Learning About Self Defence
Self-defence is worth taking seriously. Since most crimes are opportunist, we and our homes are all potential targets. What are you doing to reduce your risk? Here are the essential facts about self-defence.
What Does the Law Say?You’re entitled to use “reasonable force" to protect yourself and your home in the face of a threat. What exactly is “reasonable”? Well, this is largely for prosecutors to decide. In the case of Tony Martin-who killed a teenage burglar by shooting him in the back-courts decided that his force was unreasonable, and promptly jailed him.
Legal guidelines suggest that prosecutors, judges and juries ask two key questions: was the force appropriate in the circumstances (was there a need for force, or could action have been taken otherwise?) and was the force at the right level for the circumstances (a punch to the face is reasonable force against a person wielding a crowbar).
Clear as mud, so far. Perhaps the words of famous judge Lord Morris will clear things up. “If… in a moment of unexpected anguish… the person had done only what he honestly and instinctively thought necessary… that would be reasonable defensive action.”
About Self-DefenceBefore signing up for the closest karate class, read our tips on coping with unexpected physical force.
- Be sensible when out alone.Don’t walk in narrow alleys, choose broad roads lit by street lighting. Try to stay in a group or with a friend for your journey. If you have to stop and use your mobile or blackberry, pick a place where there are other people, and good light. All of this is common sense, so use yours.
- Assess your body language. Attackers or criminals pick their targets on sight; a vulnerable-looking woman with plastic bags in a narrow alley is an obvious choice over a confident-looking woman swinging her briefcase. Although attack is, of course, unlikely, you might avoid it by dressing and acting confidently.
How should you do this? The Alexander technique is a good source of advice! Start with your head high and straight (as though balancing books on top of it) and keep your shoulders level. Look ahead as you walk, and assume the expression of someone who knows precisely where they’re heading. Keep a brisk pace and a purposeful manner. Don’t fiddle with your handbag or your keys in your pocket; keep your arms loose but put one hand over your handbag if it has an opening. Keep a watchful eye on your surroundings.
- Keep your keys close to hand.In the worst-case scenario of attack, you may need to jump quickly into your car, open your door fast, or fight back. For all of these your keys will come in very handy! Keep them in your hand if your journey is short. If they’re bulky, put your hand in your pocket and close it over the largest key. Bringing out a sharp key is an unpleasant wake-up call for an attacker.
- Carry a personal alarm.You can buy a personal alarm for less than £10. Its purpose, like the defence whistle, is to make a high-pitched sound that scares off the attacker, attracting unwanted attention and causing a distraction to help you respond.
Learning Self DefenceSelf-defence is a very useful skill, and the basics are easy to pick up. You can sign up for courses at a community centre, university, or local sport centre, and there are many courses run especially for female beginners. Any type of combat or self-defence, which strengthens your body and gives you a range of basic moves will be of help, but the courses specifically for defending yourself from an attacker will be of most use.
There are also many DVDs on the market, which will teach you some basic self-defence movements. It’s not as simple as punching your attacker in the face, or kicking him or her in the crotch; in fact, these actions could hurt you more than the target! Good self-defence techniques to learn include how to form a proper fist, how to respond to an attack from behind, the most effective target areas of the body, and how to use parts of your body as weapons.