Effective self defense also requires a knowledge of how you can cause disabling pain upon the other person. That includes knowing where to strike, and how to do it. Believe it or not, there are many natural weapons that your body has that you can use to retaliate on an attacker.

The most important thing is the stance. If you can't escape, you must stand in a stable stance. Feet shoulder-length apart, one forward, one back, spreading your weight evenly across them. Bend the knees, keep the chin down, and put your elbows into your side and your hands up, protecting the face. Don't form a fist, as an open hand is more flexible to attack. Standing in this "fighter's stance" may defuse a situation, if an attacker is hesitant.

The head
Lots of weapons here. The thick part of the skull at the back of the head, as well as the big bony structure of the forehead works well. Keep your chin tucked in, be careful not to bite your tongue. Using those parts to headbutt can make someone bleed, while they can still see through the blood, most people go to pieces if they are bleeding. The teeth can be used to bite, causing lots of pain. Aim for the ears and the fingers. Don't just bite, you have to clamp down then rip and tear. Nasty as this is, it works.

Again, never strike at an attacker's temples or the top of the skull unless your life is in danger.

The hands
Most people think punch, but there are better alternatives. It takes a lot of time to develop a good hard punch, without training you are likely to hurt your hand immensely. The fingers work, especially with the eye jab. Bend your fingers so you don't break them, and drive in and jab. If possible, use four fingers, not two. It works better. Your hands can also be used for a range of disabling holds and locks.

The palm can be used to strike effectively. Use the fleshy part at the foot of your palm to strike into the chin. Hurts less than a mis-punch. Don't jab, smash your hand as hard as you can into his face. Don't do this initially, use it as a followup when the attacker is wide open and distracted (e.g. after the eyes move). You can also aim for the nose.

The meaty side of the hand can be used to chop against the softer parts of the body, such as the side of the neck, or to attack joints. Keep your fingers straight and chop away. This is effective in loosening grips.

The elbows
They're hard and bony, and doesn't take too much skill to use. At close range, smash away, preferably at the head.

The knees
Close range weapons. An attacker at that range will usually not see them coming. Go for the groin or the dead leg area. Drive in as hard as you can. Also, this is a good finishing-off move. Grab the guy's head, and smash your knee into his face. Doesn't take skill to use.

The feet
Don't bother with the fancy high kicks. They don't work unless you've trained in martial arts, or worse, the person will grab your leg, and you're screwed. Use a side kick instead. Kick hard, aiming for the knees or the shin, then quickly draw back. You won't loss your balance if you miss. You can break a knee joint if you do this right.

At closer range, you can stamp down on the knees and the feet. Works especially well for a woman with high heels. If you dislocate his kneecap, it's pretty much game over.

I have discovered an even better weapon.
In Police Academy after a major tussle with a former boxer on the fighting mat, I drew the biggest guy in the class, Cadet Herman. He was about 3lbs. shy of being a dump truck.

Herman was an ex-military powerhouse, the kinda guy you want on your side in a bar brawl.
We started our fight, with Herman through brute force countering my best kicks and punches. This is the first fight I'd ever been in, where if I took it to the ground, I was going to lose for sure. My strategy has always been, take it to the ground, Herman knew that he had the advantage on the ground, so he was trying to help me get there.

I had a couple of really good kicks to his chest and head, but I might as well have been bantering with a brick wall. Finally he came at me, in a rush I was unable to get out of the way of his massive armspan, and he took me to the ground.
This is the part where it hurt.
I could use but one of my arms, so I grabbed a pressure point on the back his neck and I squeezed for all I was worth. Nothing. I took my middle finger to his nose and pushed back as hard as I could. Nothing. With all of my energy used I thought of one last thing to do.
I licked my lips and kissed him on his lips.
He jumped back and screamed, "What the fuck?"
Seeing my window I jumped up, and made a roundhouse into his head, and the fight was mine.

I took a lot of shit for that. Still do whenever I run into any of my Academy buds, but that does not bother me, I took him down, and I won the fight.

I wish this could have been said without it being a getting to know you node, but I always feel like I need to explain this story, you understand.

The above writeups are excellent. I have two small addendums to add, one for each of the previous noders.

There is a striking technique involving the head, sometimes called a Liverpool Kiss, presumably because of it's origins in Liverpool dockworker brawls. It consists of getting very close to your opponent, perhaps by rushing him or a shoving match. When distance is sufficently closed, lower your head to below his chin level, reach up and grasp his neck/head area, and pull down while raising and whipping your head violently backward. A common result is a bruise or knot on the back top of your skull, while his nose and or front teeth are crushed. Brutal...yes. Effective...yes. Especially when the target is unsuspecting. But it takes courage and a willingness to get CLOSE.

The second comment is that the writeup TaintedTex wrote involves two sacrosact rules of fighting to win, without ever mentioning them directly.

  • USE YOUR BRAIN. It's the tool that's allowed us to dominate the globe, and the only thing keeping us from being the animal kingdom's equivilent of spam. (And yes it's paraphrased from a Farside cartoon...thanks G.L.)

  • The other principal is that ego is worthless in the context of winning a fight. Ego fills the mind with "what-if's" instead of focusing on the moment i.e. getting out alive and in better shape than the other fellow. If the above statement isn't enough read some good Zen or Taoist texts. (BTW, they might change your life in other wonderful ways in the bargain...they did mine.)

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