Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Popular Self-Defense Misconception

By Matthew Schafer

Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved

In teaching self-defense professionally, a lot of people talk to me about various self-defense teachings and try to get my take on them. One that is commonly brought up is whether it is a good idea to use your keys as weapons. This little self-defense technique has penetrated our culture so thoroughly that nearly everyone I talk to has heard of it. Often women tell me that when they walk to their cars they'll put their keys through their fingers just in case someone tried to mug them, and usually when they tell me this I get the feeling that they're looking for some type of "at-a-boy" from me. This issue of using keys as weapons is brought up so much that it is not uncommon for me to talk about it every week.

While punching someone with a fist full of keys is a popular teaching it is not one I advise. Show me someone who thinks that it is a good idea and I'll show you someone who's never punched something hard with keys in their fist. There are 5 reasons why this is not a good idea and they are as follows.

1.) Its just wasted effort. If you are close enough to an attacker to punch them with keys then you're close enough to do something more effective. If you jam keys into someone it will hurt but if it doesn't damage something necessary to the functioning of the body it probably won't stop them. On the other hand, if you tear open their eyes, rupture their eardrum, crush their throat, pinch the nerves in their spinal cord, tear their knee, etc., then you've disrupted the functioning of the body and your attacker is momentarily disabled.

2.) You’re punching someone. Everyone focuses on the part about the keys but they always seem to forget the part where they have to punch their attacker. Unless you're properly trained and have conditioned your body to not only throw a punch but drive your fist through a target then you're probably going to break your hand or wrist. Most of the people who want to use their keys as weapons are "regular people", not trained martial artists and don’t have the ability to punch someone without injuring themselves. They may punch someone with keys and the attacker might yell "Oww" and even bleed a little but they may be on the ground screaming in pain because they've just torn the ligaments in their wrist. Unless you've conditioned your body to punch something hard you should forget about all punching attacks.

3.) The keys are not going to sink into your attacker's body like razor sharp knives. People seem to think that their keys will stab into their attacker but in reality they are going to jam back into your hand, slide around, and might even twist. If the keys jam back into your hand they could cause your wrist to weaken and bend resulting in a sprained wrist. If on impact the keys slide up by your knuckles then now you're punching your keys. Those thin pieces of metal pressing in between your knuckles could hit nerves that cause your hand to weaken and now you'll most likely break your hand or wrist. Finally, if on impact the keys twist then they could rip the skin of your fingers, damage your nerves, or dislocate/break your fingers.

Try this: wrap an old coat around a punching bag and then lightly punch into it with keys in between your fingers. Do that a couple of times and I don’t' think that you'll want to use that technique against an attacker.

4.) You could damage or drop your keys and be unable to escape into your car or house.

5.) If you do use your keys to defend yourself then guess what, all those keys (car key, house key, work key, etc.) are now evidence and are going to sit in an evidence locker for months or even years. If you do decide to use your keys as weapons then you'd better make copies!

Instead of using your keys why not use pepper spray? I carry pepper spray almost everywhere I go, it is reliable (providing you know how to use it), cheap, can be used at a safe distance, can be used on multiple attackers, and is non-lethal. If you punch someone in the face with your keys you could maim, disfigure, or blind them and if you hit them in the throat you could possibly kill them, and either could cause you to wind up in court. Using keys is messy, unreliable, dangerous to you, and legally I wouldn't ever advise it. If you hit someone with a fist full of keys then a case could be made that you intended to kill the other person but with pepper spray that argument can't be made.

Improvised weapons are great but not everything should be used as a weapon. So please, don’t use your keys. Instead spend a few bucks and buy some pepper spray.

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