Self-Defense for The Rest of Us

self-defense against street crime

Times are unsettling.

Whenever we experience a big disaster, whether it’s a man-made massacre, a devastating hurricane, or a raging epidemic — we all jump immediately into survival mode. Chances are greater that we might be attacked or simply caught up in an event that suddenly turns dangerous. We need to be ready to defend ourselves in these circumstances.And for people who are prepared, survival includes self-defense.

Keeping out of trouble is the very best form of self-defense.

For most of us this means simply staying at home, avoiding planned demonstrations, not being drawn to accident scenes. Staying at home, even after a wide spread disaster, is easy enough if you’ve taken basic steps to store food, water, medicines, etc.

If you must go out to replenish supplies, keep a low profile. And have a plan to get away from trouble if you feel you are heading into it! Know where you are going, and have an alternate route in case you need it. Avoid wearing flashy clothes and carrying purses or packs that could catch the eye. Go with the crowd, but stay on the fringes so you can get away quickly if necessary.

Mini-Series from Emergency Plan Guide

UPDATE 2021: We’ve expanded the whole topic of self-defense this last year by devoting one of our Mini-Series books to the topic. Read this Advisory, then come back to this block to find out more about the Mini-Series and Personal Safety.

But if you must protect yourself . . .

1 – What about stocking up on guns and ammunition?

I must admit to seeing a big increase lately in emails coming across my desk that advertise weapons, including all sorts of guns. Some messages promise information about how to get guns legally and illegally. Others promote accessories that will make guns easier to draw, quieter to shoot and harder to notice when you are carrying them on your body.

Now if you have been reading our Advisories for a while, you know that Joe and I both have histories with firearms. Joe was in the military. I hunted with my Dad starting at about age 12. So we are comfortable with guns.

But our Emergency Plan Guide mission is to create more resilient citizen responders and resilient communities. That includes senior citizens, young people, employee groups, etc. We try to stick with plans that are suitable for most everyone. In our estimation, a gun-owner needs a special mind-set and special training in order to be a valuable member of the community.

So, in this Advisory we are looking at other options for personal safety and self-defense.

2 – Martial arts skills are a potent defense for some.

If you are a trained martial arts master there is no doubt you might have a much better chance of surviving a violent attack by someone even with a weapon. In fact, nearly everyone can become more skilled, without having to become a master. (I’ve seen classes advertised for kids, for young women – “Don’t get raped” — and for senior citizens.)

I think even I could handle several of the self-defense moves illustrated in this article:

But – and here’s the big caution. I am NOT in the best shape of my life, nor have I trained or practiced these moves. So I’m NOT confident that I would remember exactly which move to apply when. What about you?

In other words, unless you are willing to sign up for a professional class and become proficient if not professional, a casual approach to martial arts is probably as useless and dangerous as a casual approach to guns.

3 – When you have to fight, your ultimate goal is still to get away.

There may be a time when your “antennae” just didn’t work and you can’t avoid a person who is threatening you. (Like the guy in the image above.)

Or, and I hate to say this, YOU may have provoked a situation by threatening, annoying or insulting someone (Road rage? Street protest?) to the point they attack you. At that moment, you need to be able to let go of your own emotions and recognize the danger you’ve put yourself in!

Either way, if you decide that you must fight for your life, then commit to it. Any half-hearted attempt will be inadequate and could put you in even more danger.

Some self-protection suggestions that make sense for me.

  • First, yell sharply and loudly right in the face of the attacker!
    “BACK OFF!” makes it clear you are not going to be a willing victim. Your aggressive resistance may even be enough to make the attacker look for an easier victim. Note you are yelling at the attacker, not yelling for “Help!” from some unknown source.
  • Then, use what you have or can find as an improvised weapon.
    If you have keys in your hand, use a key to scratch or cut. Hurl a cup of hot coffee. Toss dirt or sand. Spray an attacker with perfume or hairspray.
    Use what you can to distract the attacker so you can get away.
  • Consider “weaponized” personal items for self-defense.
    Any device is useless unless you understand how to use it, and you have it in your hand ready to use. This takes us right back to “mental attitude.” Here are some ordinary items that become weapons if you use them that way. Click the blue links under the images to go to Amazon to get current prices and full details. (We are Amazon Associates. If you buy using our link we may get a small commission. Your price is the same.)

Examples of weaponized personal items

I try to carry a flashlight all the time, for light and as a weapon.  

