Basic Self-Defense

by | Jan 18, 2024

Basic Self-Defense

Self-defense involves techniques, strategies, and physical skills to recognize and protect yourself against danger. At its core, this discipline has the potential to empower anyone willing to learn and practice. Developing basic self-defense skills gives you a sense of confidence, knowing that you can protect yourself and not have to wait for someone else to save the day. The extra few seconds you gain by fending off an attacker could save your life.

Below, learn the fundamentals of self-defense and explore other ways to keep yourself and your home as safe as possible.

Types of Self-Defense

Specific techniques can vary depending on the situation and level of danger. The following types of self-defense are widely considered effective ways to protect yourself and others. As you go down the list, the methods are more advanced or intense in response to higher threat levels.

  1. Non-Physical Techniques: These techniques focus on defusing or avoiding a dangerous situation through communication and decision-making rather than physical force.
  2. Physical Techniques: These involve using the body’s natural abilities and physical force to defend oneself. Examples include striking techniques, joint locks, and ground fighting moves, like what you’d see in martial arts.
  3. Non-Lethal Weapons: These include items like pepper spray, tasers, and stun guns that can temporarily disable an attacker without causing permanent harm.
  4. Lethal Weapons:  This refers to the potentially deadly “tools” of self-defense, such as knives and firearms. It is important to note that the use of lethal force should only be considered in life-threatening situations and with proper training.

In general, you’ll want to stop at the level that’s appropriate to your situation. (There’s no need to pull out a taser if a simple conversation will do the trick.) This can involve a split-second judgment call, which is why it’s so important to learn about the full spectrum of responsible self-defense in a controlled environment.

An Important Note: Using Deadly ForceH

The fundamental purpose of self-defense is to eliminate a threat to yourself or others. In a small percentage of situations, this may call for using deadly force. Before you commit to learning how to use deadly force, you must understand the legal implications. Someone may only use deadly force when there is an immediate and unavoidable danger of death or great bodily harm to an innocent person, where no other defense option exists.

This also begs the question: when confronted with a threat, how do you know whether to run, hide, or fight? The best possible solution, both practically and legally, is to retreat if at all possible. Hiding can be a valid strategy, too. However, if neither of those is an option, or if a loved one is in imminent danger, you may need to use force—even deadly force, if you’re mentally and physically prepared to do so.

Ideally, it will never come to this difficult decision. Fortifying your home is one way you can prevent a deadly conflict. To that end, we’re including a few basic home security tips near the end of this guide.

Basic Self-Defense Tools and Tactics

Let’s walk through each type of self-defense and the broad strokes you should know to keep yourself safe. Learn as much as you need to feel comfortable protecting yourself and your family.

Non-Physical Techniques

In some situations, you can avoid a physical conflict altogether. Assess each situation carefully and choose the best course of action to ensure your safety. Learning to avoid confrontation is an acquired skill all of its own.

Avoiding Dangerous Situations

The best way to protect yourself is to avoid dangerous situations altogether. This is primarily a function of forethought. Make a habit of planning for “worst-case scenarios.” This is especially important when you’re out of your normal routine, such as on vacation or during major weather events. Keep a pulse on social or civil unrest present in your area. Read the news. Familiarize yourself with crime rates in your area. When you know what harm could befall you, it’s easier to stay out of harm’s way.

It’s also important to be cautious on social media and not share personal information that could make you vulnerable to potential harm.

Situational Awareness

Being aware of your surroundings, recognizing warning signs, and having a plan of action are cornerstones of being fully prepared to defend yourself. These essential skills are what all other self-defense techniques rely upon. 

Practicing situational awareness means being present in the moment and paying attention to things around you. This includes:

  • Observing People: Pay attention to people’s body language, facial expressions, and actions. This can help identify potential threats or dangerous situations.
  • Assessing Environments: Look for potential exit routes, safe hiding spots, or objects that can be used for protection.
  • Being Aware of Personal Items: Keep personal items such as wallets, phones, and keys secure and within reach to avoid being caught off guard.
  • Avoiding Dangerous or Isolated Areas: When possible, avoid walking alone in poorly lit or isolated areas. Stick to well-lit, populated routes whenever possible.
  • Trusting Your Intuition: If something feels off or unsafe, trust your gut. It’s often right.

By practicing situational awareness, you can avoid threats altogether, or at least have a better chance of protecting yourself. This skill is particularly important if you often find yourself in high-risk environments such as public transportation, crowded events, or traveling alone.  

Running and Evasion

Another alternative to physical confrontation is using strategies to escape or evade a potential threat. This can include running away, finding a hidden location like a safe room in your home, and calling for help. If you exercise regularly, work sprints, jumps, and climbing maneuvers into your fitness routine.


Verbal de-escalation is the use of communication techniques to defuse a potentially violent situation. This can involve using active listening, acknowledging emotions, and offering alternative solutions. In certain scenarios, verbal de-escalation may be more effective than physical force in preventing harm or danger.

However, it’s important to note that de-escalation techniques should only be used if it’s safe to do so. If a situation becomes physically violent, you may need to employ more advanced self-defense techniques.

Causing a Scene

Quite the opposite of de-escalation, this strategy calls for you to be as loud and attention-grabbing as possible. Scream. Throw things. Spit. If running away isn’t an option, you want to make sure that anyone in the vicinity is going to notice that something is happening. Most attackers want an easy target and will move on if you put up a fight.

Physical Self-Defense Techniques

You can learn and practice physical defense skills through various disciplines like martial arts, boxing, or self-defense classes. There are also a few skills you can learn on your own. Here are some key techniques to practice.

Ideally, you’re using force to give yourself enough time to run away or call for help. Physically overpowering your attacker isn’t the best plan of action unless there’s no other option. But if you’re going to fight, be prepared to fight hard—to injure or incapacitate.

