lights were flickering and there were a lot less cars than when I had arrived. Nobody was walking around, either, so I was all alone and if something happened, nobody would’ve seen or heard. I knew in my gut right away I should get out of there, but I needed to get home, so I kept going to get to my car.
I started hearing a car coming behind me and so I walked faster, getting nervous. Another car to my right pulled out of their parking spot and started heading towards me. I hadn’t seen anyone going to that car, so my initial thoughts were someone had been waiting. I was about to break into a full blown sprint, when that car pulled up beside me and rolled down the window. A woman said, “Hey, the car behind me has been following you for awhile. I’m going to stay next to you until you get in your car, but you need to move fast and you need to get out of here right now.”
I thanked her and started jogging to my car, getting in and pulling out while she held space between me and the car behind her. We both stayed close as we made our way out of the parking structure and as soon as we hit the open road, the other car was nowhere to be found. I’m going to guess they stayed down there looking for another target. Girls, we need to be like that woman and we need to look out for each other.
10 Self-Defense Tips for Women:
Some of these tips are more suited for unknown attackers, while others will work better in environments where you know the person. Use your best judgement, be strong and confident.
1. Always Pay Attention:
Obvious? Maybe not. I can’t tell you how many people I see out alone with two ear buds in and their heads down staring at their phones. You’ve shut down all of your basic senses: you’re not looking, you’re not listening, and you’re not staying in tune with your environment. Someone could sneak right up on you before you could do anything.
Pay attention. Watch your surroundings. Listen to what is happening around you. When you step out of a mall, scan the parking lot before you leave. Before you walk up to your car, pause and look around it and under if it it’s a tall SUV. Got kids? Get them in as fast as you can, close doors behind them, then get your stroller in. Be listening and paying attention to your environment the entire time.
See something on your windshield? Don’t touch it! Just get in your car and drive away and deal with it later or let it fly off. You can even look for videos on YouTube of how attackers use the distraction of putting something on your windshield to reduce your defenses while they come up from behind and grab you or quickly grab your purse.
2. Be Loud & Rude:
Be loud, be noisy, say no, say anything. Keep talking, keep being noisy, and never stop.
The louder and more obnoxious you are, the less of a target you will be.
If someone is making you uncomfortable – name it, call it out, say it, repeat it, don’t stop talking about it. Think about it – would you choose to attack someone who is loud and noisy and will tell EVERYBODY ABOUT IT? No!
If you’re alone at night, scream fire – over and over again. It’s been proven that people will respond to cries of a fire more than someone screaming help. Scream Fire at the top of your lungs.
Verbal defense is one of the best ways to STOP an attack BEFORE it happens.
3. Use Your Keys:
When you’re walking to and from your car, always thread your keys through your fingers so you have a makeshift weapon with your fist. If someone approaches you, you put those keys wherever you can – starting with the eyes, the nose and the throat. At the same time, kick out their knees.
You can even add long self-defense keychains that will give you added range and power. Always go for the sensitive areas: eyes, nose, throat.
This brings me to my next point:
4. Carry A Self-Defense Weapon:
I have 5 different self-defense weapons on hand and I always carry at least 2 in any situation. It doesn’t matter if that is a trip to the park with the kids or a late night concert with friends. I am always prepared. I am always watching my surroundings.
I shared all 5 of the tools that I have and recommend in another post that you are welcome to check out right here. Here’s a short list of what I carry. These are affiliate links:
- Mace with invisible identifying spray
- Stun gun flashlight (LOVE this one)
- Keychain self-defense tool
- Birdie Alarm
- The Stinger – multi-weapon tool
Get more info on these, their pros and cons, and how to use them in this post.
5. Learn & Practice Basic Self-Defense Moves:
When it comes to defending yourself and fighting for your life, you want to go for sensitive areas fast:
- Go for the eyes
- Shove the palm of your hand up into the nose as hard as you can
- Kick out their knees
- Go for the groin
- Use hard bony areas of your body, like your elbows and knees to jab
- Step on feet hard
- Use the back of your head if they are behind you to headbutt them as hard as you can
I would also recommend watching some great videos on YouTube that show you different self-defense tips for particular holds, such as when someone comes at you from behind, grabs you by the throat, or pins you down and has both of your hands.
Here are a few I found that had useful content:
- 5 Self Defense Moves Every Woman Should Know
- 5 Choke Hold Defenses Every Woman Should Know
- How To Escape From Being Pinned Down
You can also search “self-defense tips for women” in YouTube to find many more.
