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Overcoming Violent Threats With Improvised Weapons



In the classic Quentin Tarantino movie "True Romance", the badly beaten Alabama Whitman fights back against Virgil, a mob assassin who had just explained that he enjoyed killing people to watch their expression change. With nothing but her sheer will to live and what she had within reach, Alabama utilized a corkscrew, a ceramic bust, shampoo, a toilet tank lid, hair spray and a lighter, and a shotgun both as a firearm and a club. Because of her determination, she survived a bloody encounter with her would-be killer.


Warning: Contains Extreme Violence

Alabama's determination to survive this encounter was part of her broader decision to live. Having suffered at the hands of horrible men her whole life, she decided that she would not take it anymore. She resorted to the most powerful weapon she had available, and resiled from her dire situation. In the context of the movie, she took control over her life, and chose to escape her abusive past in exchange for a better life. No matter your situation, your most potent weapons are your will to survive, and your reason to survive, as Alabama Whitman demonstrated.


We can learn a lot about resilience from Alabama in this scene. We can be the victims of violence at any time, and we won't choose our circumstances. We can prepare ahead of time by building our physical resilience, growing a resilient mindset, maintaining awareness, and bearing arms. Sometimes all those measures may not be enough, and we may need to rely on improvised weapons or dual use items.


Look around you. You are surrounded by items you could use as a potential weapon - a chair, a shoe string, a pen, a salt shaker, or a vehicle. If you needed to defend yourself, you could use practically anything you can grab as a weapon. Some things can become a weapon with a little imagination and some modifications. A hockey stick, copper wire, and broken glass could become a field expedient spear. When in condition yellow, you should evaluate your surroundings to look for threats, exits, resources, and improvised weapons. By preparing for potential threats ahead of time, you can be ready to respond or evade when confronted with a threat. You may even be able to defuse a threat before it becomes an attack.


In many cases, you will be prohibited by local or federal laws from carrying a weapon, so you may have to resort to improvised or dual use items for self defense. Below are some ideas for you to consider, though the list is by no means exhaustive.


Rolled up magazine - Often overlooked, you can substantially increase your hitting power by tightly rolling up a magazine, and and using the end to focus the energy of your strike. You can wrap the magazine with tape to help it retain its tightness. You can purchase a magazine at an airport bookstore, and not raise your profile through any security checkpoint.


Flashlight - A perfect dual use item, you can carry a small flashlight as part of your every day carry kit. You can fit a small flashlight into a purse or pocket, and carry it into areas where traditional weapons might be prohibited. As with the rolled up magazine, you can use the flashlight to focus the energy of your strike into a small area. The light function of the flashlight can help you identify a threat in the dark, and may help you avoid a confrontation altogether. Shining the flashlight at your potential attacker could deter him from attacking you, or could temporarily blind or disorient him.


Tie/belt/rope/bandanna - Any of these items provide you with options when under attack. You can create distance between you and your attacker by attaching a bottle, padlock, or other heavy object, and using it as a flail. You could temporarily barricade yourself by tying doors shut. You could use these items to provide medical care as a hasty tourniquet or a sling.


Crowbar/monkey wrench - Keep these items in your front seat, rather than in your trunk. If someone assaults you while you are in your vehicle, you can defend yourself effectively with either of them. You can easily explain why you have a monkey wrench in your vehicle, so it should not raise your profile with law enforcement.


Hornet spray - This will work in any situation where you would normally use pepper spray, but hornet spray is much more effective. Hornet spray has a greater range than pepper spray, and the chemicals are much more potent. Hornet spray can work effectively in home defense, or you could keep a can with you in your vehicle. Hornet spray may be more difficult to explain in your purse or carry-on bag, so think about your context before carrying it around.


If laws or practical considerations prevent you from carrying a weapon with you, consider the options above, and add them to your EDC kit. As with everything, practicing with improvised weapons will improve your proficiency when you have to use the items under stress. Practice using improvised weapons under increasingly stressful conditions. How quickly can you make an improvised flail with a bandanna and a roll of quarters? How effectively can you strike a rushing attacker with your flashlight? You may never know until you find yourself in that situation, but by practicing stress inoculation, you can better prepare yourself to respond quickly and effectively under stress.


The video below shows the best knife defense, but this technique applies to most violent encounters. Make sure to study the video closely, and re-watch it multiple times if you need to get the technique right.

As you can see, the best way to survive a violent attack is to avoid it altogether. Fight win/loss ratios only matter in boxing. In the real world, avoiding a violent encounter is better than winning one, and your first loss could be your last. The best way to never lose a fight is to never get into one.


We all hope to never have to defend our lives from an attacker. We would prefer to not live in fear of violence. However, being prepared for the worst is part of being resilient. When you have to defend yourself, you likely are not defending only yourself. Others count on you to provide for them and protect them, and you must be there for them. Like Alabama, focus on why you must survive. By taking a small amount of time every day to prepare yourself for a possible violent encounter, you greatly improve your chances of survival. Predators seek out unprepared victims, so by preparing yourself physically and mentally, and by having items available to you for self defense, you make yourself a harder target. When you are prepared, you live with less fear.