Kick Butt and Defend Yourself

| July 15, 2008 | 2 Comments


Why not know that you’re in charge both on the trail and in the face of adversity?
By Bryn Fox

It’s a big world, and you do your best to explore every inch. You run the trails around your house like you own them. You know what every curve of the road looks like from the saddle of your bike. You eat bunny slope skiers for lunch. As you head out on your next adventure, why not know that you can kick butt both on the trail and in the face of adversity? Unplanned encounter? No problem. Read on and you will know just how to yell, “Hu-AH!” and leave others running for the hills. And, unlike you, they won’t be doing it to add another 10 miles in their training logs.


“Self-defense is made up of environment awareness, attitude, and basic techniques,” says Teri Coffee, fifth-degree black belt and women’s self-defense instructor at Jang’s Karate in Santa Barbara, California. One of the best methods of preventing an unwanted attack is being aware of your environment and always being in control of your personal space. And, no, this doesn’t mean we have to be paranoid, thinking that every stranger or tree is looking at us funny.

“Actually, most women are assaulted by people familiar to them,” says Joanne Factor, director of the Self-defense Education Center, Strategic Living, in Seattle. “They give the benefit of the doubt to someone they recognize.” So, for this reason it’s important to pick up on the subtle clues when someone may have something not so kosher up his sleeve.
Self Defense
Be in Tune with Your Surroundings
As outdoorswomen we are trained to focus on the task at hand. After all, we wouldn’t want to try to ski a double black diamond while mentally making our grocery list. But when we least expect it is when we’re the most vulnerable. So for safety’s sake, we can put those multitasking skills to use and keep an eye or ear on what’s going on around us. When you leave a party and head for your car, be aware of who is around you. If someone is interested in you and watches you leave, he knows you are probably going to a quiet parking lot or an empty street. As you get in your car, be alert. Buckling a two-year-old into a carseat or loading gear into an already stuff ed trunk can narrow your focus and take your mind off what is going on outside your car, which can make you more susceptible to being surprised or caught off guard if someone were to approach you.

You probably know the road and the trails around your house like a true local, so you’re happy to give directions to someone who isn’t as familiar with them. But it’s important to remember not to get too close to a car when answering someone’s questions—and don’t lead strangers to remote places. If you have to, give them your favorite map. It’s better to give that up than your safety. And though your friends may drop by unannounced all the time, if a stranger shows up at your door, asking for help, don’t let him in. You can still help him out by calling 9-1-1 and letting him know that help is on the way. Don’t assume that all strangers are selling Girl Scout cookies. Not everyone who knocks on your door is earning his or her merit badges.

Be in Tune with Yourself

Because we are frequently among strangers, we obviously cannot be afraid or suspicious of everyone we see. You can still stop to chitchat with fellow hikers so long as you know the signs of someone or something that isn’t quite right. Trusting our instincts and learning to read the signs of someone infringing on our boundaries can be the best tools in defending our personal space. Like animals, humans do have a true instinct of safety that can often be our best method of prevention.

“When the senses note something amiss, those portions of the brain send signals back to the body,” says Joanne. To successfully avoid potentially dangerous situations, we can combine our body’s natural alarm system with reading the behavior of strangers and learn when a situation requires action.

Butt-kicking MOVES from the Experts

Palm. Strike with the heel of the palm straight into the nose or up under the jaw. Pull the palm back with the fingers bent (but not curled around the palm) in a bow-and- arrow position and release in a strong strike motion.

Strike with the knee into the groin or the thigh while holding the attacker. Use the part of the knee just behind the top of the kneecap, in front of the thigh.

Elbow. When grabbed from behind, use an elbow strike to get a release. By striking backward in a driving motion with the elbow bent and using the area just behind the point on the backside of the arm, bring the arm forward bent, and backward, striking hard with the weight shifting back into the strike.

If you are being choked from the front, extend two fingers straight into the neck of the attacker just below the Adam’s apple and push forward. “This is not a strike but an extended push into the hollow area under the Adam’s apple,” says Teri.

“A thumb in the eye will impair the assailant’s ability to see you and to follow as you escape,” says Joanne.

You already know how to tell the second you start to get dehydrated. Equally important is learning how to tell when your body says something is fishy. When you get that gut feeling that something isn’t right or you get goose bumps even though it’s 85 degrees outside, pay attention. It just might be your body’s natural defense telling you something. Did you know that you can actually smell aggression? The body secretes a hormone when you’re feeling intense anger. So your nose may end up being the first thing that tells you that that stranger doesn’t just want to compliment you on your new hiking boots.

Finally, you’ll know when someone doesn’t have the best intentions by the invasion of your personal space. If someone seems fixated or is watching your every move, it may be time to meet up with a buddy. If you suspect a stalker in your midst, make sure you stay in well-populated areas. If someone is trying to get you alone, he may watch you intently until the opportunity arises. Don’t give him that opportunity. If someone is invading your space, change direction or wait for him to pass. If he doesn’t let the gap grow, it may mean he is testing your boundaries to see just how close he can get. It may be time to heighten your defenses.

