By Trace Ferguson

How many of us can confidently say that we would be able to defend ourselves if we were physically attacked? No one ever wants to think that they could be a victim of assault, but the truth is that we never know what could happen. Self-defense is a skill that everyone should be versed in. You do not have to be a master in the art, but having a good grip on the basics can be life-saving.

You should always be in touch with your surroundings. Make sure that you are consistently scanning the area as you walk, and do not get distracted on your phone. This would make it easier for someone to sneak up on you. If possible, walk with a friend to your car and avoid poorly lit areas. Always have your keys in your hand. In the case that you are being pursued, you will not have to fumble through your belongings to unlock your car. It may also be a good idea to invest in some pepper spray or an emergency whistle to carry on your keychain.

You should always run away at the first sign of danger, but if you are in a situation where the attacker is inescapable, there are several techniques you can use to defend yourself. Morgan Bright, R.A.D. Program Coordinator at the University of Florida, provided some great points on what to do when in trouble!

Shout “BACK OFF!” and push the attacker back

If someone is crossing a line or attacking you, yell “Stay Back!”, “Get away!” or “Don’t touch me!” Morgan said that these phrases can help gather witnesses who can call 911 or help with any police report that is being filed. Yelling these words will also let the attacker know that you are not an easy target. If you have pepper spray or an emergency whistle, now would be a good time to use them!

Go for your attacker’s weak points: the eyes, nose, ears, neck and throat

If you are going for the eyes, try to scratch them or poke them with your knuckles.

For the nose, thrust your palm up and under the nostrils. This should hit the nasal bones and hopefully disorient your attacker long enough for you to escape. If your attacker is behind you, aim for his or her nose with your elbow.

For the neck and throat, put your hand in a karate chop position with the thumb tucked in. Then, hit the side of the neck or the jugular with a short, but strong strike.

For the ears, have your hands in a slightly cupped position, as if you were going to catch water from the sink. With both hands in this shape, slap them together against the attacker’s ears.

“When there is that element of surprise for the attacker that this victim they chose is not going to make this easy, this can greatly increase the likelihood of escaping,” said Morgan. “That should always be the goal of physical self-defense … escape.”

Escaping a bear hug

There are several methods of escape for a bear hug, which is where an attacker comes from behind and grabs your body tightly. One option is to bend your knees and lift your hands so that you can slide out of the bear hug. Another technique is to stomp on your attacker’s feet. This is even more effective with high heels, ladies! Hopefully after stomping on his feet, he will loosen his grip, and then you can hit his head with your elbows.

Getting loose from a chokehold

Although it is beneficial to know these techniques, nothing can replace the knowledge that you could learn by taking a formal self-defense class. With a class, you can learn defense strategies for almost every scenario and practice them. Both the University of Florida and Santa Fe College offer Rape Aggression Defense Programs, commonly known as R.A.D. The R.A.D. program is taught by the University of Florida’s Police Department and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. Classes are totally free, but enrollment is limited so you will need to sign up in advance and attend a full three to four sessions!