As a petite 5’2” woman who loves early morning runs through the city streets, self-defense is a topic I think about a lot. I’ve had a few unnerving encounters with unhoused people shouting or sudden appearances from men coming out of alleys. How can I protect myself physically and mentally for those unexpected moments? Not to mention if someone were to actually attack me?
The unfortunate truth is that violence can happen anywhere. As much as I try to shrug it off, there’s always a voice in the back of my mind when I’m running alone or walking to my car at night. I know too many friends who have been mugged, assaulted, or worse.
So I decided to make self-defense a priority. Let me tell you, throwing a solid punch or getting out of a wrist grab does not come naturally to me! I still remember my first kickboxing class where I nearly fell sideways throwing the saddest right hook known to man. But with professional training, practice builds muscle memory. After a few weeks, I noticed a new confidence in my posture and movements.
Here are some of my top lessons for how to protect yourself, as both a former self-defense novice and current opportunistic runner:
Get educated. Understand what realistic self-defense could look like for you specifically. Small joint manipulation? Groin kicks? Palm heel strikes to the face? Learn techniques that don’t require overpowering size or strength.
Carry protection. I always run with both pepper spray and a loud, LED personal alarm easily accessible. I vary my routes and only wear one earbud to stay alert. Think through environmental factors unique to you.
Trust your intuition. Fighting statistics that suggest things like “most attacks are committed by someone you know,” if a situation doesn’t feel right, remove yourself immediately. Better safe than sorry.
Practice, practice, practice. Self-defense training books are nice supplements, but nothing beats training your body with muscle memory. Find an accredited class that spars and puts techniques into practice. It should feel realistic.
Stay present and think clearly. Easier said than done, but panic or freezing will sabotage your efforts quickly. Self-defense requires accessing your logical brain. Much like CPR/First Aid training, knowing what to do can save critical time and reactions.
Of course I hope I go my whole life without needing to use self-defense skills. And no amount of training eliminates all risk. But I do feel more empowered by arming myself with knowledge and resources. It has brought a sense of calm where I can simply enjoy my runs, while also feeling prepared if I ever found myself saying “well what I learned in that one class was…” Hey, I can finally throw a solid right hook now too!
The reality is that self-defense is an unfortunate necessity in the world we live in today. But practical preparation and training can help boost confidence in hairy situations. I encourage everyone, especially women, to explore classes and techniques that make sense for your lifestyle. Staying vigilant, trusting intuition, and protecting personal space are skills we could all sharpen. Here’s to feeling safe and strong wherever this city takes me on my next run!