Self-Defense Tips

Don’t let fear interfere with the 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 control both physical movement and limit the scope of our minds. Let’s get some ideas, 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. Shere 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. 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? Stereotypes and ignorance about a neighborhood or community will only make your situation worse. Become familiar with the places where you live and travel. Consider possible escapes, 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, and truly exhale.
  4. Be ready to defend yourself 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 discomfort closely. Is someone crowding your comfort zone? A common barometer is whether they are close enough to kick or punch you. Set boundaries with words and gestures.
  6. Adopt a fighting stance” bend your knees, and stand with one foot forward and your legs spread apart. Keep moving so you don’ 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 control 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, or a comb.
  10. 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. 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 Girl Army, 103 International Boulevard, Oakland CA (510) 496-3443