6. Throw Your Valuables:
Since you have your keys in your hand, your purse and even wedding ring can be thrown. Most assaults during a theft happen over money or wanting your bag or wedding ring. When I was a kid, I watched someone rob a fast food joint at gunpoint. and then go around and take the purses and wedding rings from several people in the booths.
One lady was refusing to give hers up and I’ll tell you, it was not pretty watching that situation go down. I learned a very valuable lesson that day: these attacks can happen anywhere, at any time, and you should never hesitate to get rid of things in order to save your (or someone else’s lives).
If someone wants your purse or ring, take it off and throw it as far as you can away from yourself and then run the other way while they go after it. You can replace things. You can’t replace people. If you have your keys separate, you can still get away. ALWAYS KEEP YOUR KEYS SEPARATE.
7. Watch Your Drink:
This is a big one, friends. I have personally known smart, incredible women who were on dates with people they thought they could trust or at a gathering of college friends they thought they knew when someone slipped something in their drink that changed their lives forever.
My dad drilled this one in deep – if you put down your drink and look away – you DO NOT PICK IT BACK UP. If you get up to use the restroom, you request a new one. If you are at a bar, you hold that drink and if you put it down, you do not drink it. If someone wants to buy you a drink, you go and pick it up yourself.
This is not just for groups or first dates. One of the worst stories I heard about this was from a friend who was on a third date with someone she had met at church. She thought she could trust him and left her drink when she used the restroom. Honestly, watching your drink is a simple thing you can do and teach your daughters. People won’t even notice if you switch out your drink and if they do notice, honestly, why are they watching your drink?
8. Find an Escort:
Feel uncomfortable leaving that bar alone at night, because that creepy guy just wasn’t hearing the word “no”? Time to find an escort.
Were you followed around that grocery store? Time to ask that bagger to walk you to your car.
Feeling uncomfortable with that guy you’re on a date with? Ask a waiter to walk you out. Or, call a friend to accidentally (on purpose) run into you there and walk with you.
You’re not being weak – you’re being smart. There is safety in numbers. Attackers do not want witnesses. Be loud and noisy, project your strength and know when to create a group that will protect you.
The few times I have had to do this – like the one time I asked a group of girls if I could walk out with them – I have never once had someone get annoyed or act put out. In fact, they were more than happy to help.
9. Do Strength Training:
This one may surprise you, but really, we all carry ourselves differently when we feel strong. I once knew a woman who was one of the first female lieutenants in the Army. On the weekends, my mom would sometimes volunteer me to help her do things around her home and yard and I would always get so annoyed. Why did I have to help this old lady wash her walls? Why was I spending my weekend building a fence?
One day, I was openly complaining about having to help and the woman said something to me that I will never, ever forget. She said, “Listen, it’s not just about the fence. Always remember: strong in body, strong in mind.”
Whenever I feel lazy and don’t want to work out, or I’ve let myself go for awhile because of stress, having young kids, or being in quarantine, I hear her voice in my head – calling me back – reminding me to take care of my body, so my body can take care of me.
Make time to do your cardio, to strength train your body, so you can be strong in body and strong in mind.
10. Protect Your Privacy:
This is a big one, especially today in the age of social media. It’s really important to protect your privacy. Just remember that no matter how connected you feel to a new person, they are still a stranger and do not deserve any details about your life that can help them find you if you decided you weren’t interested. Be vague about where you live, where you work, places you frequent and any other personal details.
Keep your social media private and only add new people once you know enough about them to think they’re safe. Many people’s social media has enough information to be able to find where they live, places they go often, and more, just from their posts.
And, have safeguards in place for dates and other invitations. For example, always suggest places for the first few dates that are well-lit, have close parking, and enough people around to keep things safer.
Anyone who presses you on this information is probably not a safe person to be around.
I hope some of these tips help you feel more prepared and more confident in your ability to protect yourself if needed. It can be really empowering to take some self-defense classes and actually practice using your body to defend yourself in a safe environment. I highly recommend this for everyone.
As I watch several of my nieces move into their own places, go to college, and grow into the teenage years, I have felt more urgency than ever to share these tips on women’s safety. The more I’ve been thinking about it with my own loved ones, the more inspired I’ve been to share it here.
I also want to mention that if something has happened to you – it is not your fault. It didn’t happen to you because you didn’t have mace or you didn’t practice getting out of choke holds in your living room. Please take every opportunity to report them to the police and get therapy and support to help yourself heal.
Stay safe, friends.
If I were to walk in a dark alley, I would make sure to bring pepper spray everywhere I go. Aside from this type of defense, you made a pretty good point that it would be smarter to always watch my surroundings. Thank you for sharing here as well the importance of going for the groin when kicking the opponent.
Thanks Rachel – glad the reminders were useful! Stay safe!