By Bradley J. Steiner, American Combato
We have for decades urged our students to carry a handful of aquarium gravel in their outer pocket to have something to disorient and distract any possible assailant with. Walking to your car, leaving work, out for a stroll, etc.—having a handful of gravel arms you for an unexpected situation where an attacker must be dealt with.
Tossing that gravel in a person’s face sets him up immediately for:

  • You to attack him virtually any way you wish (preferably with a powerful side kick to his knee or a kick to his testicles; or some other decisive action—followed up by you escaping the scene or continuing to attack until you are safe)
  • Accessing a lawfully carried weapon, which—thanks to your disorienting your adversary—you may not actually need to employ
  • You to simply escape the area (if escaping right away is a feasible option in the situation presenting) with no need to engage the would-be violator in combat.

Carrying what is formally referred to as a “yawara hand stick” (provided you know how to use it) is a great idea. But we recommend that your “yawara stick” be a simple length of solid hardwood about 5-1/2 to 6 inches long and an inch and a half to two inches thick. Don’t buy and carry a manufactured yawara stick. That is a “weapon.” A plain length of wood is…a simple piece of wood.
The outlaw biker’s trick of tying a handkerchief to a heavy padlock and carrying it in your back pocket (handkerchief partly protruding for speedy access) so you can whip a steel flail out instantly and bash your attacker in the face or head with it, is a fine idea.
Engineers’ rulers (i.e. steel, six inches in length, with a clip so you can fit it in your shirt pocket) make excellent weapons. Do not sharpen the edge! The ruler can slash open a neck or throat area, or tear out an eye without any additional sharpening; and once sharpened it is no longer a “pocket ruler”—now it’s a “weapon,” and can get you in trouble.
The old standby of a roll of quarters (as a fist pack) is not bad, but we’d recommend only punching to the assailant’s solar plexus, sternum, kidney, or testicles with it. Lacerations to your hand and fingers can result if you punch hard into the bony facial structure. The fist pack makes the clenched fist heavy and solid…but it does not protect the hand from finger and bone breakage or cuts.
Folding knives can be good weapons, providing that you carry only a knife of legal blade length and that it has a lock blade. Unfortunately, you’ll need some forewarning in order to get the knife out and open in time to employ it in self-defense…so, bear in mind that the use of a closed folding knife as a yawara hand stick may be a good expedient choice for a first action in a real attack. With an attacker stunned and doubled over you have the seconds needed to open your knife.
The above constitutes some suggestions of what you might wish to carry daily when carrying a firearm (for which you have a CCW) is either not possible, or not feasible.
Finally, we’d strongly recommend—whether you are carrying a properly licensed handgun or not—that you have a stout walking stick in your hand, whenever possible. We like Irish or British blackthorns, but any hardwood walking stick will do. With the skill to properly use that stick you can either avoid accessing a firearm (highly desirable, whenever possible), or facilitate getting your handgun out and into action by using your walking stick.
Never hesitate to use anything at hand to assist you in a dangerous emergency. You may like one or more of the suggested items that we’ve referenced above, but in addition, do not overlook the use of anything that may be at hand wherever you are when you are attacked. A chair or stool. A telephone receiver. A cup of coffee. A hat or perhaps a sweater that you’re carrying on your arm. A bag of groceries. A handful of small change. A table lamp. A rolled up magazine. An umbrella. A brief case. A book. Etcetera.
Also bear in mind that something in your immediate vicinity can be employed with excellent effect to smash your attacker’s face or head against once you’ve doubled him over or gotten him off balance. For example: A fire hydrant, mailbox, park bench, parked vehicle, corner of a desk, doorway frame, telephone pole or street lamp-post, etc. All will cause severe trauma when a head is smashed forcefully into them.
Should you be attacked in a stairwell it only makes good sense to throw your attacker down the stairs after stunning him with your initial action and getting him off balance. In a desperate situation where defending innocent life is concerned such things as throwing an attacker out a window or into oncoming traffic is a good tactic.
Remember: we are talking about self-defense or military close combat; we are not talking about sport, contests, antiquated classical art, or police arrest-and-control restraint applications.
Without solid unarmed ability you lack the foundation needed for all-round, effective self-defense. You must be able to employ your natural weapons before you add any weapons-at-hand or manufactured weapons to your repertoire. This is good common sense, and by following this mandate you will never use a weapon of any kind as a “crutch”—because you had no other way to handle violence.
(Obviously, people who are unable to employ unarmed combat, due to advanced age, disability, injury, or illness should always rely upon a suitable weapon if a threat to their well-being and life should present itself!)

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