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Updated: May 18, 2023

Self defence is difficult.

If it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be so many many bad guys and violent crime around. They’d all be removed from the scene by everyday citizens doing their ‘easy’ thing when facing trouble.

The fact about self defence is that this difficulty level works in a continuum. In the early stages of this continuum self defence can be relatively easy. In the final stage, it’s a life-and-limb-affecting struggle, both for you and the aggressor - with all the complexities involved in that.

What does this mean? Firstly, staying observationally aware and avoiding or leaving the dangerous neighbourhood, unlit street, bad reputation venue, emerging potential conflict situation or rapidly aggressive and intoxicated social group or person is not that hard if you are focused enough and mentally aware about what is the right and sensible thing to do.

If you don’t, and you end up in a monkey dance or being approached by a predatory individual ‘interviewing’ you (assessing the risk and opportunity associated with as their next victim), you can still turn and walk (or even better; run) away.

If you still are present, the continuum has moved quite far towards a conflict, but you still retain verbal skills, keeping distance or a deescalation opportunity to avoid the growing threat.

If the continuum ends, and the conflict starts, that’s when most people consider self defence to start - although it actually commenced before you even left the house and stepped into the public arena that day. You’re now just simply at the final stage of the self defence continuum. You failed in all the self defence decisions and actions you made to the left of this timeline.

If you’re a serious self defence practitioner, you already know this. You also know that on the end of the continuum, no rules of the martial arts or fighting as a sports competition apply. You’ve already prepared for this.

One of the methods you know to deploy if you end up at the end of the self defence continuum is to use a defensive common object (an instrument used as a weapon), if legitimate to use in your local legal jurisdiction. It can be a key differentiator to your advantage in any conflict, where the carry of firearms for personal protection is not lawful or used.

One of the simpler tools are the tactical pen and tactical torch (flashlight) for evening and nighttime conditions. Note that (some types of) these may still be subject to legal restrictions where you live, although as tools they are of course universally used.

For example, kubutan type pens or those with DNA catchers are not legal in the UK and tactical torches clearly designed for ‘self defence’ purposes are restricted too. We are talking here about more ordinary writing and lighting instruments, although robust (tactical) in design and build.

An important note around the use of these tools is that they must not be carried for the explicit purpose of ‘self defence’ as it turns them in many jurisdictions into an ‘offensive weapon’, making them illegal to carry.

They should be carried as part of your daily life circumstances and needs - and you must be able to explain why you reasonably are carrying one. For example, carrying the same tactical pen that you use for work can go some way to legitimise its carry - and you’ve got plenty of people ready to testify that it’s ‘just the pen you use every day to write with’.

Assuming you’ve got a legitimate application and rationale for the tool, deploying and using it at the end of the self defence continuum require some thought and training.

Let’s look at deployment first. The tool is not of any great advantage if it can’t be easily reached and used.

Now, here you need to consider situations, angles and positions. A tactical torch carried in a specially-designed carry-case on your belt behind your back can readily be deployed if you’re standing, but what about if seated in a car or on a sofa, or indeed on the ground?

A tactical pen in your inside jacket pocket is ready to reach both standing and seated, but what about the obvious motion and message given in doing so? You’re now reaching for something concealed in a very noticeable way. Have the other person a rationale to hit you first? (What would you do?).

Carrying it inside a bag, purse or fanny pack is well-concealed, but try to retrieve it under stress or as the conflict arises and not only does the above point apply, but you’ll struggle to get it in time.

Where should it be applied from? There’s a few principles to guide you here and consider.

You need to reach it easily and quickly, preferably with your stronger (or normal usage) hand). Your clothing will now naturally come in play and give you options or restrictions.

This movement should not alter your body balance, desired gravity point or leave you vulnerable. It should be natural.

It should be reachable from a number of positions. Think standing, walking, running, seated, on your back, hunched over, pushed against a wall, being grabbed and so on... Consider the multitude of positions you can find yourself in.

Next you will need to practice the deployment. It must be quick, without restrictive barriers to the tool. This means it must be trained as a natural reaction and instinctive motion. It should be done with eyes closed (unlit conditions) and practiced under stress (when your mind is being overwhelmed and fine or mixed motor skills are hard to do).

Now you may start to find a natural position for you? The author’s preferred position for both a tactical pen and tactical torch is the front leg, on the upper quad-positioned handgun magazine pocket found on many tactical pants, a location designed for quick retrieval by hand. Many tactical bags with attachments, either on the main body or the strap (making retrieval accessible when wearing it on front or back) will also provide a rapid deployment opportunity. Quite simply, the carry could also be in an easy to reach pocket at waist height.

Many self defence schools run training on the application of tactical pens and torches. If this is available to you, it’s highly recommended. The deployment and use are skills that must be trained and the effect (think for example tactical torch, especially with a strobe effect) should be experienced to be appreciated. Train it. It’s an extremely valuable extension of your body as human weapon at the end of the force continuum.

After receiving some basic training in its use, talk to your self defence instructor and ask for permission to bring the tool with you to deploy and practice in weekly classes. You will now start to see how you would use it technically and tactically (a pen for example as a knife and a torch as a striking object blinding and facilitating your movement in a way a fight without a tool wouldn’t permit you).

Your striking will also change. You’ll find that striking before deploying disguises the action, but this will alter your combination sequence. Where you strike with the tool must also be trained. Using a defensive weapon is also an exaggerated response, it must be legally justified. Shouting as you use it ‘Get back, stay back, don’t hurt me’ accentuates your claim of self defence. We’ve covered the legal justification for the use of defensive weapons in another website article.

The use of tactical self defence tools must be thought through and practiced. It’s a change to what you normally do in your training. That said, fights aren’t fair and no rules apply - except the rule of law, which will present itself post-fight. You need every advantage possible at the end of the self defence continuum.

Are you ready to acquire the advantage?

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