The #1 Attack Against Women

The bruises left by the #1 attack against women–a grab to the upper arm

According to UK crime statistics, the most common attack that women reported being the victim of was a right-handed grab to the right upper arm, which was used to try to control them and drag them to another location. From talking with women who have been attacked, I have found that they agree with the statistic–it’s a very effective method of controlling a person, and doesn’t require any training (parents even do it to their children). As common as this attack is, I find that most people don’t train to deal with it–even many grappling arts ignore it, because it isn’t typically something you would encounter in competition against a trained opponent. The basics of grappling and grip fighting still work, however, so most grapplers can figure out how to break the grip without too much trouble. The trick is to incorporate strikes to make it easier to overcome a larger, stronger opponent.

Gedan barrai + tsuki application to defend against upper arm grab/drag

In the animated GIF above, you can see the technique I generally teach for defending against such an attack, and if you want to see it in high definition, you can find it here, on my YouTube channel. It’s a bit difficult to see at the speed you see in the GIF, but the video shows it done slightly slower, as well. This technique is simply a gedan barai (low sweep/parry) followed by a tsuki (thrusting strike), and using a strong stance (shiko-dachi, in this case) to maintain balance. This combination can be found in many kata across a wide variety of karate styles, so this application can be widely used. This technique applies some complex concepts, but is still easy enough to learn that I have had teenage girls in their first class successfully use this technique against me (a 6’1″ 180lb man in good shape) within about 10 minutes of practice. The hands work in three steps, and the legs bridge steps 1 and 2 together.

Step 1: Distract

The first step in this technique is to put something in the way of your attacker to slow their movement, and if you’re going to do that, you might as well hit them with it. When someone grabs your upper arm, it leaves your lower arm free to move, and in order for your attacker to control you effectively they have to hold you close to them. This generally leaves you in a position to slap your attacker without too much difficulty–it won’t be a power slap, but it’s enough to get their attention, and most people will hesitate when their face runs into something while they are walking (think about what you do when you walk into something as flimsy as a spider web). If you can’t reach their face to slap them, try to hit their throat, instead. At the same time, you will need to start stepping back in the direction you are being pulled, otherwise you will lose your balance. Most people try to walk backwards to keep up with this kind of pull, but you will never be able to walk backward as fast as someone can walk forward, so your best option is to drop into a strong stance–for this technique, I prefer shiko-dachi (horse/sumo stance), but zenkutsu-dachi (front/lunge stance) also works.

Step 2: Release

The second step in this technique is to release your attacker’s grip. As you sink into your stance to maintain your balance, you can roll your forearm (the closer to your elbow, the better) over your attacker’s wrist. This creates a very efficient lever to break free of his grip, and requires very little strength when done properly. The biggest problem that students have with this, at first, is that they tend to put their wrist, or the middle of their forearm, across the attacker’s wrist. This shortens your lever, and makes it harder to apply the release. Imagine trying to pry a board loose with a screwdriver instead of a crowbar, and you get the same idea.

Step 3: Attack

The final step in this technique is to attack your attacker. In the picture, above, you can see that I was able to maintain contact with my attacker’s grabbing arm so I could grab it and pull it as I strike (an application of hikite–“pulling hand”). That isn’t necessary, but it does make your strike a bit more effective. The strike, itself, can be any strike you are comfortable with, but I teach to use a shotei-tsuki (palm heel strike). Ideally, you should aim to strike the corner of the jaw, the temple, or the occipital ridge–one or more of these will likely be open, and striking any of them as hard as you can will be effective. At this point, you have lots of options, but for self defense you simply need to run away.

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About Noah

I began training in karate (Shuri-Ryu) in the Summer of 2006. Subsequently, I started training in judo, kobudo, and iaijutsu within the next 6 months. During my training there, I earned the rank of Sankyu (3rd Degree Brown Belt) in Shuri-Ryu, Gokyu (Green Belt) in judo, a certification in the use of the bo, and passed proficiency tests for the four tachigata of Shinkage-Ryu iaijutsu. I moved to Arizona in the Summer of 2008, and continued training and researching karate at home. I continued regular training in judo at a local club until 2010, when I was able to start training in Shorin-Ryu with Sensei Richard Poage. I have been training with him ever since, and currently hold the rank of Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt) in Shorin-Ryu under him. In addition, I began studying KishimotoDi under Sensei Ulf Karlsson in 2014.