Sunday, November 25, 2012

Self-Defense Blunders #3- Useless Devices and Gimmicks

Almost everywhere we look we can find someone selling devices and tools designed for self-defense and personal safety. Some simple and effective, others downright useless. Items such as pepper spray, safety whistles, “tactical” ink pens, defensive folding knives, tasers and stun guns are all easily obtainable online or from various specialty stores. Even the most common department stores carry pepper spray these days. While this can be a very good thing for the safety-conscious citizen, it can also be a disaster. How so? Well, allow me to address some of the issues-

Useless Devices-
To be blunt many of the devices sold for self-defense are just plain useless for surviving bad situations. How do we know if a device or tool is useless? Good question! We can simply analyze the situations where we would most likely use such tools and consider how easy they are to use and what the results might be.

Safety whistles- while these make sense in theory their effectiveness fails miserably during real-life attacks. Why? Simply because it’s difficult to get the whistle out and into play during a violent attack. Even if the intended victim is able to blow it, what’s the likelihood of someone hearing it or even responding if they do happen to hear it? The reality is that we often hear car alarms and sirens on a daily basis. We have become so desensitized to these types of sounds that a whistle off in the distance isn’t going to draw much attention. So, while the intended victim is wasting time and effort (and risking their safety) trying to draw and blow a whistle, he or she could be using simple skills to slow the assault or even more effective and suitable tools.

Personal Alarms- these are those small keychain alarms that people carry on their person. They have a pin that can be quickly removed which causes the alarm to emit a high decibel siren. The sellers of these devices lead customers to believe that the loud siren will cause the attacker to instantly stop their assault and quickly flee. They also claim that the noise will draw attention. While there is a possibility that such a device will work, like the whistle as mentioned above, it’s a fairly low probability. Again, in order to activate the alarm we must be able to access it under the stress of a real attack. It can be done but isn’t easy. Even if the alarm is activated, it’s not likely to draw attention, as I mentioned above. Also, this device can easily be disabled . The attacker can throw it onto the ground or even step on it. Simple self-defense techniques can be far more valuable and less likely to fail then these overpriced and next-to-useless devices.

Belt Buckle Knive, Lipstick Knives, Cane Swords, Pocket Comb Knives and other questionable gimmicks- many of these specialty knives make me chuckle. They usually consist of some kind of blade that is hidden. The belt buckle knife usually consists of a working belt buckle with a blade on it that slides into the end of the belt and then the belt goes through the buckle portion like normal. While this seems pretty neat on the surface, the reality is that it's a waste of money unless you think you might find yourself in a situation that allows you to get the knife out to cut yourself free from restraints. Other than that, you aren't likley to get the knife off the belt and into play should you need it in self-defense. The same holds true for any of the hidden knives, like the lipstick or comb versions that will end up in the bottom of a purse. Then we have the common Cane Sword. It looks like a common cane but conceals a sword in the cane shaft. It makes sense but the reality is that if you don't look like your need a cane, it will obviously appear out of place. Then if you are forced to use it in self-defense it will most likely be used against you in court because you were obviously carrying around a cane that was designed as a weapon when you didn't have a physical need for the cane. So, obviously you were hoping to find yourself in a situation that would require it's use. At least that's what the courts will say. The truth is that anyone would be far better off carrying a simple folding or fixed knife for self-defense or choosing another simple tool like a standard ball-point in pen.

Legally Questionable-
Some of these items can even be questionable from a legal perspective. In other words, their use could lead to criminal charges or even lawsuits. Imagine having to use a tool in self-defense only to end up in jail for using it. Unfortunately this happens. The key to proper and effective personal safety is the understanding that it’s more than physical techniques and self-defense gimmicks. It’s about knowing what, when, where, how, and why. A thorough understanding of self-defense laws can help you determine whether or not a device or tool can possibly lead to legal percussions if used in self-defense.

Self-Defense Keychain- These simple tool generally consist of a 6 inch solid tube of plastic, metal or wood. They are used to strike or push on vital targets of an attacker. Some have points or protrusions used to enhance the strike. While legal in many states and jurisdictions, they are considered a “martial arts weapon” in some states where they are illegal to carry or use in self-defense.

Tactical” Ink Pen- These pens are specifically designed out of metals to be used as a striking implement. If carried on the person and used in self-defense, a judge or jury can claim you carried the pen with the intension of using it on someone. The reality is that a standard ink pen can be just as effective (with proper training), costs much less, and it less likely to result in legal ramifications.

