Women, here’s how to defend yourself in a life-threatening situation

Empower yourself with these survival tips from a self-defence expert

Make a habit of asking yourself ‘what could happen?’ every time you leave your home, drive into a new area or enter a building – this will help to hone your awareness skills.                                                                    Image: 123RF/Katarzyna Białasiewicz

“Am I next?” This is the question women are asking in the wake of the brutal rape and murder of 19-year-old University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana. One of a string of incidents of violence against women in recent months, this shocking crime has the country reeling and many women across SA are taking a stand.

At the heart of the issue is the very real danger women face daily, leaving them feeling angered and vulnerable, and prompting them to ask, “What should I do if I find myself in a life-threatening situation?”

Des Brown, the founder and chief instructor at Elite Defence Academy International, shared some helpful self-defence tips:


For a few days, make a habit of asking yourself “what could happen?” every time you leave your home, drive into a new area or enter a building. Consider what criminals could do if they were nearby.

By doing this, your subconscious mind will re-calibrate itself to easily spot anything that appears suspicious or out of place. Your intuition will then tell you that something is wrong, and by listening to your “gut instinct” (which is a powerful survival skill), you will be more likely to avoid danger or get away before anything happens.


Each situation calls for a smart, and maybe different, response. For example, if you are being hijacked, and the only thing the hijackers want is your car, then don’t put up a fight. Hand over your car and/or belongings and get out of there as safely as you can.

“Use common sense, and try not to let your emotions (like fear or anger) cloud your judgement”  –Des Brown, self-defence instructor

On the other hand, if your physical safety is threatened, or you have to protect a loved one, then act decisively and use all your strength to defend yourself.

Use common sense, and try not to let your emotions (like fear or anger) cloud your judgement.

Each situation is unique but if you make the decision to fight back, then do so with all your strength and do not stop until the threat is over. Make the decision to have 20 seconds of courage, do whatever is necessary, attack with all your might, and be determined to win.


In a hand-to-hand self-defence situation where you have to fight for your life, look for these three targets and attack them any way you can – by striking, clawing, ripping, squeezing, etc.

These three points on the body are linked directly to the nervous system, and should cause any attacker (no matter how big or strong) to pause. Techniques do not matter; just injure one or more of these targets with anything at your disposal.


If you have to fight for your life, remember that a weapon does not need to be a gun or a knife. What do have in your pocket? Stab your assailant with a pen; hit them in the throat with your cellphone.

Is there anything nearby or within reach that you can use? Throw sand into their eyes, hit them with any solid object that you can swing, spray deodorant into their face. Is there a wall or corner next to the assailant? Grab their head and push it into the wall or sharp corner. Even a magazine, if rolled up tightly, can be a devastating weapon.


Do not stop until your attacker is lying down or running away. Commit your full strength and determination to winning, and focus on attacking rather than defending. As soon as you can, when the threat is over, run away, attract attention and get help.




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