Last updated: Aug 20, 2009
fight-back
Kagan McLeod
Three powerful self-defense moves you can use to fight back.

Walk softly and carry a big can of mace (or Taser) may be your mantra, but if you can't sneak by your not-so-friendly neighbor (or his pit bull), the expert advice below will help you protect yourself.


Are there times a woman should not fight back?
If someones grabbing your purse, let him have it. If theyre trying to take your car, let them have it.

When should I fight back?
If an attacker is trying to get you into a car, fight back loudly with every bit of strength and courage you have, says Lori Hartman Gervasi, author of Fight Like a Girl … and Win: Defense Decisions for Women, and a black belt self-defense expert trained in American karate. “The odds of surviving go way down once youre in a car or secluded location,” she says. Most attackers are looking for an easy victim, says Sifu Toy, creator of the self-defense DVD Armed and Fashioned: “The more you fight back, the more likely it is that hell give up and run away.”

Should I carry pepper spray?
Gervasi likes pepper spray because it provides a way to fight back without getting too close. “You dont even have to touch the guy,” she says. But its useless if its buried in your purse. She recommends that you carry keys in one hand, pepper spray in the other, and your cell phone in an easy-to-reach pocket. “If a threatening person comes too close or begins to attack, quickly cock the pepper spray into the ready position, aim, and spray the attacker in the face,” Gervasi says.

What else can I do?
Use whatever you have—purse, shoes, rings on your fingers—to fight back, Toy says.

If youre kicking, go low and hard. A shot to the groin may cause pain, but its hard to do and you may lose your balance or give the attacker a foot to grab onto. When you make a fist, wrap your thumb around so it rests beneath the first and second knuckles; this creates a flat fist (no thumb sticking up or tucked under your fingers) that can inflict more damage and helps prevent broken knuckles.


Even the most devoted dog lovers should tread lightly around unfamiliar canines. Follow the three-nos rule, says Cesar Millan of The National Geographic Channels Dog Whisperer—no touch, no talk, no eye contact. And if Fido starts to look frantic, do this …


  1. Ignore the dog
    “The more boring you are, the less you feed the dogs anxiety and the less likely he is to attack,” says dog trainer Victoria Stilwell, host of The Animal Planets Its Me or the Dog.


  • Make yourself small
    If the dog shows signs of aggression—growls or bares its teeth, has pinned-down ears, a straight tail, or raised hackles—turn to your side so you appear smaller and less intimidating, then slowly inch away.


  • If the dog attacks, put something between you
    Use whatever you have—a rolled-up jacket, purse, or any solid object—to create a buffer between you and the dog. “Try to redirect the dogs bites onto that item,” Stilwell says.


  • Cover the dogs head with your coat
    Toss whatever garment you have handy over the dogs head. The sudden darkness may momentarily confuse the animal, giving you time to escape. Stilwell says this technique is safer than using pepper spray, which may increase the dogs anxiety.


  • As a last resort, curl into a ball on the ground
    “As hard as this is, remain calm,” Millan says. By curling up with your face tucked into your chest and your hands covering the back of your neck, your most vulnerable parts will be protected. Wait it out, Millan says, and the dog may lose interest.





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