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Five Principles of empowerment self-defense

In all our activities, we instill in our students the 5 basic principles that make up our personal self-defense toolbox. These are skills that we carry with us everywhere. At any time, we can choose which skill to employ when our boundaries are crossed: when we are bullied, subject to peer pressure, sexual harassment, or abuse, etc. 



"Think” encompasses multiple ways of assessing a situation. “Think” means asking yourself: how do you feel about what’s happening right now? Does it feel okay? Does it feel right? What do you want to happen, or not happen, right now?


Sometimes there isn't a clear answer. When that happens, we can bring our awareness to the way our body is responding to the situation. Is your heart pounding? Are your hands sweating? Are you suddenly warm, or cold? Are your limbs shaking? These symptoms are a message from your body to your mind that something isn’t right. 

In addition to physical symptoms, we listen to our gut feeling, our intuition. Intuition is a mechanism that bypasses our rational minds and signals to us using our emotional system. When we get a gut feeling, that means our brain has picked up on something and is trying to signal to us in a way that is faster and more efficient than cognitive analysis. Sometimes we may not like what we discover, or we may feel fear, but understanding the situation and deciding how to respond faster helps us protect ourselves. 



Once you have identified what you want or don’t want to happen right now, you can express it to the people around you. “Yell” doesn’t just mean shouting; it means giving expression to your inner voice, and using words to inform your environment what you expect of it. You have every right to put a stop to a situation that doesn’t suit you. “Yell” means setting a clear boundary and making your expectations and wishes clear to those around you.


During our training, we teach students to shout, “GO AWAY NOW!” Practicing the most extreme type of response helps us learn to respond more moderately as well: “I don’t like this. Please leave now.” 



We have every right to walk away from a place, a conversation, or a situation that makes us uncomfortable. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says or feels. You are the most important person in the situation. You have every right to decide that the situation no longer suits you and to leave it whenever you wish. 

However, during our training, we learn that turning our backs and running away is not always the safest option. Sometimes running away is impossible or increases the risk of the situation. In those cases, we must draw another tool from the toolbox. 



We can use our bodies to neutralize forces that threaten us. At El HaLev, we teach techniques that harness the strengths of a smaller, usually female body and turn them against the weaknesses of a body that more often than not is male.


If someone attacks you, you have every right to defend yourself. The “fighting” of self-defense is not assault. It is defensive fighting that is meant to protect you and neutralize the assailant to prevent him from hurting you. 



No matter how the situation may have looked like, and no matter how it may have ended, one thing is clear: if you were threatened by some sort of violence, you went through something difficult and you deserve and are entitled to support.

Tell” is finding a safe space: someone or a group of someones who will listen to you, believe you, accept you, and support you without judgment or blame. Keeping yourself emotionally safe means finding, or building, a supportive environment and network where you can tell your story without fear of punishment or judgement of the choices you made in the situation. 

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