The Truth About Self-Defense: Woman To Woman (A Guest Article By Rebecca Ahn)


Every 98 seconds, someone in America is sexually assaulted.

1 in every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. 1 in every 5 women are assaulted while in college. And a shocking 1 in every 3 women are affected by domestic violence.

Then after the assault is over, the nightmare often lingers. That’s the other thing people don't talk about — what could happen if you are attacked, after you are attacked.

94% of women who’ve been raped experience PTSD within the next two weeks. And for 30%, that continues for as long as 9 months afterward. What’s worse, 33% of women raped contemplate suicide. And 13% actually attempt it.

Now then, wouldn't it be great if we could reduce those statistics? Or eliminate them altogether? What if we could prevent ourselves and every other woman from becoming another statistic? It’s high time we had some real talk about what it means to defend yourself. Woman to woman. Because we’ve been there. And we never want anyone to be there again. You may know what that feels like too. And if you do, our hearts go out to you. And our ears. We want to hear you. And tell you that you never have to feel that way again.

We can address it. Face it. Put an end to it. Together. And that starts with taking an honest look at what self-defense actually is, and what it isn’t. Contrary to popular belief, self-defense is NOT about fighting. It’s not kicking ass or winning fights. It's not MMA. It's not a competition. It’s not to beat up an attacker with some fancy martial arts moves. Or look like a badass in front of your friends.

Self-Defense — it’s both Self and Defense. And there is only ONE goal: Survival. Period.


That's why we call ourselves survivors, not fighters. Self-defense is purely about staying alive and unharmed. It's survival of the fittest and readiest. It’s very real and very dangerous. A dog-eat-dog world. And because of that, people may think it's also a world without rules or consequences. But that would be a mistake.

Self-defense can have some very real and very serious repercussions - not just physically, but also in the emotional, moral, and legal realms of our everyday lives. And this is what people don't talk about.

Understandably, people tend to focus on the practical tactics: the moves and countermoves, the fighting techniques. They’ll show you the ways you might be attacked and how you should position your body to fight back. The methods for striking your attacker to inflict the most damage. The parts of the body that are most vulnerable to hit. And the best to hit with.

That covers the “how.” But few talk about how to prepare yourself for the “when” and “where.” Or the “why.” Or “what” it will ask of you. Even fewer talk about what happens after you fight back, how you'll feel, or when enough is enough. Because the ultimate end game for self-defense is NOT to beat your opponent. Or take them down. Or win. The ultimate end game, the true measure of success, is getting away to safety.

Let’s say that again. The only objective in self-defense is to get away to safety.

Never forget this. It is for your own safety and protection. A great way to remember this, as with so many other things, is with an acronym:

“ETGS. Escape To Gain Safety.”

(OK technically it’s an initialism, not an acronym, but you get the picture. Yay useless facts. #TheMoreYouKnow.)

It’s simple as that. The main thing you should be doing while defending yourself is figuring out when and how you can escape safely to safety. Now if you can get away safely without needing to fight, then you don’t have to fight. If you can achieve that by avoiding the dangerous situation altogether, so much the better.

It's still self-defense if you don't fight at all.


That's the thing people don't tell you. Self-defense is about protection, not altercation. Protecting yourself (and others) from harm. And the vast majority of the time, physical tactics are not the only way to do that. Or, more importantly, the best way. Especially for smaller ladies who might be facing an attacker much larger than themselves.

The very best protection is prevention. And the very best way to prevent harm is to prevent physical assault from ever happening in the first place. Seems pretty obvious, doesn't it? Then there's literally zero chance you'll be harmed at all. Even if that absolutely cannot be avoided and you MUST fight (which is of course still a possibility), the focus should still be NOT on winning, but on getting the hell out of there as soon and safely as humanly possible.

But wouldn’t it be great if we could prevent such violence before it even starts? Because win or lose, if you fight, you will still very likely get hurt in some way. And haven’t we seen enough hurt and harm already?

That’s precisely what we at Tough Cookie, want to help you, all of you, to do. Prevention (and protection in general) starts with better preparing ourselves, each of us, to survive and thrive. Live our lives happy and healthy and safe. Without violence. Together.

This takes as much mental preparation as the physical. Even more so. Self-defense should be 90% caution and 10% confrontation. In the film stunt world, we used to say every stunt was 90% preparation and 10% execution. And self-defense is the same, because it carries the same risks. Even more so.

The best protection is prevention. The best way to prevent is to be prepared. And to be prepared is to be aware.

Self-defense is about awareness, both self and situational. It’s about social intelligence, mental strength, and emotional resilience. Knowing your mental, moral, and legal (as well as physical) boundaries. And knowing when and how to use them with confidence, depending on the situation and your surroundings.

It’s not just about knowing how to fight. When and where to strike. Or how hard to hit. It's about why you hit... or hit back. It's about what’s happening in that moment that makes it necessary to. And what could happen when you do. Physically, emotionally, and legally.

Did you know you could be charged with assault or battery even if you were just defending your life? Or worse, manslaughter or murder? It sucks but it's true. And it does happen. So it’s important to know all of the possible legal ramifications for your actions before you act, especially if your actions could involve lethal force.

Now we’re NOT saying don't defend yourself. If you’re in a situation where violence is the only option, where the only way to survive is to fight back, then by all means fight back. But know why you are fighting. Know what that means or could mean. And know when to stop and escape to safety.

It’s about using every tool in your toolbox, your mind as well as your body. All the skills and smarts and instincts you have. All of your senses. We don’t always recognize when our senses are working. How often do we stop and notice that our fingers moving rapidly across the keyboard is our sense of touch? Or pause to think about what we’re seeing and the fact that we are seeing it? With our eyes. How cool is that? But that doesn’t mean they aren’t working. Our senses are working all the same, all the time. Keeping us alive and well. From the shadows. Like ninjas.

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Ahn

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Ahn

And that’s important. Because it won’t always be obvious at first when danger starts lurking. Your potential assailant may not be walking around looking like one of the guys who crawls out of a grave in the Thriller video.

Sometimes they look like normal, perfectly nice people.

Until they don’t. And that can change in a split second.

So you gotta be ready. And be prepared. You gotta pay attention and know what to look for. So your senses can react to protect you. Or keep you clear of the situation from the start.

This is why we learn self-defense in the first place.

That’s why we prepare ourselves. Not to learn how to fight or be a super badass martial artist. If you want to learn martial arts, go take martial arts. We highly recommend that too.

But if you want to learn self-defense, you must learn all the ways to defend yourself and stay safe, by whatever means necessary. Including those without, above, and beyond fighting.

As Mr. Miyagi asks, “Why do we train?” You know the answer, Cookie-san. “So we don’t have to fight.”

Tough Cookie have hope for you.


Did you enjoy this little nougat of wisdom? Want more? Rebecca Ahn is a writer, stunt woman, self-defense instructor, and free-spirit. Hang with her on the web and learn the ways of Tough Cookie at and @toughcookiesays. Subscribe for a free copy of her PDF “The Six Senses Of Survival.”