Self-Defense Umbrella- There are a few companies out there that make umbrellas specifically for self-defense. They even go so far as to make them out of special unbreakable plastic and increase sharpness of the tip. However, a quick analysis of such an item will show it’s essentially a waste of money and could result in legal trouble. Let me ask you this…what’s the likelihood of you having that umbrella in your hand the very instant you find yourself being attacked? Unless you live in an area that sees heavy rainfall year round, you probably won’t have the umbrella with you when needed. Unless of course you make the unsound decision to carry it with you at all times. This would be unrealistic and inconvenient, to say the least. Not to mention the kind of attention it would draw. That being said, even if you used the umbrella for legitimate self-defense, there is a good chance it will be turned against you in court. After all, why would you need a specially designed unbreakable fighting umbrella unless you intended to use it?

Specialty Knives- This is another common self-defense gimmick. Manufacturers design and sell knives specifically for self-defense. They are often made in various shapes to make them easier to grip and retain during the attack. They may have specially shaped blades to make it easier to target vital areas. Some are even designed with protrusions around the handle to enhance striking with the handle or while the folded blade is closed. There are even specialty knives being made to suit specific grip variations, such as what is commonly referred to as “edge in” when the blade is held so that edge of the blade faces the user. Another common blade style is referred to as a “kerambit” which has a hook shaped blade that was originally found in Indonesian martial arts. Some manufacturers even go so far as to give their knives cool sounding names like “death dealer 24”. The reality is that the more specialized the knife, the greater the potential for legal ramifications should you be forced to use it in self-defense. Again, who else would carry a specialized self-defense knife if not a person who was looking and hoping for the opportunity to use it? At least this is how it may be perceived in court.

Training Required-
One of the worst self-defense blunders is not the purchase of these questionable items but the lack of training the customers undergo. The reality is that you could purchase the best self-defense tools in the world but they will do you little good if you are not properly trained in their use. There are thousands of reports of firearms, knives, pepper spray, and other devices being taken away and turned against victims as they tried to use them in self-defense. Having a good tool is no replacement for proper and effective self-defense training.

So, before you run out and purchase some of these crazy devices and gimmicks take a moment to ask yourself if it will truly increase your ability to keep yourself or your loved ones safe. You will likely discover that it's nothing more than a way for the manufactures and sellers to make money by playing on the fears of unsuspecting customers. As a general rule, the more aesthetically appealing the tool the less useful it will be when a life is on the line. Also, the more specialized the tool the greater the chance of facing legal ramifications for it's use. Not only should you choose such tools wisely but you should seek out proper training from a qualified instructor with an understanding of the who, what, when, where, how, and why.

Take care and stay safe,
Steve Zorn, ICPS

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Book Recommendation- Strong on Defense

"Strong on Defense" by Sandford Strong- This is by far THE best book on crime prevention / awareness that has been written. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in protecting themselves or their family. This isn't a physical how-to book but more of an overview of mental preparation. Covers excellent material on "mind-set". It's no longer in print but you can generally find it in used bookstores or on Amazon. You can also check your local library.
Friday, November 02, 2012

Self-Defense Quiz- Test Your Knowledge

Think you have a solid grasp of personal safety and self-defense? Test your knowledge with the Personal Safety Unlimited quizzes and crossword puzzles. More to come...

Women's Self-Defense in Warsaw, Indiana

Women's Self-Defense course is scheduled for Saturday December 1st at Absolute Fitness Academy here in Warsaw, Indiana. 12pm to 3pm. Will cover awareness, escape, de-escalation, and physical self-defense. Includes practice against a padded assailant. The only program of this kind offered in the area. Download the flyer from the website for more details. Space is limited to the first 12 that pre-register. Contact me for details or to sign up. Suitable for young ladies 14 and older.

The Danger of "Stranger-Danger"...

"Stranger-Danger" is an antiquated child safety program that needs to be thrown out and forgotten about. Find out why and what we should teach instead, read my article-

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-27 years training in personal safety -Multiple martial arts black belts -Multiple instructor certifications -Certified law enforcement trainer -Crime Prevention Specialist -Previous self-defense trainer for one of the country's largest airlines -Child safety specialist -Certified Fitness Trainer -TACTIX Fitness Trainer -High Intensity Training Specialist -FAST Defense Instructor -Kid Escape Instructor
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