Traditional Hand-to-Hand Combat

You can always try punching, kicking, scratching, biting, or gouging at your attacker. Sometimes, these aren’t the most efficient or effective options, but anything that causes damage is fair game. Lower your center of gravity and keep your limbs close to your body when possible.

Hand to Hand Combat

As soon as you have ample opportunity to run, make a break for it.

Palm Strike

Use an open palm to strike the attacker’s nose, throat, or eyes. Think of the movement as a thrust, rather than a chop. The heel of your palm is the strongest, meatiest part of your hand—that’s where you should exert force. Try to keep your thumb tucked in so you don’t jam or break it.

Palm Strike

This can be an effective way to quickly disable an attacker, giving you time to escape. Alternatively, it gives you the opportunity to scratch the attacker’s face or eyes.

Groin Kick

A kick or knee to the groin region is a “low blow” in sports, but it’s fair game in genuine self-defense. Grabbing the attacker’s shoulders may give you extra stability. If you opt for a kick, your goal is to make contact with your flexed ankle hooked around the attacker’s crotch. The subsequent “scooping” motion maximizes pain.

Groin Kick

As you might guess, a groin kick is most effective against male attackers. This technique is best for close-range attacks and can disable an attacker temporarily—long enough for you to run away.

Elbow Strike

Similar to a palm strike, your goal is to use your elbow to hit your attacker’s neck, jaw, or temple. Try to throw your weight into the blow.

Elbow Strike

If the attacker is behind you, an elbow strike is still an effective choice. Simply raise your elbow and pivot sharply, making contact with the back of the elbow.

Joint Locks

Joint locks involve using joint manipulation or pressure points to control an attacker’s movements and subdue them without causing serious injury. The basic idea is to push body parts past their normal range of movement such that you immobilize or hurt the other person. You’ve probably seen joint locks in wrestling, judo, or other contact combat sports.

Options include:

  • Wristlocks—Twisting or bending the wrist and often bending the same arm behind the person’s body
  • Armlocks—A maneuver that hyperextends the elbow and/or shoulder
  • Leglocks—Any move directed at the ankle, knee, or hip joints
  • Spinal locks—Twisting the opponent’s spine or neck
  • Small joint manipulation—Bending small body parts like fingers and toes to cause pain

Joint Lock

These are advanced techniques that are best learned in a structured, safe gym setting. By design, joint locks are designed to force the opponent into submission. When you’re faced with an attacker who’s larger than you are, a more capable fighter, or armed, joint locks are likely not your best choice.

Non-Lethal Tools and Weapons

If you want more “firepower” than your own body can offer, but the idea of potentially causing death or grave bodily harm isn’t something you’re comfortable with, non-lethal self-defense products are a suitable alternative. You can find a variety of products at big-box stores, firearms stores, and online. Many of these devices are inexpensive.

Common types of non-lethal self-defense products are:

  • Pepper spray
  • Pepper irritant projectile/gun
  • Taser
  • Stun gun
  • Self-defense baton
  • (Less lethal) bean-bag or rubber firearm ammunition

Although these weapons won’t cause death or permanent damage, you should still learn about them and train with them before carrying them with you or keeping them in your home. Knowing how to quickly, effectively, and safely deploy these products could mean the difference between escaping a threat or becoming a victim.

And, in an emergency, nearly anything you’re holding can be an impromptu weapon. Hitting an attacker with your palm is great, but whacking with an umbrella or metal water bottle is even better.

Lethal Weapons

Using deadly force isn’t for everyone. Even if it’s the correct course of action, taking someone else’s life can create immense mental and emotional strife. That’s not to mention the hassle of police and legal proceedings to make sure everything was above board. If you’re committed to using a lethal weapon, consistent training and education are incredibly important to ensure you’re able to protect yourself effectively—and, more importantly, safely.

Firearms and knives are the most common self-defense tools used for lethal force. The specific type of firearm or knife you choose to carry or keep in your home depends on many factors. These include whether you want to conceal the weapon, your hand size and strength, your skill level, desired accuracy, weapon style, and so on.

If you are unfamiliar with the safe, legal, and proper use of a firearm or knife for self-defense, it’s vital to get the training and resources you need before making a purchase. These tools are highly effective when protecting against an attacker, but only when used by someone with the skills and knowledge to do so.

Because this is such a delicate and specialized topic, with many state-level nuances, we’ll leave the details to your local dealer.

Creating a Home Defense Plan

The easiest way to “win” a fight is to prevent the fight in the first place. To that end, strong security is your best defense at home.

  • Install a Video Surveillance System: Intruders are much less likely to attack a home with visible cameras. Deep Sentinel uses smart home security cameras backed by AI threat detection and live guard intervention to protect you from trouble.
  • Harden Your Perimeter: Landscaping, fences, and strong locks deter criminals from entering your home.
  • Light Up Your Yard: Install motion-activated floodlights around your property to remove the cover of darkness.
  • Create a Plan for Your Family: Establish a base for children to run to, like a safe room or a neighbor’s house. Rehearse how to call 911. Ensure that children can’t access any weapons you keep at home. (For more tips, see Home Security for Families with Kids.)
  • Embrace the Darkness: Practice moving around your home in low-light situations. If intruders are inside your home at night, your best bet may be to keep the lights off, since you know your home better than they do.

Planning for a home invasion is key for quick, decisive action. These guidelines are a great starting point.

Defense Starts with Deep Sentinel

Learning the basics of self-defense could save your life. With any luck, you’ll never need to put those skills to the test. You can increase your chances of living a peaceful, worry-free life by fortifying your own home. Start with Deep Sentinel.

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