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Self Defense Description

* This article is updated daily from Wikipedia. It may contain minor formatting errors.
For the original content and references, click here. Last update: 8/18/2013.

Self-defense or private defense (see American and British English spelling differences#-ce, -se|spelling differences) is a countermeasure that involves defending oneself, one's property, or the well-being of another from harm.* The use of the right of self-defense as a legal justification for the use of Force (law)|force in times of danger is available in many jurisdictions, but the interpretation varies widely.*


Physical self-defense is the use of physical force to counter an immediate threat of violence. Such force can be either armed or unarmed. In either case, the chances of success depend on a large number of parameters, related to the severity of the threat on one hand, but also on the mental and physical preparedness of the defender.


Many styles of martial arts are practiced for self-defense or include self-defense techniques. Some styles train primarily for self-defense, while other martial or combat sports can be effectively applied for self-defense. Some martial arts train how to escape from a gun situation, or how to break away from a punch, while others train how to attack. To provide more practical self-defense, many modern day martial arts schools now use a combination of martial arts styles and techniques, and will often customize self-defense training to suit the participants' lifestyles, occupations, age groups and gender, and physical and mental capabilities.


A wide variety of weapons can be used for self-defence. The most suitable depends on the threat presented, the victim or victims, and the experience of the defender. Legal restrictions also greatly influence self-defence options.

In many cases there are also legal restrictions. While in some jurisdictions firearms may be carried Open carry in the United States|openly or Concealed carry|concealed expressly for this purpose, there are more commonly tight restrictions on who can own firearms, and what types they can own. knife|Knives, especially those categorized as switchblades may also be Knife legislation|controlled, as may Baton (law enforcement)|batons, pepper spray and personal Electroshock weapon|stun guns and Tasers - although some may be legal to carry with a licence or for certain professions. Non-injurious water-based self-defense indelible dye-marker sprays, or SmartWater|ID-marker or SelectaDNA|DNA-marker sprays linking a suspect to a crime scene, would in most places be legal to own and carry.*Everyday objects, such as Maglite|flashlights, baseball bats, Millwall brick|newspapers, Keychain|keyrings with keys, kitchen utensils and other tools, and aerosol can|hair spray aerosol cans in combination with a lighter, can also be used as improvised weapons for self-defense. Cable ties|Tie-wraps double as an effective restraint. Weapons such as the Kubotan (pocket stick) have been built for ease of carry and to resemble everyday objects.* Tactical flashlights and tactical pens are especially built as impact weapons that resemble everyday objects.* Ballpoint pen knife|Ballpoint pen knives, swordsticks, cane guns and Umbrella#For_protection_against_attackers|modified umbrellas are similar categories of concealed self-defense weapons that serve a dual purpose.

Other forms


Being aware of and avoiding potentially dangerous situations is one useful technique of self-defense. Attackers are typically larger, stronger, and are often armed or have an accomplice. These factors make fighting to defeat the attacker unlikely to succeed. When avoidance is impossible, one often has a better chance at fighting to escape, such methods have been referred to as 'break away' techniques.*


Verbal Self Defense, also known as Verbal Judo* or Verbal Aikido,* is defined as using one's words to prevent, De-escalation|de-escalate, or end an attempted assault.* It is a way of using words as weapons or as a shield. This kind of 'conflict management' is the use of voice, tone, and body language to calm a potentially violent situation before violence actually ensues. This often involves techniques such as taking a Child time-out|time-out, and deflecting the conversation to individuals in the group who are less passionately involved, or simply entering into *protected empathic* position to understand the attacker better.
  • Author Katy Mattingly defines verbal self-defense as simply saying no to someone or repeatedly refusing a request or telling someone who has violated a boundary what you want, or it could entail a more complicated scenario in which you are called on to refuse to engage verbally with someone manipulative, to set limits, and end the conversation.*
  • Suzette Haden Elgin the author of The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense states that verbal self-defense defends against the eight most common types of verbal violence, and redirects and defuses potential verbal confrontations.*
  • Luke A. Archer, author and trainer of Verbal Aikido: the art of directing verbal attacks to a balanced outcome, proposes that most verbal attacks can be reoriented towards a balanced or positive direction, by using *three steps* based on the Aikido philosophy.*

    Personal alarms

    Personal alarms are a way to practice passive self-defense. A personal alarm is a small, hand-held device that emits strong, loud, high-pitched sounds to deter attackers because the noise will sometimes draw the attention of passersby. Child alarms can function as locators or device alarms such as for triggering an alert when a swimming pool is in use to help prevent dangerous situations in addition to being a deterrent against would-be aggressors.*

