Just about anything can be used as a self defense tool to protect you and your loved ones.
Well, maybe almost anything, but you can get creative! That’s the main difference between real world self defense and martial arts.
So perhaps a leaf might not be of much use in fending off someone intent on doing you harm. But that branch that the leaf was on might come in very useful.
Look, we’re not saying that you should abandon any of the tools that you may have trained with or assembled through the years to protect yourself and the people you care about.
But maybe you are on a flight, or are visiting a country where there is a low tolerance for self-defense weapons.
Or perhaps you work in a company or go to a school where there is a strict “no-weapon” policy.
Or maybe you do not believe in weapons.
Just because you obeyed the “no weapon” rule doesn’t mean that trouble will not find you there. And don’t expect the bad guys to obey those same rules.
Verbal Judo as a Self Defense Tool
Before physical violence begins, give verbal de-escalation a try.
Under the right circumstances, there is a small chance that you may be able to talk yourself out of an assault.
But the real reason for talking is that it may buy you some time to assess the danger, spot the best exits to use, and decide how best to fight your way to it.
The words you use should be something you practice as a cue to launching your defensive strategy, something that helps you beat down the impending panic.
And yes, you can count on our body wanting to panic – that’s your fight, flight or freeze response kicking in.
You can’t help that, but you can manage it by having a plan, and having a cue to force yourself out of the freeze, identify the path to safety, and fight your way there.
Improvised self defense tools
That is when some kind of an improvised self defense tool is going to be really helpful.
In our view, a good improvised self defense tool is one that:
- can be carried even on restricted places, like schools, Federal buildings, theme parks, and on planes;
- does not look like a protective device to a potential bad guy when you are still trying to verbally de-escalate the situation; and,
- requires no or minimal time and effort to be deployed.
Here are a few things that meet those considerations:
One of our friends work as the chief of security at clubs in downtown Seattle. His favorite improvised self defense tool is the humble dishtowel.
No one thinks twice about it in the clubbing scene, but in the blink of an eye, that towel can be used to block and trap a blow, bind an attacker’s hands, or even as a crude garrote.
Drop something weighty in it, such as a watch or phone, and you have a flail. You can use scarves or bandanas in the same way.
You’ll need some training and practice to get good at this, but this is a great investment of your time.
Cellphone in a Tough Case
I admit that cellphones are not the best self defense tools, but I almost always have mine handy, so I might as well use it.
With a good hardened case, those corners can really hurt someone trying to get you (disclaimer, it will hurt your hand too when you hit with it, but not as much as it will your attacker).
This totally fits in with my modus operandi – which goes something like “ok please don’t hurt me, here take my phone” followed by sharp hits to the eyes, throat, or other vulnerable spots, and then the use of force is escalated as needed.
This is an incognito self defense tool for an older person or for someone who can fake a good limp.
The many ways it can be used to surprise, block or incapacitate an assailant are simply impressive.
And it doesn’t even have to be a walking cane. It could be an umbrella, or a broken broomstick.
We highly recommend Kelly Worden’s Defensive Walking Stick, available on Amazon, if this is something that you want to learn in just an hour or so. These skills are easier to learn than a dishtowel, and easier to remember too.
Bottled Water/Cup of Hot Coffee
This is mostly a distraction to allow you to deliver your first strikes. If you do toss a steaming hot cup of Joe at a bad guy, it has the added advantage of scalding him as you kick off your counter attack.
Any items on it can be launched as a distraction, while the tray itself can be used to block and parry or to smash down on your assailant repeatedly. With practice, the edged sides can also be enlisted against his face.
A sturdy pen or toothbrush can be a very useful tool to jab at an attacker.
Target selection is key here, so pick vulnerable spots like the eyes, temples, or throat.
Some folks practice sticking the pen up the other guy’s nostril or as leverage to apply added pressure to the ears or fingers, but these techniques are more about compliance than protecting yourself.
You might have seen Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne character use this technique with deadly effect. It can work, but perhaps not quite with the same devastating impact as in the movies.
A rolled magazine can nevertheless be used with similar jabbing techniques as with a pen, but can also be swung like a short baton.
Chairs can be kicked in front of an advancing attacker to disrupt their assault while you deliver your own blows (perhaps with a walking stick?). It can also be held to deal with and possibly disarm an attacker with a knife.
No matter what improvised personal protection tool you are considering, it will be useless if you do not practice getting to it and then, hitting with it effectively. It would also be quite pointless if you do not have good situational awareness.
For instance, if like me you want to use your cellphone as your first response to an attack, but then you choose to walk around absorbed with texting and tweeting on it, then what’s the point?
With some pre-planning and imagination, you do not have to be caught empty-handed in a potentially violent situation.
So, gather your wits about you, stay alert, and improvise!