Women’s Self-Defense Success Stories

This month we’ll be talking a bit about women and self-defense. We realize that you can only hear us telling the techniques so many times before it becomes white noise (although, hopefully not!). So how about some real stories from across the internet of women who have had self-defense success stories?

Most self defense success stories do not involve using physical skills. Most self defense course graduates are able to de-escalate threatening situations using their verbal skills.

Some of the many fighting success stories are described below. These are descriptions or personal accounts of self defense stories that women have reported.


Emily’s Story
Emily was attacked in 2008. She participated in a children’s version of self-defense in 1999 and describes successfully keeping her freedom.

“When I was in college I spent a summer in Ethiopia and was walking home one night, a man got out of a taxi and grabbed me by my hair, forcing me into the cab. My  training kicked in, and I was able to kick the door back out before it latched. Still restrained by my hair, I tried to knee the man in the crotch, but unfortunately he was very tall, and my knee didn’t reach high enough to hit the target. He laughed in my face, amused by my feistiness. But when he reached down to open the door to the cab again, I formed points with my fingers and poked him in the eyes. It took him by surprise enough to give an opening to the cab driver, who up to this point was watching passively, to encourage him to tell him to leave me alone. Still reeling, but trying to save face, he got in the cab and drove away.

I am very lucky that the man wasn’t more determined, but I also am very fortunate to have had self-defense training. I felt the muscle memory of that training turn on, and I had tools to adapt to the situation I was in. I can’t know what would have happened if I didn’t have that training, or if I would have found another way to defend myself, but in a country where violence against women is prevalent, the possibilities are not pleasant to consider. In an ideal world, no one would need to learn those skills, but of course we don’t live in an ideal world and I feel strongly that everyone should learn those skills.”


The First Success
The first known effective physical self defense success story by a self-defense graduate we found online occurred in 1974. She was a Wellesley College student and had taken the self-defense course less than six months prior to being attacked. At she was waiting in an icy parking lot for a shuttle from MIT to Wellesley College, in Boston.

The assailant approached her from the front and grabbed her in a bear hugged. He simultaneously pinning her arms to her sides. She couldn’t use her heel palm to the nose or eye strikes so she just kneed him in his groin. He dropped to the ground, clutching his crotch and ‘mewing like a kitten’. She said he was much easier to defeat than her Instructor, who she had to strike and kick multiple times during her class.

She was surprised she had disabled him with just one strike. She got up and ran. When she got to safety she felt nauseous and cried as the adrenaline rush dissipated. She said she thought she was lucky. But at the same time, she thought the assault wasn’t really a major attack because it was so easy.


Fronted Off
Another Wellesley College student was approached by an assailant. He, too, approached her from the front and grabbed her in a bear hug. She dropped to the ground and kicked the assailant in the groin. The assailant doubled over and fell to the ground writhing about. She stayed poised on the ground expecting that more was going to happen. When he didn’t get up, she ran to safety. She too was surprised that her defense was so fast and effective.


Party Rebound
A petit Wellesley College student  appeared timid and very young, well under age 18. She was trained in self-defense in 1974. The assault occurred near Harvard Square, not long after she had taken the course.

She was approached from the side and grabbed by a guy who slammed her against the building. She said she had the wind knocked out of her. When she rebounded off the wall she simultaneously hit him with a strike to the throat. She used her index and middle fingers together to strike the soft hollow spot below the larynx and above the collar bones. This was taught as a “party release” and not a strike to deal with an obnoxious and intrusive aggressor at a social gathering. It usually causes a choking or gagging reflex. Instead of pushing as was taught in class, she jabbed with the two fingers. The assailant backed off, coughed once, and staggered before falling on the ground. She remained ready and thought he might come after her again, but immediately realized he was not getting up. She ran to safety and sobbed as she came out of the adrenaline rush.


Putting Her Foot Down
The fourth self- defense story involved a Wellesley College student also trained in 1973. The assault occurred in 1976 or 1977 after she moved to Las Vegas. She was working as a cocktail waitress when she was grabbed in the parking lot just after 2 am. The assailant had been hassling her inside the bar and followed her out to her car.

He grabbed her in a bear hug from behind. She stomped on his instep with her high-heel shoe. The assailant immediately let go of her shrieking in pain as he fell backwards to the ground. As she stomped, she “nailed” his foot into the warm summer asphalt with her high-heel. He either fainted or hit head on the pavement when he fell backwards, and was knocked out. She ran away like Cinderella wearing only one shoe.


