What Every Woman Should Know About Self Defense — From an Expert Who's Been There

Self-defense expert Jennifer Cassetta
Self-defense expert Jennifer Cassetta (Image: LIVESTRONG.com/Chloe Millar)

Two events convinced self-defense expert Jennifer Cassetta that her life's purpose included teaching others to protect themselves.

The first: A stranger grabbed her on the street. Thanks to Cassetta’s training, the incident was not as bad as it could have been. “Because of my martial arts training, I was able to scare off my attacker. I released my inner she-beast on him,” Cassetta says.

“If this happened to me, I’m sure it’s happening all the time and much, much worse. One in five women in this country will be a victim of sexual assault,” she reminds us on the podcast.

September 11 was a second pivotal moment for Cassetta. “For the first time in my life, I felt this paralyzing fear,” Cassetta tells LIVESTRONG.COM’s Erin Mosbaugh on the latest Stronger podcast. “I went to my martial arts school that day. It was the first place I could think of to get safe. I decided this was what I wanted to share with the world.”

But now Cassetta is doing more than just teaching people to fight back. With her program Stilettos and Self Defense, she’s also talking about how to recognize red flags before things turn violent and encouraging women to be more aware of their own presence and body language to protect themselves.

There are several red flags to look out for in people’s behaviors, including the way someone speaks to you — “if it doesn’t seem equal, I encourage women and men to listen to that,” she says.

If things seem to be getting worse, “read the situation and figure out if there’s a way to get away safely. Can you run? Can you call for help?”

And then the gut instincts of martial arts kick in if nothing else is working. Cassetta advises: “If you are in it and someone is attacking you, go after the three most effective targets: the eyes, the throat and the groin [of a man]. Try to get to those soft targets as soon as possible.”

While physical defense is important to learn, Cassetta also stresses emotional and mental self-defense. “In my seminars, I make people practice telling people off — and it’s really fun.” She also encourages you to go lower with your voice when you need to assert yourself and to use empowering vocabulary (which does not include the words “but” and “sorry”).

Hear more about Cassetta’s self-defense initiative and how you can learn techniques to protect yourself on this week’s Stronger podcast.

What Do YOU Think?

What tactics do you use to avoid unwanted attention in public? Have you ever taken a course in self-defense? Share you thoughts in the comments.

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