Physical Self Defense

In a perfect world we wouldn’t need to teach girls and women to defend themselves and increase their chance of surviving physical and sexual assault. But since we do it’s imperative to teach each other how to be aggressive, smart, and safe without instilling fear. It is never a victims fault.  If she is walking alone at night and is mugged or at a party drinking and is raped it is never her fault.  

Repeat: It is never her fault!

Awareness = Prevention: Whether you are walking alone or with a group, day or night, in “good” or “bad” neighborhoods you have to BE AWARE!  If someone gets within 10 feet of you than make noise. Pull out your phone and make a call, put distance and space between you and them, wave and yell “Hi, Sarah” in the direction of an imaginary friend, cross the street, go inside a store, or start acting crazy and scare them off. If someone get too close firmly and loudly tell them to stop, yell “NO”, “GET BACK”, “POLICE” or “FIRE” and move away from them. If someone is less than 3 feet from your body that is your personal space and you have the right to fight back.

Once someone makes a move to grab you, than use a defensive strike or maneuver.

The Freeze Stance: Create a firm position by standing with your legs shoulder length apart. Put your arms up as if you were doing push ups to put space between you. This is peaceful stance that lets that person know you don’t want to fight, but will protect your body. It gives them a chance to pause and decide if you are worth attacking. Either extend and straighten your arms with your palms facing out to put distance between you OR bend your elbows and keep your hands closer to your body. Yell or in a firm clear voice say, “NO”, “STOP” or “GET BACK”. If you need to draw attention from others yell “POLICE”, “I NEED HELP” or “FIRE”.

Once you have created a physical boundary with your arms you can use one or all three of the following moves in a combination to stop the attacker.

The Palm Strike: Use the heel of your palm to strike the attackers nose, eyes, cheek or forehead. Your goal is to disable the person so you can get away, so when you strike, use all your strength. Step forward towards them to give yourself extra momentum. Continue to yell for help as you strike your attacker.

The Groin Kick: Kick as hard as you can. Bring your foot right up under their legs or use your knee to hit the target. Use all your might to cause enough pain so they cannot hurt you. Remember, if someone is physically attacking you, don’t hesitate to hurt them so you can get to a safe place. This is a classic defense move against men because it works!

The Head Knee Strike: This move works best if your attacker bends over from a previous hit. Grab their head or shoulders and pull them down while at the same time lifting your knee up to hit their stomach. Once you have kneed your attacker, push them away from you and run to safety.

The Back Attack: If you are grabbed from behind stomp your foot down and dig your heel into their foot and twist your body back and forth to get out of the hold. Stomp onto their feet as much as possible. You can also propel yourself backward to knock off their balance. Throw your head back into their face. Your skull is heavy and will cause pain. Once your hands are free use the palm strike. Use your leg to kick, and your knee to hit. Run to safety.

Scratch or Bite: Scratch your attackers face or arms to cause pain. Draw blood. Not only does it cause pain to be scratched, it also gives you DNA under your fingernails. This is helpful because if you want to report the crime you will have some proof of who attacked you. If they put a hand over your mouth keep moving your head around until you can bite their hand. You do not need to draw blood, but biting hurts and will help you get away. Don’t freak out about catching germs, if you get blood in your mouth spit it out.


Get Away: Never let an attacker bring you into a car or a building. Once they get you in a car or in their house you will most likely be beaten,  raped, tortured or killed. Even if they have a gun or knife you are more likely to survive if you stay in public.  Gang rape happens. Sex trafficking happens. Murder happens.  This information is not put here to scare you, just inform you. BE AWARE, DON’T LIVE IN FEAR.

A combination of moves allows you to immobilize your attacker so they cannot run after you.  Just one hit may not be enough, so practice these combo moves.  Practice with a friend. Have them hold up a thick cushion or pillow and try different combinations of the above moves.  Remember to be aggressive. If you are attacked, use all your strength and anger to fight back and be a survivor not a victim.

want more? Just Yell Fire is a wonderful program for schools and colleges that was started by a teenage girl and martial arts expert named Dallas Jessup. Her goal is to teach millions of girls how to fight back and be aware of violence. Find a trainer near you at

Physical abuse can  happen before and after a verbal assault or emotional abuse. Learn how to be more aware and stand your ground with my Emotional Self Defense Curriculum.

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Leah Oviedo is certified to teach self-defense through the world-wide Just Yell Fire program.   Her background includes work in the areas of domestic violence, sexual assault, foster youth, violence prevention, and business management.


2 thoughts on “Physical Self Defense”

  1. I have no self-defense training myself but the one piece of advice I’ve learned from experience is: There’s strength in numbers.
    I recently witnessed an attempted assault that ended up being an interesting case study for this. It was 2 drunk teenage boys/men (around 17-18y/o) attacking a group of 6 or 7 middle-aged women late at night. I think their drunkenness is probably the only reason they thought it was a good idea, because they clearly couldn’t attack and overpower 6 women at once. As soon as the boys tried to grope several women’s breasts, the women collectively fought back and easily overpowered the boys. Within about a minute, both boys had been hit in the face with several handbags, scratched and clawed in the face to blind them, and then each given a swift kick in the groin to put them on the floor.
    It was interesting how the numbers of people so massively shifted the nature of the encounter. The women were clearly more calm and confident about it than if it had been a single woman defending herself. It was very satisfying to see the boys get what they deserved!


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