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Self Defense Tactics: 5 Tips to Keeping Yourself Safe

Updated on September 17, 2012

We've all been there

Whether walking alone in the dark or getting lost in a bad neighborhood, everyone has found themselves in a position where they were concerned about personal safety. Being a black belt in a martial art may give people an edge and confidence, but the truth is, the average person does not practice martial arts or even begin to think about how they would defend themselves. When the average person does give thought on how to handle themselves, it is usually when they find themselves in vulnerable situations. By this time, because they haven’t formulated a self-defense plan ahead, fear sets in and they either freeze or their reactions are far too late.

If you are reading this, you have already taken the first step which is formulating a plan. This means that you are not waiting until those vulnerable moments to begin thinking about personal safety. Having a plan will not only help keep you safe, it will hopefully give you confidence and help rid you of anxiety and fear during tense moments. Not looking to make the next Steven Segal, but I am hoping that these simple self-defense tactics will give average people a plan to keep themselves safe.

Position Awareness
Position Awareness | Source

Develop Awareness - Tip #1

First, be aware of your surroundings. By having a heightened state of awareness, this will give you time when seconds count. Awareness means being aware of yourself, your surroundings, a potential attacker, and the tactics a potential attacker might use. Awareness is something that does not happen overnight but rather a skill that gets better with time. It means staying focused on your personal safety and nothing else. Government agents have taken in-depth classes and used awareness for years. A lot of agents credit the mastery of awareness to putting themselves in advantageous positions over their opponents.

To become proficient, practice awareness every chance you get: walking in the mall, to and from your car, at the office, at home, walking down the street, at sporting events, out to dinner, etc. Practicing all the time is important because it gives you the ability to perceive your surroundings in a variety of different environments. Eventually, practicing will become habitual. The goal is to be thinking awareness without consciously thinking about it.

You might spend 40 hours a week at the office but have you given any thought about what you would do if a disgruntled employee walked in with a gun and starting shooting people at random? How would you escape? Could you use something for a weapon? What self-defense tactics could you use? Once proficient, you will start to look at even the most common of places with a different view.

In developing awareness, pay attention to the location of exit/entrances, what people are doing, the proximity of objects/people near you, what type of ground you are walking on, and anything that looks out of the ordinary. Is someone wearing a winter jacket in the summer? Does the person walking across the street seem to be concerned about what you are doing and nothing else? Is the sidewalk uneven, posing a possible trip hazard if you had to react quickly? Could the brick building to your right be an obstacle if someone attacks you from the left? If you were attacked, what would be the fastest exit to put space between you and the perpetrator? As you can see, there is a lot to take into consideration.

Person Standing with Hands Clasped

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Position of Advantage - Tip #2

Proper positioning and body language is key to good self-defense tactics. When you sense yourself in a vulnerable position, walk/stand with your hands above your belly button. This is simply to protect your face if you need to shield off an attack. While having your hands close to your head, it cuts down on the amount of reaction time needed in using your hands to protect your head/face.

Of course you do not want to be walking and standing like you are guarding the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This would look strange and could cause you to stand out amongst a crowd. There are many inconspicuous ways in positioning your hands in front of you without it looking peculiar. If you are wearing a backpack or shouldering a purse, you can use your hands to clench the strap(s) in a very inconspicuous manner. If carrying something, hold it out in front of yourself (knowing that you could drop it and raise your hands in one quick motion). Finally, you can simply clasp your hands in front of you or line up your fingers like a pyramid. If you notice the picture to the right, the man is standing in a very non-confrontational manner. This looks warm and inviting but not strange or out of place.

Get Outta Dodge - Tip #3

Once you have spotted a potential threat, the next thing you need to do is to get away fast. If your awareness is keen, you will know the best way to get out of dodge. While running, if you have a purse, wallet, or something of value, throw it down one way and run the opposite direction. If the attack is financially motivated, they will take the bait and leave you alone. Remember this is self-defense tactics, so losing something of value is minor compared to your life.

