One of the things I always tell my students is that hand-to-hand self defense options require a high level of physical fitness.
The race may not be won by the swift, nor the fight by the strong, but that is the way to bet.
The best way to think of a hand-to-hand conflict where weapons are not present is that it is an energy exchange. The aggressor is trying to force the victim to submit by dumping kinetic energy in to his target. He does this by punching and kicking the victim. The victim is trying to either resist the attack by throwing their own punches and kicks, or by running away.
The person who is larger and stronger has the decided advantage, not only because their attacks will have more kinetic energy but also because their bodies will have more mass to absorb the blows of their opponent.
Learning a martial art is useful, but only up to a point.
All practical martial arts will provide a framework to make your blows more efficient, as well as encourage vigorous work outs to improve fitness levels. They are operating systems for self defense, as it were, and I encouraged all of my students that were capable to take up the martial arts of their choice. Even so, age or injury and the size of an opponent will nullify even the best of these systems. Physics are physics, and we all have to live within the rules.
And so we come to the subject of this essay: less-lethal weapons.
Batons and defensive sprays such as tear gas or pepper spray are portrayed in moves and on TV as some sort of fight ending wonder weapons. Spray a little irritating liquid in the face of your attacker, or strike them with your baton, and down they go in a quivering heap!
Below is a very short video of part of an actual riot that took place in Portland on June 30, 2018.
(I didn’t edit this video, just using it for illustrative purposes.)
The person with the baton attacked an unarmed opponent, but that person was significantly larger and in better condition. Combine that with a disregard for getting bruised and the outcome was never really in doubt. One could say that the baton armed aggressor chose….poorly.
Batons concentrate the force of a blow, they don’t multiply force. If one can only muster the energy of a landing butterfly for a punch, then it doesn’t matter if the butterfly is made of steel.
The same goes for defensive sprays.
They are extremely useful in that they will make it more difficult for an attacker to carry out their attacks, but there is no guarantee that it will make them stop. They cause pain, makes it more difficult to breath, and fogs the vision if spray gets in the eyes. And that is pretty much it. If the person struck by defensive spray decides to keep on fighting, there is no reason why they can’t continue to do so.
I have always said that defensive sprays are best used to help running away. If an attacker is sprayed with mace or pepper spray before the victim takes off, then the ability for the aggressor to chase after them is very curtailed. If you can’t run due to advanced age, infirmity, or deteriorated physical condition then it isn’t going to do much more than make the aggressor very, very angry.
Anyone who is interested in hand-to-hand self defense, and who has a clear head, will tell you that everything I wrote above is incredibly obvious. I went on about it to set the stage for this essay at Bearing Arms. The essay tells the tale of jewelry store robbers armed with hammers and pepper spray, but the store owner was armed with a handgun.
Go ahead and click that link above. And, if it is legal for you to carry spray and baton for your own defense, make note of your ability to escape or fight before you load up.