6 Tricks For Self-Defense Everyone Should Know

From everyday life to times of social unrest, everyone should know at least a few tricks for self-defense. 

The worst thing you can do is be a passive target to those who intend to hurt you.

Keep reading to get the self-defense tricks that help you stay safe and survive a bad situation.

As with anything else related to self-defense, there are no shortcuts. Spend some time each day honing your skills, and you will have a better chance of tipping any dangerous encounter in your favor.

Situation Awareness

There is no such thing as a punch, kick, weapon or move that will work if you aren’t aware of what is going on around you. But are you paying enough attention to what’s going on around, so you wouldn’t be caught on wrong foot and pay with your life for it?

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If you can’t afford to take classes that teach these skills, or don’t know where to start, you can use the color code system below in order to help you tailor your responses to any given situation.

Level 1 – White

At this level, you are paying little, if any attention to what is going on around you. Should something happen, you will more than likely startle and then waste precious seconds panicking or coping with being spooked.

While you may feel perfectly safe staring at your smart phone while walking, or looking down at the ground, it sends a signal to criminals that you are an easy target.  When you are away from home or any public setting, you should never be at Level 1.

Level 2 – Yellow

In this stage, you are still relaxed, but paying attention to everything going on around you without necessarily focusing on it. You will be cataloging unusual garments for the time of year, erratic behavior, evidence of concealed weapons, signs that an argument has occurred, or anything else that might be problematic.

People around you are fully aware that they have been seen and cataloged, but not necessarily feel threatened or unnerved by your actions. A criminal, however, will realize they cannot startle you, so they will look for an easier target.  This is the ideal state to be in when away from home or in a public setting.

Level 3 – Orange

At this level, you conclude that a specific threat may be present and are figuring out how to neutralize it.  Because this level does induce some stress, staying in it too long can make you appear hyper-vigilant.  It does take a bit of skill to disguise this level of awareness.  At this stage you can still choose to avoid a fight or take steps to escape.

Level 4 – Red

At this stage, you either commit to escaping or fighting. You will feel a surge of adrenalin, and may experience tunnel vision, loss of hearing, panicking, and uncontrolled actions.   Even though this is the optimal level for fighting or escaping, you must practice managing and controlling your adrenalin surges in order to succeed.

If you are going to be an effective and successful fighter, there is no getting around the need for practice over time.  Failure at this stage can lead you straight into Level 5 both suddenly and without warning.

Never forget that even if you start off doing well in a Level Red threat situation, you can still lose control if you haven’t trained hard and honed your responses to the unexpected or the overwhelming.

Level 5 – Black

This final stage of threat management is one marked by blind panic and shut down. You will be at the mercy of your attacker, and the situation.  If you survive, the incident will more than likely trigger PTSD responses for the rest of your life.

Your Mindset is Important

In order to survive a violent encounter, you must be one step ahead of your attacker. If you have a sense of disbelief about the risks to your life, then you will not fight as hard, and will more than likely lose.

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While you should not overestimate your attacker to the point where you panic and freeze, it never hurts to believe that you might die in the encounter.

Many hunters, experienced hikers, and others who frequently spend time in nature know that there are certain things you must do to avoid being attacked by wild animals. Typically, the things you do early on in the encounter vary depending on the species.

In a similar way, when another person is about to attack you, there are things you should do to help prevent the attack from happening.

Rather than running away from a prospective attacker, you should advance on them. This response by a prospective victim can catch an attacker off guard and disrupt the belief that you are weak, afraid, and easy to dominate.  At this stage, you can either launch an attack of your own, or seek to escape.

Don’t Be Overwhelmed by Lacking a Weapon

Anything can be used as a weapon if you don’t have one. If you are looking to improvise, anything that is harder than your knuckles and sharper than your finger nails could be a good weapon. A cane, umbrella, or a pen can all deliver crippling or lethal blows if you know how to wield them.

As a basic rule of engagement for these weapons:

  • Hard or heavy objects should be smashed against bone.
  • Pointed objects should be stabbed into soft tissue.
  • As you advance in technique, both weapon types can deliver increased effect by aiming for nerve junctions or other sensitive areas.

Using Your Body as a Weapon

Aside from studying martial arts and taking self-defense classes, there are some simple things to avoid, as well as things you can do to make the most of your current skills.


Typically, kicking is only effective if you are at the right distance from the adversary. Depending on the height of your kick and the target area, you can easily miss, or worse yet, wind up with your attacker grabbing your foot or leg and using it to pull you down.

