Realistic defensive weapon

August 9, 2009

(This post was inspired by the comments to another post. Thanks to everyone who contributes!)

Most of what I practice is not particularly realistic in terms of present-day self defense. If you pull out a katana and chop someone to bits, most juries are not going to be too sympathetic on your self-defense plea, and it’s not too easy to “subdue” someone with a long sharp piece of steel. However, I’ve thought about what I would do in a realistic situation, so I thought I’d put something down and see what folks had to say about it.

Let’s imagine a scenario, just to get the details consistent. Let’s say you’re putting groceries into your car (this gives you an excuse to have weapons handy without having to carry them around with you) and you’re jumped by a group of  Goons (TM) armed with street weapons – clubs (pipes, bats, etc.) and knives. I’m leaving guns out of this – if they have guns, basically all you can do is give them all your money and run like hell. You reach into your car and pull out – what?

Again ignoring guns, your first decision is how lethal you want to be. Among my weapons, if I really wanted to survive the encounter and I wasn’t too worried about consequences, I’d obviously pull out a sword (and I frequently do actually have swords lying around in my back seat), and it’s entirely possible that I’d win – after the first time someone gets disemboweled, the other thugs will probably back off. On the downside, I might well then go to jail. Not an ideal outcome. Similarly, I could pull a knife of some kind; this might improve my chances of winning the court case, at the cost of sharply decreasing my chances of surviving the fight. If I have to close with one of the Goons, I risk getting tied up in grappling while his buddies kick me in the head.

At the other end of the spectrum, I could pull out a bo or a spear. The spear has the same problems as the sword. The bo is a great weapon, but not my first choice for fighting between cars in a parking lot. With a long staff, there’s also the problem that eventually somebody is going to grab it, and while I’m dealing with that I’m likely to get nailed from behind.

All in all, I think that my best choice would be a medium-sized, blunt weapon. This offers a credible self-defense plea, enough reach to keep the bad guys away, and enough mobility to deal with enclosed spaces and to keep control of the weapon. If I were a bit more advanced in my kali training, I’d probably choose sticks, but as it is I think I’d choose a jo.

The jo, while not nearly as dangerous as a sword, is plenty powerful enough to convince somebody that they’d rather be someplace else. It’s fast and maneuverable enough to bounce between attackers quickly, long enough to keep folks beyond knife distance, and short enough that one can easily control both ends of it – essential for fighting in close quarters. To top it off, it’s capable of graduated violence (unlike a sword).

What do you think? What would your go-to weapon be in a situation like this, or would you go empty-handed? Obviously, it’s going to depend on your style, but I’m looking for the approach that gives you the best chance of walking away from the fight and staying out of jail afterwards.



  1. I agree that the jo is an excellent choice. Riot police in Japan train with the jo as their primary weapon. In their hands it is an effective tool for subduing individuals, and at the same time a thrust to the face is a great deterrent.

  2. I think it’s largely about what is practical to carry too. Certainly a knife is easy to carry. The jo is an interesting choice because canes are very similar in length usually and are easy to carry as well. I actually tried carrying one for awhile though and it was just rather awkward, especially being a younger guy.

    I’d say anything you can fit in your pocket is best. It’s something you’re sure to carry with you anywhere you go.

  3. That’s true, of course – I set up the scenario specifically to avoid that question, because if you’re jumped while walking down the street, there are very few weapons that are legal and practical to have with you. Knives do have the lethality problem; possibly you might be better off with one of those vital-point spikes or just brass knuckles?

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