Friday, November 21, 2014

Walk Softly, Carry A Big Stick

“Speak softly and carry a big stick.” This was President Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, foreign policy. Roosevelt attributed the term as "a West African proverb".

I have a love for sticks. As a young Boy Scout I would collect walking sticks and staves while camping all over, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. As a Scout leader I continued my collection much to the dismay of my wife. I finally settled on a 5 foot Hickory staff from Colorado. I’ve taken that stick on many camp outs and hikes.

I like the idea of a stick as a weapon. Many years ago I gave my wife a traditional “night stick”that she keeps under her mattress to this day. In the Victorian era, police in London carried truncheons about one-foot long called billy clubs. Sticks have been a weapon used by police the world over.

Selecting your stick is more difficult than you think. There are many varieties from a typical night stick to a 32” telescopic steel baton.

There are a lot of choices out there when you are talking about items for self-defense. A good choice is an impact weapon such as an expandable tactical baton. Most impact weapons work pretty much the same. Like any weapon it has its strengths and its weaknesses. Unlike some weapons, such as a stun gun, the baton does require skill to use effectively.

An important concept you need to know about any expandable or retractable baton is reaction time and distance. As an impact weapon, the baton requires time to gain momentum in order to be effective. That time translates into some distance that you must maintain between you and your attacker, for the baton to be effective. Ideally, you want to remain about 1-2 feet outside of the range where you can just strike the opponent. This distance not only enables you to slip forward and strike with power, it allows you the reaction time you need to step back and make a defensive move with your baton when your attacker strikes.
As you might imagine, this distance requirement is both an advantage and a disadvantage. The advantage really comes from the length of the baton and you may very well be able to stay outside the effective striking range of your attacker and yet still be able to strike back at him. This is especially true if you target the weapon, hands, or arms of your attacker. A good strategy is to target whatever part of your attacker happens to be closest to you rather than trying to get in a strike to his body or head. This gives you the advantage in both reach and reaction time. If your attacker can move inside of your optimum striking range or reaction distance, you are at a serious disadvantage.
The second thing you need to consider is what area of the opponent you target with your baton. A big advantage impact weapons have over other types of close combat weapon is that you can effectively strike at the attacker’s weapon, not just the attacker. This allows you to stop the weapon of an opponent, which can be very valuable in keeping you safe. It is quite possible to disarm an attacker with a good strike around his grip, hand or wrist. Besides the attacker’s weapon, you typically want to target bony areas when striking with an impact weapon. These include the wrist, elbow, knee, ribs, collarbone and head. A strike to muscle with a baton will cause pain and possibly some muscle cramping, but it won’t be nearly as debilitating as a strike to bone. One solid strike to an attacker’s knee will probably end the encounter completely. That is another advantage of the baton – it has the ability to disable an attacker without having to kill him to do it. This can be a legal bonus. The disadvantage is that bony targets may be difficult to strike in the heat of combat. Anywhere you strike with an expanding baton will do damage, but bone is definitely better. Any strike to the head, neck or spine may legally be considered probable lethal force.
The legality of carrying an impact weapon such as the expandable baton may differ. In every state, it is illegal to carry such a weapon concealed without a permit. In some states, it is illegal to carry one at all.. In quite a few states, a baton is legal to carry, as long as it is not concealed. So check with your local regulations and the laws of any state where you will be traveling before deciding to pick a baton for self-defense. If you do choose to carry a baton, buy a good quality one because it will hold up when needed.
Such weapons have both advantages and disadvantages, but the advantages usually win. Regardless of what weapon you choose to carry, whether it is pepper spray or a stun gun or anything in between, remember that it is only a tool and the best advantage you will ever have comes not from your weapon, but from your brain and your attitude. Those are the things that will determine how useful your weapon can be. Most importantly, get trained, practice and always be prepared. Remember to always be legal and know the laws where you are for being armed with anything including a gun.
I urge you to get yourself a friend and a couple of sticks and have some fun. You can make inexpensive trainers by sliding pipe insulation over the stick or PVC pipe and wrapping it in a few spots with tape.
Semper Paratus