A quick, nasty act of violent thuggery, or a full-scale assault by multiple assailants? A rowdy stranger picking a fight with you in a crowded bar, or a knife held against your stomach in a frightening street robbery? With so many dangerous people out there ready to inflict misery and suffering you should consider, as part of your overall self-defense strategy, carrying seemingly harmless items with you whenever possible as an extra step to protect yourself if the need arises.
In some circumstances you might be able to foresee an imminent attack based on types of rowdy or suspicious behavior, and react accordingly. However, terrifying and totally unforeseen assaults are far more common, and you need to be as prepared as you possibly can be if you are targeted. The best way to defend yourself is to be aware at all times and avoid potential trouble, but if you have no idea that an attack is coming there is little you can do. Self-defense training will help you think fast, make better decisions based on your environment, and possibly prevent serious injury, but it is wise to have another edge besides your trained ability to protect yourself. That is where carrying improvised weapons comes into play.
You should only use an improvised weapon if it is absolutely necessary.
Stop and think before loading your bag with that knife in case of trouble! It is important to remember that an item you use as a weapon to protect yourself when attacked could be used against you. If you are confronted by unarmed aggressors and pull a knife out of your bag, what happens if they take it from you? The situation becomes much worse for you. Aside form the physical dangers that arise when you carry a knife or gun with you, it is also your responsibility to know if it is illegal to do so. The bad guys and gals out there might not give much thought to the legalities of possessing weapons, but this does not mean you should do the same.
Improvised weapons are different because it is perfectly acceptable to carry them around, and when used correctly they be very effective to assist in your defense. You should be thinking about escaping to prevent injury, so use these objects as a surprise attack, or a distraction tactic to enable you to run away, calling for help as you go.
You must also consider the consequences of using improvised weapons like these. If you become the aggressor you must do so with the full knowledge that your actions may cause your situation to worsen if you cannot escape. Do not attack unless it is necessary, and do so only as a last resort. You can seriously damage somebody using these methods therefore try to gain an advantage and nothing more. You will be angry and frightened, but that does not mean you should lose control. Responsible self-protection to help you to escape is what you are aiming for.
Umbrella - A swinging or stabbing motion can do enough damage, or cause your attacker enough problems, to give you more time to get away. Walking sticks or canes are also very effective.
Spray - Most attackers will hesitate when facing a spray can that could blind them. This could give you vital seconds to find an escape route.
Newspaper - Carrying a rolled up newspaper or magazine might not be very fashionable, but when used to strike with they can cause your attacker major problems.
Belt - An easy-to-undo belt gives you a whip-like weapon with a dangerous heavy end. Tricky to use in a dire situation but still worth considering.
Coffee - Any drink you carry around in a cup could prove to make a big difference if you are attacked. The liquid rushing towards your attacker's face could give you enough time to run and seek help.
Bag - Swinging a bag like a club is one of the more obvious ideas, and, depending on the type of bag you carry, it could be a very useful weapon.
Glass Bottle - Carrying a glass bottle means you have a very dangerous object to swing or throw. A broken bottle becomes a vicious slicing weapon which might be an excellent deterrent.
Flashlight - A reasonably heavy flashlight will make quite an effective weapon.
Keys - A set of keys can make a good projectile. Toss them towards your assailants head and run. Another idea is to fight back using your keys in a scraping or stabbing motion for added effectiveness.
Coins - Not many people would think that loose change could help them, but a handful of coins thrown hard towards a violent aggressor might make all the difference by giving you more time to run.
You may scoff at some of the less obvious items on the list, but the time might come when an innocuous object will save your life. A few extra moments could be all that you need to make your escape, so doing as much as you can to prepare yourself for a violent confrontation is crucial. By "arming" yourself with one or more of these everyday items, and being aware of the best ways you can use them to defend yourself, you are taking a lateral step that fits nicely alongside a good self-defense course.