Self Defense and Non-Lethal Options

Whether you’re in a place where certain implements such as a firearm are not an option, or you just happen to not have one with you at that time, knowing how to defend yourself with what you have at hand is an invaluable skill. Gone are the days when a good pair of shoes to run in, or your fists, were your only options. Today there are a multitude of choices. Some might even argue too many choices. Here are some of the better options and why in particular they’re highly effective.

Your Body

Nothing will ever surpass your ability to utilize your body as needed. It is the first and last stop when it comes to all things defensive and even non-lethal. Sound physical fitness and clarity of mind will carry you through far more situations than any tool. With that in mind, there are a few paths to pursue that might be more effective than others. Most martial arts are fantastic at combining strength, cardiovascular fitness, endurance, and flexibility. Arts such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, Judo, and the rarely discussed but highly effective Lethwei all offer different ways to train your body and mind. If you had to choose one avenue of approach in terms of fitness, cardiovascular endurance as unappealing as it is will be the kings of defense. In a fight, the person who can last the longest typically will come out on top, sometimes literally. The next part is the mental aspect of fitness. Having a sharp mind with strong abstract reasoning skills and adaptability to adverse conditions are powerful tools to circumvent or avoid a fight in the first place. Activities that require you to perform on the fly in front of others are great ways to test these skills. Stand-up comedy, public speaking, creative writing, and orienteering are all good examples of ways to press your mind and build healthy, useful adaptability.


Many of these you’re already familiar with such as Tasers, Pepper Spray, and striking tools like a flashlight. These tools are often referred to as, “less-than-lethal” options because they can be lethal in certain circumstances. Therefore, the training to use non-lethals appropriately is of dire importance. Just deploying a Taser might not stop the threat or, worse, it can have, unforeseen adverse effects. With a Taser, one of the biggest limitations of using a system like the venerable Pulse is that the probes it fires must both contact the intended target and create a circuit between them to be effective. Clothing, wind, movement and even body fat can have negative effects on the performance of a Taser. Also, the Pulse only offers a single shot before needing to be reloaded. On the plus side it does cycle for 30 seconds, buying you much needed time to flee. Pepper Spray has been a common go-to non-lethal option for years with mixed results. The old idiom, “if pepper spray is your option you’re going to get sprayed too” is very true. Thanks to air currents, when pepper spray is deployed it is likely to also effect the individual deploying it. Much like the Taser, it’s also a single use item. Unlike the Taser, you cannot reload pepper spray. Lastly, we come to striking tools such as a spring baton, kubaton or flashlight. These are all striking tools that require training beyond even a Taser or pepper spray to employ and utilize effectively. Just having a kubaton on your key ring won’t save you if you don’t know how to use it. These tools also require a physical fitness factor to be considered. Striking tools require physical strength and coordination to be effective. Probably the best non-lethal tool though is also quite innocuous: a flashlight. Humans and animals alike are often startled by bright lights, sometimes to the point of dissuasion. With that in mind, even a simple penlight with modern batteries and lenses can put out a surprisingly effective beam of light. Especially when an assailant’s eyes are already adapted to a dark environment a blast from a very bright flashlight can make them think twice. Plus, they can be taken just about anywhere. As an example, the author has carried them into airports, courthouses and even foreign countries where tools of virtually any kind for defense were strictly forbidden. As well, at home a trusty Maglite in the dresser can work as well, even if the batteries are dead and no light can be shown, they can strike a mighty blow too.

Impromptu Tools

Lastly, we arrive at probably the most overlooked yet interesting set of options. Those options are anything and everything around you. Impromptu tools will draw heavily on your abstract decision-making abilities along with previous training wielding them and physical skills in general. The biggest advantage here is you don’t necessarily need to have the tools with you at all times and they can often be carried into places that wouldn’t allow anything else in this article. The biggest downside is you never really know what you may have available, and you might have nothing available. Impromptu tool utilization is as much a skill as it is a set of tools. A few good examples are pens, (with a lot of good training) screwdrivers, (particularly phillips heads) and scissors. Used in a stabbing motion all of these with good placement can be highly effective. Your work environment also dictates what you might have access to, look around your space and start thinking abstractly about what you could employ. Don’t try and grab the nearest thing to you in a panic as that often causes more problems than it solves. Even a slight bit of advance planning can make a potentially stressful situation far less so.

In the end, your greatest tool is your mind, then the body. One cannot exist in a vacuum without the other so preparing both for a potentially violent encounter with a plan of either avoidance or confrontation based on your needs and environment is key. Quoting the famous Arctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, “Superhuman effort isn’t worth a damn unless it achieves results.” Plan to achieve your desired result. Steel your mind and body and you will come to that moment more ready than you imagined you even could.

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