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Fitness – Self-Defence Moves

A self-defence inspired workout that helps to build your muscles and sculpt your body


Violence is a reality for many women, raising the need for women to learn self-defence and to up their fitness levels, as a strong body will help them defend themselves better from an attack.

With the help of Xolisani “Nomeva” Ndongeni, profession­al boxer and Fight Club boxing instructor, and Thabang Glen, founder of Fitnessban­g and a certified personal trainer at Virgin Active, Rooihuiskr­aal, we compiled five exercises that tackle both at the same time.


There are different variations of this exercise; horizontal, uppercut, back and twisting. To do the horizontal elbow strike, you must stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hold the left fist with the right hand at chest level, and the left elbow pointed towards the left side. Then lunge your left foot out while striking out your left elbow 8-13 centimetre­s, while keeping your left arm parallel to floor. Do this for one minute. This helps with your quads, hips, upper back and shoulders.

With the uppercut elbow strike, hold your left fist with your right hand at chest level, your left elbow must be pointed up on the diagonal, with feet at shoulder-width. Then lift your left heel and shift your weight to the left and strike up with left elbow. Do this for 30 seconds. This helps with your quads, core, upper back and shoulders.

To do the back elbow strike, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hold your right fist with your left palm at waist height. Then step forward diagonally with your left foot to pivot, and thrust your right elbow behind you. Do this for one minute. This helps with your quads, glutes, obliques and core.

Lastly, with the twisting elbow strike, stand with your fists at chest level, holding your right fist with your left hand. Bring your right elbow up, moving it in an arc across your body as if you were striking an attacker’s chin at the top of the arc. Do this for one minute. This helps with your obliques.

It’s harder than most people think, to take out an assailant with a punch, especially when you’re unable to nail them completely unprepared. Glen says that, with self-defence, you need to use the most powerful tools at your disposal, and if you’re unarmed, elbows are very high up on that list.


Stand in a split stance with one foot slightly behind your body. Put your hands up in front of your face in a fighting position. Keeping the weight on your front foot, drive your back knee up and in front of your body while bringing the opposite elbow towards that knee. Touch your elbow to knee, pause, and return to the starting position. Do this for one minute. This helps with your quads, inner thighs, and lower back.

In terms of self-defence, when putting your hands up in front of your face, you’ll be doing so as if you are grabbing an attacker’s shoulders. This is a close-range strike, delivered by making contact with the front of the knee to the groin of an assailant. When you tuck your chin and thrust your right knee forward, you would be striking toward your attacker’s groin. Ndongeni says the power comes from driving your hips forward after the knee strike is initiated.


Start in a straight-arm plank position with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and feet slightly wider than your hips. Exhale as you lift your left hand off the ground, bending your left arm completely by bringing your left hand toward your left armpit. Jab your elbow upward and slightly behind you. Follow your elbow with your gaze while

keeping your hips squared toward the ground as much as possible. Inhale as you lower your left hand to the starting position. Repeat, this time lifting the right hand. Alternate sides for a total of 12 reps. This strengthen­s your core, builds shoulder stability, and improves rotation through your thoracic spine. You can make this exercise easier by doing it on your knees, forming a straight line from your knees to the top of your head. Or you can make it more challengin­g by keeping your feet together.

SQUATS (jump)

Stand with your feet at about hip width. Inhale, as you push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a squat. Simultaneo­usly swing your arms backward. Exhale as you extend through your hips and swing your arms forward to jump off the ground while rotating to your right. Land softly on the balls of your feet and allow your arms to swing back as you sink back onto your heels. Repeat, jumping to your left to return to the starting position. This counts as two reps. This time, jump and rotate to your left, then to your right to return to the starting position. Alternate sides, each time returning to face forward, for a total of 12 jumps (six per side). You can makes this exercise easier by rather doing a squat and a pivot. This improves your lower-body strength, endurance and power that is required to defend yourself, while helping you to become more agile during explosive movements.

“Muscle endurance is key, and nothing’s more important than having a solid base,” Ndongeni says. Your legs hold you up and you wouldn’t want them to give in during a fight. Ndongeni says that during a defensive move, much of the power in a punch comes from the pivoting motion of your hips and legs.


Get into a fighting stance, you’ll deliver this kick with your rear leg (the right leg if you are right-handed). First lift the knee of your back leg up as high as you want to aim. This is called a chamber. To do a chest-level kick, bring your chamber up to your chest. To do a low-level kick [as in toward your opponent’s knee], lift your leg and chamber it toward his or her knee. Snap your leg out with your toes facing up. Strike your target using the ball of your foot (underneath your big toe) or instep (where your laces would be on a shoe). Curl your toes back as you kick to ensure you don’t accidental­ly hit with your toes. If you want to kick with your instep, point your toes instead. Immediatel­y curl your leg back to the same location that you originally chambered your leg. Return your leg back to where it was or if it’s easier, land on the foot that you kicked with, then slide your foot back. Be careful not to kick with too much power unless you’re striking an assailant or pad, as it’s easy to hyperexten­d and injure your knee, which is not what you would want.

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