05 January 2009

Improvised Weapons - Grips and Holds

Most Martial Artists and Self Defence type people acknowledge that Improvised Weapons are a great, handy and convenient methodology of Self Protection and Self Defence.

Improvised weapons are everywhere and easily accessible. They are especially relevant in countries with stringent weapons laws. They are also an excellent equaliser.

Many attacks today are from armed assailants and the use of Improvised Weapons can level the playing field. Improvised Weapons may also make the difference between walking away unscathed or getting seriously injured or worse.

Grips and Holds

One area which hasn't been covered all that much on the subject is how to hold or grip various items and use them efficiently as a weapon. The use of an every day item as a Weapon is indeed Improvised.

There are an endless amount of items that can be picked up with the hands and used in what can be a sudden event that requires you to defend yourself, a friend or loved one. The nature of every day items and their various shapes and sizes requires improvisation when it comes to applying them as a weapon of self defence.

Three Primary Movements

One thing I would firstly like to mention is the way a weapon is used. There are three main movements in which to strike with an Improvised Weapon:

You can swing a weapon much like a bat or stick,
You can thrust a weapon like a knife or
You can stab much like a knife wielding maniac but with a blunt instrument.

This movement is using a hammer fist type of strike.

It is really up to the individual and their preferences as to how any Improvised Weapon is used.

Limit Conventional Thrusting

The only method I would advice against is the traditional thrusting movement as the weak point is the wrist and this can easily bend or give way. This may simply end up as a week strike or it may end up causing an injury to the wrist that prevents the continuing function of the joint with the Attack continuing unabated.

Thrusting in the manner as shown below can result in the giving away of the wrist joint.

I personally prefer hammer fist type movements that tend to be quite linear in nature rather than circular type movements as will be seen in the images below.

One or Two Hands?

One other thing to take into consideration is if the item is best used with one hand or two. Some Improvised Weapons can be used with either method. It is really up to the individual. It is hoped that at least the reader will pick up some every day items and handle them with the perspective of how they can be used as an Improvised Weapon and experiment with them.


Here are some examples of items and some grips, holds and applications:

A can of drink can be used in the grip shown below. From here it can be thrusted straight out. The can may be full, empty or even half full. It doesn't matter if fluid flies out the other end. It may help by going into the attackers eyes.

A pair of pliars may also be used in the grip shown below. The same linear thrusting movement as above can be used here. The grip is different though the movement is the same. Straight out and back.

Plastic drinking bottle. The grip here harnesses the shape of the bottle. Grip the narrower part of the neck so as to prevent the hand sliding down the bottle as it hits the target. Once again, it doesn't really matter how much fluid is in the bottle. It is better with at least a third of the bottle containing fluid as it adds more weight to the strike.

A mobile phone can be used as per the previous items. Point to mention here is that the thumb covers the rear so as to prevent the hand sliding over the phone as it hits the target.

A small torch or flashlight can be used as above. The main point with the torch here is that the hand grips the narrower part of the object so the larger head of the item prevents the hand sliding forward as it hits the target. For suitable torches such as Surefire's, the thumb can still operate the on/off function on the butt of the torch.

Keys and bottle opener. The bottle opener can be used in two ways.

One is in a swinging motion where the bottle opener is whipped around in a slashing motion where the keys are held tightly in the hand.

The other is where the keys and bottle opener are held tightly in the hand where the end of the bottle opener can be used in a hammer fist/thrusting movement.

A normal bottle opener can be used much like the small torch or flashlight. Again, note the thumb covering the rear to prevent the hand from sliding up the item as the target is struck.

It can be used opened as shown below. From here it can be used hammer fist style or in a jabbing/punching motion using the corkscrew. It is best not to use the bottle opener end on this model as the hinge it operates on is not very secure so it may close shut as it strikes a target causing injury to the operator.

A DVD case can be used with one hand thrusting straight out. This strike is actually surprising in its impact. This is a rather long range attacking move.