A Good Friend to Have
Pam had taken a self-defense course at Radcliffe College in 1973. She defended herself and a female friend against multiple assailants. The assault occurred on Cambridge College about 3 or 4 years later. Two assailants began harassing both her and her friend. When one of the assailants grabbed her friend, the graduate closed in and heel-palmed stuck the same assailant in the nose. He fell backward holding his face. She continued to close and kicked him soccer style to the groin. The assailant fell to the ground. The graduate turned and the second assailant fled. The self-defense graduate and her friend fled to safety.


Alberta’s Story
Alberta took a self-defense course in the Bay Area during 1983 and used her skills in 1985. She says, I had just gotten out of my car to open the garage door. The landlord’s car was parked next to mine on the driver’s side. Alberta said, “This guy walked around the car next to mine. He was wearing a sweatshirt with the hood up. The effect was as if he had on a ski mask. I thought at first he was a neighborhood kid on a prank. Then he said, “Give me your purse and the keys to your car.” It hit me that this was real.

My one thought was to get into the car and lock the door. I got in and shut the door but didn’t get it locked. I was yelling all the time and shouting ‘NO!’ He pulled the door open, so I crouched back onto the car seat with my feet up and in kick position. I saw a good kick for the groin so I let my kick fly, but I don’t remember it landing. The next bit is blank. But I looked up and he was gone. So I locked the door and leaned on the horn until one of the neighbors came out and called the police.

Even immediately after the incident when telling the police about it, I could not remember seeing the kick land or the assailant leave. I feel my shouting and determination were as important as the kick in making him flee.”


The Body Does Remember
Santa Barbara self-defense graduate Marie was knocked out when a filing cabinet fell on her while at work. This story is more about successful muscle memory, than a self defense story.

“I was at work when a large file cabinet came down on me, hit my head, and pinned me to the floor. I was unconscious for at least an hour before anyone found me. My co-workers called 911 and paramedics responded. They were trying to put me into a “scoop”. I don’t remember any of this, but when I woke up in the intensive care unit, one of my coworkers, who had also come to my self-defense graduation leaned over my bed and said, “your self-defense coaches would have been so proud of you.”

I looked up at her and said, “What are you talking about?”

She said the two paramedics turned me over to my side. One was working between my knees and feet to see if anything was broken. When he got down to my feet, I rolled over onto my side, still unconscious, and did a side thrust kick to his chest that knocked him up against the wall. My co-worker said, “Oh my God! That self-defense class really does work! I told her that I did not remember any part of the incident, but I got a true understanding of body memory.”

Lupe’s Story
Lupe graduated from a basic self defense course during the summer of 1988. Then at the end of September in 1988 she was attacked while walking with her pregnant cousin in downtown Santa Barbara.

“On the first Sunday in September my cousin and I were on our way to a video store. We had to park a block away from the store. As soon as we got out of the car, four big guys were getting out of a VW Rabbit and began harassing us in Spanish. (She is Mexican and speaks Spanish) They were saying things like, “I want your butt”, which sounds even worse in Spanish. I chose to ignore them, because I knew that answering them back would only make them do more.”

The guys followed me and my cousin down the street for a block and stopped in front of a bar while we went into the video store. We stayed in the store for at least twenty minutes and then headed back to the car. They were passing in front of a walkway between two buildings when they attacked.

Two of the guys came out of the walkway and grabbed me. One was in front, one grabbed me from behind. I didn’t have time to put my arms up, they were pinned at my side. The one in front was telling me to walk into the alley. I started yelling – I was thinking more of my cousin. I didn’t want them to attack her because she was pregnant.”

Lupe had already explained to her cousin, who had recently come from Mexico, about the emergency calls, and told her to request a Spanish speaking 9-1-1 operator if she called police. Lupe shouted at her cousin to run and call 9-1-1. Her cousin ran.

These guys walked me into the alley. Two of the four were trying to help me but not really helping. They were saying things like, “Hey, man, let her go.” The guy behind me was grabbing at my butt. I had been wiggling, trying to get away, and I noticed when I did, he got stronger. My heart sank and butterflies in my stomach, but I told myself, ‘OK, Lupe, just relax. Relax.’ I noticed when I relaxed his energy went down. I started looking around, noticing my surroundings. I knew the area.

