BRAVE up: Protect Yourself this Holiday Season!


Text by: Edmalynne Remillano

The holidays may be the happiest time of the year, but it’s also one of the most dangerous (hey, thieves want to celebrate Christmas too!). So Healthy Skin teamed up with BRAVE Self-Defense to bring you this step-by-step guide on how to keep yourself from harm during the most wonderful time of the year.

We don’t need to be strong. It’s a matter of awareness, knowing what to do.

For Marines reserve and martial arts instructor MJ Sun-Castillo, this is the key principle when it comes to self-defense for women. While there may be physical limitations for us in terms of strength, there are tons of ways to protect ourselves and inflict harm on any attacker.

Enough is enough

 Cat calls, whistles, unwelcome remarks of “hi, miss”—these have unfortunately become an inevitable occurrence for many ladies in Manila.

For some, the experience is usually tolerable. But when the whispers and greetings turn to malicious touches and graver crimes, then the game changes. This is where the value of self-defense lessons kicks in.

Putting up a fight

Know how to put up a fight to protect yourself. Let’s take it step by step.

Identify the lethal targets. As Castillo put it, “Don’t concentrate on the attack, concentrate on the lethal targets. These are the body parts no man can strengthen.” These include the eyes, bridge of the nose, ears, Adam’s apple, groin, knee, shin, and armpit.

Your goal is to hit these hard enough to immobilize your attacker. Concentrate on them when you do a counter-attack.

Feel it out. In her self-defense classes, one of the primary points that Castillo wants to instill is the fact that awareness is key. Assess the risks and threats in your surroundings. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid compromising situations.

Put yourself in a potential offender’s shoes. Where will you likely strike? Of course, in badly lit areas, isolated streets, and known crime hotspots. So as much as possible, do not go to places where you can be victimized.

Also, never instigate a confrontation. Knowing self-defense tactics should build confidence, not arrogance. The situation can always turn to the unexpected. Mastery of self-defense gives you an edge, not a guarantee. So use it wisely.

Having emergency numbers handy will also go a long way. Put them on speed dial. A whistle is good protection as well. When your security is at risk, blow it not only to attract attention but also to rattle your attacker.

Strategize. Learn the techniques in self-defense, even the basics. As a core principle of BRAVE states, basic defense is the most advanced defense. Your body is still your best weapon.

Brave up techniques

  • Finger jab: Use your fingers to hit the lethal targets as shown in the pictures. For instance, you can poke the eyes.
  • Palm heel strike: Now instead of using your fingers, use the palm of your hands. Hit your attacker’s nose or chin. Remember to lunge forward to put the force of your body to your palm and make the counter-attack more vicious.
  • Back fist strike/hammer fist strike: The back fist strike is the reverse of the palm heel strike. Here, you use the back of your hand to hit the attacker. In doing the counter-attack, twist your body in the same direction to gain force. For the hammer fist strike, close your hands to a fist. You can pound on the lethal targets, but not necessarily in the same manner as boxing. You can use the back of your fist, side, front or top—whatever you are comfortable using at the moment.
  • Elbow strike: Use your elbow to hit the lethal targets. Just as is shown in the pictures, you can concentrate on the chin, eyes, nose or even the elbow joint of the attacker to break it. You can also use it to poke the gap below the chest in between the rib cage. That spot is sensitive even to hits with little force. Again, remember to lunge forward as you do the elbow strike to put more force.
  • Groin kick: Kick the groin with your foot or knee. You can also hit the target with your elbow as show in the picture.
  • Shin/knee kick: Immobilize the attacker by kicking him in the shin or knees with your foot, knee or shin as shown in the pictures. This will make him go down at your mercy.

The bottom line for all these techniques: do whatever is comfortable to you at the time of the attack. You can even do a combination or series of the techniques.

Know when to bow out

While putting up a fight for your protection is ideal, it is not always necessary. Choose your battles. Set your priorities. Simply put, you should know when to bow out and just give what the attacker wants instead of putting your life at risk.

