Personal Defense Options: A Basic Guide for the Non-Ninja

If you are a ninja, this article is not for you. It was written for those among us who are awake and aware……BUT, have not thought out the physical and logistical aspects of self-defense. Part of being awake means that you have to except some personal responsibility for your own personal self- protection, or even more serious….the protection of your loved ones and family. There are millions of possible scenarios, and the thought of thinking about all the nasty potential situations which would require you to physically defend yourself or a loved one makes many people unable to properly address a very grim question: “If you are not armed and versed in handling weapons, or you don’t meet the criteria for the “ninja” / “warrior type/”, how are you going to defend yourself, your family, or your loved ones if trouble finds you?” If you have not thought about this, and you have been avoiding the questions, NOW is the time to ponder. Don’t expect the best outcome if you think about it when you are forced into it, at a time and place chosen by someone(s) who means to do you harm. It’s a lot like planning to learn how to swim when realize you are drowning. You’re probably not going to do so well.

This is not a ruse to get people to purchase firearms and ammo. Although I will admit they do come in pretty handy for self-defense. The reality is that of most of the bad scenarios that must be contemplated by awake and aware individuals require options for self-defense. This requires individuals to use and apply different levels force. Being able to apply different levels and different types of force properly requires (5) things: knowledge, skills, tools, training, and experience.

The more options you wish to have, the more of those (5) things you will need. There is no way to substitute them. The more you have the better off you are, and the better your chances for survival. It’s that simple. Anything else just comes down to plain old luck. I don’t know about you, but I’m not particularly “lucky”, and I don’t feel all that great about leaving my fate up to someone else. Especially someone who aims to hurt / kill me or someone I love.

As a police officer, I can tell you when seconds count; the police are only minutes away. Think for yourself, and realize that you need to do what’s best for you and your family. You may not get a second chance depending on the scenario. If you use force with just cause, it does not mean that you will walk away clean, if and when the legal dust settles. I would rather be in a situation where my family and I are alive, and sort out the consequences later. Depending on where you reside, the legal system can be quite a joke. Don’t expect “justice“ from what our judicial system has become, especially if you live in a Communist State like California, New York, Connecticut, and you know the rest.

So, if you never really thought about what options are open to you if you are forced into using force to defend yourself or loved ones, here are what I would consider the viable force options available to honest, law abiding citizens. AND…lets us not forget, the legal disclaimer: “Be sure to consult your local laws before carrying and / or using, or possessing any type of weapons as defined by your jurisdiction”. With that covered, a wise man one said “It is better to be judged by 12 then carried by 6”.

When reading this, also keep in mind you should recognize these weapons or things in your environment as threats to YOU…, instead of weapons that you may, or may not be using: The best way to know how to defend against some weapons is to know how to use them first.

Level 1: Verbal Judo & Avoidance through Situational Awareness

I hope everyone understands that the best way to win a fight is to not get into one. Being aware of your surroundings and avoiding potential problems is always the best course of action. Do you really need to stop at the corner store that is a known hangout for a street gang? If you can’t cross the street and physically avoid a confrontation, you may be able to talk, bluff or negotiate your way out of a potential situation. Being non-confrontational, but standing your ground goes a long way. The right tone of voice and the right body language can mean the difference in how a threat sizes you up. Saying and doing the right things in a physical confrontation may be the difference of weather you have to fight or not. If the situation warrants it, verbal self -defense should be EVERYONE’s first option, ninja or not. Be practical. If someone pulls a weapon or has assaulted you, they have now defined the terms of your relationship. Talking time is over. It’s time to physically defend yourself, and if you have waited this long, you are not doing well. If you only brought your mouth to the fight you are probably doing even worse. I think learning situational awareness and verbal communication skills are the most underemphasized aspects of self-defense. I can’t teach you the art of verbal self -defense here, but one of the best sources of this is Bill Kip. Check out Fast Defense.com

