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Does Carrying a Weapon Make Sense for Martial Artists?

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

The world is a dangerous place.

But you already know that. As a martial artist, you probably enjoy the physical fitness, the challenge and the camaraderie that is found in training martial arts. And beyond these benefits, you know that you will have a greater chance of preventing and escaping violence should it ever rear its ugly head. What else can you do to improve your odds of surviving a violent encounter? Well, some martial artists carry weapons; from tactical pens to pepper spray, from knives to firearms. Many responsible citizens equip themselves with weapons that fall inside the scope of their local laws.

Knives are a common force multiplier carried by martial artists.

So what should you carry? Well that is a personal choice and will also be influenced by your training, preference and local laws. Beyond your fists of fury, carrying a weapon can make sense if you have the proper training to accompany your proper tools.

If you do decide to carry a weapon, what should you carry? There are many choices. Should you go with a deadly weapon like a firearm, knife or expandable baton? Is that even legal where you live? How about less-than-lethal alternatives like pepper spray, Kubuton (or pocket stick), Tactical flashlight? All are solid choices with the proper training. And what about other tools like a tactical pen or keychain alarm? We will be doing a deep dive into all these options in future articles. No matter what weapon you chose to go with, it is important to understand the risks and rewards of each the weapon.

Let's consider the advantages and disadvantages of EDC (everyday carry) force multipliers. And please keep in mind that martial artists from our past often carried weapons. From kung fu to karate masters, many martial artists carried weapons when allowed (and sometimes not allowed) to do so.

Benefits of carrying a weapon:

Save lives: You never know when you may be called upon to save your life or those you love. In dangerous situations, it is not a bad idea to stack the deck in your favor and a weapon is designed to do just that. Think of your EDC weapon as a buddy hanging out with you who has your back. As the saying goes, "better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it." Act as a reminder: When carrying a weapon, it serves as a reminder that the world is not as safe as it may appear. There is much beauty in this world and unfortunately (as the yin/yang symbol reminds us), there is also much ugly and potentially evil roaming the streets. As martial artists, it is a given that we are alert to the potential for violence but life gets in the way. Sometimes we forget. Our weapon or self-defense tool can help nudge us back to alertness. Multi-tool: Some martial artists may carry knives. Indonesian and Filipino martial artists often do. And beyond stabbing, slashing and "defanging the snake," knives can serve a variety of purposes. As a utility tool, knives are excellent at piercing boxes, opening packages and cutting rope. There are also tactical pens and flashlights which are self-descriptive in their usage.

Disadvantages of carrying a weapon: Lethality: Knives (and even tactical pens or flashlights) can become lethal in certain situations. If you ever have to save your life or those you love, you will have to explain your actions (multiple times) and using a deadly weapon makes it that much more complicated. It is also important to consider if you are financially and mentally ready for the aftermath of an encounter where deadly force is used.

Weapons are a great responsibility and thus some martial artists may decide to refrain from carrying them.

Weapons Reliance: We see this in the gun world often. Someone purchases a firearm and maybe even decides to carry one. They think somehow it is a magic wand that will take care of all their violent woes. It is not. To use any weapon properly, requires training in both the weapon and empty hands skills (found in martial arts). Remember, you are the weapon and your instrument is just a tool. Don't make your instrument the weapon, and you become the tool.

Overconfidence: Having a force multiplier may also create a false sense of security. This may cause some to act in a foolhardy way in situations where avoidance or evasion is the prudent course of action. Friends and family may look at you as paranoid: Yes, this is a real thing and some people may even be offended by what you decide to carry for personal protection. There you have it; pros and cons of carrying a weapon. Let us know if we missed anything. Also, please share with us if you carry a weapon or not, and why.

Many martial arts masters from the past carried weapons. Pictured here is the katana, famously carried by the samurai.

About the Author: Dr. Conrad Bui has over 40 years of practice in the martial arts. He is a 5th degree black belt in tae kwon do, as well as advanced instructor rankings in silat, kuntao, ba gua, and kali. He currently coaches Muay Thai and Brazillian jiu jitsu at World Team USA in San Francisco. As a co-founder of Tiga Tactics, a consulting company for self-defense and combatives, he is passionate about sharing the benefits of martial arts to the world.

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