Self-Defense Tactics Every Woman Should Know

What we can learn from the "Not Today!" runner who fought off her attacker.

Warning: This article includes triggers for violence and sexual assault. Please read with self-care in mind.

Running is a wonderful way to stay fit and enjoy the outdoors, but for many women, it can also create anxiety. Just last summer, three women were murdered mid-run in different parts of the United States during a nine-day period.

It’s a horrifying reality, but sometimes, the attacker might get more than he bargained for. Such was the case when sex offender Gary Steiner attacked runner Kelly Herron in a public restroom in Seattle’s Golden Gardens Park. Herron stopped to use the restroom 4 miles into her 10-mile run. There, Steiner was lying in wait. When she was drying her hands, she had an eerie sense that something was wrong.

My biggest running nightmare became reality- 4 miles into my long run Sunday afternoon, I stopped to use the restroom and was assaulted by a man hiding in a stall (that is my GPS in red lines). I fought for my life screaming("Not today, M**F**er!"), clawing his face, punching back, and desperately trying to escape his grip- never giving up. I was able to lock him in the bathroom until police arrived. Thankfully I just took a self-defense class offered at my work and utilized all of it. My face is stitched, my body is bruised, but my spirit is intact. #fightingchanceseattle #ballard #runnersafety #marathontraining #womensselfdefense #myballard #fightlikeagirl #fightback #dontbeavictim #nottodaymotherfucker #youcantbreakme #instarunners #garmin #garminvivosmarthr

A post shared by Kelly Herron (@run_kiwi_run) on

As she turned around, Steiner attacked her, knocking her down and pummeling her with his fists. However, Herron (who had recently completed a self-defense course) was able to get her bearings and start fighting back. She was able to fight her way into a stall, but as she tried to shut the door, he followed her. Herron says she kept yelling “Not today, m*****-f****!” as she fought him.

The GPS she was wearing on her body during her run shows the struggle in unbelievable detail. Those red lines across the screen track Herron’s movements as she battled in the bathroom for her life.


It’s a chilling image that shows just how intensely Herron battled her attacker. Using self-defense tactics she learned just three weeks prior, Herron was able to defeat the sex offender and run to safety. Steiner was arrested and is being held on $750,000. On Instagram, Herron joked that she was thinking about paying his bail so that her running squad could finish the job.

Joking aside, the risks women face in this world are no laughing matter. Here are a few self-defense tactics that every woman should know:

1. Use The Heel Of Your Palm

The end of the nose is made of cartilage, not bone, so it is a vulnerable place to strike. The nose also bleeds easily, and the blood could distract or frighten your attacker. Take the palm of your hand to deliver as much direct force as possible to the end of the nose. Using the palm of your hand with also keep your hand safe from injury. Watch this video from Jarrett Arthur to learn how to palm-heel the nose and/or the throat (another soft, vulnerable area):

2. Learn The Arm Bar

When someone grabs you, your first instinct is to pull away. But self-defense experts explain that it is better to go on the offensive immediately. Watch this video to learn how to “sweep” the attacker’s arm and then do an “arm bar”:

3. Kick Your Own Butt

This video from Refinery29 explains many life-saving self-defense tactics, but one important one is this: If grabbed from behind, kick your own butt. By forcefully lifting your foot up and behind you, guess where you will hit? That’s right: Your attacker’s groin. And he likely won’t be expecting to be kicked in the groin while you are facing away from him. Watch this important video here:

4. Go For The Eyes

The eyes are another vulnerable place that will not only hurt your attacker, but possibly limit his vision. You might consider carrying pepper spray, or you could learn this Krav Maga eye strike:

You might also consider taking a self-defense class at your local YMCA or gym. Many are quite inexpensive or even free. You could even contact your local police department for resources in your area. As Herron proved, “fighting like a girl” could be a very powerful thing indeed.

[h/t: Scary Mommy]