Self-Defense Class For Runners: Benefits, What To Expect And Techniques

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Taking a self-defense class can help runners feel more safe and confident when going out solo. Self-Defense Class For Runners: Benefits, What To Expect And Techniques

Now more than ever, it’s important that female runners know how to defend themselves if faced with danger. There are countless cases of runners going missing or being attacked while out doing what they love. Recently, these crimes have made headlines and started social media movements like #MilesforMollie dedicated to Mollie Tibbetts. The movement also declares that female runners are not afraid as they keep running in her honor. And we shouldn’t let fear get in the way of our running. That doesn’t mean that unfortunately we could be faced with a threat. That’s why being proactive and taking a self-defense class targeted for runners is one of the most empowering things to do.

While self-defense moves are great skills to know for both men and women, the harsh reality is that women are mostly the targets of violence when out for a run. The runner is often alone and distracted, listening to their music with earbuds in. Maybe they are running somewhere new and are not familiar with more sketchy parts of town, or choose to run early or late when it’s dark. However, there is no set location or time of day where something bad can happen. And it can happen to any of us.

Benefits Of A Self-Defense Class

Rather than be afraid and not run, be more mindful and aware when running. This includes things like joining a running group or having a running buddy to go out with so that the runner isn’t alone—especially on those early mornings or late evenings. If by oneself, choose a busy route, not one that is secluded in the woods. Take the headphones off and try not to listen to music. This way the runner can hear if someone (or something, like an animal) is approaching. If music is a necessity, take one earbud out or play the music without headphones on entirely.

But even when we are on alert and taking steps to be safe, situations may arise. That’s why it’s extremely beneficial to take a self-defense class. Self-defense classes first and foremost teach ways to defend oneself if being attacked. Combining martial arts with boxing and kickboxing, self-defense classes show participants the right ways to assault an attacker to be able to stop them from grabbing the person, causes them pain so they let go, and allow the person can run away.

Besides helping to keep the runner safe, taking self-defense classes regularly increases overall fitness since it is a workout. Aside from the adrenaline rush of hitting a body bag or practice attacks on the teacher, these classes include lots of kicks and punches which tones the muscles. Many of these moves require a strong core, which also adds to increased balance.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash.

Self-defense classes are also very educational and can boost self-esteem. The runner can work on their newfound skills and feel confident that they know what to do in case of a serious situation.

What To Expect At A Self-Defense Class

Self-defense classes vary when to comes to the types of moves taught and what is discussed in class. This runner recently went to a class that was tailored specifically for the needs of women runners. Held at Fair Haven Martial Arts in New Jersey, the class was lead by Sensi Jim who used with help of Sensi Diane to showcase some moves.

Participants were told to take their shoes and socks off and hit the mats. As the group sat and listened to instructions, Sensi Jim went over the key areas to attack and what combinations of strikes can be used to cause damage. Then participants were asked to buddy up and practice each move with their partner after a throughout explanation and demo.

Photo Credit: Jen Vieth

It felt good hitting the bag and letting out aggression. The more the class progresses, the more empowering the participants feel. Soon all participants were getting the hang of where to hit and how to hit. In this class, participants learned how to kick properly in the groin area, the different types of punches to throw based on the fist like using the hand as a hammer, which is ideal for hitting on top of the head. After learning how to get out of bear holds or tight arm grabs, the runner can’t help but feel like channeling their inner Jessica Jones.

A self-defense class is very hands-on, so expect to get sweaty and really feel that adrenaline pumping. At this class, this instructor then suited up in padding and let the runners try to defend themselves. Each one was able to do, even with Sensi Jim trying with all his might.

Techniques Used For Self-Defense

Run strong and confidently. When we are confident and have good posture, we look a lot tougher and harder to beat than those that look tired and are slumped over.

But even the most confident person can still be on the radar of a predator. If someone is approaching yelled out, “Stop,” with authority. This sends a warning to the person not to move closer and that the runner is not afraid. It also calls attention and others may hear.

If the attacker keeps coming closer, one way to defend oneself is to throw aside or front kick to the solar plexus, which is the area right under the chest. This is one of the best areas to attack and can have a devastating blow. The legs are the strongest part of the body, so is able to really put all that force into keeping them back. Plus the head is now further away from them, so they cannot grab the neck or hair.

Of course, the groin is the main area to attack, and a place many of us would aim for instinctively. Kick with the toes up when wearing a shoe. Without a shoe, kick with the ball of the foot to prevent an injury.

Other areas to attack into the base of the throat, temple, eyes, and master process, which is the area behind the ear. Any combination of punches can be thrown to these areas. This includes a hook punch and an uppercut punch combo to the solar plexus, or a knife-hand strike to the mastoid process.

Use the palm of the hand to strike upwards when hitting the nose. Then the runner can grab onto the attacker, whether it’s their shoulders, clothing or hair, dragging them towards the runner and give a hard knee kick to the solar plexus.

If someone has the runner in a bear hug from behind and they can’t use their arms, bend their finger back. This can do enough damage to loosen their grip. Another technique is to squat low and to one side and then drop the attacker to the ground by lifting his lower leg. Then give a strike to one of the key areas. Do not stand tall for this one. Squatting low makes the runner heavier and harder to drag and pull away.

Photo by Andrei Lazarev on Unsplash.

If someone grabs the runner’s arms, break from their grasp by moving their arm in the direction of where their thumb is. This creates an opening where they have to loosen their grip. If someone grabs the runner’s ponytail, wrap the shoulder around their arm and twist their arm. Then give a knife-hand strike.


Taking at least one class can have major benefits for runners since they will learn the tools needed to be able to protect themselves. It is recommended that runners go to a few classes, or regularly to increase their skill level. Like anything, the more practice, the better the runner becomes.


  1. Health Fitness Revolution, Top 10 Health Benefits of Knowing Self-Defense, Health Website
  2. Melanie Pinola , Basic Self-Defense Moves Anyone Can Do (and Everyone Should Know), News Website