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Three Defensive Tactics Every College Student Must Know

Updated: May 11, 2022

By Jim Graden

College age Kids face a completely different set of self-defense challenges than your average adult. A 20-year old male is far more likely to get punched in the face, than a fifty-year old man. Most college age females will need to know how to escape from a grab, while in college, more than any other time in her life.

College towns, that are made up of predominantly college students, are going to be far more aggressive than the average city. The chance of a male getting into a fight or a woman being harassed by an un-welcomed male, are far greater.

So here are Three Defensive Tactics Every College Student must know


Most of the students that attend a college go to a city or town that they are not familiar with. That alone can be a threat, not knowing the places and parts of town that the locals would consider a “bad place or a bad part of town” can be a big issue and a dangerous one.

So, the first thing you must do, before going to a new city, is get as much information about that new city and the surrounding area as possible.

Research the police reports, all cities have public police and crime records. Spending a little time researching, where most of the crime is committed, can go a long way in keeping you safe.

Ask the college administration (usually been there longer than the students) about the good and bad parts of town. Talk to students that have been going to the school for a while about the places, like bars and restaurants, that are safe and the ones you should avoid.

Be specific, you are asking about the safety of an area or place, not just the entertainment value. Knowing about the college town you are about to be living in can go along way in keeping bad things from happening in the first place.


There is nothing in self-defense that can have more of an impact on your self-preservation then developing good awareness practices. Create a habit of really focusing on what is going on around you. Be in the moment and pay attention to your surroundings.

Whether you are walking in a parking lot or hanging out at a party, paying attention matters.

Remember the robber is looking for a distracted victim. The creep at the party, wanting to drug a girl, is looking for the female that is not paying attention to her drink. Awareness matters!

A good habit, I recommend to all my self-defense students, is to look at every entryway as a pathway to the unknown. Because it is! Just start getting into a habit of scanning rooms, restaurant, or bars when you first walk in.

Make sure you are not walking into or out of a building with your eyes on your phone. Do not allow yourself to look at your phone until you have taken a good look at what is happening around you in that moment. I promise you will be surprised how much you will see, good and bad.

Practice doing this even when you are going into your own home. If you have been gone all day, you are going into the unknown, even if it is your own home. Creating a habit like this will go a long way in preventing an attack. Remember the criminal is looking for the distracted, not the person that is paying attention.


The concept of balance and distancing are a must for anyone that wants to have at least the most basic understanding of self-defense.

Let us say we are dealing with a confrontation that may have built over time. Like an angry jerk at a party that wants to fight because his girlfriend likes you and he is drunk.

Or the creepy dude that just will not take no for an answer. In these two scenarios we are focused on the fight that you are doing your best to avoid. This is quite common in a college town environment. Remember college is only one step away from high school with less supervision.

Maintaining distance and developing a good defensive posture (balance) is imperative.

Especially for a college kid trying to calm someone down and deescalate a situation.

A good defensive posture is where you have one foot in front of the other (not inline) with your power side back. Like a balance you would throw a ball in. With your hands up, open and palms out, so you present a calming posture instead of an aggressive one. Like you would if you had your hands in a clinched fist.

By putting your power side back, you can create power in case a strike is needed. This is where learning some basic strikes can really come in handy.

The distance you argue at is also important, realize guys are far more likely to get sucker punched than girls. So, if you are a male, you need at least a step away from a potential attacker during a verbal confrontation. The step gives you reaction time in the event the antagonist tries to strike you.

When it comes to women’s self-defense, girls need to worry more about grabs than strikes. So, your goal, as a female, is to do your best not to get into a verbal confrontation with a potential attacker. Just leave if you can. but if you do, you need at least two steps or more to give you the reaction time to get away and not get grabbed.

Remember the number one form of self-defense is distancing, because it gives you reaction time, the more distance the better.

If someone is not willing to give you space, you first need to make it clear you do not want them any closer to you.

You can do this with your eyes and voice saying sternly and loudly, back off! Important to understand that strong visual contact displays confidence. While looking down and away displays weakness and fear.

Your goal is to try to draw attention to the situation so someone can help you or at least testify that you tried to deescalate the encounter.

You can do this by yelling “back off! Leave me alone!” while backing away to maintain the distance. Do not go straight back, back out slightly left or slightly right so not to be directly in front of the antagonist. By moving offline, it makes it harder for them to hit or grab you.

Do not cross your feet when backing away. Keep your power side foot back. You do this by stepping with the back foot first and then recovering to balance with the front foot.

If you have no room to move or the person just is not backing down and keeps coming, you then must decide, fight or flight! That is why you should find a qualified self defense instructor because sometimes a confrontation just cannot be avoided.

About the author,

Jim Graden is a World Kickboxing Champion and a 7th degree master martial artist and has been teaching self-defense in the Tampa FL area for over 35 years. To contact Jim Graden, email him at or follow him on YouTube at Jim Graden’s Martial Arts & Fitness Channel.

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