Self Defense Weapons

8 Dec

When I teach self defense classes, women frequently ask me whether self defense weapons like pepper spray, keys etc. are a good idea. There are a lot of people out there who would say yes, mainly those trying to sell you something. Personally, I’m not a fan and I encourage you to think critically before putting your trust in weapons.

The main point is this: a weapon is only as effective as the person wielding it. Do you have training in using weapons? If not, you’re better off without it. In fact, of all the stories my mother and I have heard from women who have survived stranger attacks, NONE of them used weapons– but most of them broke their attackers’ bones!

The other reason I don’t like weapons, is because I believe they help to create a feeling of living in fear. In order for a weapon to be useful, it has to be ready in hand. Do I need to walk around carrying a reminder that I fear for my life at all times? Probably not.

Here are some specific weapons and things to consider:


You’ve probably heard of poking keys between your fingers to make a little claw? The idea is to punch or scratch at vulnerable spots on your opponent’s body (eyes, throat, groin…). Here are the problems with this plan:

1) If you are lacing keys between your fingers, there is a good chance that when you strike with them you will end up hurting your own hand. Not the point!

2) The only way to really hold the keys steady is if you hold one key in your hand like a tiny knife. A lot of self defense blogs recommend this. I dont really see why it’s worth the trouble, unless you happen to be holding your key this way preparing to unlock a door. If you’re going to scratch someone why not just use your fingers and nails?

If I were going to use keys as a weapon, I would just use the keys in my hand (held in a generic grab) and smack someone across the face with them. Other than that, I don’t see any advantage to using keys over your own hands and fingers.

Pepper spray or Mace

This is one of those weapons that is way harder to use than you would think. It often comes in a case or pouch with a closure so in order to use it you would have to take it out of the pouch, make sure the spraying end is facing the right way, aim, and spray. Unless you have it in your hand and ready to go, it’s not going to help you.

I will say, if you were to use it effectively, this would definitely deter your opponent. There are some people out there who have trained to resist it, but the odds that one of those people would attack you are slim to none.


Are you an expert with this weapon? If not, not only would you be unlikely to use it effectively for self defense, but there is a chance that it could be taken away from you and used against you.

One of the master instructors in our system of martial arts put it well when he said, “There are two people in a knife fight– the bleeder and the gusher.” Don’t want to bleed? Don’t carry knives for self defense.

The weapons I do recommend:

1) Your voice.

Case after case shows that screaming works, negotiation works, assertive boundary setting works.

2) Your palms, fingers, nails.

I have heard many stories of untrained women breaking their attackers cheek bone with a committed palm strike to the face!

3) Your elbows and knees.

Women are likely to be grabbed and elbow/knee strikes are great for in close fighting.

4) Your feet (for stomping, not kicking).

Kicks are difficult, but anyone can stomp. Stomp through feet, shins, knees. Some women’s shoes can make these moves even more effective! (Seen the movie with Rachel McAdams anyone?)

One Response to “Self Defense Weapons”


  1. My First Blog-iversary! « - November 17, 2011

    [...] To the casual reader, these posts may not seem to be related to self defense. Where’s the screaming “NO!”? (Actually, you can just say it your normal voice most of the time.) Where do I tell women not to avoid alcohol and shadowy shrubbery? (I don’t.) Where do I say “Kick ‘em in the nuts!”? (Here.) [...]

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