Skip to main content

Learn Basic Self-Defense Moves & Techniques

Self-defense is an extremely important set of skills to have. Learn basic self defense moves and techniques with free video lessons from Howcast!

Top 3 Self Defense Tips

What should you know before you start learning self-defense? There are three things to keep in mind:

  • Keep calm. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of panic and fear, especially in tense situations. But when people panic, they tend to make mistakes—something you want to avoid when defending yourself. Take deep breaths and remember to keep calm, no matter the situation.
  • Keep it simple. When you’re defending yourself, you don’t need to use elaborate moves or patterns. In reality, two or three simple punches or kicks will usually be enough to keep your opponent away. The key is to calculate your self-defense moves in advance, and make sure they count. For example, going for the groin, throat, or nose is always a powerful defense choice.
  • Get out quickly. In a truly frightening situation, it may feel important to beat up on your opponent for as long as you can. But remember that the best way to protect yourself (both physically and legally) is to leave the scene as soon as possible. Once your opponent is down, flee to a safe area and contact authorities if needed.

For a more detailed explanation from a pro, watch Howcast’s video tutorial at the top of this section. Instructor Carlos Jimenez has some great insight on the topic!

How to Punch in Self Defense

The punch is one of the most basic elements of self-defense, but it’s by no means a beginner move. Without proper training, you can hurt yourself more than your opponent. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Closing the fist. When you make your fist to punch, start by holding your hand out (like you would to say “stop”). As you close it, pay attention to where your thumb is. It should never be on top or on bottom. Keep it out of harm’s way toward the side of your fist.
  • The pushing motion. Next, you need to practice the “pushing” motion associated with a punch. If you have a partner, try this gentle push holding your fist as described in the first bullet point.
  • Your knuckles. Try to use your second and third knuckles when punching, not your fourth or fifth. The fourth and fifth fingers are weaker and more prone to breaking after a hard punch.
  • The speed. Now that you have the basics down, you can try a little faster. You can go from a “push” to a punch by increasing the speed of your movement, which adds more force.
  • The rest of your body. Try to get most of your momentum from your shoulder and elbow, which allows you to effectively punch your opponent and move them away. Also add some hip motion into the punch. Really use your whole body to add more force and maneuverability.

To see these tips and steps in action, watch how Carlos Jimenez and his partner do it in Howcast’s tutorial video.

How to Use Your Legs & Feet in Self Defense

There are three things you need to think about when it comes to self defense moves using your legs and feet: distance, targets, and motion. Here’s a brief overview of what this looks like with three different types of kick techniques.

Front Kick

  • Distance: You can’t be too far away from your opponent.
  • Target: You can easily hit the opponent’s knees, shins, or even their stomach or chest.
  • Motion: Ensure that every time you kick, you push and bring your leg back. This helps you keep your balance.

Round-house Kick

  • Distance: This should be about the same distance as with the front kick.
  • Target: You can easily kick the outside of your opponent’s leg (or the inside, which can knock them off balance).
  • Motion: Here, it’s important to practice how to properly twist your body for the kick. During your kick, your foot will also be twisting slightly for momentum and balance.

Knee Kick

  • Distance: The knee kick is meant to be done up-close.
  • Target: The knee kick can target the front, outside, or inside of your opponent’s leg.
  • Motion: Here, it’s helpful to imagine that you’re taking a big step toward your opponent. It’s important to keep close proximity.

To see what each of these self defense techniques looks like, watch Howcast’s tutorial video at the beginning of this section.

Self Defense Take Down Moves

One of the best ways to defend yourself is a takedown. It is also one of the simplest techniques once you get the hang of it. Here are the basics:

  • You’ll place your arm (the radial bone, in particular) underneath your opponent’s chin.
  • From there, you’re going move your arm upward (with your index finger pointing up as well), and then move your arm down (with your index finger pointing down as well).

This is one of the safest and most basic takedowns, and it is versatile for use in a range of situations. To see how this self-defense takedown move is done, watch Howcast’s tutorial at the top of this section.

How to Mentally Prepare for an Attack

You have the basics down, but how do you prepare yourself mentally for an attack? There are two techniques we recommend:

  • Breathing technique. When you get scared, you get tired more quickly and run out of breath. One of the best things you can do to prepare for a real-life attack is to practice your breathing. There are many effective breathing techniques out there, but the main thing is to be mindful and keep your breath regulated in intense situations.
  • Progressive training. This is a type of training method in which a trainee starts with a simple scenario and simple defense moves, progressing over time to more intimidating and complex situations. Progressive training in self-defense helps ensure that you can do the basics well, and it challenges you to become more physically and mentally capable over time.

In Howcast’s tutorial, Carlos Jimenez talks about how to prepare for an attack in more detail. Check it out!

Learn More Self Defense Moves

You now have the most important basic self-defense moves at your disposal. For even more self-defense lessons, explore Howcast’s the rest of the videos in this series below.


Carlos Jimenez

Carlos Jimenz was born in the Canary Islands (Spain) in 1980. He began his martial arts training at the age of 12 practicing the soft art of Aikido. Aikido taught Carlos wrist locks, flexibility and proper coordination. His early training also includes gymnastics along with Muay Thai Kickboxing and the Brazilian Martial Art Capoeira. In 1999 Carlos discovered Kajukenbo and Filipino Martial Arts. He has been practicing Kajukenbo since then and also tries to combine it with pressure points. He is also a licensed acupuncturist.

You may also be interested in...