Frequently, when I teach self defense classes, I get questions about weapons.  It’s usually something along the lines of, “what about guns?” or, “what do you think about pepper spray?” My stock answer is that all weapons are good and useful, when carried, when you have time to get to them, when you have the will to use them, when you employ them properly and legally, and when they work. Certainly weapons can be great equalizers when facing an assault.

My main advice for those who carry weapons for self defense is this: get a lot of training, and learn the law for your location. In the same way that owning a guitar doesn’t make you a musician, owning a weapon doesn’t make you Rambo. But, what if you can’t or don’t want to carry a gun, knife, or pepper spray? What if you do carry one of these things, but want to have other options or need a bridge in case your weapon malfunctions? What if an assailent gets your weapon away from you, what are some other carry options.

One of my favorite improvised weapons is a heavy pen. My sensei recommended carrying one that was out of ink, so you wouldn’t be tempted to use it to write and forget it somewhere. A good heavy pen can be a great stabbing and ripping implement, or can be used as a hand stick like a yawara or kubotan.

Before the recent airline restrictions on liquids, I used to carry a Poland Spring water bottle 1/3 full onto the plan when I flew. Holding it at the cap end, I have practiced throwing it underhand and striking face-sized targets up to 20 feet away. This isn’t a tool that would do a great deal of damage, but is intended to distract an opponent, allowing me to close distance.

A rolled-up magazine has incredible longitudinal strength for poking somebody. Poked at the eyes it can distract or even cause injury. I have seen a demo of somebody using a magazine at the end of a hammerfist to smash a glass window.

Any kind of bag, or backpack can be used as a shield when placed between you and an assailant. No, it isn’t going to block bullets, but it might entangle a knife or absorb a punch or kick. When I used to ride public transportation in Boston, I carried an L.L. Bean backpack with a padlock attached to the bottom of one of the straps. Nobody would think anything about this, since people attach padlocks to their bags when going to the gym.  However, I could swing the backpack by the top loop and strike with the padlock.

Ultimately, almost anything you can carry and hold can be used as an improvised weapon. But, like all other weapons systems, you need proper training to build the mental and physical skills. Maine Martial Arts includes improvised weapon training along with our self defense program. To learn more, just contact us.

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