I have studied a few different martial arts (Krav Maga, Jiu Jitsu, MMA) on and off over the years but, after becoming a mother and establishing the practice of having a baby on my hip 18 hours a day, I have been realizing just how small a percentage of my training I would be able to use in a real-life, self defense scenario with one arm full (as I usually am, especially in public).

Can anyone shed light on any strategies or techniques that might still be useful with only one arm free? I'm not looking for a magic solution or silver bullet, but any shared wisdom or ideas would be helpful.

  • I would suggest to talk to your Krav Maga instructors! there are probably techniques for that already. if there aren't, they are usually open to extend there curriculum if they think the suggestion applies to more people. May 17, 2017 at 6:28
  • I am assuming the one arm is because of infant in the other, not a lack of another arm. May 17, 2017 at 7:14
  • Remembered me of "Lone Wolf and Cub". He had some cool moves in such a situation. It's a pity they are not very realistic.
    – Endery
    May 17, 2017 at 10:11
  • Baby backpack/carrier. My wife has been using them for almost 3 years now.
    – JohnP
    May 18, 2017 at 14:02

3 Answers 3


First, get a small, child sized sandbag - you can train with the weight without necessarily risking having your baby getting rocked around with the training you'll be doing.

Second, start with your evasive footwork and short sprints. You'll want to really become comfortable with how your balance changes with the baby AND having to change direction suddenly. Be sure to practice both arms and how that feels as well. You won't really "square up" against an opponent as you may have been trained, so you'll want to ingrain this different movement in early.

Third, practice your safe falls with the bag. Unlike normal safe falls, you now have yet another thing to protect, which makes it more complicated in terms of movement. This is also really useful in case an attacker knocks you down - they usually won't expect you to recover quickly or be ready to fight.

Finally, I'd practice elbows, knees, and stomps. You're not trying to hang around and box it out with folks - you're looking for quick moves to stun and drop and push past them. Rushing forward and driving an elbow in is something few folks will expect, knees and stomps are also great close range attacks. You also will find it harder keep balance with the hip twists you'd normally do for punches or kicks, while elbows and knees can do more damage without having to shift your balance as deeply.


Rule 1: Cardio! Zombieland, contains gore.

Fighting with an infant in your arms is beyond impractical even if using said infant as a mass1. Any techniques will not work as expected, your balance will always be off (infants do struggle), and you will have to always worry about harm coming to the infant.

So, run towards safety as fast as you can. Shielding your infant should be a priority so using your own body as a shield between them and whatever the threat is.

Obligatory link to no nonsense self defence where you can learn a little more about how to keep yourself out of trouble in the first place. This should be your goal: Not being there when violence starts is the safest thing to do.

Martial arts… Maybe?

Kicks are good but balance will be a problem although you can practice that with weights. However, a struggling screaming infant is a different thing. The last thing you want is to end up on the floor.

Punches will be much less powerful than if you could put your whole body behind them thus are unlikely to do much good.

In this situation, the less said about grappling, the better…

Weapons, such as knives, guns, or CS-gas are all possibles but escalate the situation massively and can be illegal to use. What is you lose control of the weapon? Not a good idea at all.

However, one of the things that will help is your increase in self confidence from doing martial arts. It will make you appear less like prey and more like a predator.

1 Clearly a suboptimal substitute for a mass and said in jest. Do I need to say that⸮…

  • 1
    I thoroughly enjoyed thinking of my squirming toddler as a mass, so jest taken in the intended spirit!
    – Liz
    May 19, 2017 at 21:36

Something my trainer often tells us, is to run away. If that's not possible, try to talk the attacker out of it. If they still insist, a single, strong lowkick can actually work. It will show them you've been trained and shouldn't be messed with. Stop after that lowkick (or any other attack you're confident with) and try talking the attacker out of it again. Usually, they'll stop, as nobody actually wants to get their ass whooped. If they don't stop, you'll have time to put the infant aside.

All this relies heavily on something Sardathrion already mentioned: Confidence. If you try to talk an attacker out of fighting, but have little to no confidence, you'll actually encourage them. If you're beaming with confidence, little to no words may be necessary to stop them.

  • Depends on how you handle it. Knowing your interpersonal and diplomatic skills, though, it would be pretty likely in your case, yep.
    – Raf
    May 17, 2017 at 8:53
  • I know, right! :-D
    – Raf
    May 17, 2017 at 9:10
  • You pick on one part, without checking the entirety. I suggest, in order of importance: 1) Run. 2) Talk it out. 3) Show you shouldn't be messed with if 1 and 2 don't work. 4) Fight, if 1 - 3 don't work. It is, by all means, the right order to defend yourself and to avoid assault charges. There's a big difference between all these, and just attacking from the get-go.
    – Raf
    May 17, 2017 at 9:40
  • It's de-escalation, when someone keeps insisting on a fight, and running and talking doesn't work.
    – Raf
    May 17, 2017 at 9:44
  • Running away (my answer really) and talking to diffuse the situation are good advises which I agree with. Attacking someone (even under the legally weak pre-emptive strike defence) is bad advise: "It follows that a man who starts the violence, the aggressor, cannot rely upon self-defence to render his actions lawful." source. Of course, if you have strong statistical evidence that this works, you're welcome to present it here and I will change my mind. As for fighting with an infant in your arms or on the floor… May 17, 2017 at 9:44

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