Or with two hands for establishing more control and projecting more power.

An Inbox may also be used to strike with the the more solid edge or as a shield. It is likely to break after one or two blows but is better than nothing. Corners will likely hurt an attacker quite a bit and be a bit stronger than an edge.

A collapsible clothesline can make a great longer range weapon. They are also quite light. This would be great for keeping people away and has some potential for striking using a straight out and back motion using both arms. It is gripped at the crossover point on the first step down from the top. The fingers are below the joint and the thumb is above the joint. If the hinges break, the clothesline will collapse down. Using the grip as described, the fingers and thumb will not be crushed or squeezed.

An office chair can be used as both a shield and to strike with. Blocking followed immediately by a thrusting movement is just one option.

A flexible item such as a bath towel can be used by pulling the hands apart. This item can be used to block and push an attacker. The tort section between the hands is quite rigid. The towel can also be wrapped around limbs immobilising and controlling them which is quite handy if your system or style practises these techniques.

A broom can be used in either an over hand or underhand grip depending on personal preferences. Either between the hands or the end can be used to block. The fluffy end is for long range striking.

Also, between the hands can be used for doing a push/thrust type of strike.

An umbrella is possibly the best Improvised Weapon of all. It is stiff and strong, long range and can be carried pretty much anywhere on the planet. It can be held in either grip much like the broom.

The umbrella shown above is known as the Unbreakable Umbrella that I recently purchased and I absolutely love it. It is light, well made, strong and has a metal tip which would be handy in a real self defence situation. I prefer umbrellas without the hook on the end but it is again, personal preference. You can check more of the umbrella (including video) out here.


For any everyday item it comes down to personal choice and preferences with a sprinkling of imagination and improvisation.

This list is by no means exhaustive and there are far too many possibilities to mention. I hope that this post simply highlights some options available and to think in a little more detail about how to actually hold and wield any Improvised Weapon you may need in the event that an attacker chooses you.

Image by ZenFilms

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  1. Weird coincidence, I was just writing up my lesson on improvised lessons this past weekend. This post is very helpful, thanks. If you don't mind, I'd like to use some of your pictures for illustrative purposes. I'll give you full credit and a link to your blog.

    When I teach improvised weapons, I teach that there are six (possibly seven) ways to use any object that you come across. My "attention getting step" for my students is: You walk into your house/apartment/room and find someone in the process of burglarizing it. Before you can leave, they turn on you with a knife, you reach out and grab the first "equalizer" you can find, how do you use it?

    For offenisve use, I divide the weapons into four categories: Smash, Stab, Strike and Slash. The weapons fall into these categories based on whether they are narrow or wide or if they are long or short. A narrow, long weapon is used to slash at an opponent. A narrow short weapon is used to stab an opponet. A wide, long weapon is used to strike and a narrow, short weapon is used to smash.

    I also provide a hierarchy of use for those weapons that can be used for multiple types of attack suggesting that priority should be:

    1. Stab
    2. Slash
    3. Strike
    4. Smash

    The idea being that you want to use any edge you have to stab or slash because it will cause more damage. Stabbing is more effective than slashing because it typically does more internal damage ("On Killing" discusses this in greater detail as well as why people generally do not like to stab vs. slash). Striking is higher in priority than smashing because you can get more leverage from the swing and because the range can provide you more reactive distance from your opponet.

    Defensively, I recommend using objects either as Shields or as Surprises. Shields is pretty self-explanatory, you pick something up that is large enough (or deeep enough) to stop a weapon from being employed against you. Surprises are smaller objects (typically) that can be thrown into an opponent's face to temporarily blind or startle them.

    My last catefory is Structure which references the ability to use the environment around you as a weapon by "smashing" your opponent into it. Things like bathroom sinks, resteraunt counter tops, curbs, etc.

    I also discuss ways to choose between weapons if you have enough time for that (you're being chased and you get into the kitchen a few seconds before you opponent). Things like "heft," "focus," and "durability."

