5 Self Defense Tactics to Start Using Today

Interview with Sensei Ameila Sheftall

By Ashley Davidson

Following our recent Find Your Fearlessness Self Defense Class in NYC, we put together a few key takeaways with our self-defense instructor, Amelia. A survivor of a violent attack, Amelia teaches karate and self-defense to kids in NYC’s public schools and offers self-defense training for adults. We can’t thank her enough for leading us in a workshop!

Here are some key takeaways on the basics of self-defense.

Even if you’re not regularly training in martial arts, you have a few basic tools to prevent an attack or defend yourself if prevention is impossible:


In an unfamiliar environment, stay off your phone, put your headphones away, and keep your eyes on your surroundings, not your texts.

Don’t ask random strangers for advice or directions. Go into a business if you need help, and then walk to where you’re going with confidence.

Unfortunately, we still live in a world where people are looking for easy targets wherever you go. Be prepared and assertive, and remember that you have permission to defend yourself. Make up your mind that you don’t want to be a victim, and think through what you’d do in a situation where you have to defend yourself.

Most people don’t think about this stuff until it’s too late. If you’ve already thought about these things, you’re already ahead of the game. It helps you avoid a sense of shock when something happens where you need to react.


Your intuition is your first line of defense.

We’re often conditioned to ignore our intuition to not seem rude. It’s better to be rude and mistaken than victimized, better to overcome embarrassment rather than trauma.

While many women in the session took to the yelling and force of assertiveness right away, others had to overcome their sense of timidity after years of being trained to be demure. Be aware that you might have to overcome that same feeling of “I don’t want to offend or be rude.” When your safety is on the line, that doesn’t matter.

Nature gave us intuition for a reason. It’s the tiger within, a survival instinct that won’t let you down. It’s something built into you that can recognize right from wrong. Don’t ignore that intuition!

When you’re walking down the street and sense that someone’s following you or approaching you in an unsafe way, cross the street. If the situation persists, move on to your next tool.


Your voice is your primary weapon.

Once your intuition is triggered, it’s better to scream at someone and then apologize if you’ve made a mistake and versus ignoring your intuition. If you feel like someone is following you, scream: “Stop following me!” Remember: embarrassment over making a mistake is better than the trauma of becoming a victim. Repeat this statement until it sinks in.

Practice your animal shout. Criminals are looking for an easy target who will freeze and cower. Not today! You are not that easy target. Try this method that Amelia taught at our self defense class:


Your best chances to get away from a perpetrator are as early as possible. Scream, run, do not get in a vehicle or go anywhere with a perpetrator. Your odds of getting away safely diminish over time. You want to get away as quickly as possible.

The key to self-defense is drawing attention to yourself so other adults will come to your defense, and have a go-to move to injure an attacker so you can get away. While foot-stomping and groin-kicking are very effective, be careful to keep your feet protected so you can run. Amelia advises you to keep moving, and use your nails to gouge their eyes or scratch their face, use the palm of your hand to break their nose; anything you can do to weaken them enough for you to get away.

One key move Amelia went over with us is the Wrist Release.

The thumb is the weakest link, so move your arm in a rapid circular motion in direction of the thumb for the wrist escape. If it doesn’t work, keep moving – commit to defending yourself. Keep twisting, moving, stomping, poking, and screaming, until you escape.

Claudia Paul (IG: @claudiacpaul), NYC based photographer, attended our Self Defense class and practiced this move with her trainer Ray Dente (IG: @bonafidelifestyle) the following week. They were kind enough to share a video with us of their session.


It’s always going to be awkward thinking about gouging eyes or screaming at the tops of our lungs when we’ve grown accustomed to using our inside voices and being polite at all costs. The best way to overcome this is by thinking it through, imagining the situations where you might need to defend yourself, talking them through, and practicing tactics. The key here is to get comfortable defending yourself, and that’s done through practice.

Teach your roommate and your friends, teach your mom, teach your partner. Pay it forward – it will help you remember, and it’ll help the ones you care about. That said, if you’re going to practice yelling, do it in a group in public so people know not to call the authorities.

If you want to keep learning, Krav MaGa is the Israeli Army self defense training, and Amelia recommends it.


Amelia also teaches a class on Saturdays where she can do a review or practice 10am-1pm at PS 40 (320 East 20th St between 1st and 2nd Ave). Bring a friend, a man, a mom, whomever you want! You can schedule a review there by emailing Amelia at amelia.sheftall@gmail.com, and you can make a tax-free donation to her organization, KP All Sports, to help sponsor a kid through http://www.kpforkids.com/.

Ashley DavidsonComment