Unless you've had many years of martial arts training, it's hard to target and execute fine motor skills -- like poking a single finger into a vulnerable pressure point -- when you need to defend yourself. You can, though, recruit the larger muscles of your body to execute devastating strikes to vulnerable points on the body or to control your opponent's head. You can also draw on clever tricks to prevent an assault or help you survive it; after all, not all self-defense techniques are physical.
Stay Alert and Aware
Even the biggest, toughest martial artist can lose a fight if he's unlucky or caught by surprise, so the most important self-defense trick of all is to be aware of your surroundings at all times. That doesn't have to mean living in fear -- just know what's going on around you and avoid potentially dangerous situations as much as you can. Some easy tricks along these lines include parking in well-lighted areas whenever possible, checking beneath the car and in the back seat as you approach the vehicle, and choosing well-populated routes if possible when you walk.
Kick the Knee
If running is an option, take it. But if there's absolutely no way to avoid physical contact, the knee is an ideal target for self-defense. It's easy to find, only bends in one direction, and is perfectly positioned for a blow from one of the strongest parts of your body -- your legs. Stomp or kick the knee in any direction other than the way it actually bends and you'll hurt your attacker, maybe even incapacitate him so he can't follow you when you run.
Strike Other Vital Areas
If you must fight, don't land just one blow and then wait to see what happens. Keep fighting until the chance to run presents itself, and make lots of noise while you're at it -- assailants will often flee rather than risk being identified by bystanders. Aside from the knee, other vital areas that are easy to find and damage include the groin, eyes and throat. Attack these soft targets with any hard part of your body: fist, straight fingers, elbow, knee. Fingers also make excellent targets if the opportunity presents; like the knee, they're only made to bend one way. Bending them the other way causes serious pain and damage.
Control the Head
Self-defense courses often teach you to deliver an upward palm-strike to the attacker's nose because this accomplishes two things: One, it causes a lot of pain; two, it forces the attacker's head back past his shoulders, unbalancing him. Control your attacker's head and you have control of his body; keep pushing his head backward from that position and he will fall. Keep your distance if you can but if he's already engaged you in close, stick one of your feet behind his to help complete the takedown.
Self-defense instructors with Gracie Jiu Jitsu explain that sexual assaults usually happen in four stages: Identify the target, subdue the target, exhaust the target and execute the assault. If your attacker has you so tightly controlled that you truly cannot escape, don't play into his hands by exhausting yourself in your struggles. Instead, conserve your energy and fake compliance until an opportunity presents itself to get free. Be ready to create an opportunity to run the moment he loosens his grip on you.
- Photo Credit David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images
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