Basic Self Defense Moves Anyone Can Do

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By Bryan Rucker •  16 min read

Trouble can strike at any time and without warning. The question is: would you know what to do to protect yourself if something did happen? Sadly, most of us have adopted the “never me” mentality when it comes to being attacked—Sure, other people might get attacked and have to fight for their life…but it would never happen to me. Unfortunately, this is only true until it’s NOT true. And unless you are prepared for a scary eventuality such as this, the end result could—sadly—be quite tragic.

There is some good news, though. Regardless of your sex, regardless of your size, regardless of your strength, there are a number of tactics you can learn to protect and literally save yourself—self-defense techniques that can help you stave off a potentially deadly situation.

In the following article we will outline several basic self-defense moves that anyone can do to potentially protect themselves from a dangerous situation.

Preparation Is the Key to Great Self Defense

It goes without saying that your best chance of avoiding injury or worse from a possible attack is to prevent one in the first place. To do this, there are several strategies you can follow. Some of the steps you can take to potentially dissuade an attacker from targeting you include:

All of these steps/measures can help reduce the likelihood you’ll be targeted by a would-be attacker. However, if all these measures fail, and you are approached by a criminal, you can always try to talk your way out of it, and to cooperate with your attacker’s “monetary demands.” If you are simply being mugged or robbed, give the person whatever he/she is asking for (money, jewelry, phone, even your keys). Nothing is worth your life—at least nothing material in nature. Money and “things” can always be replaced, but your life cannot. Do not risk being a “super hero” for a few measly dollars.

If it becomes obvious that your attacker has more than money or material goods on his/her mind—if it becomes obvious that violence is unavoidable—you will need to know how to FIGHT BACK. This does not mean you need to train to be a boxer or mixed martial artist, but knowing and mastering a few basic self-defense moves can potentially save your life.

Self Defense Moves Anyone Can Do

Use Your Voice

Because of the nature of their criminal “occupation,” attackers tend to have an aversion to loud, potentially attention-getting sounds. This is why they often ply their evil trade in remote, quiet spaces, such as late night parking lots or garages, just to name a couple. They sneak around because they know their acts are criminal, and they typically implore their victims to remain silent with threats of violence. However, regardless of what he or she may threaten, staying quiet is NOT an order you should abide, as your voice may be the only tool you have in certain dangerous situations.

If you are approached, scream and make as much noise as possible. If you have a car alarm with a panic button, press it. In many cases, this noise and commotion—and the threat of that noise alerting others as to what may be happening—will cause your cowardly attacker to run for the hills.

Create Space

After making as much noise as you possibly can, the next best self-defense move at your disposal is to run. Naturally, creating distance between you and your would-be attacker drastically decreases the odds of being attacked and injured. Creating this space usually begins with a push to remove his/her hands from you—followed by a sprint. When possible, try to run towards the most well-lit and heavily-populated areas—as you continue to scream for help. Often, this combined commotion will be enough to discourage an attacker.

Hit Where It Hurts the Most and Maximize Damage

When you are overmatched in a confrontation with someone trying to injure you, you may only have one or two chances to strike your opponent before he completely overwhelms you—either with physical strength or a weapon of some kind. Because of this, it is absolutely crucial that you make these strikes count. Despite what your feelings may be on violence, this is NOT the time to hold back for fear of hurting someone. Remember, you are being attacked, and your only chance to survive may be to hit or gouge your attacker where it hurts the most.

So what are the most vulnerable parts of the body—the parts that when struck may temporarily disable or discourage your attacker from continuing the assault? And, if given an opening, how exactly should you strike these vulnerable areas to cause the most damage? Below we will answer both of those questions in greater detail.

Vulnerable Places to Hit an Attacker and How to Hit Them


The eyes are a great place to strike an attacker if you are within reach. Striking the eyes has a dual advantage: it hurts (a lot) and it will also impair the attacker’s vision. Striking the eyes correctly and then using the attacker’s blurred vision as an opportunity to escape, is why the eyes are so vulnerable. Eyes can be struck with a gouging, poking or even scratching motion, using your fingers, fingernails or even your knuckles.


The nose is another sensitive appendage that, when struck correctly, can cause just enough pain to allow for your escape. If the attacker is right in front of you, one of the best striking motions to use is as follows: with the heel of your palm, strike directly beneath the nose, thrusting your palm in an upward direction. Throw your whole weight behind this strike and your attacker will almost certainly release his grip. If the attacker happens to be in back of you, you can also use the same upward trajectory with your elbows to deliver the blow. Either way, the nose is a great place to hit.


If you are facing your attacker, you can always try a strike to the neck or throat. If aiming for the throat, your best bet is to use a closed fist strike, again putting all of your weight behind the blow. This will temporarily disable the attacker and provide just enough time for your escape. The side of the neck is a larger target that should also be considered—it is also where the jugular vein and carotid artery are located. To strike the side of the neck, use a “karate chop” or knife hand strike, with all of your fingers held straight and tightly together, and with your thumb tucked and slightly bent at the knuckle.


The knee is one of the best places to strike a would-be attacker, as you can aim for the knee even when the face and neck is out of your reach. One of the best places to kick the knee is on the side, using the sole of the foot. This will not only cause injury, but it will also result in imbalance on the part of the attacker, giving you just enough time to flee. The front of the knee is an equally good spot for injuring the attacker, but it is less likely to cause the same level of imbalance as a side knee kick.

The goal when fighting off an attacker is to maximize the damage—the more damage you do to him, the better chance that you can escape unharmed. In trying to maximize damage, you should, of course, aim for the vulnerable places described above, but if that is not possible, you should use the heaviest and most powerful parts of your body to fight back, such as your elbows, knees and even head (described more in the next section).