    Self-defense education

    Self-defense techniques and recommended behavior under the threat of violence is systematically taught in self-defense classes. Commercial self-defense education is part of the martial arts industry in the wider sense, and many martial arts instructors also give self-defense classes. While all martial arts training can be argued to have some self-defense applications, self-defense courses are marketed explicitly as being oriented towards effectiveness and optimized towards situations as they occur in the real world. It should not be presumed however that sport based systems are inadequate, as the training methods employed regularly produce well conditioned fighters experienced in full contact fighting. There are a large number of systems taught commercially, many tailored to the needs of specific target audiences (e.g. defense against attempted rape for women, self defense for children and teens). Notable systems taught commercially include:
  • civilian versions of modern military combatives, such as kapap, Krav Maga and Systema.
  • self-defense oriented forms of jujitsu, such as Bartitsu and Kodokan Goshin Jutsu.
  • rape prevention, including Rape Aggression Defense System (RAD),* AWARE,* IMPACT/Model Mugging, etc.
  • Reality-Based Self-Defense (RBSD),* Defensive Tactics.
  • Sport based systems, such as Karate, Muay Thai, Boxing, Judo, BJJ, and Wrestling.

    Legal aspects

    The self-defense laws of modern legislation build on the Roman law|Roman Law principle of dominium where any attack on the members of the family or the property it owned was a personal attack on the pater familias.* In Leviathan (book)|Leviathan (1651), Hobbes argues that although some may be stronger or more intelligent than others in their natural state, none are so strong as to be beyond a fear of violent death, which justifies self-defense as the highest necessity. In his 1918 speech Politik als Beruf (Politics as a Vocation), Max Weber defined a State (polity)|state as an authority claiming the monopoly on the legitimate use of force within defined territorial boundaries. Modern libertarianism characterizes the majority of laws as intrusive to personal autonomy and, in particular, argues that the right of self-defense from coercion (including violence) is a fundamental human right. In this context, note that Article 12 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: :No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

    Combined with the principle of the state's monopoly of legitimate force, this means that those authorized by the state to defend the law (in practice, the police) are charged with the use of necessary force to protect such rights. The right to self-defense is limited to situations where the immediate threat of violence cannot be prevented by those authorized to do so (in practice, because no police force is present at the moment of the threat). The right to self-defense granted by law to the private citizen is strictly limited. Use of force that goes beyond what is necessary to dispel the immediate threat of violence is known as excessive self-defense (also self-defense with excessive force). The civil law (legal system)|civil law systems have a theory of "abuse of right" to explain denial of justification in such cases. Thus, Self-defence in English law|in English law, the general common law principle is stated in Beckford v R (1988) 1 AC 130: :"A defendant is entitled to use reasonable force to protect himself, others for whom he is responsible and his property. It must be Reasonable person|reasonable." Similar clauses are found in the legislation throughout the western world. They derive historically from article 6 of the French Penal Code of 1791, which ruled that "manslaughter is legitimate if it is indispensably dictated by the present necessity of legitimate defense of oneself or others".* The modern French penal code further specifies that excessive self-defense is punishable due to "disproportion between the means of defense used and the gravity of the attack" defended against.*The evaluation of whether use of force was excessive in a given case can be a difficult task. The British Law Commission Report on Partial Defenses to Murder (2004) Part 4 (pp78/86) recommends a redefinition of provocation (legal)|provocation to cover situations where a person acts lethally out of fear. This reflects the present view of psychiatrists that most people act in violent situations with a combination of fear and anger in their minds, and to separate these two types of Affect (psychology)|affect is not legally constructive. In practice, self-defense laws still do make this distinction. German criminal law (§ 33) distinguishes "asthenic affect" (fear) from "sthenic affect" (anger). Excessive self-defense out of asthenic affect is not punishable.

    Outside of the western world, justifiable self-defense tends to be interpreted more loosely, including the right to defend against any criminal act, without limitations to reasonable or proportionate use of force based on the magnitude of the crime. Instead, it may simply be the minimum amount of force required to stop the criminal, which may be lethal even for relatively small crimes. Thus, the Intermediate People's Court of Foshan, People's Republic of China in a 2009 case ruled as justifiable self-defense, the killing of a robber who was trying to escape, because "the robbery was still in progress" at this time.*
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    * This article is updated daily from Wikipedia. It may contain minor formatting errors.
    For the original content and references, click here. Last update: 8/18/2013.

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