Basic Self-Defense For Kids

One of the most difficult things for any parent is to send their children out into the world without them there to protect them. Whether it is from bullies on a school bus, a stranger in a park, or accidentally walking into a fight on the sidewalk in front of them, there are no limits on the types of situations in which your child should know basic self-defense.

Self-defense does not mean hitting back if they are physically assaulted; self-defense is any action taken to remove themselves from harm’s way. And in today’s world, there are many forms of harm that your child could encounter.

While self-defense moves are a valuable tool for your child if they are ever grabbed, there are several steps they should take before that moment ever arrives.

Teach Kids to READ

Girard Pugsley organizes and runs safety classes for children. He teaches them to READ, which stands for:


The first step is to make sure that your children are paying attention and can notice when something is amiss. Having their heads buried in their phones or walking with their heads down, will not allow your children to recognize when a situation is not safe.

The next step is to teach your children to get away from trouble. Leaving is not cowardly; if it keeps them safe, it was the easiest way to protect themselves. By turning and walking away, crossing the street, or moving away from a suspicious person, a child can change the course of their future.

Alerting an adult that can help them is critical in getting out of worrisome situations. If a child is grabbed or assaulted, they need to be taught to yell and scream for help. For a bully, it can be yelling for them not to touch them, or calling for a teacher. For a stranger, yelling that the person is not their mom or dad can both draw attention to the situation, and scare away the predator. If your child is in danger, teach them to be loud.

When it comes to defending themselves, you may want to consider enrolling your child in a self-defense course, such as at a taekwondo school. Simple evasive maneuvers can allow them to release wrist grabs, arm holds, or when someone grabs their backpack.

Simple Strategies

Talk to your children about simple strategies that can make them less appealing to bullies and predators, like carrying themselves with confidence and staying in a group. Walking tall with their eyes up helps them to see what’s going on around them, while also making them a less desirable target. There is safety in numbers, and kids with friends are less likely to be picked on.

Empower your children to trust their instincts. If they see something that makes them uncomfortable or doesn’t look right to them, they should act on that feeling and remove themselves from the area.

Train your children to assess their surroundings, including where exits are. At a minimum, they should be able to evacuate in case of a fire. In a physical altercation, they need to know where they are running to.

The Goal is to Escape

The ultimate goal in children’s self-defense is to escape the danger that they have encountered. The goal is not to punch or takedown another person. With this in mind, let your child know that there is no wrong way to escape: they can scream, yell, run, kick, bite – whatever it takes to remove themselves from the situation, especially one involving an adult trying to abduct them.