The guy who grabbed me from behind stepped away. I had been measuring my distance. When he did step away, I elbowed him right in the face. His nose started to bleed. I ran forward. I knew I could run out through the other alley and get away.

The other guy, the one who had been in front of me, ran after me. I stopped and, as he caught up to me, hammer-fisted him in the groin. He bent way over. I looked at the other three. One guy was holding his face. The one I had just hit was still doubled over holding his groin. I held my hands up and said something like, ‘You want it too?’ they let me run past them out to the front.”

Lupe ran to the payphone where her cousin was still trying to get a Spanish speaking operator. Lupe told them she had been assaulted and described the attackers, who were getting into their car, including their license plate number.


Bug OFF!

This spring break Larrissen was camping with friends just North of Santa Barbara.

In the evening, after it was dark, I was going out to put some stuff in the car and I noticed a man walking along the trail. When he saw me, he started walking my direction. I was very nervous, but remembered my verbal negotiation skills. He said he just wanted to talk and was carrying a glass beer bottle under his arm. I was able to get him to leave and we had no further problems with him. However, without the self-defense class I wonder if I would have left so much space between us or been so firm about getting him to leave. This simple incident could easily have gotten out of hand quickly, particularly if I hadn’t had the self-confidence or experience to tell people to leave me alone.


Good Old Verbal Boundary Setting – February 2016
Katie shares her Boundary Setting Story:  “Late night, I stood at the bus stop that was well lit, and my back was against a fence with my elderly mom. A homeless individual approached us and immediately encroached upon our personal space immediately. He was about an arm’s length. The conversation, if you could call it that was as follows.

Homeless guy (HG): want some gum?? Brandishes folded packet that may have innocently contained gum, but more likely contained methamphetamine.

Me: NO.

HG: Want some gum? It’s good! Sugar free!

Me: NO. Back off.

HG: It’s good! Why don’t you want some? Do you have bad teeth?


HG: That sounds like a good idea.

Then he retreated back toward his stuff. We considered walking to the next bus stop, but it was several deserted blocks away, so the bus came three minutes later and after we boarded, he ran up to the bus and smacked the window where we were sitting.

Good old verbal boundary setting. Never fails me!”


A Glance and a Block

Elizabeth  completed a self-defense class over 20 years ago and reported this story in March 29, 2016.

“I had not actively used the physical defense skills – UNTIL last week.

I originally took the course when a friend invited me after one of my internship clients had been brutally assaulted. I was so moved by my experience that I immediately found a course in Colorado, where my sister was attending college, and signed her up, too.

I often speak of how powerful this experience was, and how grateful I am for it, but never so much as last Tuesday morning. That morning I arrived at the clinic in San Francisco where I work a couple of days a week, and as I approached the entrance to the building, a man asked me for money.

I shook my head “no”, as I began to enter the code to the building in the outside keypad. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of his fist moving towards my face. My body responded immediately. I turned towards him and quickly raised my forearms to block him, while shouting “stop!” I had my briefcase in one hand and coffee in the other. He came at my again, and I responded again with movement, voice, and block.

He stumbled away. Some women passing by called if I needed help. I asked them to call the police.

I didn’t freeze. I wasn’t hit. I wasn’t traumatized. But I was adrenalized and angry, and that energy helped to fuel my response. The outcome could have been very different. It continues to amaze me that the body remembers and responds before we are actually able to cognitively track what is happening. I am so very grateful to my teachers at my self-defense course, and to my fellow students who had the courage to take this course.”


Pretty scary stuff huh? These women were lucky to have taken a self-defense course before being attacked, but can you imagine if they hadn’t had any training, what those outcomes could have been? Why leave it up to chance when you take control? Contact us by phone at either of our locations listed below, send us a message on social media, or stop by the school to talk to us.


HIGHLANDS RANCH LOCATION 205 W County Line Rd, Highlands Ranch, CO 80129

PHONE: (720)344-3030

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/ATAkarateDenver


LONE TREE LOCATION 205 W County Line Rd, Highlands Ranch, CO 80129

PHONE: (720)344-3030

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/LoneTreeATA/


Jolene Rheault

Jolene works as a marketing professional but full-time as a mom. She lives in Highlands Ranch, CO with her 7-year-old son, husband, 2 cats, and a bearded dragon named Jerry.

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