If you must kick, avoid kicking with your leg alone, as this is the least powerful way to deliver a blow. Instead, kick from your hips and put the full power of your body into the kick.  Always aim for the body part nearest you.

Knees make an excellent target because your attacker may be focusing on your upper body, and not paying as much attention to feet and legs.  Once you successfully hit your attacker’s knees, he/she will be well on the way to losing the fight.


A straight punch is an effective way to stop a frontal attack. To get the most from this punch, push from the ball of your foot and thrust your hip and fist forward at the same time. When your fist hits the target, the contact area should be the part of your index finger and the knuckle of your middle finger; not your ring and pinky finger knuckles.

A rotation punch differs only in that you start off by holding your fist in an upright position near your hip, and your arm should be fully extended and driving into the target at time of impact.  As you step forward, rotate your forearm so that your fist is in the proper position at the time of impact.  You must step forward to put the most power into a rotation punch.

Use the Triangle Trick for Defense

To use the “Triangle Trick”, start off by imagining that your body is divided into a right and left side, with a center area that goes from head to toe. Your attacker will more than likely aim for targets around the center line.

When moving, try to avoid simply going forward or backward. Your goal is to move your center line around, which means you must zig-zag from side to side, pivot, or use other means to disrupt the location of your center line.  Ideally, you should seek to move along a “triangle” so that both the location and distance to your center line changes constantly.

Follow and Aim for Weak Points

No matter how big or well trained your attacker is, there are weak points that can be hit and lead to disabling pain or loss of muscular control.  When defending yourself, aim for the following weak body parts: eyes, nose, ears, throat, kneecaps, and groin.

You can also hit an attacker at the ankles, behind the knees, above the elbows, and along the forearms.

There are also several other pressure points that you can learn about in martial arts training.

The human skull is also a powerful weapon.  Headbutts are very useful when someone grabs you from behind.  Try bashing his face with the back of your head. It is easier than elbowing the attackers ribs or stomping their toes.

Self Defense Moves

When you are in a confrontation you may have one or two (at most) moves before an attacker gets full control of you. Do everything in your power to inflict injury and conserve as much energy as possible to get away.

The following self defense movements are suitable for men, women, and teens to use:

  • Poke or gouge at the attacker’s eyes with your fingers, knuckles, keys, or any sharp object.
  • Strike the attacker’s nose with the heel of your palm to strike up under the nose. If your attacker is behind you, hit his/her nose from the front or side with your elbow. Either way, your target is the nasal bones.
  • Neck – The side of the neck offers a big target area with plenty of options.  Use a knife hand strike (hold all your fingers out straight and held tight together with thumb slightly tucked and bent at the knuckle) to the sides of the neck, or a punch straight to the windpipe.  For even more injury, thrust your elbow into your attacker’s throat while pitching the weight of your body forward.
  • Knees – Are vulnerable from every angle and very easy to kick without the risk of your foot being grabbed.  To cause knee injury, or to partly incapacitate your attacker, kick the side of the knee. Kicking the front of the knee can cause more injury, but is less likely to cause imbalance.
  • Groin – If the attacker is too close to punch, you may still be able to launch a knee kick to the groin.  To make the most of this move, the bony part of your knee (not your thigh) should hit the groin area of your attacker.  Before using the knee kick, try to grab the attacker between the the neck and shoulders and hold on to as much skin, muscle, and clothing as possible.  This will give you more leverage to kick harder.

You can also use a front kick to the groin. Start by pushing forward from your hips, bend your striking leg knee, and keep your heel back. To complete the move, extend your knee and leg forcefully to impact the attacker’s groin with the top of your foot. Move your leg back to it’s original position as quickly as possible.

Getting Out of a Bear Hug Attack

If you are grabbed from behind and your shoulders are restrained, resist the instinct to grab the attacker’s elbows and trying to pry their arms away from your body.  Your best defense is to drop as low as you can toward the ground and squirm as much as possible to wriggle out of the attacker’s hold.

Make yourself as difficult as possible to control by lowering your center of gravity. This makes you more stable and harder to lift.  You want to be as difficult as possible to control.  It also gives you a new angle to knee strike, groin kick, or throw a punch to the attacker’s eyes, throat, neck, nose, or ears.

