If we are in a fight for our life – and these should really be the only fights we engage in – then we should look to take advantage of our environment, the objects in it, along with those things that we have about our person. If we can find or fashion a tool that can be used as a weapon, or take advantage of our surroundings so as to put our assailant(s) at a disadvantage, we should. In a real-life confrontation there is little room for noble ideas and honorable conduct, your job is not to dispense righteous justice against your assailant, but to survive the conflict. If using a weapon increases your chances of doing this, then you should do so, without any question or a second thought.

Improvisation, and the ability to recognize what objects can be used as weapons, is an art. One of the reasons humans are the dominant species on the planet, is because we are able to make and develop tools –it is in our DNA to do this. When we look at how to improvise weapons we are using some of these basic skills, which set us apart from other animals; we have an innate ability to recognize how objects around us can enhance our ability to deal with a problem or situation. When we find ourselves dealing with violence, we should look to employ our most natural skills and abilities, to aid us in our survival; and creating tools is one of these.

Use of Improvised Weapons

Improvised Weapons

Before we look at improvised weapons in a systematic fashion, we should understand a few things about real world violence. Perhaps the most important thing to understand, is that an attacker will try to deny you time and distance, so that you don’t have an opportunity to respond and react to their assault. I have seen many demonstrations where self defense instructors demonstrate how to construct quite devastating weapons out of common objects — which is fine if you have a couple of minutes before you know you are going to be attacked – however if you do have this luxury, it is probably best spent disengaging and creating distance between you and your assailant, rather than attempting to construct a weapon.

Despite the fact that a belt can be used, quite effectively, as a fighting tool, chances are you will never be given the time and space to employ it. Any improvised weapon you choose to use must be something you already carry, or is within easy reach, which requires no or little modification to be used as a weapon. A good example of this would be a mobile phone – it is readily accessible (either in your pocket, or already in your hand), and can be used as is, as a striking/impact tool.

Improvised Weapons

When I first started learning Krav Maga (the fighting system of the Israeli Defense Forces), I was taught a system of object categorization, to help aid the recognition of possible improvised weapons. The idea was to classify objects by certain properties, and discern how they could be best used. The system is described below (the Hebrew term is given in brackets):

  1. Objects like Sticks (Makel) – Umbrellas, Snooker Cues, Brooms, Golf Clubs
  2. Objects like Shield (Magen) – Bags, Clipboards, Chairs, Trash Can Lids, Toilet Seats
  3. Objects like Knife (Sakkin) – Keys, Screwdrivers, Pens/Pencils
  4. Objects like Rock (Even) – Snooker Balls, Water Bottles, Bottles
  5. Objects like Chain (Hevel) – Belts, Dog Leads, Wires, Cables, Radio Antennae
  6. Small Objects (Ktanim) – Projectiles, Coins

Using this system, you can recognize that objects such as keys, share properties that are similar to those of a knife, and should therefore be used to cut and slash with, rather than be held between the fingers like a makeshift knuckleduster.

It is important when selecting an object to know its strengths and weaknesses, as you are using it in a way it was never designed to be used. An umbrella resembles a stick, but it is questionable if it has the structural integrity, or weight, of a stick or baton — if swung at an assailant. It is therefore better used like a spear, to stab and thrust with, rather than as an impact weapon with which to deliver concussive or paralyzing force.

Certain objects may be much stronger than they look; a newspaper – something you may already have in your hand – can be wrapped around somebody’s head, and held there without ripping or tearing; while at the same time being used as a mask to obscure their vision whilst you attack them with knee strikes, stomps and kicks etc.

Selecting Improvised Weapons

Improvised Weapons

When selecting a weapon, you should consider how it may be best used e.g. a bottle of beer, can be used both in its original form like a rock (Even), and if smashed/broken, like a knife (Sakkin). You will need to decide, based on your situation, the best use for this object. If you are dealing with multiple assailants, who you want to keep at distance, using the bottle in its broken form, as a knife, to stab and slash with, may be its most effective form.

If you are up against a single attacker, it may be more effective to use it in its unbroken form, as an impact tool, to deliver concussive force and knock them out – you may be able to accomplish this with one solid strike, whereas it might take several cuts and stabs, to cause enough blood loss to render them unconscious.

Just as you have objects in your environment that you can use as weapons, the environment itself can also be used to assist you. There are no harder striking surfaces available to you than sidewalks, walls, counters and cars etc. You may be able to form a solid fist and deliver a good punch, but slamming someone face first into one of these surfaces is going to have a much more devastating effect on them than any one of your strikes.

Improvised Weapons

You don’t have to use a car or a table as an impact surface, you could also use them as barriers, to help slow down and block an aggressor’s advance – helping you to disengage and make distance from them and/or to give you the time and space to find/fashion an improvised weapon.

Real-life violence doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Because we often train in dojos and studios that have a large matted and uncluttered training space, devoid of any objects, we can get into the habit of thinking that the environments that we are likely to be assaulted in, such as bars/clubs, restaurants, houses and streets etc. are similarly devoid of anything that we could use as a weapon or to enhance our chances of survival. This though is not the case, and we should use anything and everything that is available to us, to ensure that we are able to neutralize any threats to our safety in the shortest possible time.

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