Debunking Self-defense Myths

Friday, 14 February 2014 - 8:13pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Debi Steven, Director of Action Breaks Silence tells us what will and won't work if you're really attacked
Image courtesy Yes Bank

1) Pepper spray is protection enough — Think twice! We've seen the power of pepper spray to adjourn the Indian Parliament, but the fact remains that when adrenaline kicks in a flight or fight situation, it will impair your fine motor responses (needed to unlock and press the pepper spray trigger), leaving only your gross motor impulses (your ability to slap, kick, bite, scratch, rip, gouge...) at your disposal.

2) Martial arts is self-defense — Not true! Martial arts may enhance your focus, endurance and reflexes but in the real world, with 'respect'—the core of martial arts—out of the equation, there are no rules, no marks for fancy moves and no referees to call time on fouls. The simple moves you need to thwart or escape an attack are not taught in any martial arts course.

3) Jab to the chest – Won't Work. This is more likely to make your attacker madder than ever and coming at you with even more emotion and energy than below. What will work is a flat-palmed slap to the neck. An unexpected flat-palmed slap to the side of the neck will stun the carotid artery, affecting blood supply around the body, and leave your attacker in pain and temporarily disabled.

4) Raising your arms high and bringing them heavily on an attackers arms to break a choke-hold — Won't work. For two reasons; raising your arms isn't exactly easy with someone at your throat; the more you struggle, the more your attacker is likely to tighten his grip on your neck. Instead, slam your palms into his face from either side, as hard as you can and as soon as you can.

5) Stamping foot/instep of attacker when grabbed from behind — Won't work. Raising your leg to get enough of height to make an impact and then aiming for a foot somewhere behind you, is no easy task. Instead, reaching behind and grabbing/stabbing/crushing his groin will leave your attacker screaming in pain and temporarily disabled. Follow up with an elbow to the face or a chop on the neck if necessary.

6) Snatching your hand away when someone grabs it — Won't work. This will only make an aggressor tighten his grip. Instead, slap him with your other hand. He'll instantly leave your hand to clutch his stinging face.

7) Don't fight back, you'll have an easier time — Not true! Research shows that victims of rape who didn't fight back, carry around a tremendous amount of guilt and take longer to heal. Of course, if it's just a mugging, you might just want to give away your wallet and keep your life.

8) The butterflies in your tummy and trembling knees make you weak — Not true! That's just adrenaline kicking in, in anticipation of a flight or a fight boosting your capacity to hit or kick or run 75% faster, better or stronger than you normally would.

9) Confidence is the key — Not always true! Self-defense rules are not carved in black and white. No two attackers are alike. While confidence may be the key to keeping most attackers at bay, direct eye-contact may trigger an aggressive response in another person. It may be wiser to pretend to be submissive until the right time to strike. You stand a better chance of escape with surprise on your side. So stay aware, trust your intuition and fight if you must.

Always remember, self-defense techniques are meant to buy you time to escape. No matter how strong a woman you are; there is no way you can compete with the raw physical strength of a man. So trust your intuition, steer clear of situations when your gut is telling you to, and stay aware and alert. Be mentally prepared to cause pain if you have to, but the cardinal rule is to Run! Run! Run! As fast and as far as your feet will carry you. Scream! In India, someone just may come to your aid.

These are just snippets from a Valentine's Day workshop on Safety for Women organised by Yes Bank. To watch a few defense myths debunked go to
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