Self-Defense Essentials & Tips for Women on the Run

Liz Merritt
January 30, 2017
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Ladies, we’ve all done it. We lace up our sneakers and head out for a run, our minds lost in our favorite music tracks. Our minds far from the self-defense essentials that should be top-of-mind.

self-defense essentials

After-dark workouts present one of the most dangerous and vulnerable situations imaginable.

In the stillness of the pre-dawn, those runs allow us to work off stress, take on energy and prepare for the busy day ahead. They also present one of the most dangerous and vulnerable situations imaginable.

The statistics are clear. Thirty-five percent of all women will experience physical violence or sexual assault in their lifetimes.

Optimally, we would never run alone or in darkness. We should also never wear headphones, always carry Mace, and change up our running routes regularly.

Despite these warnings, there are times when busy schedules make group runs impossible, and the release of comfortably loping along familiar roads is what we crave.

Disrupt the Pattern

With some rudimentary knowledge about the mind of predator and basic self-defense skills, you stand a much better chance of fighting off an attacker.

Dan Huber, a professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter, instructor and world bronze medalist in grappling, teaches women’s self-defense classes at his Spartan Nation gym in the metro-Phoenix area.

He recommends all runners make the time to enroll in a self-defense class in their area and learn the basics.

self-defense essentials

A group of women listens intently to instruction during a self-defense class.

On this day, as a group of women listens intently to his instruction, which has a foundation in MMA skills. He says there is one thing to remember above all else: “Stay in first location.”

That means do everything within your power to remain in a public setting. “If you go to a second location, chances of survival diminish,” Huber says.

“If someone has a gun and says, ‘Get in the car, or I’m going to shoot you,’ your goal is to stay in first location. That’s the name of the game.”

Awareness in Action

Practically speaking, there are a number of awareness skills that women should practice daily to avoid becoming a victim of violence.

  1. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Scope out the parking lot before you park your car and when you approach it after your run. Check your neighborhood when you walk out of the door for a run. Pay attention to your environment and anything that appears unusual or out of place.
  2. Be a people-watcher. Keep your head up, scan your surroundings and identify anyone who may seem out of place or who doesn’t belong in your neighborhood, for example. Do you see a strange man in your neighborhood that you saw at the grocery store a few days ago? Take note and avoid him.
  3. Be alert. If you are absorbed in social media on your phone with your head down, your attention is compromised. Predators are more likely to attack a woman who is unsuspecting and inattentive. Huber uses a green, yellow and red light analogy. If you’re in a state of green all the time, you can become careless. In a state of red, you’re constantly panicked. And if you remain in yellow, you’re in a constant state of self-awareness.

Mind of a Predator

According to Huber, the most effective way to fend off an attacker is to change his mindset. “Think about a predator and prey situation in the wild. When a lion goes after a gazelle, the gazelle runs. The lion doesn’t stop chasing him. We’re going to break up nature here.”

Warning: The following descriptions and demonstrations pictured were done with a trained professional in a controlled environment. This is meant for instructional purposes only and should only be attempted by, or under the supervision of professionals or qualified instructors.

The MMA term for the first move Huber teaches the class is the rear naked choke, which is a series of moves where you use the attacker’s own momentum against him.

self-defense essentials

Huber and a student demonstrate for the class.

Calculated Responses

If a man in a parking lot or on the street grabs a woman by the arm, for example, her instinct is to pull away and run.

To disrupt the attacker’s mindset, the woman in this scenario should turn quickly and face the man, grab him firmly by the shoulder with her free hand and yell, ‘Fire! Fire! Fire!’

“Pulling away is a victim response. He’s not expecting you to come into his body and get up in his face,” Huber explains.

In a public places, the word ‘fire’ will get the attention of anyone in the vicinity more quickly than the words ‘No!’ or ‘Help!’

“Make a scene,” Huber emphasizes. “Attract as much attention as possible because our goal is to stay in location one.

self-defense essentials

Bear hug the attacker’s leg.

Next, assume a bear hug position. Huber demonstrates how to slide quickly down the attacker’s leg to the ground, gripping his leg tightly when you get there and tucking your head to the inside of his knee.

In this position, it’s very difficult for an attacker to shake you off, and his balance is compromised.

As soon as you get to the ground, pull your heels in as close to your butt as you can. Hold his leg tightly to your chest, drive your heels into the floor and propel yourself backward, so the attacker is pulled forward and to the ground.

self-defense essentials

In this position, it’s very difficult for an attacker to shake you off.

Finally, quickly climb on his back, lock your feet around his waist and your arm around his neck with your elbow tucked tightly under his chin.

Place the opposite palm of hand on the back of his head, grip your opposite bicep and squeeze inward. The ‘v’ of your elbow becomes your weapon.

Plan B Tactics

In scenario number two, the attacker has abducted the victim and taken her to a remote location. Or, he may an attacker who has broken into her home or entered through an unlocked window. It could also be a date-rape situation. No other people are nearby.

This scenario finds the attacker is on top of you and between your legs. “In this situation, you have to take a different approach,” says Huber. “You have to make the assailant believe you are a willing participant.”

self-defense essentials

Guillotine choke position.

Called the guillotine choke, the arms are used in this position to completely encircle the attacker’s neck.

The first step is to put your hand all the way over the attacker’s shoulder while sitting up as quickly as possible using core strength.

Anchor yourself with the opposite arm and shift your weight to opposite side so you can wrap your arm completely over the attacker’s shoulder and around so your forearm is tight against his neck.

Grasp the wrist of the arm you have wrapped around him, anchor your legs around his back and push your hips forward while squeezing your elbows toward your body and into his neck.

The Next Move

The scenario for the triangle choke is the same as the previous move, except the attacker is choking the victim with his hands or hitting her in the face. Huber says this is an optimal move for women to overpower a larger man.

self-defense essentials

The first step is to use both hands to pull one of his arms down to your chest.

The first step is to use both hands to pull one of his arms down to your chest. Choose your dominant side. This isolates his head and shoulder.

Next, swing the same-side leg up and over the neck of the opponent.

If you shift your body in the same direction as the leg above him, it will be easier to hook your foot under the knee of your opposite leg. This is particularly helpful if you’re body is not as flexible.

self-defense essentials

Finally, pop your hips up, squeeze your legs together, and as he falls.

Finally, pop your hips up, squeeze your legs together, and as he falls to the side, extend his arm out straight from the elbow while continuing to exert pressure on his neck.

Huber strongly recommends coaching and training in self-defense tactics in order to correctly learn and practice the movements that could make a difference in a life-or-death situation.

“There is a lot of technique involved, and every move is calculated.” Huber adds, “When fighting an attacker, there’s never a guarantee. It’s never 100 percent that this is going to work. But there’s a lot better probability than trying to fight him on your feet or going back into flight mode”

For more information about Huber’s training programs, go to www.danhubertraining.com, or follow him on Facebook at @danhubertraining.

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