While BRAVE teaches the importance of defending yourself, it also highlights the necessity of discerning when it is no longer wise to fight back.

Remember, any cellphone or gadget can be replaced. Money can be earned. But life taken cannot be brought back. So if an attacker holds you at gun point or brings out a knife asking for your smartphone or wallet, just give the latter instead of risking yourself being shot or stabbed. Then go to the safest place nearest you and report the incident to the police immediately.

BRAVE it up

The beauty of BRAVE self-defense classes is that it’s based on Kali or Filipino Martial Arts. It is known to be one of the most efficient and popular forms of martial arts in the world.

It was used by Matt Damon in the Bourne Series, and Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible. Dan Inosanto who is Bruce Lee’s partner in the Jeet Kune Do system, is an instructor of Kali.

BRAVE was founded in collaboration with KAFS Combat Tactical Fighting, Inc. Not only is it the first and only self-defense system specifically designed for working women, it is taught by a female instructor as well who has a good understanding of how it is to be a woman in today’s society—with the catcalls and subtle harassment. She uses this experience to develop the most apt techniques.

Add to that one of the strengths of Kali and BRAVE which is practicality. You do not have to remember complicated combination moves like in other martial arts in order to launch an effective counter-attack. The moves are also quite easy to learn. In fact, they are simply a strategized way of doing normal reactions when attacked, as shown in the examples above. It is all about what is comfortable to your body.

Practice makes perfect

Remember though that as is true in a lot of endeavors, practice makes perfect. Learning does not stop with one or two applications of the lessons while in class. Practice it with a buddy and continue to do so until it becomes part of your instinct, until it becomes a knee-jerk reaction. So if you get attacked, your body will react immediately and effectively for your best protection.

Here are some hypothetical situations where you can apply self-defense training.

Instead of running away, get in your attacker’s personal circle and face him. Do a counter-attack immediately. This will take him aback as he is not expecting retaliation from you.

Remember, the element of surprise is vital here. When he’s surprised, he becomes rattled and there is your opportunity to inflict harm.

Hit as many lethal targets as you can. If one strike does not do it, then do another one. A swift motion with the right amount of force will do the trick. Sheer force is not necessary here, as long as you apply the right technique and body movement.

When you deem that he can no longer chase after you, run and go to the safest place nearest you.

Say someone sneaks up behind you and grabs your arm or hand while walking down the street. Turn around, lunge forward, and do a finger jab to the eyes or a palm heel strike to the nose/chin.

You can also twist the attacker’s arm while turning around. Then lunge forward and do the counter-attack above.

If the attacker is in front of you and grabs your hands, go closer to him to maneuver and grab his arm as shown in the picture. Then lunge forward while doing an elbow strike.

Another option is to go closer to the attacker. Then grab his arm with your opposite hand, twist it so you can get behind him. As his elbow twists, he will go down. With a swift motion, do an elbow strike in his elbow joint. Go down with your upper body to put more force. This is not only painful for the attacker, it can also break his elbow. You can also do a knee or shin kick. Again, put the weight of your body in your feet as you do this.

Do the same thing when the attacker pulls your hair. Face him, grab and twist his arm, then do any of the techniques discussed above.

Now, say for instance someone grabs your bag. Face the attacker and push the bag towards his direction and come closer to him to do the counter-attacks mentioned above.

Hammer grip
When the attacker pins you against the wall, grab his arm as show in the picture and do an elbow strike or finger jab. You can also do the same move discussed in grabbing. Grab his arm with your opposite hand, twist it so you can get behind him. As his elbow twists, he will go down. Then do an elbow strike upward or downward in his elbow joint or a knee/shin kick.

Bear hug
Lastly, for example the attacker surprises you with a bear hug. You can do a head butt to his nose or eyes. Another option is to break free by going down to a squat position while throwing your arms up as shown in the picture. Bend a little forward to gain momentum and do an elbow strike to his groin. Go up as you do this so you put more force in the strike. Follow up with another elbow strike to the chin, eyes or the sensitive area between the rib cage, below the chest.


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