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Self-defense for women: Krav Maga workout

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Krav Maga for women

What would you do if a stranger -- or even your date -- grabbed you around the neck and planned to do you harm? Screaming as loud as you can might break your assailant's grip and motivation. But if it doesn't, you better be ready to physically defend yourself.

Krav Maga for Women

Straight punches

Straight Punches

Preferred target areas: chin, jaw, throat, nose

Why it works: A straight punch, which can be made with either hand, extends forward in a straight line from your shoulder to the target. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line — a straight punch is the fastest, most direct and least detectable way to send a punch to the targeted area. The straight punch can be used to distract, stun, injure or knock out your attacker, giving you the ability to eliminate the threat and time to escape from the danger zone.

Where to aim: Strike to whatever vulnerable target is open. If the attacker's arms are up high, you should strike low — if his hands are down low, you should strike high. A sound strategy is to create openings. For instance, if the attacker's hands are up and covering his face, strike to vulnerable areas that are low. This will generally cause the attacker to drop his hands, opening targets to the face, throat and chin.

Start position: Get in a fighting stance, feet a little wider than hip-distance apart, knees slightly bent, angled slightly to the side, hands up, elbows bent.

Movement: Primarily driving with your legs, with the support of your core, send your fist forward. Drive the punch forward by pushing the ball of your back foot against the floor. Push off the floor to place more power in the punch. As your hips and shoulders rotate, extend your fist forward for the punch while keeping your elbow down toward the floor for as long as possible. Make contact with the first two knuckles of your fist, making sure to keep your wrist straight. This increases the power of the punch, as well as your reach, and will help you deliver the punch safely. Bring your hand and body back quickly to starting position, being careful not to let your hand drop when bringing it back toward your head. This protects your head and puts you in a position to throw follow-up punches.

Workout application: Repeat punches with your right hand, concentrating on form then speed, for 15 repetitions. Change sides. Practice on a punching bag by yourself or enlist a partner and take turns striking hand pads.

Heel punch

Heel Punch

Preferred target areas: chin, jaw, throat, nose, side and back of head

Why it works: A variation of a straight punch, the heel punch is a great alternative if you have long nails or injured knuckles, or are presented with a hard or bony target. Some people find it more comfortable to strike with the heel of the hand rather than the fist. Do not strike with your whole palm or hand, as the force of the punch will be dispersed along a wider surface area and will thus be weak.

Start position: Get in a fighting stance.

Movement: Driving with your legs and your core, send your right hand forward. Drive the strike forward and add power by pushing the ball of your back foot against the floor. Push off the floor to place more power in the punch. As your hips and shoulders rotate, extend your arm for the strike, keeping your elbow down toward the floor. Just before striking the target, flex your wrist backward, open your hand and curl your fingers, making contact with only the heel of your palm (just where the wrist ends and the hand begins). Turn your hand slightly inward (to the thumb side) as you strike — this helps protect your hand and wrist. Bring your hand and body back quickly to starting position, being careful to not let your hand drop when bringing it back toward your head. This protects your head and puts you in a position to throw follow-up punches.

Workout application: Repeat punches with your right hand, concentrating on form then speed, for 15 repetitions. Change sides. To practice, work with a partner and take turns striking hand pads, holding the hand pads vertical and striking upward.

Elbow strike

Elbow strike

Preferred target areas: chin, jaw, nose, throat, sternum, side of head

Why it works: An elbow strike can be delivered at almost any angle and is most effective at very close range (typically there is already contact between the defender and attacker). In order to create the most damage with the least effort, try to isolate the "tip" of the elbow when striking, concentrating all of your power in a very small surface area.

Starting position: Stand in a neutral position.

Movement: Raise your elbow to your side and punch outward (avoid a "flapping" motion). Make contact with your opponent just above the tip of the elbow. Be sure to drive into the strike with your legs to give more weight and power.

Workout application: Repeat for 15 repetitions with the right elbow then repeat with the left elbow. If you have a partner, use hand pads as targets.

Knee strike

Knee strike

Why it works: Knees are another powerful defense for close range combat.

Preferred target areas: groin, leg, solar plexus, sternum, liver, kidney, face, head

Starting position: Get in a fighting stance.

Movement: With your left hand, grab the attacker's right arm just above the elbow. With your right hand, grab his right shoulder and/or neck firmly by grabbing handfuls of skin. Keep your right elbow down, driving your forearm into his neck and/or collarbone. This will help give more control and reduce the chances of him grabbing you or taking you to the ground. Snatch your opponent's body forward and/or down while driving your right hip forward and your right knee forward and up, striking with the point just above your kneecap. Be sure to recoil your entire leg back to the floor quickly so that the attacker has little opportunity to grab it.

Workout application: Repeat 15 times with your right knee, pretending to grab and kick an opponent. Repeat 15 times with your left knee. Engage your abdominals as you bring your knee up for more force.

Kick from a lying position

Kick from a lying position

Preferred target areas: (to a standing attacker) groin, midsection, head; (to an attacker leading with his head or on his knees) chest, head; a kick to the knee or shin is also possible.

Why it works: It's very possible during a violent encounter that you may end up on the ground, with a standing attacker. It's important to remain calm and continue the fight to get back up to a position of advantage. Generally, your legs are the longest personal weapons you have, so kicks are best used when the target is outside the reach of upper-body combatives, such as straight punches and hammerfists. Kicks generally allow you to do considerable damage while keeping the option of staying as far from your attacker as reasonably possible or necessary. Kicks also tend to be the most powerful combatives, employing very large muscle groups and bones to inflict damage on would-be attackers.

Start position: Lying on your back, lift your head and shoulders up off the ground with your chin tucked. Keep your hands up to protect your face. One foot is placed on the ground near your buttocks; the other knee is drawn up close to your chest with your foot flexed back. Your hips should be off the ground. Once this position is taken, only a small part of your back and one foot should be touching the ground.

Movement: As your kicking foot stomps outward, your base foot (the one still on the ground) drives into the ground to engage your hips and generate power. The use of the hips is most important. At the moment of impact, the only body parts touching the ground are the base foot and the shoulders/elbows. Recoil immediately, bringing your knee back to your chest to prepare for another kick.

Workout application: Repeat 15 times with your right leg then 15 times with your left leg. Practice with a partner and use hand pads as targets.

Watch: Safety tips when traveling

Today on the Daily Dish, Tracy and Charley Vega give important tips on how women should be alert and safe when traveling.

More self-defense workouts

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Try this boxing boot camp workout at home
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