New to Self-Defense? Start Here!
New to self-defense and not sure where to start? We’re here to help!
Looking for help finding reputable resources or a safe place to train? Need some guidance figuring out how to navigate this vast and often overwhelming world of personal safety? Whatever the reasons, you’ve found yourself here, and we couldn’t be happier that you did.
As if the thought of needing to defend yourself wasn’t scary enough, now you have to contend with what comes next: figuring out which resources are trustworthy; picking through mountains of information, tips, and advice; deciding if training is right for you; choosing a self-defense system to train in, then finding an instructor or school to train with; and the list goes on and on.
Then there’s the whole culture of much of the self-defense world, which can be downright intimidating even for people who have trained in martial arts or combat sports before.
It’s enough to make your head spin and maybe even question if it’s worth the hassle in the first place. We totally get it! But it doesn’t have to be complicated, and the process shouldn’t be prohibitive. So for the duration of this article, and hopefully beyond, please consider us your helpful personal safety guides.
We’ve put together a simplified roadmap of everything we think someone new to self-defense needs to know in order to complete a personal safety crash course and make informed decisions about next steps, all while feeling confident and in control of the journey. Ready? Let’s start!
YOU THE BOSS!
At the heart of self-defense is personal power. We believe that learning self-defense is a tremendous vehicle to achieving greater personal power. We also believe that exercising personal power is an important part of the journey. You are the sole boss of your feelings, thoughts and actions. You get to decide what is right for you. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to personal safety and self-defense. There is no right or wrong way to practice self-defense, and there is no right or wrong way to defend yourself. What makes sense and feels right to someone else might not make sense and feel right to you. Whether the extent of your self-defense journey is reading this article, or embarking on a decades-long training practice, YOU THE BOSS!
IT’S NEVER YOUR FAULT
We wish we never had to teach anyone how to defend themselves (although our POWER Training is pretty darn amazing to teach!). But it’s important that our students, and all students of self-defense, understand that there are zero circumstances and zero choices that someone can make that warrant being assaulted. The only person (or persons) at fault in the case of violence is the perpetrator(s).
THE PILLARS OF SELF-DEFENSE
There is nothing you can do or not do to guarantee your safety. Likewise, there is nothing you can do or not do to warrant being targeted for violence (see roadmap item #2). But there are a multitude of simple and practical choices you can make that can help you exist in the world more safely.
Existing in the world more safely is one the most important variables in the self-defense equation. Violence is life-altering, terrifying, and traumatic, and no amount of self-defense training will change that. We frequently say that we’d go to the ends of the Earth to avoid having to test our physical skills. So what are the best ways to exist more safely?
AWARENESS - Being aware of your surroundings is at the top of the safety list when we look at easy-to-implement safety strategies. Put those devices down, remove those earbuds, let your eyes and ears do what they’re meant to do: observe and inform!
COMMON-SENSE ACTIONS - There are many simple strategies (too many to list here) you can use to increase your safety, such as having your keys out and in hand when approaching your home or vehicle. Click here to download our free Safety Guide PDF with close to 60 of our favorite straight-forward common-sense safety actions.
GUT INSTINCT - Being able to identify your unique gut instinct is extremely valuable. Listening to it when it notifies you that something’s amiss is equally valuable, although often very tricky to accomplish. The more you practice listening to your gut instinct, the easier it becomes.
2. Boundary Setting
Boundary setting is no joke! It’s the thing we struggle with most in our personal lives, even with all of our many years of training, and it’s the thing that our students struggle with most as well. So here’s the quick and dirty. We think of boundary setting as consisting of lower-risk scenarios (e.g., saying “no” to a needy family member, confronting a coworker who said something offensive) and higher-risk scenarios (e.g., being followed, being approached aggressively), based on the estimated risk of physical violence.
While your specific response might change based on whether you believe the situation is lower-risk or higher-risk, effective boundary setting incorporates words, voice, body language, and energy, and follows these four principles: NAME IT, DIRECT IT, REPEAT IT, ENFORCE IT. For more information about boundary setting and to see examples of how these principles work, read our article on boundary setting.
3. Fighting Back - The Basics
The single best way to stay safe if you find yourself in danger is to get to a safe place, call 9-1-1 for help if you feel comfortable doing so, and notify others about your situation. If getting to a safe place becomes impossible, it may be time to fight back.
Physical self-defense techniques are used in order to create the opportunity for escape. Using your whole body to generate power, and striking with hard surfaces or your body to soft, vulnerable surfaces of your attacker’s body will give you the best chance of slowing, stunning, or stopping them long enough for you to get away to safety.
Strike with: KNUCKLES, HEEL OF PALM, FINGERS/THUMBS, ELBOWS, KNEES, HEELS, BALL OF THE FOOT, SHINS, HEAD, TEETH AND NAILS.
Aim for: EYES, NOSE, THROAT, GROIN
We explain and demonstrate how to send powerful strikes in detail in our Essential Guide to Women’s Self-Defense, which also includes defenses against common assaults such as chokes and bearhugs.
FIND REPUTABLE RESOURCES
There is just so much information out there on personal safety and self-defense. How do you find trustworthy resources and how do you dig through all of it? We recommend starting with our favorite print and online resources, found here.
Websites ending in .gov and .org are a good way to start filtering some of the information out there, and learning from professionals who are certified or accredited by major martial arts, self-defense, or personal safety organizations can be helpful as well.
The more complicated, intricate, or elaborate the safety and self-defense advice and techniques are, the less likely they are to be effective when utilized in real-life scenarios without hundreds of hours of hands-on training, so we recommend sticking with simple, straight-forward, and easy-to-execute strategies. But ultimately, YOU THE BOSS, so you get to decide what fits best for you.
Finally, if you’re stumped, you can always email us! We can’t promise that we’ll have a solution, but we’ll try our best to steer you in the right direction.
READY TO TRAIN?
There are so many choices to make and things to consider when you make the decision that you’re ready to train. We even wrote a whole article on How To Pick A Self-Defense School: Adults and Kids. If you’re in the market for realistic, practical, and effective self-defense training, we recommend training in a Krav Maga-based system.
There are many different factors to consider when shopping around for a training location (we cover them in our article), but the single best piece of advice we can give you is to find an instructor or school that makes you feel safe, welcome, encouraged, and supported.
Interested in training with us? Check out how you can book us for a customized safety event for your community.