Women and Self Defense

When I think of self defense, I don't only think of Kung Fu, karate or judo.  I think about being street smart and trying to prevent an incident in the first place.

I'm a New Yorker and as a New Yorker I take great pride in being pretty street savvy.  That doesn't mean that street savvy people can't get mugged, but if you're street savvy you're less likely to be caught off guard by someone who wants to take your money or worse.

What do I mean by street savvy?  Well in some ways it's very simple.  Potential criminals tend to want an easy target.  Someone who looks uncertain, distracted or out of their element.  Luckily I've never been mugged--I don't count the time a kid snatched my bus pass out of my hand in high school--and part of the reason, I think is my attitude.

When I was in college I used to ride the subway late at night and I wasn't very fearful because depending on the line, the subway can be very busy at night.

However the few times someone shady has walked into the my car and looked like he was looking for an easy mark, I would stare directly at him.  His eyes would dart all over the subway car looking at people's belongings and I would just continue to stare as if memorizing his features for a police report.  

Finally he would glance my way and as soon as he saw me staring, would quickly look away.  That's when I knew he was up to no good.  Obviously if I saw a police office I would alert them, and if I felt in physical danger I would move to another car, but more often than not, the potential crook would get off the train.

Here are some other tips:

  • Even if I'm not sure where I'm going, I try to look like I do. 
  • I don't wear headphones when I'm walking on the street at night.
  • I almost never talk on the cellphone while walking on the street.
  • I glance behind me every so often while walking on the street at night.
  • I generally use handbags that have a zipper.
  • I don't get flashy with money or electronics and just in case, I keep my money in my pockets instead of the wallet in my purse.

I use some of these same techniques when I go home to the "safe suburbs."  I look around before I get out of the car, especially at night.  The first thing I do when I get in the car is lock the doors.

If someone comes at you intent on attack, that's when you have to remember some basic self defense:  using keys, fingers or whatever's available to go for the attacker's eyes or throat while yelling "Fire!" like a banshee.  Evidently more people will respond to someone yelling "Fire!"
than just someone screaming.  Also, a well placed knee in the groin of your attacker can give you enough time to get away.

And don't forget anyone can be a potential mugger or attacker.  Several years ago my girlfriend was mugged on the street at twilight by a man in a suit and tie.

The website Think Like A Black Belt is written by Lori Hoeck, an expert in martial arts and she has some great posts on her site about self defense.  A recent post for parents gave five things to teach your kids so they remain safe.

Another martial arts practitioner, Ronin has a blog Self Defense for Women.  It's not just about physical training, it's also about women being assertive in their everyday lives and defending themselves verbally.  Ronin gives this example:

Say your associate at work comes up and for some reason cracks on
you, calls you a bi**ch, for reasons known only to him/herself.
Fighting back doesn't have to come in the form of a punch in the mouth
okay? There are certainly many sharp come-backs to an insult like that
ladies. How about - "do you kiss your mother with that mouth?"

You ARE special, you ARE unique and yes, you ARE a beautiful
person. There's no reason to suffer indignities that others will try to
heap on you everyday. Sometimes, so subtly, that you don't realize it
until long after an incident happens

Self defense is not always about punching or kicking - it's a mindset!

I love that advice. 

What do you think of when you think of self defense?  


Megan Smith is the BlogHer Contributing Editor covering Television and Online Video. Her personal entertainment blog is Megan's Minute, Quirky Commentary Around The Clock.


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