The best self-defence option is to learn a martial art, or other fighting technique which can teach you how to block a blow or kick, how to take a blow if an attacker gets through your guard, and how to fall properly, to avoid breakages and so that you can get up again quickly. It will also improve your general fitness, co-ordination and reaction speed. Martial arts courses are widely available in most countries, and there are plenty of nodes on e2 about individual styles and schools.

Specialised women's self-defence courses are another option. They often cater for the less fit or physically able, and deal with specific attack scenarios and how to deal with them. They're also a good experience even if you think you will never have to defend yourself - they teach a lot about self-confidence and assertion. Most universities run women's self-defence courses, and most local women's centres will have information on where to find them. In the UK, local community centres, the WEA and adult education centres often have them: in Australia, try your local TAFE or check out free local papers.

If you can't get to a course or don't have the time (or are far too lazy) self-defence videos and books are another option. has a fair selection. Always try to practice the techniques with others: the knowledge is not much good in your head, you have to be able to use it. Male friends are best to practice on - if you can persuade them (be sensible here - obviously don't practice poking their eyes out!) Get them to come at you in a variety of ways and holds, and practice getting out of them..

In the meantime, here's a few tips I've picked up which you don't have to be tough or fit to use:

  • If an attacker comes at you from the front, kick his knees or shins, hard.
  • If he grabs you before you can kick, ram your knee up into his groin.
  • If your arms are free, use 'em to punch his head - temple, eyes, under the ears, mouth, nose.
  • If you don't have enough leverage to punch - jab your fingers into his eyes; grab his lip and pull sharply down; get hold of a finger and bend it back; grab his Adam's apple by digging your fingers hard into his throat and pulling at his windpipe.
  • If you can't move your arms or hands, you can spit or bite.
  • If he grabs you from behind, move your hips so you can drive your elbow back into his solar plexus (under the breastbone and between the first few ribs) and follow it up with a blow, using the back or side of your fist, to the groin. Or grab his balls and squeeze hard, or yank sharply downwards if you can. Or kick back hard into his knee with your heel, slide down the shin and stamp on the instep of his foot.
  • Joints bent in the wrong direction can be very painful. If someone grabs you by the wrist, flip their wrist backwards, or, if you can, slip your body under their arm (as in ballroom dancing!) while keeping a grip on their wrist, and bend their arm the wrong way up their back.
  • If someone comes at you with a broken bottle, or other weapon: duck your head and throw your full body weight, led by your head, at their solar plexus to knock them off balance. And then run.

None of the above are foolproof. Be prepared with more than just one technique, put your whole body into the blows, keep your balance, use adrenaline and anger. Shouting "NO!" while you do any of the above as loud as you can reinforces your intention of fighting back, and shows the attacker that you're not an easy target. Remember, the object is to GET AWAY AND RUN LIKE FUCK. Don't hang around to see if you hurt him - get out of there fast.

NB: It's always better to be taught by a recognised professional.

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