People today need to protect themselves just as did ancient Okinawan farmers. Just as the farmers used things in their surroundings as weapons, streetwise people of today adapt common objects to form weapons. Many street weapons are ineffective and may actually serve only to make the opponent angry enough to kill you. Any street weapon must be easy to carry, legal to carry, easily accessible, easy to use, and effective at repelling an attack.
Professor Frank Matsuyama created the first yawara stick and developed techniques for its use. Born in Miyakonojo, Japan in 1886, Matsuyama was of slight stature is a result of a crippling back injury he received when a horse reared and fell on him when he was eight years old, leaving him a helpless invalid. After years of training in the martial art, yawara-jitsu with his father, Matsuyama was able to recover fully. In 1903, he immigrated to the West Coast of the United States, where he worked odd jobs and continued to train in yawara-jitsu. Five years later, he went to work as personal servant to Jack London, the famed actor. During these years, Matsuyama wanted to teach yawara-jitsu, but he feared reprisals by the Japanese government against his relatives that were still living in Japan. In 1927, as the last surviving member of his family, Matsuyama began teaching yawara-jitsu to some friends. As his expertise became known, he began teaching his art to police officers. In 1931, Matsuyama became a full-time yawara-jitsu instructor for the Berkeley, California, Police Department. Since yawara-jitsu stressed locks and come-a-long holds, it was well suited for police work.
Matsuyama was a strong opponent of the blackjack and the traditional nightstick, so, in 1947, he developed a special weapon, called the yawara, for police officers to carry for protection. Since yawara is easily concealed, it was popular with plain clothes officers. Matsuyama developed the yawara from tanto-jitsu, the knife fighting techniques contained within yawara-jitsu. The tanto knife's wooden sheath was prone to swelling when moistened by rain, humidity, or perspiration, sometimes making it impossible to draw the knife. When this occurred, the user had to use the sheath as a weapon, so techniques were developed using the sheathed knife. Also, warriors needed a weapon to use in situations that did not warrant the use of more deadly weapons, such as the sword.
The yawara is basically a short, tubular stick of wood. Some are made from metal or plastic with points or a small metal balls at the ends. It is held in the closed fist so the ends protrude from each side of the fist. It supports the fist and makes it more solid, protecting it from injury during punches, similar to holding a roll of coins. The protruding ends of the yawara may be used to jab or against pressure points. The yawara may be held across the palm to protect it in a knife attack. It has proven to be an effective self-defense weapon and has been adopted by several police departments around the world. Yawara techniques may be adapted to many everyday objects of similar shape and size.
While I was a young sailor prowling the streets of cities around the world and required to wear the Navy crackerjack uniform while on liberty, I always carried two small homemade yawara, made from a broomstick, stuck into the two small pockets that were located behind the button-down flap on the front of the pants. They were unobtrusive, effective if needed, legal to carry, and could be drawn easily and quickly from the concealed pockets. If the sticks were found on you by law enforcement, especially in foreign counties, all you have is two small wooden sticks that you squeeze to build gripping strength.
The kubotan was invented by shihan Takayuki Kubota. Disguised as an innocent looking key ring, it may be used quite effectively to apply submission locks by focusing power to a nerve center or pressure point, or it may simply be used as a jabbing weapon. It is generally made from aluminum, wood, plastic, or steel. Similar to the yawara in design and use, it is more effective because you will have it in your hand when in two vulnerable areas: when approaching and entering your vehicle or home.
A Karate oriented practitioner may prefer striking techniques, using the ends of the kubotan for painful blows to soft tissue areas or disabling blows to vital areas. Conversely, a Jujitsu or Aikido stylist may feel more comfortable using the kubotan with hooking, trapping, and pain compliance techniques. For those without experience in a martial art, the kubotan provides an economical and easily learned method of self-protection.
Basic applications involve striking or poking vulnerable areas of the body with the kubotan. Swinging strikes work better against bony surfaces while fleshy areas are more susceptible to pokes and jabs; strike bones and poke nerve centers and pressure points. The kubotan greatly intensifies the destructive power of any blow. Kubotan strikes are most effective at medium range such as when an assailant reaches out to grab or push his victim. The extending limb can be disabled with a quick, snapping strike; even a glancing blow will inflict enough pain to make your attacker regret his actions. When grabbed, press or poke the kubotan into whatever target presents itself. There are no wrong movements; make a technique work from the position you find yourself.
For those who prefer grappling and joint locks, the kubotan provides added leverage. It may be used to dig into joint, pressure points, or the trachea. The kubotan may be used to snag limbs before or after applying a striking technique. By holding it with several inches protruding, you may hook a part of the attacker's body and follow-up with an immediate strike, or you may strike first and then hook the neck or wrist. As a key ring, the kubotan is legal and unregulated, yet it is a valuable self-defense weapon.
Knives may be disguised by concealing them within pens. This type of knive is not effective as a fighting knife:
- It has no hilt, blade too short and too weak.
- It has no grip so it is difficult to use.
- Its point is too pointed so it will break easily.
A purely offensive weapon that is flat so it may be concealed in belt buckle or wallet. This type of knive is not effective as a fighting knife:
- It has no hilt, blade too short.
- Its grip is difficult to use.
The balisong, or "butterfly knife, is a type of switchblade knife from the Philippines. Blade is carried enclosed between the two handles. By twisting and flicking the wrist, the blade is brought outside the handles and the two handles are brought back together forming a grip for the blade. Can be dangerous when used by a person skilled in its use, but it not effective as a fighting knife: has no hilt, joint is weak (more expensive ones have stronger hinges), single edged (some are double edged), handles too long so end of handles that protrude from fist may be grabbed (although the end may also used as a weapon), requires skill to operate, has a drop point blade, handles too smooth and small for a good grip, and there is no way to know which way a single edge blade is facing by using feel of the grip (although, on you weapon, if you know which way the blade faces in respect to the handle, you can know which way the edge is facing).
The balisong is easily recognized by many is easily hidden. It can be palmed very easily and quickly snapped open. It is flashy by appearance, and its flashy opening acts as a warning. The open and close routine sounds dangerous and makes the user look competent. There is also the added benefit of your opponent not knowing where the blade is. With one balisong in each hand, and with alternating open and close routines, your opponent does not know which hand has the blade at any point in time.