How could I not..?

You know I just HAD to write this article when WatchFit had put in on the list. There’s no way a 3rd Dan in Karate Shotokan who also practices other Martial Arts should let this one pass by!

It’s not an easy task to take Self Defence and turn it into a workout that people reading this article can safely perform as a gym workout and not an actual Karate session. But I will give it my best…


I take self-defence seriously since I made use of my knowledge and training in the street, in the past. It is a physical and mental challenge.

The mental aspect is not to freeze. That is the problem when we are in a situation when we need to defend ourselves. Once we freeze, we panic, we forget, we cannot react even if we are trained.

However, in this article I will talk about the physical and leave the mental to another day.


In 2004 at the SKDUN Karate Shotokan World Championships I met the American team. Later, when I went to New York in 2007 and visited them, Sensei asked us a question:

“Who is the best fighter?”

Everyone came up with different answers. All good but not real. Instead his answer was:

“The best fighter is the one who gets home safe”

I remember his words as if it was yesterday.

And so the first thing you do in a self-defence situation is to run. And do not look back. If that does not work you scream.

Now we have put another purpose behind you – running (and its associated calorie burning).

Train yourself to run fast and far. Outrun everyone. If running doesn’t work, you face your opponent.. and you must be ready.


Essentially there is one particular stance that is strong, stable and gives you the freedom of moving around.

That stance is similar to a squat, or rather a slightly staggered squat.

That’s the classic fighting stance. And if you perform your techniques from a low stance in training, in the street (standing) it will be twice as easy.

Practice squats and lunges for strong legs. They are important.


You have to learn how to punch in a correct way.

What is the shortest distance between point A (where your hand is) and point B (your target)? It is a straight line and certainly not a round house punch.

To train your punches practice press-ups.  This is what press-ups will teach you. Then you only need to hold a fist properly. But this is not the place for me to teach you how to actually hold a fist and punch.

If you are not trained, as boxers are, to do round punches there are chances you will cause damage to your knuckles, wrists, elbows, shoulders etc.

And even if you think you have got away with it, remember that some injuries show up after a long time not within days, weeks or even months.

– To improve your punch strength practice press-ups. The faster you can do press-ups the faster and stronger your punches will become.

– Learn different types of punching. One punch, particularly to the face or body will not harm anyone. Use your creativity when you practice in front of a bag and develop your agility.

But learn how to punch first and practice in the air thousands of time before you begin hitting the bag and pads.

Core training

Nothing that you do will be strong and effective if your core is not strong.

Everything begins with a strong core. That is why it is called the “core”.

– Squats and lunges

– Press-ups

– Plank and plank variations

Just start with these and then add weights or more sets and/or more reps.


self defence_2Dodging is a whole body movement and is about leaning your body to the side or avoiding a punch in any way you can.

This needs agility and quick reaction and comes with a good foot workout and the squats mentioned above.

You can train yourself for this in several ways

–        Rope skipping: to train your footwork

–        Stairs – again to train your footwork

–        Weighted squats and lunges to make them fast and strong; but learn how to practice correct squats first

–        Practice dodging with a partner with or without punching pads

Obstacles and agility

Finally, I believe Obstacle Course Races give us more than just a weekend of muddy awesomeness. Get good at going under, over and through obstacles and in a situation of self defence, even if you are a slow runner, you have a great advantage.


As you have probably noticed all the exercises I proposed are “complex”, they use multiple muscles and joints.

In self defence you need your whole body not just your arms. In fact a punch is useless if you don’t put your body behind it.

And most people who never learnt how to punch, but do punch bags and pads (because it looks cool), throw inefficient punches. Half of what they can actually achieve is they know how a punch actually works and where it comes from.

I avoid giving actual workouts through articles because I do not know you, your level, your abilities and how you understand written instructions.

However, if you want an actual workout do contact me and I will help you based on your abilities, where you train, how to train, your history and more. Message me here through WatchFit and mention this article.

There is so much more to talk about when it comes to self defence and physical and mental preparation, I can do a whole webinar on this….maybe I will! If you are interested, get in touch with me please do so and let me know what your goals are.

For now I hope these small tips will be of use to you.

 Connect with Expert Alexandra Merisoiu

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