Monday, October 17, 2011

Improvised Weapons: hit 'em with everything you've got

Have you ever watched a movie where someone is being chased and they are knocking down everything behind them, to try and slow their pursuer? Or perhaps they were grabbing everything they could and throwing or pummeling their attacker with it? If you've ever watched an action movie, then chances are you've seen that, especially if you've ever watched the Jason Bourne movie series - that guy is a master of the improvised weapon. And the best thing about improvised weapons is that they can be used anywhere, especially places where conventional defensive weapons like a firearm or knife may be prohibited: at the office, a restaurant, or the airport. You will never be unarmed.

The use of improvised weapons is an important skill since not everyone can or will carry a handgun with them everywhere they go and at all times, and that handgun may malfunction, run out of ammunition, or you may not be able to get to it in time. In addition, not every defensive situation you encounter will warrant the use of deadly force, and improvised weapons can be used to effectively defend against, demoralize, and ultimately deter or incapacitate an attacker. Whether or not you carry a firearm with you, you should always have some "improvised weapon capable" tools on your body. Here's a few examples:

In the above picture, you'll see what I carry with me every day. Nothing too out of the ordinary here - a pocket knife, a flashlight, a ballpoint pen, and a set of keys. And each one is available in a different pocket at a different location on my body. It's not cumbersome, and it's not uncomfortable to carry. And while each item is useful for its intended purpose, as weapons they are devastating. A pocket knife is obvious - edged weapons can be used for slashing or stabbing, and I prefer a stout blade from a quality manufacturer (this one is a Kershaw Boa). The flashlight can be used both as an impact weapon to strike with and as a distraction device to temporarily blind and/or disorient an attacker, giving you precious time to continue to strike or to get away. Keys are often recognized as improvised weapons, but more as puncture and slashing weapons than what I believe their greatest use is: as a flail. Whether your attacker is in front of you or behind you, especially if they have you in a hold or grab, you can use your keys as a flail to strike joints and soft, exposed skin. On my key chain I added a yawara, which can be used to jab and strike your opponent, and as a control device. It also makes a great handle for my "key flail," and really helps me to not lose my keys.

And what about that pen? The pen is one of the greatest improvised weapons because they are so easily available and no one thinks twice about someone carrying a pen - you can even carry multiple pens on your body in various locations without raising any eyebrows. At your office, your desk, in your junk drawer, on the airline, at the bank - no matter where you go it seems there is a pen. Unless you need to write something down, and then you can never find one, which is another great reason to carry a pen! Used as a striking and as a pointed weapon, you can stab, stab, stab to your heart's content. Eyes, joints, the neck, under the ribs . . . . just about anything soft can be penetrated by an average Bic pen. And there are many manufacturers who now make "tactical" pens which are made of various hardened materials and are specifically designed as weapons while still retaining the ability to be used as a normal pen and taken where other weapons may be prohibited.

While an improvised weapon isn't something you necessarily buy specifically for that use, you can place certain items around your home, office, or social setting in such a way that they wouldn't be readily identifiable by most people, yet they would still be close at hand. I took 20 seconds and grabbed every improvised weapon I could think of in that time frame around my bedroom. Here's what I came up with:

In just a short amount of time, I was able to come up with 6 items that would all be quality defensive weapons. A big book is a great tool - in addition to filling my head with good information, I can use it to beat the head of someone else. It can also be used as a shield of sorts against impact and edged weapons. A water bottle is not only heavy and makes a solid impact weapon, it can also be thrown easily, depending on your skill level, and when opened and splashed in the face of an attacker, it can give you that brief half-second of breathing room to continue your defense using other means. A pair of scissors is just like any other edged weapon, but combined with such a great handle their use as a pentrating weapon is nearly unmatched amongst normal household items. My wife's purse works great as an impact weapon when swung, especially since she, like many other women, has many items in there. Larger purses can be used as shields, just like a book, or as an entangling tool for arms or necks. A hot cup of tea of coffee can be splashed in the face of an attacker, and then the cup can be used as an impact weapon. And what about that big green prism? That's a souvenir from a vacation that I keep on my dresser - it's great to look at and has been strategically placed to be used as a heavy and pointed impact weapon.

And here's one of my favorite improvised weapons - the gun lock:

Not only are they free with most firearm purchases, but you can pick them up at a lot of shooting ranges and police stations. They are conveniently coated with plastic on the cable, and the lock is solid steel. I can carry one in my pants pocket without notice, then slip my hand in and come out with a solid piece of steel on a chain. They will pass through security checkpoints and are legal to carry everywhere - after all, it's just a lock. But as Steve Dorothy (one of Independence Training's instructors) says: "A few raps on the noggin with one of these and it's coloring books for Christmas."

Now there is more to using improvised weapons than just identifying them. You need to understand the limitations of such items - how long until that pen breaks, for example? How many times can you hit someone with a paint can until the lid pops off and the sides dent in? How many hits will a broom handle give you? And as with any defensive tool, it's best to seek out instruction in their use (Such as our Women's Self-Defense course). And once you've received that instruction, you need to practice, practice, practice so that if you need those skills to save your life or the life of a loved one, you'll be able to react swiftly and without hesitation. And you'll need to identify the improvised weapons available to you everywhere you go. How strong is your hairbrush, and does it have a pointed end? Can you use a salt shaker as a weapon in a restaurant? How about a ketchup bottle? How about a fire extinguisher? Are those stools at the bar bolted to the floor? Is that mail cart at work sturdy enough to throw, or to push someone where you want them to go? Are those tables thick enough to provide temporary cover against bullets? How about that bookshelf? You can ask yourself these and many other questions every time you step into a new place.

I like to play a little game - every time I go somewhere new, I take 20 seconds and identify as many improvised weapons as possible. I also check for exits and quick counts of people as well as general descriptions. The more you play this game, the better (and more creative) you'll get. Pretty soon it will be a natural thing that you do, and you'll be that much more prepared.

Do you have an idea for an improvised weapon? Have you identified something in your home or office that you think would be a great defensive tool? Share it with us in the comments section below.

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, Train Hard.
-Glen Stilson