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How to defend yourself

Rachel Hosie, Costel Sandu |

It is a depressing but true fact that a lot of women feel afraid when walking the streets alone at night — all you have to do is ask around to realise just how many of us are fed-up with walking home clutching our keys between our fingers.

Of course, two men can be extremely unequally matched when it comes to strength and size, but the sad truth is that the majority of women can put up little fight against the majority of men purely because of our biological make-up. And that’s a scary thought. Progress certainly needs to be made to reduce attacks — be they sexual assault or robbery but as that doesn’t look likely any time soon, learning self defence is a wise move for women of all ages.

Top British mixed martial artist Helen Hellraiser Harper, who specialises in Jui Jitsu, believes all women should know more self-defence because it brings not only safety but confidence. “In my opinion, women don’t have the confidence they should in life let alone in defence,” she told The Independent.

“Learning to fend off an attacker can not only help women to have peace of mind when walking alone, but also increase confidence, independence and a general sense of achievement.”

Widely-considered one of the most effective and practical forms of selfdefence is Krav Maga – not technically a martial art, but rather a tactical defence system. “

Martial arts tend not to change but Krav Maga is constantly developing,” London-based Krav Maga instructor Sarah Brendlor told The Independent.

She, like all instructors, has to train a minimum of nine days a year to maintain her license and ensure her techniques stay up-to-date. Originally developed in the late 1930s by Hungarian-born Israeli martial artist, Emrich “Imi” Lichtenfeld, it was used by the Israeli army before being redeveloped for civilian use in the 1960s.

Krav Maga translates an unarmed combat and was designed to be learned very quickly it’s based on natural reactions: “Krav Maga takes your natural instincts and makes them more efficient and effective,” Brendlor explains. Whilst Krav Maga teaches women and men alike to defend themselves against all types of attacks, it’s not just about fighting – it focuses on prevention and being aware.The moves are simple and taught in a repetitive way in order to change your muscle memory – to really drill the moves into a person and make them become second nature you have to keep practising, but it doesn’t take years and years.

A couple of years ago– as 12-yearold girl was on her way home from one of Brendlors Krav Maga classes. As she walked down a quiet, residential street in the dark, she suddenly felt a large hand on her shoulder and a man grabbing her from behind. Instinctively, her Krav Maga training kicked in – she turned round, kneed him in the groin and ran off. Krav Maga isn’t about winning a fight, it’s about doing enough to get away. Brendlor is, unsurprisingly, a huge Krav Maga advocate: “Women walk around in fear,” she says.

“Even if an advance isn’t violent and aggressive, it may be violating and unwanted.” Whilst she says she no longer walks around scared, she is always alert and emphasises the importance of avoiding danger: “Don’t take unnecessary risks by going to dodgy places or waving your phone around,” she implores. “Krav Maga won’t defend you against being stupid.” Avoidance is the first step in the Krav Maga timeline: Avoid, prevent, de-escalate, defend, fight (if necessary), then run. The system doesn’t advise starting fights but is designed to fill in the blanks that inevitably come when you’re scared and under stress.

Although it takes a while to build muscle memory, there are certain basic moves that are easier to keep at the front of your mind and will help you free yourself from a dangerous situation. I asked Brendlor, whose part of London Krav Maga, to teach me the five most important Krav Maga moves specifically for women.

The five Krav Maga self-defence moves every woman should know

Open hand strike:

This move uses the the heel of the hand to target some of the most vulnerable areas around a persons’ head — the face, eyes and both front and back of the neck. As a punch-like action it can hurt an attacker, or if you go for the eyes it will seriously disturb them. Don’t pull your arm back (keep your elbow in front of your ribs) as this will warn the attacker of what’s to come.

Kick to the groin:

The groin is one of the most vulnerable points, not just for men but for women too. It’s important to judge your distance though – if further away (a long-range attack), kick and aim to hit either with the tips of your toes or where your shoelaces would be. If you’re closer, use your knee — Harper believes this is the most important move for a woman fending off a male attacker.

360 or outside defence:

Attackers often take aim at their targets from behind or the side by using a circular attack to slap, grab or punch. To combat this, use the side of the wrist to intercept and hit them in a similar position – by keeping your arm at a right-angle you can create a decent amount of space between yourself and the attacker.

Handbag grab or any aggressive grab:

When your arm, hand or bag is pulled with force, the most important thing is to move with and use that energy – instead of resisting and pulling away, use the attackers’ energy to strike or kick them.

Attack from the ground:

If you find yourself on the floor, judge your distance and then kick the assailant back. If they’re directly above, kick them with both feet at once, thrusting your hips off the floor for extra power, then get up and run away as quickly as possible. It’s time to take back the streets and feel strong

(The Independent)