Fighting Back: self defence for women and girls

The creator of the fantastic Morgenmuffel zine, Isy, has created an excellent self-defence leaflet aimed at women and girls. The A5 leaflet is all hand-drawn and contains simple and useful guidance. I thought it was so great I had to share it with more people! Isy is anti-copyright so anyone is welcome to print and photocopy it to spread the word.

Catherine Redfern, 16 April 2002

You can either look at it on the web by clicking on the links below, OR open it as a PDF file so you can print out your own copy.

Please note, these images are BIG so they may take a little while to download.

View "Fighting Back" on the web. There are four pages to view.

To open "Fighting Back" in PDF for printing click on the links below. Warning - the PDFs are very big indeed so they may take a long time to open.

To make up the leaflet, open the two PDF files and print out the two pages onto A4 paper. The two pages should be photocopied back to back (double-sided), and then they can be folded in half to make a handy A5 leaflet. Copy and distribute to your heart's content!

For details of how to get hold of Morgenmuffel , go to the zine reviews and you should find info there. Ready printed copies of the "Fighting Back" leaflet can be ordered from the Synthesis distro - see the same zine reviews for details.

Readers with visual impairments might find it difficult to see the images properly. So I've copied out the text of the leaflet below. But if you can, it is best viewed with the cartoons and drawings by clicking the links above.

Fighting Back: self-defence for women & girls

I once made a booklet on self defence for women, but I wanted to re-do it, so here goes! "Self-defence is what we do to make our lives safer on a daily basis." It's about taking control of situations in which you're to be made a victim - this ranges from comments to physical attack. It's realising that if someone does not respect your boundaries, you should stop them. There are many different strategies for this - saying something, yelling, leaving, fighting - the important thing is you DO SOMETHING!

Body Language

Staring at the ground, hunched shoulders, hiding your hands in your pockets, making yourself small, carries the message "I'm weak & vulnerable!" Women get targeted as easy prey, so having strong body language decreases our risk of being fucked around. Make eye contact with people in a way that lets them know you've seen them. Swing your arms when walking, take up space. Strong body language not only affects how others see us, it increases our own confidence.

Verbal Strategies

Asserting yourself is an important part of taking control of your life. If some behaviour is making you feel bad, uncomfortable, scared, confront the person. You can

  1. Name the behaviour
  2. Criticise it
  3. Tell them what you want them to do.

"You're constantly touching me. I don't like it. Stop it." Repeat if needed! This is direct, on-engaging way of establishing what you want. Avoid saying "please" etc. when asserting yourself.

If someone is bothering you in a public place, make a scene! It will be much more embarassing for that person than for you! Our voice is a weapon, too. Getting right in to someone's face & screaming will throw them. Yelling alerts other people & can freak an attacker out. It can also help channel your fear into agression. Shout "NO!" or "FUCK OFF!" loudly, deeply from your stomach.
Remember, if your gut feeling tells you something dodgy's going on - say someone unpleasant is following you - trust it and DO SOMETHING, whether it's confronting the person, getting to safety, calling someone or getting a weapon ready.

Moves

There are some twists & tricks to get out of certain grabs. I'll show you some basic, simple ones I think all self-defence should be kept as simple as possible. You can practiuce these moves with a friend. With some practice they become an automatic reaction. They don't depend on strength, just quick reaction & swift movement. And don't worry if you can't remember them or they don't make any sense to you. You can also try to get out of a grab in other ways, e.g. by striking a primary target (see later).

Wrist Grab

If someone grabs your wrist, get out by doing a quick twist against the thumb (the weakest part of the grab), up & over the arm. You can do this with both wrists at the same time, too.

Clothes Grab

This one is for if someone grabs your shirt or throat with both hands. Push one hand through their arms, hold your other hands, and push quickly from one side to the other. Twist your hips & shoulders too to add power.

Half-Nelson

This one is for when someone gets you into a half-nelson. Get your hand up into their face from behind their shoulder, then jerk their head back while coming up.

Grabbed with two hands

Make a fist, then pull it up with your hand, towards your face.

Fighting

If you shoose to physically fight, you have to commit 100% and be as fierce as possible. Believing in yourself is an important part of this! Channel the adrenaline rush of fear into anger to make yourself stronger. Strike, don't wrestle. The moves shown are for use against the weak parts of the body - any attacker, no matter how big and strong, has these weak spots. SHOUT with each strike.

Targets

  • Temples
  • Eyes
  • Throat
  • Groin
  • Knees
  • Top of foot

Strikes

The straight jab

making fists, bring your aim out straight, hitting with the knuckles first. Bring your shoulder and hip into the punch, too.

Elbows

pull the elbow back, high, and bring across to your other shoulder. Move the hips too! This is good against the temple or throat, or drive your elbow into someone behind you. Push your arm back with the other hand.

Groin

pull your knee up into the groin if you're in close. From further away, bring your knee up in front of you, then let your foot snap out. Keep the toes pointed so that you're hitting with the top of your foot.

A strong stance

If you fight, do so from a strong, stable stance. Arms up, knees slightly bent, feet shoulder-width apart.

Practice strikes at home with a sleeping bag.

Stomp to knee

bring the knee up and then drive the foot out, hitting the knee with your heel. This can be done from the side, or from in front, or even from behind.

Stomp to foot

scrape your heel down from the knee onto the topof the foot with a strong stomp, either from behind, in front, or the side.

Strike at primary targets when you're on the ground

poke to eyes, knee into groin, stomp to knee, elbow to throat. Also, bringing you knee up will help keep someone off you.

A few well-landed strikes will surpise the attacker and hurt, and you can leg it and get to safety.

Conclusion

This is just to give you some ideas, and encourage you to look at issues around self-defence. Discuss it with your girlfriends, practice some stuff, and look around for self-defence or martial art classes. Some classes are run by annoyingly patronising blookes, or they teach dead complicated moves, or they neglect the psychological aspects and verbal strategies. But the important thing is that you build up your confidence in your body, and that you are prepared to assert and defend yourself - remember, you're worth it!

Why not start your own self defence sessions with some mates? Explore the issues, warm up and practice some moves, do role plays, share any martial arts skills, check out women's self defence books, swap ideas. Have a laugh too. If we want to improve our lives as women, we need to look at our realities, learn survival skills and support each other. With this, we can fight back against intimidation and being pushed around, and take back control over our lives!

About the author

Catherine Redfern

The author of the leaflet, Isy, has proclaimed it COPYRIGHT FREE. Please print off and copy to your heart's content.

Author's Articles | Author's Website

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