5 Self-Defense Moves That Could Save Your Life Anything Goes

Consider this part of your travel insurance. 

Having the freedom to travel the world and meet new people has got to be one of the best things about being alive. However, you only have to take a cursory glance at news headlines to know we live in troubled times. Going abroad and venturing into unfamiliar places can be scary, and even dangerous. But does that mean we stay home all day cowering in fear?


With the appropriate skills and know-how, you should feel more confident stepping out into the world. We find out more from Qin Yunquan, self-defense expert and CEO of Kapap Academy.

“Unlike in sporting contexts, training for street attacks includes three contexts to prepare for: the Pre-conflict, the Conflict, and the Post-conflict stage.  In the Pre-conflict stage, we should always try to use verbal defensive skills to de-escalate while remaining watchful for sudden attacks or the drawing of a weapon like a knife.  We recommend the use of covert defensive stances such as the ‘thoughtful look’ or the ‘praying hands’.

In the conflict stage, you need to use enough physical self-defense to stop or ward off the attack, counter attack, and then get away as quickly from danger.  The goal here is to keep yourself safe from any bodily harm while creating the opportunity to escape.

By staying mindful of the post-conflict stage, which is the possibility of facing legal ramifications for your self-defense actions, we ensure we do not use excessive force beyond what is legally permissible.  For example, in a knife attack, under the law, we should resort to disarming the attacker and use some physical force to subdue the individual.  However, once the knife has been removed, the law does not permit us to use the knife to stab the individual after disarming him.”

Ready to dive into the 5 tactics that could save your life?

1. De-escalation/Covert defensive stances (pre-conflict)

In the face of aggressive behaviour, try to stay calm and not react emotionally to threats.  While we cannot control how others choose to act, we can choose how we react to others.  To be able to verbally de-escalate, we must exercise patience, tact, and self-control.  Avoid taking any challenges or insults thrown at you personally, and do not allow your own ego to get the better of you. Complement your self control with active listening/reflective techniques – such as clarifying, paraphrasing or summarising the issues of concern or frustration. By repeating a person’s own words back to them conveys a feeling of sympathy that can help to somewhat diffuse another’s anger (“I understand you are feeling frustrated with XYZ”).  Avoid using challenging words (“Back off!”) or unhelpful cliches (“Calm down”).  Instead, focus on showing empathy and listening to the aggressor without affirming or refuting any claims.

Any attempt to de-escalate should be done with care – staying watchful for signs of escalating conflict or a worsening situation.  Look out for signs like clenching of fists, a sudden change in tone or body language, pacing or fidgeting, an intensifying of eye contact, chest protrusion, and outstretched hands.

Adopt covert pre-conflict defensive stances like ‘thoughtful look’ or ‘praying hands’.  These stances allow you to ‘flinch’ instinctively and throw your hands rapidly in the event of a sucker punch or to deflect an in-coming knife stab to the throat if the assailant suddenly draws a weapon.

Thoughtful Look

Praying Hands

2. The Fence (pre-conflict)

The Fence is a pre-conflict stance that is characterised by the following:

  • It’s a non-threatening, passive stance
  • Sets boundaries
  • It’s an effective platform to adopt defensives moves when an attack

The Fence

Typically used by security personnel and bodyguards, the Fence is a good defensive technique that helps individuals to stand in a posture that is seen as non-threatening or even passive in appearance. Stand with both your hands outstretched but with elbows slightly bent, while maintaining one and half to two arms lengths distance apart. Continue to verbally de-escalate as you remain watchful for an incoming sucker punch by your potential assailant.  In the event of the onset of an attack, by keeping the hands in front of your face, it helps you fend off incoming strikes or go straight into defensive moves such as the Shield.

3. The Shield (conflict)

Front Shield

The Shield is an adaptation of the ‘peek-a-boo’ technique used in boxing developed by legendary boxing trainer, Cus D’Amato.  In boxing, this technique involves putting your hands in front of the boxer’s face in order to protect yourself from receiving a flurry of strikes to the head. The Shield, on the other hand, involves resting your hands over the top of your head in order to stabilise the hands and forearms better. The Front Shield allows you to protect against strikes to the chin or jaw areas – where a blow can literally knock you out. By shifting the fleshy part of the forearm to the side, while maintaining one arm in front, you can protect against hooks used by the attacker, using what is termed as the Side Shields.  The elbows can be dropped on either sides to protect your ribs from upper cuts if a need arises using Low Shields.

Side Shield

Low Shield

4. The Rhino (conflict)

The Rhino is a street style fighting technique for getting out of a fight.  It involves raising one arm to cover one side of the head, while holding up the palm towards the attacker to resort to a palm strike, if possible. This technique flows easily from either the front shield or side shield postures noted above. The important thing to note about the Rhino is that you need to hold the back of your neck while keeping your elbow of that arm tucked in tightly against the face on one side, while raising your palm towards the attacker – all poised to strike.

The raised elbow serves two purposes:  First, to offer a protective cover for the head and second, to serve as a backup secondary weapon – to impact strike the face, sternum, or solar plexus in the event the palm strike failed to sufficiently stun your attacker.


5. Sip and Watch: How to tell if you’ve been drugged

Roofie is the street name for a number of highly sedative/muscular relaxation drugs such as known as Rohypnol, Ketamine, and GHB, commonly used in committing date rape at parties or clubs.  They are often discreetly slipped into ladies’ drinks to render them unconscious or less able to resist – making them an easy target for sexual assault or even kidnapping.

Apart from never accepting drinks from strangers or leaving drinks alone at parties or clubs, another simple strategy is to sip your drinks and allow for 15 to 30 minutes to pass before drinking further.  The effects of the drink will kick in within the next 15 to 30 minutes and will last for about 8 to 12 hours.  By only sipping once or twice, you will be mitigating the effects of the drugs, and giving yourself the opportunity to test if your drink has been tainted.  If you find yourself showing some of these symptoms below, you most likely have been drugged:

  • Drunk feeling
  • Trouble talking
  • Trouble standing
  • Inability to move
  • Feeling of being paralysed
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Amnesia

Because of your controlled sipping, the effects will not be as severe as compared to you actually finishing the entire drink.  This gives you time to draw attention from passersby to your predicament – for examples, knocking glasses, cups, tables, etc over.

Stay safe out there, folks!

To help Executives stay safe, Kapap Academy’s sister company, the Centre for Cognitive Technologies has a SkillsFuture approved programme that provides up to 100 percent subsidy for Singaporeans. Known as Executives Travel Safety, this programme (CRS-N-0041219) blends the study of predatory behaviour, body-guarding principles with the use of simple intuitive self-defense techniques to help travellers avoid, get away or fight out of danger if the need arises. For more information, click here

For more information on Kapap Academy, click here

For as long as she can remember, Vanessa has always wanted to escape to a place where no one knows her. But because that’s not always possible, she often retreats into the world of books and pop culture. When she does get to travel, she prefers going off the beaten track and back to nature. Some of her best memories include napping in a treehouse in Laos and cycling across padi fields in Bali.

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