Defending Yourself Against Choke Attacks

If someone has their hands or arms wrapped around your neck, you have less than 8 seconds before you begin to lose consciousness. Do not waste them with futile moves such as trying to pull the attacker’s hands off your neck.

Instead, if the attacker is in front of you, bring your hands up between his/her arms and push hard at the radial nerve junction above or below the elbow. Strike at the attacker’s eyes, neck, or throat to weaken the hold and escape.

Video first seen on DarkMagician70.

If you are caught in a choke hold from behind, you can also try hitting the radial nerve junction, or use the steps in this video.

Video first seen on Darrick Bynum.

Simple Weapons and Distraction Aides

Almost anything can be used as a weapon or a distraction device when the need arises.  The trick is to make it look like it is not a weapon so that it can be carried anywhere openly.  Here are a few that  are easy to find and keep with you:

Magazine or newspaper

Roll magazines or newspapers and use them to jab or strike at the eye, nose, or throat. If you are going into a bad area, pre-roll these items and keep them tight by using rubber bands. Carry them under your arm, and be ready to use them.


A small pocket flashlight about 6” long makes a good defensive weapon.  In some states if these flashlights have a strike bezel, they are classified as weapons and may not be legal to carry concealed.

Nevertheless, even a flashlight without a strike bezel can do a good bit of damage. To get the most out of a flashlight as a weapon, target the eyes, nose, or throat.


A good cane makes an excellent weapon.  It can give you more reach, can hit harder, and give you more leverage to disarm or trip an attacker.  The trick is to pick a cane that doesn’t look like a weapon.

Find one made of hardwood with a brass derby handle.  If you are using a cane as a self defense weapon, pretend to have a slight limp. Putting a small coin in one of your shoes will make it easier to create this effect.


Any pen can be used as a weapon. Simply grab the pen in your fist so that an inch or two sticks out from the pinky side of your fist. Use the pen to stab or punch holes in fleshy parts of your attacker’s body, or strike at sensitive nerve junctions.

Loose pocket change or folded bills

Money can be used to distract an attacker. When the attacker demands your money, give it to him by throwing it quickly into their face and screaming free money.  This can distract the attacker long enough for you to get away.

Starting off with a few easy things is important, however you must always continue learning and expanding your self defense skill set. They might seem hard to acquire, but the effort will be paid off eventually by helping you and your family to stay alive!

This article has been written by Fred Tyrell for Survivopedia.

Written by

Fred Tyrrell is an Eagle Scout and retired police officer that loves to hunt, fish, hike, and camp with good friends and family. He is also a champion marksman (rifle, pistol, shotgun) and has direct experience with all of the major gun brands and their clones. Fred refers to himself as a "Southern gentleman" - the last of a dying way. He believes a man's word is his bond, and looks forward to teaching others what he has learned over the years. You can send Fred a message at editor [at] survivopedia.com.

Latest comments
  • if i put A coin in my shoe to “fake” a limp hows that not hoing to make me look like an easy mark?

  • I think the article is a good one overall. But theRe are some points i diSagree with. One of them is the whole acting thing with walking with a limP to justify using a cane. As the poster above pointed out, it will make you look like more of a target. People dont limp when using a walking stick going hiking.
    The other point i Really diSagree with is where it was mentioned that “it never hurts to think you may die during your encounter”. I find this mentality to be lacking if one is involved in a self defense situation. GrOwing Up in a bad neighborhood and being A bouncer for a decade, ive been involved in hundreds of streetfights, yes hundreds. And never once did i ever have the thought i may get killed or lose the fight. Having that mindset is already preparing you to fail. My attutude always was, im going to rip this mother@&$?#%s head off. Its akin to worring about the legal ramifications when you have to draw a gun on someone during a lethal encounter. If you are worried about what might happen after You pull the trigger, chances are youre not going to survive the encounter anyways because your mind isnt processing the information thats happening now in front of you. Drop the bastard now and Be alive to worry about the legalitIes later.

  • I was victim of an attempted car jacking last year. But the two punks did not factor in that this 72 year old was an exbarroom fighter. I was able to get ahold of my 6 D cell Maglight and began working on the first one who called for his mother and then the second one who went down easy. The key is to know how to take a hit and not react. Just keep going at them.

  • It would be helpful if there were tactics for elderly individuals – or even younger ones – who are disabled or weak. My neighbor is a 70+ lady who walks with a cane. She can neither run, hit, punch or get up off the ground without help. She is a sharp shooter and carries but sometimes there isn’t time or a way to get to the weapon.