Aside from using the heaviest and most powerful parts of your body to fight back, consider using everyday items to your advantage. Things like keys, pencils and pens can inflict a lot of damage when you employ a scratching or poking motion; also, dirt or sand thrown in an attacker’s eyes can temporarily blind him, as can perfume or hair spray. Even things like rocks can work to your advantage. Again, the goal is to maximize the damage, not to fight fair.

In the following section we will go over some basic defense moves—tips on how to defend you from some of the most common holds and forms of attack.

Common Holds/Attacks and How to Defend Against Them

When a would-be attacker becomes an actual attacker and attempts to grab or assault you, it pays to be prepared and ready. One way to be prepared is to understand how to get out of certain types of holds—holds the attacker may use to try and subdue you. Below we have highlighted a variety of holds, and provided some advice on how to break them—break them just long enough to create the needed space you will need to flee.

Bear Hug

In many cases, when an attacker comes at you from behind, he will attempt to put you in a bear hug. Given his strength compared to yours, this may seem like a desperate situation, but there are still a few things you can do to try and break the hold—break it just long enough to escape or fight back. These include:

Wrist Hold

If an attacker attempts to grab your wrist, you will need to use some leverage to escape the hold. Just pulling back is often not enough to break the hold of a stronger person, and every second counts. When an attacker has grabbed your wrist, instead of pulling backwards as your instincts may tell you to do, you should actually drop down into a strong, squatted stance, with your knees bent. After you have done this, lean forward slightly, and bend your elbows towards the attacker. Continue to bend your elbows toward him until he can no longer hold onto your wrist—then create some space and run.

Outside Strike

When an attacker comes at you with a punch, slap or even a weapon, it is much better to get hit in the arm than the face or neck. To ensure you do not get hit, you should do the following: Raise your arms in front of your face with your fingers spread out and your elbows slightly bent. As the attacker swings, place one of your arms to the inside of the attacker’s swinging arm, guaranteeing that the punch or slap will land on your arm instead of your head. As you do this, make a strong, tightly-held fist with your other hand, and aim fast and hard for his eyes, nose or throat.

Rear and Front Choke Holds

When an attacker tries to subdue you with a choke hold, there are actually many things you can do. If he is choking you from the front, take your less dominant arm and swing it across the attacker’s grip. As you do this, take your stronger, more dominant hand and strike him with a knife strike across the side of the neck. This will usually buy you enough to time to escape or at least yell for help. Choke holds from the rear, especially those using the arms to subdue your neck from behind, can be a little trickier, but there are still some things you can do. If there is some space between you and the attacker, try swinging upwards with your elbows into the ribs. Continue to do this until you have created enough space to escape the hold. You can also attempt to grab the attacker’s arms and flip him over the top of you, but that move is a little more advanced. Finally, just as with the bear hug, try grabbing just one of the fingers, pulling it out and sideways as far as you can.

Mount Position

If you get into a situation in which the attacker has pinned you face up on the floor, do not panic; there is something you can do to reverse this position. A move that is taught in many Jiu-Jitsu studios, here you will want to grab either the left or right wrist of the attacker with your strong, dominant hand. With the other hand, hook or grab the elbow on the same arm, trapping that arm to your chest. Next use one of your feet to trap the foot and leg of the attacker. When both the arm and the leg have been trapped, elevate your hips and quickly turn over onto your knees to get on top. Once on top, aim for the most vulnerable parts of his body: the eyes, nose, and throat.


Similar to a bear hug, but in reverse, a clinch is where an attacker has your body subdued from the front, and you still have use of your arms (you see clinches a lot in boxing). When an attacker gets you into a clinch, you can be 99 percent sure that his goal is to get you to the ground where you are more vulnerable. This is what you need to fight against the hardest. To avoid getting taken down, lower your center of gravity by bending at the knees. Use your hands to block any potential knee strikes from the attacker. With your center of gravity low, make a fist with your dominant hand and aim directly for the groin—another vulnerable part of the body. In many cases, this will give you the needed time to flee.

Hair Grab

If you are one of the millions of women with long hair, this feature can actually be a detriment in an attack situation. When an attacker grabs your hair, he can essentially move your head and body in any direction he pleases. However, if this happens there are some things you can do. Once the attacker grabs hold of your hair, use your less dominant hand and grab your own hair between the scalp and the attacker’s hand. This will help ease the pain and pressure, and give you a chance to strike. If your attacker is in front of you, try a kick to the front or side of the knee to disable him. You can also poke and gouge his eyes with your dominant hand, or strike his nose or throat. If he is behind you, aim for the face with your elbows, swinging up and in a backwards motion.


The best way to survive an attack is to prevent it from happening. However, if all prevention measures fail, you will either need to FIGHT or FLEE—known as the Fight or Flight Response. Yelling and making noise can help discourage the attacker, especially in a place where people are in earshot of the attack. Running to safety is of course your best bet, but when that is not possible you will need to use the moves described above to ensure your safety. Remember, the last thing you want is to be taken to the ground—a position where the attacker will have the definite advantage. Instead, fight as hard as you possibly can to avoid this, using strikes and kicks to the eyes, nose, throat, knees, ears, neck and groin. Seconds count in an attack, so the longer you can fight back strongly on your feet; the better your chances are of avoiding injury—or worse.

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Bryan Rucker

Brian Rucker has spent his entire life participating in essentially all things wildlife. His concern grew astronomically during the previous tensions between the United States and other nations. He also has grown a substantial interest in survival and sustainability due to the current shape of the world over the years. He believes that preparation triumphs all things.