The Five-Minute Black Belt

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I am a black belt in Taekwondo. It’s not something I mention to many people; they probably wouldn’t believe me. I’ll be honest, I’m not a glowing example of the strong-bodied, stiff-jawed wunderkind people have come to expect (thanks a lot, movies). And yes, my instructor often chastised me for not looking scarier. But even though I never was (nor am like to be) the karate kid, the self-defense techniques I learned from my years in Taekwondo do make me feel safer walking home late at night. Now I know I can’t teach you sparring in a blog post, but there are a few tricks-of-the-trade that I’m happy to pass along—little offerings of Taekwondo wisdom that may help you to feel a little safer in the dark as well. And the first is . . . “wax on, wax off.” HA. Just kidding. Kind of.

1)    Find the weak point

This is generic advice with a very specific application. If you’re walking home one evening and some stranger grabs your wrist, don’t just pull away at random. Struggling needlessly will only make things worse. The best thing you can do to get away is find the weak point in their grip. This weak point will always be the spot where the tips of their fingers meet. Find this point and pull your arm straight through it—one strong tug should do it. Even the strongest person will have trouble holding on if you exploit this tips-of-the-fingers trick.

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Note the way one of his arms is pulled back, while the other is extended. This is the starting position for a punch. As he punched, he would reverse the arms, pulling the outstretched one back and sending the other one forward.

2)    Punch effectively

It turns out that a powerful punch is a lot more complicated than it looks on TV. To deliver a blow that will truly sting, you need to use both of your arms. Let’s practice: Stretch one arm out in front of you, but keep the other one curled at your side with your elbow back and your hand level with your waist. Now, as quickly as possible, reverse that position. Punch forward with the curled arm while pulling the outstretched arm back to a curled position. This reverse-action will double the power of your punches.

3)    Don’t hit close-fisted

Another tip on the subject of punching—hitting with a closed fist could seriously hurt your hand. A better choice is to use the base of your palm—directly above your wrist. Curl your fingers, pull the back of your hand up (your hand should be at a 90 degree angle to your arm), and hit with the very bottom of your palm.

4)    And most importantly, avoid a fight if at all possible

It seems counterintuitive, but even if you know how to defend yourself, you should try to avoid a fight if you can. If someone points a gun at you and asks for your wallet, do NOT try to bite and punch your way out of there—just hand the thing over. Fighting is only a good choice if it is necessary to defend yourself or someone else—not to defend an item (even the credit cards we all know and love).

Although we all naturally hope we’ll never find ourselves in a situation that requires self defense, it never hurts to be prepared. If you’ve gobbled down the above tips and are hungry for more, I recommend you take a look at this excellent article. There are some additional tips specifically for us ladies here.

Be safe out there everyone!

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