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. 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. There are some strikes and blocks you can use with a baton when the attacker is close to you and those are described later.
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 method of striking is important. First of all, you need to grip the baton with your thumb wrapped around the handle rather than resting along it. Your grip should be secure but not tight because speed requires a degree of relaxation, especially in your wrist, elbow and shoulder. There are four basic types of strike available to you with an impact weapon such as a police baton or expanding baton. A slashing strike is one that intersects and then moves across the target to the other side. These are most often horizontal or downward angled strikes that, for instance, start on your left side and end on your right side. Swinging a baseball bat would be an example of a slashing strike. These strikes tend to be the most powerful type of strike and they also have the best flow of any strike. It is easier to flow from one strike to the next with these strikes because you are moving with the momentum of the weapon. Keeping the baton in motion keeps its energy and power flowing and simply steering it where you want it to go next is easier than stopping and starting over again. A horizontal slash with the tip of your baton angled up slightly is very effective at striking and deflecting downward attacks.
The second type of strike is the jab. This strike whips forward, impacts the target and then retracts back to its original position again. Although not as powerful as a slashing strike, the jab does have a couple of advantages: it is very accurate and can effectively strike small target areas. It is also effective in confined spaces.
The downward circular strike is really just a particular kind of slashing strike. It is a vertically oriented circle between you and the target that returns to its original position upon completion. This strike is very quick and powerful because it has the assistance of gravity. In the typical ready stance, with your baton held vertically in front of you, you are already positioned to execute the strike. This strike also moves outward as it makes a circle, especially if you chamber the baton by angling the tip backward over your shoulder prior to your strike. Thus, you can use it to strike down onto the frontal face of an attacker (or weapon) at about a 45-degree angle of impact. The downward circular strike can be done to any degree within a 180-degree plane in front of you. It is quite effective at stopping incoming horizontal attacks as long as you target the face of the incoming weapon and strike it away from you rather than trying to strike it downward.
The last type of strike is the thrust. To be effective with a baton, the thrust must follow a similar line as the uppercut punch or hook punch from the side. A thrust straightforward just doesn’t have any real power. The thrust is one technique that can be used at relatively close range if necessary. If done to the solar plexus of an attacker, it can be a very potent strike. One thing to be aware of with expanding batons is that your weapon is collapsible and a powerful thrusting strike may collapse it. Even if your weapon does collapse, there is a good chance your strike will stop the attacker at least long enough for you to reopen the baton.
In addition to using strikes to stop an incoming attack, a baton can also block or parry. To block with a baton, you essentially move it between you and the incoming attack, shielding yourself. Push into the block with your whole body and keep your baton close to you, don’t try to just extend your arm out to meet the attack. Use your free behind your baton to help support your block against the impact. Usually, I keep my free hand and forearm a couple of inches behind the baton and perpendicular to the baton when I am blocking. It is important to have good skeletal alignment so that the force of impact on your block travels in a straight line down the forearm of the hand holding your baton and into your body. A block can be quick and it requires very little motion to pivot your baton into position. It can be done inside the effective range of your strikes and it will stop an incoming blow. However, it will not do anything to disrupt your attacker since the block is a purely defensive maneuver that will not take the initiative away from your opponent. It requires more effort to flow from block to strike to block than it does to flow between strikes. For such reasons the block is not one of my favorite techniques, especially if I can maintain a good reaction distance between my attacker and myself. However, there are times when a block is the only thing that will work.
The subject of power is very important. Although difficult to describe on paper, it is important that you put your entire body mechanics behind a strike. This makes your strike much more powerful than if you just use the muscles in your arm and shoulder. Upon impact with a baton, both of your feet should be firmly on the because your legs on the ground provide the foundation of your power. Again, it is somewhat similar to swinging a baseball bat.
Positioning and footwork is probably the second most important factor when using a baton in combat. It is rare that you want to move straightforward or backward. Ideally, when you step forward you want to angle to the outside of your attacker as if you were stepping along the lines of the letter “V” (starting at the bottom where the two lines meet and moving out towards the top of the “V” as you step). If your opponent attacks with a horizontal slash to your left side and you step forward angling to the right you have accomplished several things: 1) you have not significantly changed the distance between you and your attacker, 2) you have given yourself a little more reaction time and a great angle of attack on the hand holding incoming weapon and 3) you have moved inside of the opponents ideal striking range and power, but have kept him at your ideal striking range. When you strike at your opponent, move and strike to the outside of his weapon hand as this will make it more difficult for him to strike back at you in return and make it easier for you to defend against his return strikes. When you move backward, you should angle back and out, along the lines of an upside down “V” as well. If an opponent is rushing, this allows you to slip to the side, block his strike if necessary, and then be in a position to hit him as he goes by.
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. All models from Staff Patrol are of high quality and range in price so you can pick the one that fits your needs.
Hopefully this article has given you some insight into the use of an impact weapon for self-defense. 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, practice and always be prepared.
A variety of expandable batons can be found on our site.