When we examine the use of an impact weapon to defend ourselves we find a lot of complicated ways to approach something that should be fairly simple. I know I spent quite a few years doing a lot of things that were little more than a fancy choreographed dance routine with an impact weapon as an accessory. Through trial and error my training partners and I were able to boil impact weapon work down to a few essentials.
Impact weapon work is similar to any other weapon we might use to defend our life and limb. Some principles are universal such as; 1) Choose the right tool for the job. 2) If you aren't regularly practicing with the tool don't expect skill to magically materialize when you need it. 3) Hit what's available until something better to hit becomes available.
Coach Matt Thornton, president of the Straight Blast Gym, International streamlined impact weapon work within the SBG in the early 2000's using the acronym SMAC to best summarize our approach. Through the process of constant pressure testing we had discovered a few truths regarding impact weapon work. We found a target hierarchy of; 1) weapon bearing arm, 2) lead leg, 3) the head to be the best way to deal with an armed opponent. Particularly if our opponent was armed with an impact weapon, aka we were stick fighting, the best way to deal with them was to beat on their weapon bearing arm to take away their ability to hit us, attack their lead leg to reduce their mobility, and finally attack their head to knock them out. We found it worked best if we used this hierarchy within our stick fighting strategy.
(It was also through this impact weapon testing process in the 1990's that I discovered the Helmet, now called the Default Response by master trainer Craig Douglas. We learned a lot of valuable lessons beating on each other with sticks… mostly that it hurts. A lot.)
When it comes to using an impact weapon to defend ourselves outside the arena of a consensual stick fight, there are a few things we need to understand. (Beyond the legal aspect. For that you'll need to speak with an attorney that understands the law and self defense). I'm a believer in attacking the limbs with impact weapons. A shot from a sap across the wrist or top of the forearm will make it difficult for your attacker to hold onto you. The same can be said for shots to major muscle groups. A baseball bat or table leg to the outside of your attacker's upper arm or thigh will most likely cause them to alter their immediate plans, and a second and third shot will create some mobility issues for them.
Regardless of the size of the weapon I try to keep my hand within the four corners of my upper body meaning I don't lift my hands above my shoulders or let them drop below my hips. If I'm swinging an impact weapon in an X pattern I won't let my weapon bearing arm go outside of the four corners of my upper body. Power is generated by rotation of my upper body, weight shift of my lower body, and the weight of the tool I'm using. This really becomes important when using the shorter impact weapons such as an extendable baton, a sap, or a short improvised impact weapon. With longer impact weapons that require two hands we can loosen this rule a bit however, it's never a good idea to develop bad habits.
In the next post we'll get into some specific concepts and principles as well as some training ideas we can use to develop our impact weapon skills.