Don’t let fear interfere with the free and independent life that you’ve got planned out in your organizer. You don’t have to be afraid to go out at night. Violence can limit both physical movement and the scope of our minds. Let’s get on with our lives, and learn how to defend ourselves. Women’s self-defense projects grew out of feminist consciousness-raising groups and incorporate personal experience with martial arts. Learning self-defense is empowering and liberating. Practice self-defense with friends, in classes, and in collectives. Support self-defense/domestic violence prisoners and learn about their cases. Share these brief tips and stories about what has worked for you.
1. Start by developing the habit of paying attention to your surroundings. Try to be alert and ready, without panic or paranoia. Examine your surroundings as if you were crossing the street. Be careful about being preoccupied while on a cellphone or headphones.
2. Check out what the people around you are up to. Are they disturbed or angry? Where are their hands? Are they reaching for a weapon? Are they following you? Do not allow your stereotypes and ignorance about a neighborhood / community to assess a situation poorly. Become familiar with the places where you live and travel. Consider possible escape routes, whether the area is inhabited or desolate.
3. Be aware of your own condition: are you upset, intoxicated, or sick? Take a deep breath and ground yourself before engaging in a situation. Relax your shoulders, bend your knees and truly exhale.
4. Be aware of your environment in public or unfamiliar territory, as well as in your home or on your stomping grounds. Most attacks occur at home, and most attackers are intimate with survivors.
5. When inappropriate or aggressive behavior surfaces, confront it before the situation escalates. Trust your feelings — examine your discomfort closely. Is someone crowding your comfort zone? A common barometer is whether they are close enough to kick or punch you. Start by setting boundaries with words and gestures.
6. Adopt a fighting stance — bend your knees and stand with one foot forward and your legs hip-width apart. Keep moving so you don’t freeze up.
7. Don’t be afraid to assert yourself, speak loudly, and yell. Learn how to say “No, get away from me, stop following me, leave me alone.” Practice role-playing situations. Practice yelling, if it doesn’t come easily. If you are on a short fuse, learn to manage your anger — don’t get baited into dangerous situations.
8. Avoid turning your back on an assailant.
9. Don’t carry weapons you don’t know how to use, and that an attacker could turn against you. Many items in your possession will be sufficient: keys, a lighter, a pencil, a bag of groceries or a comb.
10. If necessary, strike to disable: poke at the eyes, punch at the throat, kick at the knees or groin. Remember that you are not trying to win a fight, only do enough damage to get away. A difference in size and strength won’t keep you from escaping: consider how small a feral animal such as a fox can easily escape from a person’s grasp.
For women and trans self-defense in the Bay Area contact Suigetsukan, 103 International Boulevard, Oakland CA 510-452-3941 suigetsukan.org