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7 Basic Self-Defense Moves Everyone Should Know

Updated: Feb 8

Looking for some basic self-defense moves to protect yourself in the event of an attack? The good news is, you don’t have to be a martial arts expert to disable an attacker. In fact, in the event of real-life danger, as a rule, the simpler the move, the better.

I’ve hand-picked the following moves as they are both simple and have a good chance of helping you get away safely should you have to use them. Remember to always use speed, power, and intensity to maximize effectiveness, and be prepared to follow up with other strikes as needed.

1. Strike the Attacker using a Headbutt

How to headbutt someone:

  • Drop your head down and forcefully thrust the top of your head into the attacker’s face.

  • If you are grabbed from behind, tilt your head backward and forcefully thrust the back of your head into the attacker’s face.

Pro Tip: Avoid using your forehead for the strike. It might seem easier, but you can end up with a nasty cut and a couple of black eyes.

2. Strike the Attacker's Eyes

  • Reach out and swipe/rake/claw the fingers of one hand across one or both of the attacker’s eyes (from L to R, or R to L).

  • You can use loose fingers (think friendly wave), or tighter fingers (think salute).

  • You can also poke the finger(s) of one hand into one of the attacker’s eyes, or worse, grab onto both sides of the attacker’s head and stick your thumbs into both of the attacker’s eyes.

3. Strike the Attacker's Throat

  • Open up a hand and move your thumb out away from the four fingers of one hand.

  • Using the space between your thumb and index finger as the impact area, strike into the attacker’s throat and neck with speed and force.

  • Hit and retract.

The throat strike can also be done with a punch, hand chop, elbow, or forearm.

4. Strike the Attacker using your Palm

Tilt one of your hands back slightly and then, using your palm as the impact area, strike into the attacker’s face. Good targets are striking directly below and into the nose or the jaw.

5. Strike the Attacker with an Elbow

This is one of the best strikes to use in close quarters:

  • Bring your hand and forearm inward toward your center and strike into the attacker’s face (or body) using an elbow as the impact point.

  • Elbow strikes also work well against attacks from behind, by striking behind and around your shoulder to the attacker’s head or striking behind and lower into the attacker’s body.

6. Strike the Attacker with a Front Kick

Keep your balance on one leg, and kick forward with your other leg, striking the shin, knee, groin, or midsection of the attacker.

Pro Tip: Simultaneously push forward when kicking to help create space between you and the attacker. Immediately retract your kick and re-stabilize yourself.

There are variations of this concept used to kick backward and sideways, but they typically require more balance and skill.

7. Strike the Attacker Using your Knee

While balancing on one leg, simultaneously thrust the opposite knee up and forward, striking the groin, midsection, face, etc.

Pro Tip: For increased effectiveness, grab onto the attacker with both of your hands (ex. around the neck, on the shoulders), and pull down and inward on the attacker while striking.

How Do I Learn Basic Self-Defense Moves?

Self-defense is just like any other discipline: it takes practice to gain confidence and mastery. The best way to learn basic self-defense moves is to drill them. Watch our free 10-video series, Simple Self-Defense Moves Everyone Should Know,” with a friend or family member and pause after each move to practice with each other. Look for self-defense classes near you that specialize in real-life self-defense techniques and simulate common street attack scenarios to further develop your skills.

3 Strategies for Self Defense

While being armed with these basic self-defense moves will definitely help in the event of an attack, don’t forget to follow these strategies for self defense to ensure maximum protection: