Your best self-defense is to avoid being attacked in the first place. Reduce your risks by following these tips:
- Understand your surroundings. Walk in open, well-lit and well-traveled areas. Observe places like bushes or stairways, where an attacker may hide. Become familiar with buildings, parking lots, parks and other places you frequent.
- Avoid shortcuts through isolated areas.
- Use body language that projects confidence.
- When riding public transportation, sit near the driver and stay awake.
- Carry a cell phone.
- Trust your instincts. For example, if someone on the elevator makes you feel uncomfortable, get off at a floor where you know you’ll find other people.
If you want to learn how to protect yourself, beat exercise boredom and improve your overall well-being, why not add some kicks or chops to your routine? Practiced not only as a way to learn self-defense, the moves and techniques used in martial arts also offer a unique form of fitness that provides:
Choose your weapon
- better balance, flexibility and coordination
- increased muscle endurance and strength, especially in your legs, arms and abdominals
- greater aerobic capacity
- serious calorie burning
- improved self-confidence
You can take lessons in many martial-art forms. The following types include basic self-defense moves that will give you a great workout, too:
- Karate uses feet, legs, elbows, head and fists for kicking, punching and defensive blocks. It’s an excellent way to increase your overall fitness level and improve upper-body strength.
- Kickboxing combines elements of boxing and karate that may or may not involve full-contact kicks and punches. Cardio kickboxing is a workout only—you won’t be landing any punches.
- Judo typically involves grappling, throwing and rolling the opponent. You’ll also learn how to make good decisions and be mentally tough.
- Tae kwon do emphasizes kicking techniques.
Keep these tips in mind before you sign up for sessions:
- Do your research. Before joining a program, find out about the instructor’s training and experience. Take a free trial class and observe the teacher’s style to make sure he or she is patient and approachable. Talk to other students in the class to find out how they like it.
- Review the agreement carefully. Be prepared to sign a liability waiver but don’t agree to any long-term contracts up front.
- Make it as serious as you want. Most martial arts classes proceed in levels, designated by different colored belts. You can challenge yourself to advance or choose to study martial arts casually—at your own pace.
One of the most important things you’ll take away from a self-defense class is self-confidence, in both your judgment to avoid threatening situations and your ability to pull off defense moves if the need arises.