Lately, we have the choice of “tactical” flashlights that serve both purposes. My favorite “tactical” flashlights have a ridged grip that won’t slip and a sharp front edge that would cut seriously when used as a slashing weapon. A wrist strap means you won’t drop it so easily. (The image shows just one flashlight. You can order a pack of two from this company, too. Just click the box on the sales page.)

Tactical Flashlight, YIFENG XML T6 Ultra Bright LED Flashlight with Adjustable Focus and 5 Light Modes for Camping Hiking Emergency (1 pack)

I also like to carry a “tactical pen.”

Here’s a picture of one of my pens attached to my small, cross-body purse. (Not when I climb on an airplane, though.)

Purse with weapon

This purse looks pretty ordinary. And the pen is almost invisible. But it’s easy to grab, solid, has a pointed end and a thumb rest on the other end for a secure grip. It could break a window, too. There are other pens that are more pen than weapon, and pens with other tools built in. (see example below).

Tactical Pen Multitool Survival Gadget – LED Flashlight + Screwdriver + Emergency Window Breaker – EDC Pocket Gear – Unique Birthday Gift for Men and Women – Survival Self Defense Military SWAT Weapon

And two dedicated self-defense items you should know about

Carrying guns or knives requires a level of training outside the scope of this Emergency Plan Guide Advisory. But there are other options to consider. The items below are NOT expensive — and they work. Check them out.

Please be aware that laws regarding stun guns and pepper spray vary. Before you buy either or both, check with your own state. Here’s a link to get you started on that legal research.

Stun gun.

You hold a stun gun in your hand.  When you press it against the body of an attacker, its “electrical punch” can completely disable and disorient him for seconds or minutes, giving you the chance to get away. Before you purchase, be sure a stun gun is legal in your state or county. (For a lot more on stun guns – and tasers, which we do NOT recommend — see our earlier Advisory.)

I like the model shown below because it has a safety disable pin. If you lose control of the gun, the pin pulls out and it won’t shoot. It comes with a wrist strap, too – and in pink and black.

VIPERTEK VTS-979 – 53 Billion Stun Gun – Rechargeable with Safety Disable Pin LED Flashlight, Black

Pepper spray

As I just said, for your stun gun to work, you have to press it against your attacker’s body. That means the attacker is VERY CLOSE to you!

That’s why I prefer to carry a canister of pepper spray. It can shoot a spray at least 8-10 feet. Anyone over 18 can buy and carry pepper spray. These days you can also get pepper spray as a gel or as a foam. They have the same basic capsaicin ingredient and serve the same purpose. The gel isn’t as likely to blow back onto you in a confined space, but you may have to do a better job of aiming. Most important feature of the gel: it goes at least 6 feet farther.

Finally, if you purchase any pepper product, check your canister carefully. Note its expiration date.

Here’s a pepper spray one I recommend. It has a pocket clip and actually shoots 10 ft. (We tested it.) with up to 35 bursts. (This brand also comes in pink, with a key-chain attachment. Pick the one that works best for you!)

Be sure to read all the instructions and safety precautions!

There are now pepper sprays in GEL format and in FOAM format! They have the same basic capsaicin ingredient and serve the same purpose of self-defense. But neither is as likely as spray to blow back onto you in a confined space! Moreover, pepper gel goes a good 6 feet farther than either spray or foam, so you can use it from a safer distance. The gel doesn’t spread out as much though, so you may have to be better at aiming.

Click on the link below to get to a sample of gel made by SABRE. I own the SABRE spray and find it fits my hand well, and it looks as though the gel is packaged pretty much the same way

SABRE Pepper Gel with Attachment Clip, 35 Bursts (5X The Competition), 12-Foot (4-Meter) Range, Gel is Safer, UV Marking Dye, Twist Lock Safety

Finally, if you purchase any pepper product, check your canister carefully and note its expiration date.

Should you make a change in what you normally carry on your person? (Don’t store pepper spray in the car where temperatures could get so high it might explode!) Should some of your family members have one or more of these self-defense items?

Remember if you are faced with any of these emergencies – while you are shopping, jogging or simply resting on a park bench — you will only be able to protect yourself if you act without hesitation . . .

  • Assess the situation.
  • Decide what to do.
  • Do it!

Here’s to your safety,

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. If you’ve read all the way through to here, then you will want to know whether bear spray is legal. The answer? It depends — on the state and even on the country! Generally, bear spray is meant for defense against — you guessed it — a bear attack. Carrying it may be legal. Using it against a person is illegal.

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