Level 2: Flashlights

One of the basic things necessary to fight properly is sight / vision. Fighting blind is not something you’re going to live long enough to get practice at in real life. Flashlights provide the ability for you to navigate and move in low light, or no light conditions. The proper use of flashlights can reduce the ability of people to ambush you, or hide from you. You can take away or limit other people’s vision, from a safe distance, without touching or doing physical damage to them. You can mistakenly light someone up with a flashlight, versus lighting them up with your carry pistol, big difference. You can also signal and communicate with a little practice. There are no legal restrictions on carrying flashlights. You can give them to children, and carry them in environments where weapons are prohibited. I can’t say enough good things about having a flashlight as a defense tool. You MUST have a good light on you, or near you at all times (yes, even during the day) if you are serious about self-defense.

Flashlights can also be used as a very effective impact weapon or striking weapon depending on the type of light that you get. The utility that you get in such a small package is truly incredible. When people ask my advice about how to protect themselves, flashlights are the first thing I mention. They don’t get it at first, but once I mention what I have above, they do get it and love it! The best hard copy material on this topic is: The Strategies of Low-Light Engagements by Ken J. Good (paperback)

This is the bible on the subject, and is a must read for anyone serious about the subject.

I am not going to recommend specific lights but anything from Surefire or Streamlight, or Gerber is good to go. The only criteria I have for a defensive light is that it MUST be an LED bulb (shock resistance) and the light you choose must be able to throw out at least 150- 200 lumens of light. You will need to spend at least $65 for something quality, and my advice is have (2) of them. It’s always good to have a back-up of key critical tools. You light is one of them.

Level 3: Pepper Spray / Tear Gas

I am going to start out by saying I am not a fan. People feel that they are doing something positive by purchasing a type of defense spray, and while it is better than nothing, it’s pretty close to useless in my opinion. Usually these types of things are sold to women. I do find they have sort of a placebo effect for lack of a better term. People feel better about having pepper spray than having nothing. However, these tools are difficult to use under stress, they have limited use, meaning you only get a few bursts out of the can of spray, they have no real stopping power to disable an aggressor, and you may spray yourself in the process. The vast majority of people who carry sprays have never even tried to practice use them, so I am not sure what types of results they expect if they need to do so in a real life scenario. Yes, there are now some much higher quality, more effective systems available, but they are expensive, and still have most of the same issues already mentioned. I am not telling you not to carry or use spray agents for self- defense. I am advising you to be very aware of the issues and limitations associated with their use.

Tazers / Stun Guns: Again, I am not much of a fan here. There are also more legal restrictions in carrying Tazer guns / Stun Guns than there are for pepper spray agents. Although I do think these tools have a place in law enforcement applications, it’s difficult to expect a high level of utility from a tool of this type with no training. Although I do think these tools have more stopping power than pepper sprays, they don’t always work. Ask any policemen. There is no guarantee a stun gun or tazer gun will stop your threat. Tazer guns usually only allow 1-2 shots, and are very slow to reload, not to mention very expensive to reload. Stun guns require you to be in contact distance with your threat, and physically touch them to make contact. For most people in that type of scenario, you are already way behind the curve. Again, Is it better nothing? Yes, but once again you to be very aware of the issues and limitations these tools have. Remember these are NON-Lethal Weapons. There is no guarantee they will stop anyone.

Level 4: Empty Hands

We could talk about this forever, and I am not going to. Learning to defend yourself with your hands is a super practical skill to have. It takes time, effort, discipline and usually some financial and commitment. If you are able, it’s probably one of the best things you will ever do for yourself. Do you need to become a “ninja”? Well, that’s up to you…but you don’t have to go that far.

There are plenty of basic skills that you can learn from watching videos and or taking a few classes. I will say this: Although I respect all of the traditional martial arts, most people are not out to make a martial arts journey taking years and years. You DO NOT have to invest years and years into training to achieve some very practical results. This can be done very efficiently with only limited time and training if you source the right materials which are COMBATIVES. For a beginner, traditional martial arts are not going to get you there. It will take years, and you may not have the best skills at the end of your journey. If you are older, have heath concerns or injuries, you can’t be doing that stuff anyway. If you are able bodied, practicing self-defense has other advantages too. It will get you in better shape, it will give you more self-confidence, and it will give you another layer / level of skills you can use to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Check Out: Michael Janich and Martial Blade Concepts (This is not just knife stuff)
Martial Blade Concepts

Also check out: George Matheis and Modern Combative Systems
Modern Combat Systems

Check Out: John Perkins and Attack Proof.com
Attack Proof.com

These guys break it down and make it possible to learn basic, practical skills that you can train at home without making a traditional martial arts journey.

