The Essential Elements of Taekwondo Self-Defense

The importance of personal safety is becoming much more apparent to most of us, and although the solution to personal safety seems relatively simple, i.e. “Buy a gun, can of mace, etc.,” there are in fact many other elements to be considered in self-defense. Self –defense can be considered to have physical, environmental, psychological, and spiritual components, and all these factors must be addressed in order to ensure the most appropriate response to any self-defense situation. That is why learning Taekwondo can be so important today.

Physical self-defense involves understanding body mechanics: What are your physical strengths? Where are the weak points of the human body? For example, the knee is vulnerable to being kicked in and when this joint is struck from the back while holding the shoulder, the knee folds like a table leg. Strong strikes can be executed using the palm, elbow, back of the wrist, and top of the knee. Weak points of the body include the throat, eyes, nose and knees. How aware are you concerning the parts of your body that you can use to strike at an opponent, as well as the vulnerable parts of your attacker’s body? These kinds of things are taught at traditional Taekwondo schools.

The spiritual aspects of self-defense have little to do with religion, and much more to do with intuition. Some statistics seem to show that women use the faculty of intuition more than do men. This underlies the importance of getting in touch with your ‘inner safety system.” This is a tool that is available to everyone and that can be strengthened with practice. Learn to know which messages to listen to and trust yourself to make the best choice in the moment. According to “The Independent,” researchers have found that “The differences between the two sexes in the way the brain is hardwired could play an important role in understanding why men are generally better at spatial tasks and women are better at verbal tasks involving memory and intuition ( This would mean that if men are using their strengths of spatial orientation and muscle control, then women must take advantage of the fact that they are actually built to counteract those exact traits by using memory and intuition. Intuition has been described as “Thinking without thinking.’ If you are ever in a dangerous situation, it is so important to remember all details. Act immediately on your intuition, without question. This is your internal self-defense tool that we learn to use in Taekwondo!

Environment is also a key factor in self-defense. New people, new schedules, and new places can be very exciting, but this sort of excitement can throw us of our guard with so much new stimulus to absorb. Although new experiences and environments should be celebrated (Change is good, right?) they can also be very intimidating. Keep reminding yourself to notice everything you can. Think like a detective. If something or someone seems out of place, leave. Pay attention to cars, people, routines, light (or the absence of light,) time, scents, sounds etc. Heighten your senses.

This brings us to the psychological aspect of self-defense. The most common reason for assault, apart from the desire to rob, is a need to exert power over others.

Attackers can seem overwhelmingly strong, and the best way to deal with this is to remain calm and use intelligence to even the odds. Time your techniques. You might even have to “Play Dead’ or act powerless to get an attacker to drop their guard. You might have to act first, as in a pre-emptive strike. It is absolutely crucial to have a plan for several self-defense scenarios. This can save valuable time in case physical action is necessary. Scenario game plans at Taekwondo class can be ; plan of attack/defense, different types of attackers, various types of situations, are all extremely helpful tools in addressing self- defense needs.

That having been said, what is the most important self-defense tool of all? Prevention! In martial arts training we say that we learn to fight so that we never have to. As the late Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido instructor Sabumnim Malcolm Perkins used to say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get Mellow.” In other words, when stressed, try your best to stay calm.

If you can incorporate the psychological, spiritual, physical and environmental aspects of self-defense into your daily routine, you are on the way to a much safer experience on campus, in the home, at the workplace, or wherever you may happen to be in your life.

About the Author, Colleen Diemer is a World Champion Martial Artist and author who uses her expertise to provide self-defense training and resources to women, children, and families. To learn more about self-defense join a US National Taekwondo Association school near you.

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