Ask yourself: Do I feel safe? Safe on the streets of my city? Safe from people at work? Safe at home?
I'll go first. I don't.
I never feel safe unless I'm within my home in Karachi. Even then I'm acutely aware of household objects I can use as potential weapons against intruders in case of a break in. Keys? Yes, I can wedge the teeth between my fingers and attack the face. Vase? Yes, can break it on the head and use the shards to stab. Glass of water? Throw water on the face. Distract. Then break glass on the head. Yes. That should work. Books? Shield? Hmm, maybe.
Call me paranoid but my guard is always up.
It could be owing to the recent break in at my aunt's house — the robbers pushed and shoved the poor woman down a flight of stairs with complete disregard to her age or health — or it could be a reaction to news of harassment at Atif Aslam's concert, or the fact that since an early age, each time I've stepped foot outdoors I've felt like a hapless prey shrinking under the weight of penetrating stares of predators on the streets.
Feeling safe is a luxury we don't have, at least not given the current situation in Pakistan. Women face harassment at work, on the streets, when using public transport and some, even in their own homes.
And although we may not be able to stop molestation from taking place at large or even in the home, we can, however, fend for ourselves by learning self-defence.
It's best to learn these self-defence moves from a professional and then practice them on a daily basis so they become second nature. You shouldn't use them without practice and training.
As Amir stressed to me, these moves are meant to weaken the assailant and give you enough time to get away. It's not advisable to keep attacking the assailant, which will reduce your getaway time and attract bystanders and/or the assailant's companions.
Here's what I learned during my sessions - ways to block aggression which is most likely to occur in real life.
When grabbed from behind in a bear hug, use your elbow to strike the groin multiple times till the assailant's grip loosens.
Shift your hip to one side and move your leg behind the assailant's to wedge it in between his. Simultaneously, stick your elbow out parallel to the assailant's chest and push him back so he trips on your leg and falls to the ground — this requires a lot of force. Make sure your leg between the assailant's is grounded with full force to trip him. Once he's on the ground attack with punches.
One of the most common ways to manhandle a woman is the arm pull.
Instead of tugging and pulling your arm — the assailant's grip will only tighten — open your palm, twist it around and jerk it out from between the assailant's fingers and thumb. During the hand pull, pivot 180 degrees to the side for an elbow attack to the head. (If you're tiny and your assailant huge, jump to strike).
Another common way of controlling women is by pulling their hair.
In all probability the assailant will tug and pull at your hair for physical dominance. To regain balance, take both hands, grab a hold of the assailant's hand clutching your hair and hold it steady, turn to face the assailant, grab his neck for stability and kick the groin repeatedly till the assailant's grasp on the hair loosens, then either punch the face or go for an elbow strike.
If an assailant grabs you by the neck and pushes you to the wall, pull your chin in so that the head doesn't hit the wall. Once against the wall, drop one shoulder to the side (do not bend your knee) lift the opposite arm in a 90 degree angle and twist to the other side. Push your tricep down the assailant's arms with all your might to break his clasp on your neck, strike his face with your elbow, with the same arm grab the back of his neck and ram the head into the wall.
Take the opposite arm and dig your fingers under the palm of the assailant's, peel it away from your neck and outwards rotating it to the other side, keep holding the hand and twisting while grabbing a hold of the assailant's tricep.
Hit the area under the tricep (weak spot) with your knee and continue to twist the tricep in an upward motion and push him to the ground.
There are two ways to do this:
One is when the assailant is choking you while he sits atop your pelvis, use your pelvis to thrust him up with full force. He'll fall face first behind you.
Second is when the assailant is choking you with his legs in-between yours. Clasp your hands together, place your legs inside his and lock them in. Move your arms up and out with full force breaking his grasp on your neck, the assailant will either fall on top of you or drop his hands on either side to steady himself.
In a swift move, place a palm on one side of the assailant's nose and grab the back of his head with the other -- now this is important, the placement of the hands depends on the side you're going to rotate the assailant, If you're going for the left side, then place your left hand on the right side of his nose and your right behind the head -- with your legs still locked in his twist him to one side and get on top of him and strike his face.
If an assailant swings a weapon at you, assess whether it'll make contact or not, if not, run towards the assailant, open your arm at a 90 degree angle, take it over his arm holding the weapon and pull his arm in. Grab the back of his head and strike the groin with your knee multiple times.
Grab the base of the pole with the arm holding the neck and dislodge the other arm to grab a hold of the pipe from the other end, twist and break it out of the assailant's grip and swing. Hard.
Amir J. Khan is a former Security & Law Enforcement professional, as well as a personal safety and self-defence (Krav Maga) instructor. He's a certified trainer in Unarmed Combat and Impact Weapons and is currently working at Aga Khan University as Campus Manager and also offers private self-defence classes.
All gif photos have been taken by Umair Khan, ex-military, divemaster and underwater photographer and videographer.
Note: This guide is informational and is not a substitute for professional self-defence coaching.