    I've seen towels and ropes recommended as weapons much as you do, but I've never studied a system that uses anything like that, so I have no reference for using it, let alone instructing it. I've trained with nunchucks, of course, but in most cases, they are just "strike" type weapons. You can entagle folks with them as well, but that's never really be a training area for me.

    BTW, the 7 S concept is built upon the 4 S method taught by the Modern Combatives Group. I've never trained with them, so while I know they use the same 4 offensive labels that I use here, I don't know anything more than that. I didn't intend for this to be a "six minutes abs is better than 7 minutes abs" sort of thing. I just liked the brief article they had about it and I thought about how I would teach the same concept.

    Also, I would recommend Marc "Animal" MacYoung's book on the same topic. Completely different categories and a lot more emphasis on the actual employment techniques.

  2. Some great insights there BK Price.

    Yeah you can use the images on this page if you give credit as you've said as long as it is free material you are producing. If you will be charging for your material please use the contact form in the Header or Email Us button in the footer to discuss this.

    If it is free, and the material you are putting together is electronic, use the 'About' page for the link, if it is hard copy, use the new domain address of simply www.lowtechcombat.com and that is fine with me.

    You've provided a good overview above on the principles of using Improvised Weapons. For sure, stabbing is better than slashing. It is the quickest method of stopping an attack except for one thing. A knockout. A knockout is INSTANT where as a stab takes time to bleed in most cases. Even a bullet through the torso may not stop an attacker instantly thanks to adrenaline. A knockout is instant.

    I like your 'surprises' as well. A good method of using this is by throwing a handful of loose change/coins at an attackers face. This can be done from a good distance away. It may facilitate escaping where otherwise it may not be possible.

    The flexible weapon idea, I learnt from my instructor Ray Floro. Copy and paste this link following to watch a video of him demonstrating it http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=tMUAbaj6mhM

    I like all of "Animal's" stuff that I have seen and read. Very useful material. Though some of it is a bit repetitive.

    All up, very thoughtful comment. Cheers.

  3. Hi there

    Some good information here, and I hope you don't mind me commenting.

    I'm a part of the Modern Combatives Group, that was mentioned above. The reason the syllabus was condensed down to the 4 S method was to make ease of transition between empty hand and XPD (expedient) weapons. We were running quite a few courses at one time with people asking HOW to use this improvised weapon and that improvised weapon, etc.

    Our reply was that basically you can only do a finite number of things with any XPD tool - the 4 S. With one or two exceptions, of course. So we condensed the technique methodology down into a more useable training system for seminar attendees.

    Obviously you can use as many methods as you like, but for ease of instruction and application under stress you will probably - stab, smash, slash, strike, with pen/screwdriver/phone/CD case, etc, etc, etc.

    We always promote that the tool is secondary, and its how aggressively that you apply the tool that counts.

    Thanks for your time

    David MCG

  4. Hi Dave. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Great point you make right at the end there where you say "that the tool is secondary, and its how aggressively that you apply the tool that counts". So true. Its mindset and its commitment.

  5. Hi Adam.

    No problem mate. Anytime.




  6. I am writing a film, and I was wondering what improvised street weapons experts like you would like to see in a film. Character is on the run, well trained, but has no weapons and must fight off a few other well trained operators. Thank you

  7. Hi Anon. Interesting scenario.

    For that particular scenario the character would want distance. He has a few well trained operators after him. One against many is Hollywood. So I would say pick up and throw rocks, really hard. Only have to be about an inch across and kind of round. They will hurt if they hit the face or body, especially bony areas. That should slow the purps down and enable his escape.

    If some convenient larger items were around, throw those too. The use of Low Tech projectile weapons is great to keep distance. This should aid the 'hero' to get away.

    Hope that helps. Let me know how it all goes! Sounds interesting.

  8. would wrapping a flexible material(like a belt) around your hand for punching be considered a grip? because if it is, i would suggest you put that in there.


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