Self Defense 101

Should you find yourself in a situation requiring you to hit another human being in order to defend yourself, others, or your property, the following might help you to know how to handle yourself.


In all my encounters outside the boxing ring, I ended them with grappling techniques.  Grappling basically just means wrestling: Judo, wrestling, Jujitsu – all these are ‘grappling’ styles.  Since you don’t have to punch people and cut up your knuckles, it’s easier on the hands.  And, since you can pin someone, put them into a pain compliance grip, or render them unconscious with a carotid choke that they can recover from in a matter of seconds, it’s easier on the conscience. You can keep both defender and attacker safe from serious harm until police arrive.

DO NOT HIT THEM WHILE THEY ARE ON THE GROUND UNLESS THEY PRESENT A THREAT TO YOUR LIFE. That could be considered by a court to be aggravated battery. Going to jail would suck, and then you’d probably have to do a whole bunch more fighting.


Unless you’re a boxer, you have no business boxing anyone. You can hurt your knuckles and fracture bones in your hand.  That is, if you somehow manage to not get your silly have-no-business-boxing-in-the-first-place ass kicked.

Which brings me to my next point…


Once you enter puberty, your legs are legally considered deadly weapons in the state of California, and likely so in many other states.  Don’t kick unless you (1) know how and where to kick, and (2) have a reasonable fear that your life is in danger.


Palm.  Strikes with the palm should be delivered with the heel of your hand (just above your wrist). Even a light palm strike to the nose can cause bleeding; a powerful one can cause a profuse amount of bleeding and a blinding, shocking amount of pain.  If you’ve ever been hit by any fast-moving object directly on the nose, you’d know it really fucking hurts. Palm strikes can also be used on the side of the jaw to induce a concussion.

Hammerfist. Ever seen a karate demonstration where some screamin’ feller obliterates 10 flaming bricks that were just sitting there, politely minding their own brick-ly business?  Odds are that person used a hammerfist.  It looks exactly how it sounds: your clenched fist comes down as if swinging a hammer, striking with the bottom of the fist.  You can bring it directly down on your opponent’s nose, breaking it.

Elbows. For some reason, it’s illegal to kick someone unless your life is in danger, but using elbows isn’t distinguished in any legally substantive way. Because you have few nerve endings in your elbow, and the bone there is very hard, the elbow is a prime striking weapon.

Direct elbow strikes work just like shallow punches, except messing up the skin on your elbow doesn’t hurt as much as messing up your hand. You can add force to direct elbow strikes by grabbing the back of your attacker’s head and pulling them in towards you as you smash your elbow into their temple, nose, or jaw. A properly executed direct hit to either of those areas should drop your attacker or cause an incapacitating amount of pain so that you can flee.

Elbow strikes should go in a horizontal chopping motion THROUGH your attacker’s head. There are backwards elbow strikes that use the stabbing motion of the elbow; usually these are used against an attacker coming at you from behind or from the side. Drive your elbow into their solar plexus, groin, or neck/jaw, depending on what you can reach.


You will not learn how to defend yourself from this article.  Sorry, but if you read this article a million times you won’t be any more able to defend yourself than you were before you read it for the first time. There is no substitute for proper instruction.

Go to a gym, preferably one that teaches something full contact (jujitsu and MMA are popular), put down some money, and commit at least one year of your life, twice a week, to honing a skill that can save your life.

Editor’s Note: As the author of this article rightly notes, no article will ever be able to teach you everything you need to know for self defense. This article offers some useful techniques but full body contact may not be a viable option for some people. There are many classes, like the Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) System, that show you simple techniques to defend yourself that do not require full body contact. The views in this article are just one of many perspectives on self-defense and you should find the one best for your skill level, fitness level, and body type.

Photo by Meaghan Morrison

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