These Are The Self-Defense Moves You Need To Know

When you're in a dangerous situation, like being approached by an attacker or coming face-to-face with a mountain lion, your instincts take over. In most cases, your gut will tell you what to do to protect yourself, but being armed with a few basic self-defense techniques can certainly increase your chances of getting away safely.

Luckily, you don't have to join a fight club if you want to learn how to throw a punch, because there are some more accessible forms of fighting, like Krav Maga, which means "contact combat" in Hebrew. Krav Maga was originally developed in the 1940's as a way to teach everyday Israeli people how to fight, says Ross Cascio, an expert-level self-defense and fitness instructor at Krav Maga Worldwide. So, even if you aren't coordinated or have never even punched a bag, you can totally learn the techniques.

The difference between Krav Maga and other martial arts, such as karate or jiu jitsu, is that Krav Maga is known for using "dirty fighting tactics that would be illegal in a sport fight," Cascio says. For example, you're allowed to hit someone in the groin or poke them in the eyes. "We kind of have a reputation for being a no-holds-barred martial art, which is probably why we've become sort of trendy," he says. Also, some people practice Krav Maga simply because it's a good workout.

If you're curious about this fighting technique, here are the basic self-defense moves that everyone should know, according to Cascio. Of course, in an ideal world, people wouldn't need to know how to defend themselves (and by the same token, if someone is assaulted and they can't defend themselves, it's not their fault). But unfortunately, knowing a few self-defense moves can be useful in the world we live in.

Turn In

With someone behind you, turn in behind your elbow. Rotate to your left to turn toward the attacker and raise your left arm in front of your face so that your face is covered.
Groin Hit

If your arms are trapped by your attacker, strike down toward the groin. "We tell people to strike the vulnerable areas, which include anything for breathing or breeding," Cascio says.
Get Heavy

If someone grabs you in a bear hug, bend your legs and drop the level of your hips. Think of it as sitting into a full squat so your legs are parallel with the ground. Keep your head up, not folded forward, to make your center of gravity lower, so it’s more difficult to lift you off the ground. Dropping your base puts pressure on the attacker, because they have to deal with your weight.
Fighting Stance

Assuming a good "fighting stance" is important, because it puts you in a position to attack and protect yourself. Ideally, your feet should be a little wider than hip-width distance apart, with all toes facing forward. If you're right-handed, your right foot should be behind your left one, with your right heel slightly off the ground (and vice versa if you're left-handed). Should you need to move around, step with the foot that's closest to where you want to go, and push with the opposite foot.

Keep your hands out in front of your face, with elbows slightly tucked in close to the body. "Your fingertips should be level with your eyebrows, so that if someone punched you in the face, your hands up would stop it," Cascio says. Tuck your chin down to protect the softer targets of the face, like your nose or cheeks. "It's easier to damage soft structures of the face, and it’s easier to get knocked out if your jaw gets hit," he says.
Straight Punch

To throw a powerful, effective punch, start with your hips and shoulders rotated, so your dominant hand is in the back. "If you turn your hips and shoulders, your body can generate more power," Cascio says. It can be helpful to think about it this way: Your hand delivers the punch, but your body throws it, Cascio says.

The punching hand should be in a closed fist, with your thumb outside your knuckles. You're going to want to aim your hit with the first two knuckles ("your peace sign fingers," Cascio says) to have the most effect. And as you punch, try to turn your chin toward the shoulder of your punching hand, and bring the other hand slightly in front of your face to protect yourself. Recoil the punch directly back to the face, in a straight line.

In most scenarios, you're going to want to punch whatever you can to protect yourself. If you have time to aim, go for the soft structures of the face (basically, everything from your eyebrows down), which are the most vulnerable. Hitting someone's forehead could just end up hurting your hand.
Kick

Kicking for self-defense is a little different than kicking, say, a soccer ball. You should start by driving the knee of your dominant leg (a.k.a. your kicking leg) forward, then let the lower leg extend until it's straight. Aim to strike the top of your foot with the person's groin. "Your goal is to kick up the middle of their groin vertically," Cascio says.

You want to point your toes forward, not up to the sky, and kick with the part of your foot where your shoelaces would be. "There's a much wider and longer striking surface on the top of your foot," Cascio says. If you were to kick with your toes up, on the other hand, it wouldn't be as strong of a strike, he says.