Personal protection is a broad subject and should encompass a wide range of skills and possibilities. We’ve all heard the cliché “To the person who only has a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” Until you’ve actually expanded your training to include other skills and use-of-force options, you’re still just hammering.

Less-lethal options are important for many reasons. The most obvious yet often overlooked one is that many self-defense situations do not justify the use or even the brandishing of a gun. You can’t shoot an aggressive panhandler for tugging on your sleeve or someone who shoves you after you accidentally bump into him. Drawing or even displaying a holstered firearm to scare either of them off can be considered felony menacing and could easily result in legal issues for you instead of for the assailant. If you travel, go to school or work in an environment where concealed carry is prohibited, having alternative weapons and the skills to use them is critical. Travelling, especially internationally, can easily take you out of the areas of reciprocity for your CCW permit. And if you play by the rules and do not carry illegally in environments that prohibit it, you will be without a firearm and will have to rely on other tools and skill sets.

Finally, if you have ever done any realistic close-range shooting or force-on-force training, you’ll know that, when you’re up close, you have to “earn” the ability to draw your gun. If you can’t use empty-hand skills or intermediate weapons to survive long enough to draw your weapon, you won’t get it into the fight.

Empty Handed
Many physical altercations do not involve weapons at all. If an argument turns physical or if a belligerent drunk accosts you, you need the ability to respond with an appropriate level of force. For most able-bodied people who are facing an assailant who is not significantly younger, stronger or clearly more proficient, that means having basic empty-hand fighting skills.

Choosing an unarmed self-defense system can be a frustrating and confusing process. Seek out instructors who allow students to focus exclusively on self-defense training and observe a few classes. Look at the techniques being taught, and ask yourself if you could learn them in a reasonable period of time and make them work against a motivated, non-compliant attacker. If what you see doesn’t work for you, keep looking. Your ultimate goal should be a sound, basic set of unarmed skills that you can apply instantly and reflexively in your street clothes. It should also integrate well with your weapon-based skills, employing common body mechanics and giving you the skills to fight your way to weapon deployment.

Pick A Pen
Any object that you can hold in your hand and that is more resilient than flesh and bone can greatly increase the effectiveness of your strikes. Improvised weapons in your environment, like bottles, saltshakers and rocks, can make all the difference in a self-defense situation. But the best way to ensure you have a weapon when you need it is to make it part of your daily carry.

Just about any structurally sound pen or similar writing instrument can transform a simple hammer-fist strike into a bone-breaking focused impact. To make the most of this potential, however, it helps to have a pen that really lends itself to fighting while remaining low-profile. The pen should be large enough to grasp firmly in your hand, textured to prevent slipping on impact, and devoid of any sharp angles or edges that could injure your hand when you strike with it.

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