Stay Safe and Sound with Self-defense

If you are a woman, your chances of becoming a victim of assault are greatly increased. You can lessen your chances of becoming a statistic by having the right attitude, learning physical defense tactics, and yes, even learning how to use weapons to protect yourself.

Use Your Mind

Your mind can be your body's greatest defensive weapon, so think about ways to improve the safety of your surroundings. For example, move your car closer to the building if you need to work late and try not to leave alone.

Attitude Is Everything

Good self-defense programs teach women to use common sense, while working to build their confidence. Many potential perpetrators assume that women will be overcome with fear.

One day while walking home from work, a Sarah passed a nicely dressed man standing on a corner. After turning the corner, she noticed that he was following her. Sarah turned around and the man inquired, "Can I look up your dress?" She swore at him angrily—a response he was not expecting. He quickly walked away.

Surprising Weapons: Intuition and Voice

An important, but often under-used self-defense tool is your intuition. Sarah sensed the nervous and hesitant nature of the potential perpetrator and she responded forcefully through her body language and voice to deter him. From a young age, girls can be taught the effectiveness of using their voices. Many programs offer classes for young children that focus on prevention tactics and the use of words to avoid being assaulted or abducted.

In another example, a 4-year-old girl became separated from her guardian at the supermarket and was scooped up by a stranger. As she was being wheeled out of the store, the child repeatedly yelled the refrain, "I don't know you, I don't know you," causing the man to release her and run. As with Sarah's situation, the child used her voice to prevent an attack.

Three Styles of Self-defense

If you decide to enroll in a self-defense program, begin by checking with your local YMCA or police department, or use the internet to locate a program near you. Below are 3 types of programs that provide women with ways to protect themselves.

Feminist Approach

Self defense for women focuses on using natural weapons of defense, including ways to use your voice. The idea behind this philosophy is that if you have an actual weapon it can be used against you. The key to the techniques are in their simplicity.

Despite the generally superior strength of men, they are not without vulnerable areas. Women learn to target and strike at areas such as the groin, Adam's apple, eyes, and ears, in addition to learning effective blocking strategies.

There are programs for children, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

Model Mugging

If you need a more dramatic method of learning self-defense, Model Mugging may be the program for you. The nationwide program uses men to model or act out threatening situations, such as mugging or assault. Sound disturbing? It is supposed to be. The idea behind this approach is to teach women how to react quickly and appropriately with their bodies and voices when they are in danger. Women are supposed to feel scared, and adrenaline levels are supposed to rise as the women are taught to fight off their mock attackers.


If you decide to arm yourself with more than your body and voice, there are programs that teach the effective use of defensive weapons, from pepper spray to firearms. Look for courses in your area that are taught by specially-trained volunteers.

Tips to Live By

Even if you decide not to enroll in a self-defense class, you can still reduce your chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime.

Tips for Every Day

  • Walk with confidence and purpose.
  • Be alert at all times.
  • Trust your instincts.
  • Speak your feelings clearly and confidently.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Avoid expensive jewelry, scarves, and long necklaces.
  • Try to keep your hands free.
  • Look people in the eye.
  • Carry your keys in hand, with one key between each finger.
  • Walk facing traffic.
  • Use a fanny pack instead of a purse.
  • Do not wear headphones when walking.
  • Avoid stairwells.
  • If you think you are being followed, do not go home. Go to a public place and call the police.

Tips When Driving

  • Check inside, around, and under your car before getting in.
  • Lock doors when inside.
  • Keep windows closed or near closed when stopped.
  • Carry a cell phone.
  • Keep your purse hidden on the floor.
  • Park in well-lit areas and move your car close to the building if you are working late.
  • Keep the gas tank at least half full.
  • Do not stop if someone is flashing headlights at you.

Tips When at Home

  • Keep doors and windows locked.
  • Consider installing a peephole, alarm, and motion sensors.
  • Leave your house looking lived in when not at home—timer lights, car in driveway.
  • Consider getting a dog.
  • Keep a cell phone in the bedroom.
  • Do not open your door to someone you do not know, even police (call the police department for verification).


American College of Sports Medicine



Why model mugging? Model Mugging website. Available at:
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Accessed January 27, 2016.
Last reviewed January 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 3/25/2014

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