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8 Self-Defense Tips That Can Do Us More Harm Than Good


Imagine you are walking alone at night. Or maybe it’s daytime, but you find yourself in a shady neighborhood. You certainly want to be prepared and know how to react in case someone attacks you. That’s where self-defense tips might come in handy. However, be careful about whose advice you follow. Because if the tips are taken from an unreliable source that hasn’t had any real experience with these situations, they can work against you and, as a matter of fact, put you in more danger.

That’s why we at Bright Side have done some thorough research on this subject and would like to share with you the dos and don`ts of self-defense.

1. Holding the keys between your fingers

Many people think the best way to use a key for protection is to hold it in a fist between the fingers. However, there are some downsides to this method:

  • If an attacker sees your clenched fist, the first thing he/she will do is get a hold of the keys and you will have nothing to defend yourself with.
  • If you try to punch someone with a key positioned that way, you will actually cut your fingers because of the rough edges.

A better way to carry a key is to hold it naturally, as if you were going to open your door. Thus you will not draw any attention to it, and it will be easier to handle.

You can also grip the key facing downward, like a knife. It could help you make a swinging, more powerful motion.

2. Running away from an attacker

Running away from an attacker isn’t always a good idea.

  • The assailant might be faster than you. If you run, this can make him/her angrier and more impatient and thus put you in more danger than you were in before.
  • Ask yourself whether you have enough endurance to run for a long time and whether you will have any strength left in case you have to fight.
  • Your back gets exposed, which can be lethal if the assailant has a gun.
  • You also won’t see what’s going on behind you, and turning your head to check whether someone is still following you will only be a distraction and slow you down.

That being said, running might still be your best option. Just try to stay focused and assess the situation, remembering the consequences that running away from someone can have.

3. Trying to reason with the attacker

You might think talking to the attacker and trying to de-escalate the situation can increase your chances of not being hurt. Instead, this may result in exactly the opposite.

The attacker will be focused solely on his/her objective (e.g., to mug you). So anything that comes between him/her and achieving that objective, like your talking, will be met with aggression. The irritation might compel the assailant to take more drastic measures and possibly hurt you.

4. Learning self-defense techniques online

While watching videos that explain how to defend yourself might make you feel safer, this is not the way you should learn self-defense.

  • Watching someone fight off an attacker isn’t actually the same thing as being able to do it yourself.
  • After watching these videos you might feel prepared to fight back. It’s all nice and easy in the videos where instructors show everything slowly and allow participants to tackle them. However, in real life, the assailant will certainly not play along with the scenario you’ve anticipated.

So it would be better to sign up for a self-defense class or try martial arts.

5. Throwing your belongings on the ground when mugged

When being mugged, you might think it’s a good idea to throw your valuables on the ground in one direction and run in the other, while the mugger gets distracted for a second. That action can, in reality, make him/her angrier because you didn’t follow his/her instructions. So he/she might decide to use force on you and potentially hurt you more than if you’d complied.

6. Avoiding eye contact

Sometimes you hear this advice: avoid eye contact with an attacker, because that will rile him/her up and escalate the situation.

While in some situations this may hold true, in others it will only show an attacker that you are intimidated by him/her and an easy target. So by making eye contact you demonstrate that you are confident, alert, and also ready to identify him/her to the police.

7. Kicking them in the groin

Although this will inflict some pain, it will not help you much.

  • Men can easily protect this area, because they’ve had a fair share of groin kicks in their life.
  • If you do manage to kick a man in his groin, it still won’t injure him badly enough and stall him long enough for you to escape.

8. Pretending to talk on the phone

This is one more tip that can give you a feeling of security, but doesn’t really make you more secure.

You might think that if an assailant sees you talking on the phone, that it will scare him/her off, because there will be a witness — a person on the other end of the line. But it will actually show him/her that you are unaware of your surroundings and inattentive, because your mind is somewhere else. So he/she will see you as an easy target.

Bonus: Yell “Fire!”

Sometimes it is advised to yell, “Fire!” instead of “Help!” and this subject has been heavily debated.

  • On the one hand, yelling, “Fire!” could attract more attention and there might be a higher chance of someone calling 911. That could be because people are not eager to get themselves into dangerous situations, so yelling, “Help!” might just scare them off.
  • On the other hand, if people think there’s a fire nearby, they might be more likely to run away from the source. So shouting for help could be more effective in that case.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. In the end, the most important thing is to show the people around you that you are in danger and in need of help, by any means possible, be it shouting, “Fire!” or “Help!”

Did you know about these self-defense mistakes? Do you know any other self-defense techniques that are ineffective? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Illustrated by Yekaterina Ragozina for Bright Side
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