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Weapons are all around us. If your cell phone is in hand when you’re accosted, you could use it to strike the attacker’s face. It would probably inflict more damage than your fist.

You are bound to encounter situations where carrying a concealed firearm or even a pocketknife is absolutely not an option. However, this doesn’t mean you have to be completely unarmed. Even aboard an airplane, which is arguably the most secure area you will encounter, you’ll probably have access to several items that could be used to defend yourself. Be it an ink pen, a key, a cellular phone, a water bottle or soda can, a hot cup of coffee or tea, even a briefcase, a laptop computer case, or a carry-on bag—if you have a basic understanding of body mechanics and a combative mindset, these and many other ordinary items can afford you a tremendous advantage against an adversary intent on harming you.

John Steinbeck’s quote, “The brain is the primary weapon. All else is supplemental,” is particularly relevant to the topic of improvised weapons, or “weapons of opportunity,” as they are sometimes called. Weapons are all around us, and unless you’re empty handed in the middle of a field, there’s probably something around that you could employ as a self-defense tool. In order to give yourself every advantage, you need to condition yourself to quickly evaluate an object’s weapon capability. Will the object work well as a striking, stabbing, or slashing implement? If not, maybe the item can be used as a projectile or even as a shield?

When suddenly attacked, the best weapon is the one within reach. Sure, a firearm would come in handy when faced with a deadly threat, but you probably don’t walk around with one in your hand all day. Let’s consider some everyday items that you might have access to if you were attacked.

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Pens are permitted just about everywhere a person can travel and they could easily be employed as a stabbing instrument.

Mighty Pens
Many people carry one or more ink pens on a daily basis. Since pens are universally accepted writing instruments, there is nothing menacing or suspicious about someone carrying a pen. However, with a little training an ordinary ink pen can be used as a devastatingly effective stabbing device.

While an ink pen in your briefcase or the bottom of your purse may be difficult to get to in a hurry, a pen clipped to your shirt collar or pant pocket can be accessed rather easily with practice. Since pens are so innocuous, chances are you could pre-deploy your pen rather than rely on a “quick draw” in response to an attack.

There are various “tactical pens” on the market that are constructed of quality metal and specifically designed for self-defense. However, don’t underestimate your run of the mill plastic pen. With proper technique, it is a welcome addition to your everyday self-defense arsenal. In order to derive maximum benefit, establish a proper grip and use sound body mechanics when using the pen as a weapon.

Grip the pen as an ice pick, with the tip protruding downward, closest to the little finger side of your fist. Place your thumb over the top portion of the pen. This will enable you to thrust the pen deeper into the attacker and afford you better control of the pen upon impact. Prior to striking with the pen, thrust the palm of your off-hand toward the attacker’s face as a distraction and retract it as you step toward him with your off-leg. Rotate your hips as you plunge the tip of the pen into the attacker.

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A key works well as both a stabbing and slashing tool. It’s probably best to grip one key rather than place a key between each finger as is commonly taught.

Keys To Success
A key can be used in much the same way as an ink pen. While the design of a typical key makes it less effective than a pen for stabbing, a key’s shaft is fairly well suited for slashing. An effective use of a key for self-defense might involve a stabbing motion immediately followed by a slashing motion to create a wound significant enough to stop the attacker.

Rather than try to fumble with placing a key between your fingers, grab the head portion of a single key with your thumb and index finger and secure the remaining keys between your fingertips and palm. (Keys with large plastic covered heads provide a better gripping surface). When using a key to defend yourself, be sure to keep your off-hand up to protect your head from incoming strikes.

Dialing Up Defense
If you were accosted while talking on your cellular phone, you could slam it against the attacker’s head from the position you held it in when you were talking. Ironically, this position automatically cocks your arm for a powerful strike. Since you don’t have to retract your arm prior to striking, this technique can take the attacker by surprise. However, after smashing your phone against the attacker’s head, it might not function properly, which could make summoning aid difficult.

Doing The Can-Can
Unopened plastic bottles or aluminum cans make decent impact weapons, but they become much less effective when opened and are essentially useless when empty. While the bottom portion of a bottle could be used to strike, it would tend to crumple upon impact thus dissipating the force of the blow. The lid is more effective because it is harder and smaller in diameter, which makes it better able to penetrate into the target.

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Don’t underestimate the value of a hot cup of coffee! Pop the top when you’re in a pinch. Can you imagine having scalding liquid tossed onto your face?

Hot Liquid
Coffee, tea or any other hot liquid can be hurled onto the attacker’s face, creating a distraction that could allow you to seize the upper hand or escape. Obviously, the hotter the liquid, the more discomfort it will cause. However, even cold liquid would likely cause the attacker to blink and turn his head away. Since an attacker probably won’t expect to have his face splattered with liquid, this tactic gives the element of surprise, which is a cornerstone of effective self-defense.

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This laptop case makes an excellent shield against fists, as well as contact-distance weapons. Of course, it could also be used to strike your adversary.

Makeshift Shields
In certain situations, having a built-in shield can be a lifesaver. If an attacker is armed with a contact weapon such as a small bludgeon or a knife, an everyday briefcase, laptop computer case or carry-on bag can provide considerable protection. Of course such items are also effective against punches. Keep in mind that a shield doesn’t have to be used exclusively for defense (just ask the Spartans). The edge of your “shield” can be used to strike or the shield can be thrust into the attacker to drive him back, creating an avenue of escape.

Target Areas
It should come as no surprise that the preferred target area when using improvised weapons for self-defense is the head. Striking the head, particularly the eyes with any of the listed objects could quickly end the confrontation and potentially save your life. Even a glancing blow to one or both eyes can cause an attacker to cover his face with his hands, leaving him susceptible to follow up strikes. Striking the eyes also interferes with the attacker’s ability to see. If he can’t see you, he’s going to have a hard time continuing. However, don’t assume a single blow will be sufficient. Be prepared to strike as often as it takes to stop the threat.

Get Ready
There are many everyday objects that can be used for self-defense. Throughout the course of your day, try to recognize which objects would make effective weapons. Pick these objects up and handle them to determine how they could best be employed to thwart an attack. Familiarize yourself with laws pertaining to your right to self-defense and consider under what circumstances the use of an improvised weapon would be reasonable.

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