Weekend. Late in the evening on your way home, you enter a bus or train, lost in thought. You miss your stop, get off at the abandoned terminus and get a queasy feeling. Out of the corner of your eye you notice that a stranger is watching you. It is a guy, and suddenly he comes straight towards you. At this moment you might wish you knew a little more about self-defence.
No, of course I don’t want you to strike now. In most cases, a guy like this will just walk right past you. But in such situations it gives you security to know how to behave correctly and to defend yourself if necessary. Tim von Fintel, chief trainer at the martial arts school Zanshin Dojo in Hamburg, explains how every woman can learn to judge and survive dicey situations.
One important piece of information in advance: This article does not replace a self-defence course.
Why is it good to learn self-defense?
This is not only about the handy parts, but above all about creating awareness of dangerous situations and being able to recognize them. As always, caution is the best method of prevention. “The most effective and safest way is not to get into dangerous situations in the first place and to avoid them as far as possible,” the expert emphasizes. For example, it’s better to walk on busy streets than lonely ones, and in the evening it’s better to choose lit streets than unlit ones.
A self-defence course serves to recognize dangers and to deal with unpleasant situations in a targeted manner. Of course, the situation at the bus stop cannot be predicted in this way, and nobody can or wants to forbid you to cross the street alone in the evening. Of course the attackers are always in the wrong, but sometimes it is better not to discuss this with them personally.
Even physically superior attackers can be fended off by certain techniques. © Susan Kesselring
What is allowed in self-defense?
In Germany, laws regulate that you may defend yourself “proportionately” against attacks. In other words: you should not react with a chainsaw if someone throws you with a ball. However, there are exceptions to this “proportionality”. Von Fintel explains: “If a person defends himself out of fear, it is not a punishable offence to disregard proportionality. Then the emergency paragraph applies.”
Example: A stranger suddenly slaps you in the park and you strike back with an object reflexively, causing your attacker to seriously injure himself. This is not meant to be a tip, it means: If you are attacked, you should not prevent yourself from defending yourself by legal considerations.
In order to protect themselves, everything is permitted that is not covered by the weapons law. Important: “By law, pepper spray may only be purchased for animal protection,” stresses Fintel’s expert. If the can is marked accordingly, it is legal to carry it with you. Sprays without such a marking may only be carried along as the owner of the ‘small firearms license’ (to be applied for at the public order office, police or district administration depending on the municipality).
The use of the spray, however, is again only permitted in both cases in the emergency situation mentioned, i.e. in self-defence or emergency aid. It is not enough that someone insults you. Security experts also warn that such a spray conveys false security, conflicts are more likely to escalate and you, as an inexperienced user, can injure yourself if used incorrectly. Better: a self-defence course.
That’s why women should do martial arts
When should I start learning self-defense?
This is a very individual decision. But if you generally feel rather insecure and have had the experience of not being able to assert yourself well against others – even verbally – it is advisable to deal with the issue.
Self-defense begins with saying “no” when you don’t want something. “Self-assertion and self-awareness are the preliminary stage of self-defence,” says von Fintel. A confident demeanour, a confident attitude and clear words are often the best basis for self-defence.
Through targeted training you can also learn how to fend off tricky situations. “Practice certain scenarios regularly, your charisma will change and you will appear more confident,” says von Fintel. “If you have a strong attitude and a healthy self-confidence, you will be more difficult to attack than if you take on a kind of victim role right from the start. This alone can have an effect on potential attackers, because perpetrators usually seek out supposedly weaker opponents.
Self-defence through Krav Maga
Keep your guard up! In a self-defence course you will also learn how to deal with sudden attacks. © Sarah Hälbich
Which techniques are best suited for self-defence?
The easiest and most effective way to learn punching techniques on vital points. These include the genital area, eyes or neck of the attacker. These techniques are simple and can be used by any person (see videos below).
Some self-defence courses also use leverage techniques. However, the expert is sceptical about this: “Leverage techniques are out of place for people who have never dealt with self-defence before, because the technique first has to be practised intensively.
This is how kickboxing works
Which unarmed self-defense methods are there?
Martial arts are suitable for learning self-defense because they contain self-defense elements. However, many martial arts are primarily designed for competition and can be quite brutal, such as Thai boxing. “It’s no use picking the toughest sport if you’re not the type,” says von Fintel.
Tip: Are you interested in martial arts look at several sports. If hard martial arts scare you off, choose a gentler course. Then stay on the ball and learn contents more effectively.
There are courses that are specialized in self-defense. Whether beginner or advanced. Every woman can join such a course. The expert advises to take a self-defence course in addition to the martial arts, as the focus is on contents that are only sporadically covered in martial arts.
Attention: A serious self-defense course is not primarily about fighting, but about recognizing and defusing dangerous situations.
How does a self-defence course work?
In a good self-defense course, participants learn practical techniques to act correctly in an emergency. Different scenarios are practiced in role plays. For example, saying “Stop!” when you don’t want something to happen, or reacting correctly if a stranger approaches you in a situation where you feel uncomfortable.
Within these role-plays, attacking and defensive actions are played through several times. For example, how to free yourself when someone grabs you from behind or chokes you. At the end of a course, content is discussed or exercises are carried out outside. Here, course participants are put under stress and learn to defend themselves in extreme situations. “This is important to be able to deal with moments of shock,” says von Fintel.
“If you repeat certain scenarios regularly, you will lose the shyness to defend yourself in such an attack.”
How do I recognize a good self-defense course?
There are definitely less serious offers. Von Fintel explains: “The term self-defence is not protected, so you should look for recommendations from your circle of friends or experts such as martial artists. In addition, it is useful to look at what area the instructor comes from, for example the security sector or martial arts”.
By the way, cheap self-defense courses are no worse than expensive ones. Sports clubs usually offer cheaper courses, since they usually have volunteer trainers working there. A good course costs on average between 50-200 Euros.
What are the limits of self-defence?
If you get into a situation in which you are clearly inferior in terms of strength and/or numbers, the limit of self-defence has been reached. Therefore, you should always keep an eye on your possibilities of escape – and especially on possible helpers.
Don’t be afraid to draw attention to yourself by shouting loudly, often this also drives away the attackers who you thought were “easy victims”. It often helps to comment loudly on what the attacker is doing: “Don’t touch me!” This attracts the attention of others. If you have to run away and wear high heels, take them off if you can walk better. If there’s no one on the street, ring houses or knock on windows, try to make an emergency call on your mobile phone or at an emergency call point.
Make a real alarm!
So, now calm down, fortunately nothing happened. You see: Being able to defend yourself against attacks is important. It strengthens your self-confidence and gives you security. Especially punching techniques on vital points can be learned quickly and effectively. The most important thing is to recognize dangerous situations and to avoid them.