How to Protect Yourself and Your Family

Physical Self-Defense

Although this is not a book about self-defence techniques there are a few that every adult and child should know and practice. Like the rest of the material in this short book, you should be thinking about situations where you might need self-defence, discuss with your family what you will do under certain circumstances, plan for it and practise.


I would recommend that most people take a self-defense course that concentrates on basic techniques that can be learned quickly. Most of us do not have the time to learn a martial art, boxing or similar form of self-defense. Find a course that takes hours rather than years to learn the basics. Check with local community centres, evening courses or self-defense organizations.


The more comfortable you are with the following basic techniques the less likely you will ever need to use them because the confidence you project and the strength of your voice will tells people to leave you alone.


If there are other people who can hear you, don't scream "Help" because we know that rarely helps. Yell, instead, "Everyone, call 911 now!" It is safe for people to make the call, and if more than one person calls, the operators will know the situation is serious. Until you can take a course, here are a few techniques that can be practised inside and outside your home. In helping children learn these techniques be careful to remind them often about the proper uses of self-defense so that they do not go out and practise on children at school or with their friends. Keep this a family matter rather than something they should go and teach freely around the neighbourhood.


No use encouraging other children to come up with counter- moves in case your childre n are ever seriously bullied and need to defend themselves.



Kicking a Shin

When an attacker is facing you, behind you or to your side, they are usually expecting you to use your hands to protect yourself. Kicking their shin forcefully and quickly will often surprise them enough to give you time to run away and get help. If you've ever knocked your shin against a table, you know how much this hurts!


To practise this, use an old chair. Stand with one foot ahead of the other as if you were chatting at a party and leaning on the back leg for support. Without looking down at the chair legs, shift your weight from the back to the front foot and kick with the back foot. Make sure you kick with the inside of your shoe rather than the toe. This ensures that you have the whole inside of your shoe with which to kick the shin even if the person tries to move their leg. You are less likely to miss the shin this way. By not looking down, you do not warn the person you intend to kick them.


Keep practising this move until you feel comfortable you can kick the person quickly and forcefully. You should be kicking the chair around the room or outside on a driveway without looking at it. If the person has crabbed you from behind you, gently shift your weight to one leg, lift your other leg and with the outside of your shoe find the attacker's shin behind you. Then, with all your strength kick them quickly and then slide your foot down their leg and smash down on their instep. This will usually free their grip for you to run away.



Safe Distance and Other Physical Techniques

Always try to stand more than arm's length away from an attacker. That way they have to move into you to start a fight. If they do move close, do not wait for them to strike first. Try two things:


1. Kick them in their shin closest to you as described above. Then, just before you run away, use your outside forearm bone (either arm) to strike the side of their neck. This is very disabling (like a whiplash). Then run away.


2. If you do not think you can kick them, move in on your attacker rather than away (unless you can run away faster than they can run!). It is much harder for them to hurt you if you are close to them rather than within arm's length away. The power of a punch or slap is in the last few inches of the movement rather than at the beginning. By moving in, you prevent them from using all of their strength. Watch a boxing match to see how the professionals do this.


Once you are in close, what can you do? This is where street fighting comes in. Remember, the person has probably tried to hurt you because they thought they could. Most attackers are bullies rather than experienced fighters. They use intimidation rather than skill to get what they want. Assuming your assertive words and confidence have not been enough to prevent an attack, by moving in close you shut down their attack and surprise them.


With the few seconds of surprise available to you, try a combination of the following, one at a time, in any order. The mind follows pain so if you stomp on a foot first, then hit the nose and then strike the side of their neck, their will become completely disorganized in their thinking and hurt in three different spots. Then you run. None of the following techniques is life threatening. They cause a lot of pain but do not lead to serious injuries. Their intent is selfdefense rather than causing permanent injury.


Choose two or three of the techniques in any order but not all at once. Do one, then another and then a final third technique before you run away.


1. Stomp down on their instep of their foot.
2. Hit them forcefully and upwards under the nose (that patch between the bottom of their nose and the upper part of their lip. This causes involuntary tearing of the eyes and is very painful. They will not see clearly which is an added benefit for you.
3. Men protect their groin above all else. Never try to hit it first. However, after you have stomped on their instep or hit their nose, they are vulnerable to a knee to the groin.
4. Similar to the knee to the groin, is a knee sharply kicked into the person's thigh. This causes a "Charley Horse" which is a severe muscle cramp.
5. Strike the side of their neck with the outside bone of your forearm. This causes a Ôwhip lash' and is very painful.
6. Grab one of their fingers and bend it backwards forcefully. This is also very painful and may cause the finger to break but will not be a serious injury.
7. If the person is beside you, use your knee or foot to buckle the side or back of their knee. You probably did a less severe version of this in school to embarrass someone into falling easily. In an attack situation, it is just as effective but you need to use more force.


I don't recommend poking at someone's eye as most people say they will do it but never do. It is too "gross" so they hesitate and become vulnerable. Therefore, strike only at targets you know you will use. Another technique that is not effective for untrained people is to try and ‘punch' the other person in the face, chest or kidney area of the back. It looks great and "tough" on television shows but is quite ineffective in an actual attack. Punches are what attackers expect you to try and do so they prepare themselves for that kind of defense.


Do something unexpected and you have the upper hand. Remember, never fight to protect property. Fight only to protect yourself from an unavoidable attack or to protect someone else. Use the natural fear you will experience (and the adrenaline that comes with it) to convert fear into anger. Rather than imagining yourself in a fight, imagine someone trying to hurt your spouse, child or parent and you can begin to see how easy it is to get angry very quickly. Use that same anger to protect yourself.


Do not play the hero. When you have done what you need to do to get free, get away and call for help.


Will I Panic?

"Will I panic?" This is probably one of the most often asked questions, and the answer depends on you.


If a child runs in front of a car, an experienced driver, by conditioned reflex, will do what is necessary to avoid her and only then will the driver's hands shake and sweat.


A mother whose child's arm is bleeding seriously applies pressure to stop it until a doctor or paramedic takes over. Only at that point, once the crisis has been taken care of, may she feel faint or worry about the possible consequences had she not applied the pressure immediately.


The same is true for self-protection. People trained in self-protection often don't recall what method they used to defend themselves because everything happened so fast. If you "THINK, TALK, PLAN, and PRACTISE" for various situations you will not be caught off guard.

How to Protect Yourself

and Your Family


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Copyright © 1989, 1993, 1999, 2006 Harry van Bommel

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