A comprehensive approach to self-defense includes both armed and unarmed skill

development. While it is important to understand how these areas complement each

other and can be integrated, this article will discuss the two areas separately as a

starting point. Though it is reasonable that you may choose not to go armed and

focus only on unarmed defensive skills, if you are going to the trouble of arming

yourself and learning the related skill sets, you should certainly invest some time in

the techniques you might need when you don’t have your preferred defensive tool,

can’t access it, or it is not appropriate for the situation.


Unarmed defense refers specifically to taking action with your natural tools to distract

or disable an attacker from being able to hurt you. Natural tools include your

forearms, elbows, knees, shins, feet, hands, fingers, forehead, and teeth.

When you are attacked in extreme close quarters, the use of these natural tools will

usually precede the use of any defensive tool out of necessity. The first area to focus

on is actually surviving long enough to escape or begin affecting your attacker.

Focus on defensive skills to protect yourself from being seriously injured. The

emphasis on defensive responses at the outset of an attack should be designed to

keep you from being knocked unconscious, having your ability to breathe

compromised, or becoming immobilized. After surviving the initial assault, focus on

getting into a position to use your natural tools to affect the bad guy’s ability to hurt

Select close-quarters striking skills to inflict damage upon your attacker in the

context of extreme close-quarters defense. While punches, kicks and open-hand

strikes can deliver a lot of energy, they require more space and accuracy than strikes

with the knees or forearms/elbows. I generally recommend that people look at the

types of strikes with these natural tools that are taught in Muay Thai as a

fundamental skill set.

Grappling skills should primarily emphasize being able to escape from the control of

your attacker and secondarily to gain control of his limbs and body. These skills are

taught in Greco-Roman wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The best way to develop this

knowledge is spending time grappling. Unlike striking or shooting skills, grappling

skills virtually require a training partner to be developed in any meaningful way.

When you are ready to learn and practice your unarmed skills, look for schools

offering “combative” or “defensive” skills, not sport-oriented programs. Finding a

teacher who understands the nature of real-world fights and the use of the skills they

teach in life-and-death situations is a must.

It is not necessary to work your way up to the highest levels of a specific martial art

in order to become very capable at unarmed defense. I often recommend that people

interested in getting started in this area plan to spend three to four months as a basic

student of Muay Thai and six months in a Brazilian jiu-jitsu school to learn the

fundamental skills of striking and grappling, respectively. That said, while it may not

take you long to learn the fundamental skills you need for self-defense, be prepared

to spend a lot of time practicing and maintaining them.


A variety of tools exist that you may choose to own, learn how to use, and carry to

enhance your ability to defend yourself. These items include guns, knives, chemical

sprays, batons, and electrical devices. You can also learn to use everyday items that

you carry, such as keys or pens, as defensive tools.

Firearms are the most potent defensive tool you can choose, but they require a

significant amount of responsibility and training to own and operate properly.

Defensive firearms come in many shapes and sizes, generally falling into three

categories: rifles, shotguns and handguns. Of the three, the handgun is the most

versatile for self-defense.

When selecting a defensive firearm, focus on reliability and efficiency above all else.

In your training, concentrate on applicable skills for the nature of a defensive

shooting, not competition or marksmanship skills that may or may not apply

Many people who are “into” self-defense take it as an obvious assumption that

anyone else interested in self-defense will want to own and carry a gun. Of course,

that is not the case. There are many reasons for not being interested in carrying a

firearm that do not equate to a lack of sincerity in regard to preparation for personal


Many people look at chemical and electrical devices as viable options for defensive

tools. Each requires its own set of educational and training steps to be used as

intended, and each has strengths and weaknesses. Chemical sprays cause

distraction and disability in your attacker but can also contaminate you, especially in

closed spaces or at extreme close quarters.

Knives are commonly carried utility items that can also be used for self-defense if

carried properly and practiced with. How you carry your knife affects your ability to

bring your knife into the fight quickly and easily. The type of knife you carry dictates

its usefulness as well. There are many options for knives and carry locations. I prefer

a small fixed-blade knife carried in front of the body centerline around the waist for

maximum efficiency and versatility.

Though difficult to use in extreme close quarters, impact devices can deliver a great

deal of energy to an attacker and, if employed prior to contact, keep an attacker

away from you. Typical impact devices that can be carried include canes, walking

sticks, and collapsible batons. The latter are best chosen for discrete carry.  Many

everyday items can be used as improvised defensive tools. The key requirements

are that you have practiced their use ahead of time.


Remember: Carrying any tool expressly for defensive use is probably governed by

laws. It is important of understanding the law in regard to your self-defense

preparations .You must plan your defensive tool selection to be within legal

boundaries, to avoid setting yourself up for failure in the aftermath of a defensive use

of force.

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