Self-defense defined

Self-defense is the use of physical force to counter an immediate and quite often unprovoked attack with the threat of violence possibly leading to physical injury or even death. Such force can be either armed or unarmed. In either case, the chances of success depend on many variables related to the severity of the threat, but also on the mental and physical readiness of the defender.

In other words, how prepared will you be to deal with a sudden attack? This is the moment that will test years of training. When the adrenalin suddenly kicks in during a real-life attack anything can happen. You will do one of three things, freeze, fight back or run away.

Unarmed self-defense

Many styles of martial arts are practiced for self-defense or include self-defense techniques. Some styles train primarily for self-defense, while other martial or combat sports can be effectively applied for self-defense. Some martial arts train how to escape from a knife or gun situation, or how to break away from a punch, while others train how to attack. To provide more practical self-defense, many modern martial arts schools now use a combination of martial arts styles and techniques and will often customize self-defense training to suit individual participants.

Armed self-defense

A wide variety of weapons can be used for self-defense. The most suitable depends on the threat presented, the victim or victims, and the experience of the defender. Legal restrictions also greatly influence self-defense options.

While in some jurisdictions firearms may be carried openly or concealed expressly for this purpose, many jurisdictions have tight restrictions on who can own firearms, and what types they can own. knives, especially those categorized as switchblades may also be controlled, as may batons, pepper spray and personal stun guns and tasers – although some may be legal to carry with a license or for certain professions.

Everyday objects, such as flashlights, baseball bats, newspapers, keyrings with keys, kitchen utensils and other tools, and hair spray aerosol cans in combination with a lighter, can also be used as improvised weapons for self-defense. Weapons have been built for ease of carry and to resemble everyday objects. ballpoint pens, swordsticks, cane guns and modified umbrellas are similar categories of concealed self-defense weapons that serve a dual purpose.

Situationally aware

Being aware of and avoiding potentially dangerous situations is your first line of self-defense. Attackers will typically select victims they feel they have an advantage against, such as greater physical size, numerical superiority or sobriety versus intoxication. Additionally, any ambush situation puts the defender at a immediate disadvantage. These factors make fighting to defeat an attacker unlikely to succeed. When avoidance is impossible, one often has a better chance at fighting to escape, such methods have been referred to as ‘break away’ techniques. Understanding the ‘mindset’ of a potential attacker is essential if you are to avoid or escape a potentially life-threatening situation.


Verbal self-defense, is defined as using one’s words to prevent, de-escalate, or end an attempted assault. This kind of ‘conflict management’ is the use of voice, tone, and body language to calm a potentially violent situation before violence actually ensues. This often involves techniques such as deflecting the conversation to individuals who are less passionately involved, or simply entering a protected empathetic position to understand the attacker better. Lowering an attacker’s defense and raising their ego is one way to de-escalate a potentially violent situation.

Personal alarms

Personal alarms are a way to practice passive self-defense. A personal alarm is a small, hand-held device that emits strong, loud, high-pitched sounds to deter attackers because the noise will sometimes draw the attention of passersby. It must be recognized that for such a device to be effective it must be in the potential “victims” hand prior to an attempted attack.

Self-defense education

Self-defense techniques and recommended behavior under the threat of violence is systematically taught in self-defense classes. Commercial self-defense education is part of the martial arts industry in the wider sense, and many martial arts instructors also give self-defense classes. While all martial arts training can be argued to have some self-defense applications, self-defense courses are marketed explicitly as being oriented towards effectiveness and optimized towards situations as they occur in the real world. There are a large number of systems taught commercially, many tailored to the needs of specific target audiences such as defense against attempted rape for women, self-defense for children and teens.

The use of force can be a fine-line

Remember, not all countries are the same regarding if you find yourself having to justify in a court of law your actions used in self-defense should your attacker decide to press charges against you for using excessive force, might sound crazy but this can and does happen.

If you get the better of your attacker but choose to teach them a lesson and kick them all around the ground, then that’s gone way past the point of being self-defense and you have now become the aggressor.

Basically, just because you might get away with it in one country doesn’t mean other countries are as lenient when it comes to this issue. The key is not to go over-the-top in defending yourself, after all it`s called self-defense for a reason.

Author: selfdefensespecialist

I`m Nigel Taylor – originally from England – owner of The Backyard Gym in Round Rock Texas. We specialize in personal training, kickboxing cardio and self-defense. With over 25 years experience as a personal trainer, I know what works! From weight loss to bulking up to toning up, I can help you get your desired look and achieve your fitness goals. I can also offer you the privacy of a 100% private personal training studio in which to enjoy and get the most out of your workouts.