While escaping, make as much noise and commotion as you can to alert people to your location. A good recommendation is to smash a store or car window while running. If you spot a nice car, there is a good possibility that the vehicle has an alarm installed. A simple kick to a tire or door will set off the alarm. The breaking of a store window and/or car alarm will alert people around you. Good Samaritans will call the police toward your location. These alerts alone could scare off an attacker.

Seperate your Keys and Cell Phone - Tip #4

Keeping your cell phone and keys separate from your purse or carry bag is crucial to current self-defense tactics plans. I recommend getting into the habit of placing your keys and cell phone in front pockets whenever traveling. If the outfit you are wearing does not have front pockets, carry your keys and cell phone in your hands. It is important to have your keys in your dominant side pocket and your cell phone in the opposite front pocket. Again, if you do not have front pockets, carry your keys in your dominant hand and your cell phone in the opposite. The reason for having your keys and cell phone separate from your purse is twofold.

First, if you are going to ditch your purse and run the opposite direction, you want to be able to have the keys to your vehicle in case you need to run back to your vehicle and speed away. You will also need to use your phone to call 911. Most modern cell phones have an emergency one touch dial imbedded so that you can simply look at your phone, push one button, and be connected to the closest 911 dispatch center (if your phone does not have this feature, you may want to upgrade to a different phone). As you are running, give the dispatcher as much information as you can like your location, your direction of travel, what the perpetrator looks like, the events that just happened, etc.

Knuckles with Keys
Knuckles with Keys | Source

When ALL ELSE FAILS - Tip #5

Finally, when all else fails, you can use your keys for protection and your smart phone for navigation.

Use your awareness to determine an appropriate time to position your keys. Positioning needs to be done at least five seconds before an attack is about to happen. Position individual keys in between each knuckle on your dominant side hand (refer to picture). This creates a jagged, metal, spiked surface that is capable of creating a tremendous amount of damage to even the most aggressive attacker. When striking, strike with a quick and accurate jab type punch in the location of the face or throat. Use this as a distraction technique and then refer back to tip #3 - getting out of dodge. Do not stand around and access the damage, get away!

I recommend practicing this technique. The better you master the technique, the better you will be able to defend yourself and the more confidence you will have. Practice can be conducted with a closed, boxing gloved hand on any available heavy bag. Practice holding your hands like referenced in tip #2, position of advantage. Unload two quick jabs over and over until you get faster and more accurate. If you are not worried about destroying or ripping the leather on a heavy bag, you can even try with keys in hand. While striking the surface, envision punching through the heavy bag like a plane of glass. This will ensure that you have good follow through and momentum.

Do not forget that almost every smart phone has navigation. For walking in unknown territory, a good self-defense tactics habit to get into is typing your intended destination on your smart phone before you begin walking. Depending on the type of phone you are using, most mobile phones will ask if you want driving or walking directions. Of course you would choose the walking directions. If you have a blue tooth, I recommend wearing it for the sake of it giving you directions that only you can hear. If not, either hold your phone in your non-dominant hand or place it in your pocket. Remember do not place it in your purse or bag in case you get separated from it. Even if you make wrong turns while running away, navigation will get you to your destination or back to your vehicle with simple turn by turn directions.

If you use your phone to call 911, navigation will automatically resume upon hanging up (this depends on the phone and carrier used. I recommend testing this before putting it to use).


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    • savvydating profile image


      4 years ago

      Most of us don't think about these things. I appreciate these tips very much. In fact, I almost always keep my keys in my right hand after I have exited my car, and until I reach my walking destination. But I'm terrible about looking around. But as you say, practice makes perfect, and one just never knows. Up & Useful.

    • jaybird22 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from New York

      AWindyApril - Thanks for reading and your comments. Hopefully it will benefit someone that isn't already a bad a*@ like you ;-)

    • AWindyApril profile image


      6 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Excellent! Really good information, very well written. If I wasn't already a bad a*@ I would have needed this information and taken it to heart :o).


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