The Throat-Punching Move That Saved Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters From Hijackers

Plus: Her stay-safe strategies.


Gotlhokwang Angoma-Mzini |

In June 2017, Demi-Leigh was hijacked, held at gunpoint and nearly kidnapped by five armed men. “I had attended a workshop by an organisation called Woman INpowered a few months prior to my ordeal that equipped me with knowledge to handle difficult situations such as a hijacking,” she recalls.

Watch: 9 Things You Should Never Do If You Get Attacked On Your Walk Or Run

At the workshop Demi-Leigh learnt a self-defence technique that would save her life – throat punching. It’s a move that’s only to be used in an absolute life-threatening situation and doesn’t require specialised training or skills.

“I Punched My Attacker In The Throat”

“In my situation, I surrendered and gave up my car without hesitation. However, as soon as I tried running away, I was grabbed and pushed back into the car. In that moment I did everything and anything I could to get out of the car because the second destination, I knew, would not be better than the first. I managed to pull myself back up and punch my attacker in the throat, like I was taught. He backed off, which gave me a small window of opportunity to run away.”

The Unbreakable Campaign

The traumatic experience has not slowed the even-keeled Miss Universe’s future plans. (“I am an independent woman and I have made [myself] the promise that I will not live my life in fear.”) In fact, it prompted Demi-Leigh to start a movement of her own – the Unbreakable campaign – through which she hosts workshops to empower women all around the world with the same skills and knowledge that helped her escape.

Watch: These Are The 8 Critical Safety Tips Every Female Runner Should Know

“To date, we’ve hosted 12 workshops in South Africa and one workshop in Indonesia, Mexico and the USA. I’m grateful for the global platform that I have with the Miss Universe title and I have exciting plans for Unbreakable. I look forward to seeing how Unbreakable will expand and make an impact on the lives of women across the world,” she says.

Demi’s Stay-Safe Strategies

Got that nervous sinking feeling? Listen to it. Realising that you are in a potentially dangerous situation could help you avoid getting into a physical one. “I don’t have any self-defence training. However, I would like to reiterate the importance of keeping a clear mind and staying calm. My main self-defence mechanism was my mental clarity,” says Demi-Leigh. Here are her tips for honing yours…

1. “Always Be Aware”

Always take note of your surroundings. Be sure to make mental notes of closest exits, closest possible improvised weapons, potential attackers and anything that could hinder or help in your ability to defend yourself.

Watch: Why Are We Not Talking About The Danger Of Running As A Woman

2. “If Something Feels Wrong, It Probably Is”

Trust your instinct. Your intuition is always giving you feedback. Use all your senses too. If you pick up that something is unusual, you will definitely get an alert from your intuition.

3. “Never Go To A Second Destination With The Attacker”

Anybody who is trying to harm you wants to take you to an isolated place. This could be you moving from crime scene number one to crime scene number two. So always remember that in that moment of danger and of making a decision – the one life-saver is that you do not let anyone take you somewhere else.

Catch cover star Demi-Leigh in the August issue of Women’s Health – inside, she shares her recipe for unlocking your own inner badass. On shelves now, or get the .

Watch ON: Celeb News Life Life Advice Self-Defence