Women, knowing how to protect yourself is essential. Develop an awareness of your surroundings, and learn a few simple self-defence moves to stay safe.
“Trust your instincts” and “Run away.” Those are the top two mantras when seeking to defend yourself, in particular if you are a woman. And if you think you’ll never need to protect yourself, think again—the statistics aren’t on our side.
According to Statistics Canada, more than half of all Canadian women will experience at least one incident of physical or sexual violence in their lives. But experts say that if we trust our instincts and walk—or run—away when it just doesn’t feel right, we can avoid becoming part of that.
The 4 As of women’s self-defence
When defending yourself think of the alphabet, in particular the letter A.
Be more aware of both your intuition and your physical environment. You can reduce your risks considerably by just keeping an eye open to your surroundings and paying attention to your instincts.
While it is not always possible to avoid dangerous situations, when it is, running away from the threat is often very effective.
Use your voice to make noise and draw attention to yourself if confronted.
In Canada, when we can’t get away from an attacker the law allows us to use the amount of physical self-defence that we believe we need to use in order to effectively get to safety. Use that law to your advantage and take action.
5 easy and effective self-defence moves
In team sports it’s often said that the first line of defence is a strong offence, and the same applies with self-defence. The experts and instructors that I talked to at both Wenlido and Wen-do (not-for-profit women’s self-defence organizations in Vancouver and Toronto) encourage women to be aware of their surroundings and to trust their internal radar that tells them when something, or someone, just doesn’t feel right.
Barring that, the following moves can be used to protect yourself.
Your head is an amazing weapon. The bones of your skull are quite thick, and when used to head-butt a nose, or even the mouth, can cause a considerable amount of pain to your attacker and provide you with enough time to get away.
The palm of your hand
A palm to the nose will stop anyone, even the largest assailant. Almost any tap to the nose will cause the eyes to water, and a hard hit will cause a satisfying crunch and large amounts of bleeding. Strike with the heel of your hand and run.
If you are attacked from behind, the elbow is your tool of choice. Aim for the face, ribs, or stomach —and hit hard. If attacked from the front, you can use an elbow strike to the face to avoid any damage to your hands or to reduce your chances of breaking your thumbs or wrist as the result of a punch.
Your foot is a powerful tool to use. Use it to stomp on an attacker’s foot. Experts say this is far more effective than a knee to the groin (what every woman envisions when asked about a self-defence technique).
The foot has many small bones and if struck at the top, just above the arch, you can incapacitate your attacker so he is no longer able to walk, or more importantly, chase after you. Aim for the top of laces, above the arch; strike hard and run.
This is the area that every woman reckons she will aim for when attacked. If this is your plan, try to avoid giving any warning to your attacker. Most men are conditioned from a very young age to respond instinctively to any incoming threats to this area. Try to be discreet and quick when you are about to launch your knee or foot.
Resources for self-defence
Women Educating in Self-Defense Training
Not-for-profit group teaching self-defence to women and their children in BC since 1976. They are recommended by a number of groups, such as Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter; Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW); Vancouver’s Women’s Health Collective; and Battered Women’s Support Services. wenlido.org
Wen-Do Women’s Self-Defence
Registered charity and the oldest women’s self-defence organization in Canada. They hold classes in the Toronto area. wendo.ca
Women Against Violence Against Women
Vancouver-based organization designed to assess and offer support to women encountering any type of violence. wavaw.ca
6 basic rights
- You have the right to be treated with respect.
- You have the right to be the boss of your own body.
- You have the right to be able to go to school or work and not be bullied or harassed.
- You have the right to be at your home and feel safe and secure.
- You have the right to use your voice and your body to defend yourself.
- You have the right to feel great about yourself!
More tips to keep you safe
The stereotypes in our society promote the expectation that women and girls will be unable to defend ourselves effectively. Use surprise as one of your self-defence tools.
Commit, once you begin to defend yourself. Do not stop, or pause. Whether your strategy is verbal, physical, or running away, do what you need to do in order to create safety for yourself.
Use your larger, stronger body parts (for example, your foot) against the attacker’s smaller, weaker parts (for example, the foot or groin).
This is a key element for effective self-defence. Trust your intuition! If you feel afraid, uncomfortable, or unsure in a situation, give yourself permission to do what you need to do in order to get yourself to safety.
Be confident that you can protect yourself. If you know and feel that you can pull off a self-defence move, you will find it easier to take action if required.