4 Tips for Self-Defense

I tried out Sculpt Pilates’s free self-defense class. Here’s what I learned.

No one wants to imagine themselves landing in a situation that would require them to use self-defense. But rather than crossing your fingers and hoping that never happens, it’s better to be prepared. That was my aim when attending a free self-defense class at Sculpt Pilates in Bethesda, taught by former Marine Lubomyr Murashchik. There is no definitive school of thought on how to respond to attack and how much force you should use, but despite the conflicting schools of thought about self-defense, almost all of them line up with the basic advice Murashchik covers in his workshops.

Here are my four main takeaways from the class.

Be aware.

Murashchik encourages his students to practice being aware at all times. This includes walking and running without earphones, avoiding walking while texting or talking on the phone, and always being conscious of who is walking behind you and coming near you while walking alone. He says one of the worst things someone can do is ignore the uncomfortable gut feeling that may come from someone being too close in public places or saying inappropriate things. If you ever feel threatened, reroute and try to shake them off; if that doesn’t work, head to a public area and confront them in a loud, no-nonsense voice.

Have a plan.

As soon as you start experiencing an uncomfortable interaction, visualize a plan of attack and/or escape. Hopefully you won’t have to use self-defense moves, but it’s better to have them on your mind then be caught unprepared if someone does try to hurt you.

Practice the moves.

Murashchik recommends that his students (very gently) practice self-defense moves on their friends, some of which we practiced during his class. These included eye jabs (aim for the eyebrow when practicing), elbow jabs, kicks to the knees, and stomping on the foot. Partnering up in the class, we each practiced a series of three consecutive moves on our “attacker” so we could get the feel and rhythm of the moves in a safe place.

Use fear to your advantage.

Murashchik encouraged his students to work on offensive rather than defensive behavior when practicing self-defense moves. While most movie scenes depict fights as long, drawn-out ordeals, he says that it usually takes three seconds of confrontation to combat an assailant. This gives you three seconds to either pull out the moves you’ve trained with, or be seized by fear and fail to fight. Visualize situations where you would need to use self-defense moves and what moves you would use in each one. That way, if you ever find yourself in these situations, you hopefully won’t freeze up and know what to do.