Thoughts on Weapons: Pepper Spray, Kubotans, Knife Fighting and Improvised Weapons
Black Belt columnist Kelly McCann, a former U.S. Marine Corps special-missions officer and current combatives instructor, explains which weapons are best for everyday carry and home defense.
Kelly McCann on improvised weapons:
An improvised weapon is a mentality, not a tool. In other words, if you have the improvisational mentality, it doesn’t matter what’s at hand. You can use a pen to stab. You can fold a credit card and use it to cut a guy’s face. You can grab a soda can and rip it in half — and you’ll have two knives.
Kelly McCann on teaching that mentality:
You show your students how it’s done by using a lot of examples, after which you teach the principles: how to create leverage, how to inflict pain, how to cut, how to see the “weapon attributes" in ordinary things.
Kelly McCann on everyday carry:
Make sure you meet all your state’s legal requirements before getting or carrying a weapon. OC gas, or pepper spray, is great to carry because it’s a distance weapon. You can use it early in an altercation, before you even make contact with the assailant, and not a lot of technique is required.
Kelly McCann on the expandable baton:
When it’s legal, an expandable baton is also great because it gives you distance. It’s basically a stick, and everybody can use a stick with some degree of success.
Kelly McCann on the kubotan:
The pocket stick — also known as the kubotan or yawara — is good if you have the skills to use it, but it’s not quite as effective as the expandable baton because you have to close with your attacker.
Kelly McCann on blades:
Knives are certainly good — if you’ve got the guts to use one. A sharp instrument is a great weapon; trouble is, its use is generally viewed as felonious. If you ever use a knife in self-defense, you’ll probably get killed in court. The opposing attorneys will undoubtedly say that a higher standard applies because you’ve been trained and that you should have tried to ... blah, blah, blah. That’s why OC gas and pocket sticks are better weapons for those who know how to use them.
Kelly McCann on weapons for the home:
You want layered security. You want to affect the thinking — the decision-making process and victim selection — of anyone who may be looking at breaking in. You want to make him think you’re a hard target. For the first layer, you should have good lights around your house and good locks. If someone breaks in, the second layer is a dog. For the third layer, OC gas and maybe a gun — with the caveat that you have to be properly trained in combative shooting while under duress. A gun is good only if you’ll use it and know when to use it. You also need to consider who else is in the home, who has access to the gun, and what safety measures need to be in place to protect it from theft and/or unauthorized use by a child.
Kelly McCann on mindset:
The thing with guns is, a person may be a good shot, but that doesn’t matter if he second-guesses himself right up to the last minute and doesn’t shoot until it’s too late. For that kind of person, OC gas is a better option.
Kelly McCann on using empty-hand skills to get to your weapon:
That’s the role of combatives as we teach them. Getting to your weapon may not be the only thing you do once you have control of a situation, but you do want some type of weapon in your hand — whether it’s OC gas or whatever. It just makes sense to have something that gives you an advantage.
Kelly McCann on weapons vs. multiple attackers:
You’re probably not going to be able to deal with three on one or two on one without help from an aerosol irritant (OC spray) or some other weapon. The fact is, when you fight one attacker, you can exert control. When you’re faced with multiple attackers and don’t have a weapon, you can’t simultaneously control them.
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Kelly McCann on empty hand vs. knife:
You can successfully deal with it, but it requires a special mentality. A guy can come at me with a knife, and given no alternative, I may disregard the knife because I know I can be inside the weapon’s arc so fast and hurt him so quickly that he’ll be unable to use it. He might drop it or suddenly realize he needs to get away from me — in other words, decide not to use it. Those are all forms of disarming. Disarms don’t necessarily mean I have to end up with your weapon in my control. Once you take away a person’s will, the fight is over. A guy comes in and thinks he owns you, and all of a sudden he’s scared stiff. If you’re not willing to get to that level of commitment — turning predator into prey — you’d better not put your hand in that cage. And even then, there’s no guarantee you won’t end up hurt, maimed or dead.
Kelly McCann is the author of Combatives for Street Survival: Hard-Core Countermeasures for High-Risk Situations and a Black Belt magazine columnist.