Defense Methods

If you do find yourself in a situation that requires you to open up that can of whupass you keep in your back pocket, don’t be afraid to react. “The vast majority of women who are assaulted recognize that something isn’t right yet ignore their intuition,” says Joanne. “Some don’t want to be unladylike or rude or embarrassed or wrong. They want to give people the benefit of the doubt.” Although nobody likes to make a scene, chances are your senses won’t lead you astray. And if they do? Better to make a little scene than find yourself a victim.


Your first line of defense can be as simple as knowing how to use your lungs to your advantage. “Bringing attention to what is taking place by yelling and using identifying words is important to receiving help and making the person bothering you fearful of being caught and identified,” says Teri. Using obvious phrases like “WHO ARE YOU?” “HELP ME!” and “HE HAS A GUN!” tells someone that you are serious about fighting back and specific phrases like these are likely to attract the attention of others within earshot. Even if the person in question does not in fact have a gun, undeniable signs of distress like this will attract attention of someone who could help. “Also you want to identify you don’t know the person attacking you,” says Teri, “since people often do not want to help in domestic situations.”

Body Language
Aside from the sound of a steady voice, body language and a confident air can be as big a defense as any. “Your voice, confidence, and attitude are powerful deterrents,” says Teri. “The predator wants an easy target, so anything you can do to display the opposite of that can have them fleeing the situation.” If you suspect that someone approaching you has ill intentions, show him that you are not a target. Looking others in the eye shows that you are confident, and it reminds them that they are not anonymous and that you can identify them. Also, if someone seems to be following you, you can first just try to cross the street or take a different fork in the trail and walk in the opposite direction. If he is definitely following you, you’ll know and can turn to face him, get into your fightin’ stance, and yell “STOP!”

“With this position we are indicating ‘STOP’ in every language,” says Teri. At this point they cannot deny that you don’t want to be messed with and you will be ready to kick butt if you have to.


If despite your confident nature someone is still stupid enough to try to mess with you, you will have to employ a physical defense. “You do not need to know martial arts to defend yourself,” says Joanne. “A good self-defense class will teach very simple yet highly effective physical skills that can be adapted to any level of fitness. If you know nothing else,” she adds, “remember good, decisive targets.”

The consensus of the experts is that knowing a wide array of different martial arts techniques isn’t necessary. With a solid arsenal of a few key strategies, you will be able to react physically without wasting a second. Joanne explains that targets such as the eyes, nose, throat, groin, and knees are your best bets because they are easily visible, they are soft and usually unprotected, they do not require much strength to affect, and you don’t need great aim to cause significant effects.

Personal Defense Items
There is also the option of carrying personal defense items like mace. Mace or pepper spray can be bought in cans small enough to fit on your keychain or in the back of your sports bra and can be used—sprayed in someone’s eyes—to throw him off (and in pain!) long enough for you to run away. You can also try a shrill horn, which serves as your own personal alarm system. Simply push a button or pull a pin, and a high-pitched ring or beep will emit, attracting the attention of everyone around.

And we can’t forget to use our good old-fashioned resourcefulness. Be aware of what items you have at hand that can be used as a shield or weapon. Things like pens, keys, or books can all be used against an attacker when needed. Just about anything in your pack can be thrown at someone. Sure, the can opener on your keychain probably won’t make them break a leg or go blind, but it can throw someone off just enough for him to hesitate, if for only a second, and in that time you, outdoorswoman, will already be a half mile down the trail.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Mae says:

    Situational self defense will not work. It will get you killed. You will not have this article with you or on post-its on your wrist. In order to use any of these techniques you must practice over and over and over and with taller people, shorter people, attacked from behind, the side, in motion, grabbed over the elbow, below … infinite variation till without thought it just flows.

    I hope to never, ever use my training … again. But the 3 times I did I’m quite honestly am not quite sure what techniques I used. All I know is the last thing I heard from the perp were running footsteps and his sound of saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

    When there is no thought, you react, that’s best.

    This being said the article is at basis correct.

    Be aware of your surroundings (for the love of all that’s holy take the blasted headset off and listen, really listen to nature), be aware and confident in yourself.

    It is never, ever, ever the victims fault yet perps will pick and choose their victim. The best thing we can do is anything and everything that makes you feel strong and confident in your body is self defense. It does not matter whether it’s martial arts, gardening, running, climbing, meditating or playing ping pong. Just enjoy movement. Just move.

    Now, so you’re aware and confident and yet an unavoidable situation happens where you must defend yourself. Based on my musings you’ve thrown out the list. What do you do?

    Three things in absolute random order:

    * Make lots of noise. Scream, yell, kiai, whatever, just make as much noise as loudly as you can.

    * Move, move, move, strike, hit, use every bit of your body.

    * Repeat steps 1 & 2 without stop, pause or end until you are entirely safe and or the assailant is no longer a threat. And you can take that whatever way you wish.

    It’s that simple.

    Source: 2nd degree black belt.

    PS: do consider a reputable self defense class. Talk to your local police to find what they recommend or even offer. Most the cost will be minimal and take maybe 2 days to give you some basics.

  2. your own says:

    Hi, after reading this awesome article i am as well cheerful to share my knowledge here
    with mates.

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