Level 5: Impact Weapons

I am a big fan of impact weapons. By “impact weapon” I mean either a purpose designed weapon or tool, or a weapon of opportunity which is used to strike an opponent. Impact weapons are capable of both lethal and non-lethal force. If you hit someone in the elbow with a baton that is non–lethal force, versus targeting the head, which is lethal force. Learning how to use a stick, or a club is an excellent skill to have as, there are plenty of things we can improvise with that are lying around everywhere in our normal environments. Some people are handicapped and rely on a cane to move around. Canes make fantastic impact weapons, and you can carry them anywhere. Yes, you can carry one on an airplane weather you look like you need one or not. Just mention “The American Disabilities Act” to TSA or DHS and they will quickly move along. Yes, impact weapons are usually long, and as a result difficult to conceal. Most States do not allow civilians to carry around expandable batons. However, you can leave a solid ¾ inch round 18-26 inch hard wood or rattan stick in your home, your vehicle, your office, ect. These are very cheap to purchase. They are very effective, impact weapons and provide bone crushing stopping power if used properly.

Improvised Weapons: Hammers, Crow Bars, Hatchets, Screw Drives, The Leg off a Chair, a Bandana with a pad lock, a Broken Piece of Glass, a Tightly Rolled Magazine, …the possibilities are endless, but you get the point. “What, if anything could you use in your immediate environment as a weapon if you had to”.

Level 6: Knives & Edged Weapons

Most knives are considered to be a deadly weapons, regardless of what jurisdiction you live in. It does not matter if you don’t use lethal force with a knife. If you punched someone with a closed folding knife that was clenched in your fist, even though the blade was folded in the closed position, you can still be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. It does not matter that you did not cut anyone with it. Safe and effective Use of edged weapons for defense requires training. Just stabbing or cutting a threat does not mean you will gain safety. This nightmare of slippery slopes and legal issues is different in all 50 states. Knives have serious potential as weapons because of the stopping power they deliver if used properly. 80% of people that are shot with a pistol caliber round in the torso, survive if they get to a Level 1 trauma center. If you severed a major artery, even if you are on the front steps of the hospital with a vascular surgeon standing next to you, you have 2-3 minutes before you are DEAD. Edged weapons don’t run out of ammo, they don’t jam, and they don’t usually break. If you are thinking “Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight”, then you are missing the point. Edged weapons provide dual utility. You can use them as a tool or weapon, and they are relatively cheap for the vast utility they provide. I am not going to get into what knife, what make and all that jazz, except that I will say you can get excellent quality knives for $50-$100.

This is an EXCELLENT resource on knife rights / laws: Knife Rights website: Knife Rights.org

Level 7: Firearms

This topic is a world unto itself. It requires lots of logistics and liabilities to do legally, and this varies greatly depending on where you live. Owning and using firearms is a serious potential liability. You better be careful. There is not much margin for accidents. There is literally a lawyer attached to every bullet, or worse. However, NOTHING can protect you better than knowing how to safely, properly and ethically administering force with firearms. Firearms are not for everyone, but depending on your personal circumstances you should consider it, if possible. Just owning a gun is not enough. It is not a talisman that is going to ward off evil. In order for it to work properly, you need some knowledge, skills, and training.

In closing, if you are not well versed in this subject matter, you owe it to yourself and to your family to think about some options for defense and self-protection before you find yourself in that situation. A good friend of mine says “You can’t “Tap Out” on the street!”

Best Wishes & Stay Safe My Friends!
Mark S. Mann

Mark S. Mann

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