Under: karate, Self-defense
21 Feb 2016


When I was a kid watching Batman and Robin, I used to see the dynamic duo picking up common objects laying around and use them as weapons! I mean the bad guys already had weapons of some kind before they attacked. The really cool thing about an improvised weapon is it can even the odds and take the advantage away from your attacker!


In this article I will talk about improvised weapons and how one might add some of these into your sparring workouts. Why would a martial artist want to train with common object as weapons? Why not train with only traditional martial arts weapons? The short answer is you have to improvise with what you have if attacked. Take a look at this video I found that does a good job of sparring with weapons but not so much realism when it goes to the ground (more on that later).


embedded by Embedded Video



You’ve got to love the Dog Brothers gatherings if for nothing more than they have heart (at least in this example). To be good at improvised weapons you have to train in them. Failing that you can only surmise what it means to be hit with a stick in the head or body while you are trying to kick your opponent. These gatherings seem to at least fulfill that requirement. These guys and gals really want to know what they practice works!


I am of a similar mind but I have a nuance. You see I am a martial artist that already knows how to fight. I’ve trained in weapons in our katas and on bag work but not so much in real sparring. Recently I’ve donned goggles to spar with modern (short) daggers and found that fun. That was harder to do because you really have to get an attack going before you can use kicks, punches, elbows and knees.


So the thing I do differently than this video is bring the kenpo practice of critical distance, initial movement and angular attacks to the match. Meaning to me weapons are all improvisation. In California one cannot carry knives or sticks as weapons. And with Murphy’s Law if one finds themselves being attacked – you won’t have a weapon with you anyway. So training yourself to use common objects as we weapon reasonably falls in to one of a few categories, a) striking weapons, b) slashing weapons, c) whipping weapons, or d) throwing weapons.


I love the 3 weapon fending masks used in the video and I use this too. With the 3 weapon masks one can take a stab to the face or neck in light contact sparring without injury. But being realistic in a fight if one gets stabbed by a medieval or even a modern dagger that is a show stopper. I’m not talking a flesh wound but brain trauma or slashed neck. No point much continuing other than for practice.


The point I’m trying to make is some strikes are worth more than others. Sure a baseball bat can break arms and ribs but if your life is on the line – you will still be able to slash your opponents throat if you get the opening.


This is the reason to make improvised weapon training sparring realistic it would be better suited to have some scoring. Kill shots should be noted and a match win vs just adding a point.


Another rational I alluded to earlier is while MMA and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has popularized ground fighting, it is not realistic in a real fight to spend much time on the ground and win. Let me explain. In a real fight that gets taken to the ground – you don’t know who is with who in the crowd. That means any 9 year-old girl can end the fight with a kick to your head. Yes a nine-year-old girl can soccer kick the heck out of a grown mans head lying on the ground… no contest.


The only time a fight can be safely be taken to the ground is in a prize match (or other one-on-one sporting match). In real fights the grantee of one-on-one does not exist. In self-defense there is even a greater chance your opponents will gang up on you with overwhelming force.


So part of the rules of my organization for improvised weapon sparring is a 10 second rule. After 10 seconds of a fight going to the ground – all bystanders get to kick and stomp the fighters to simulate reality. :)


The other really big deal with fight club err… I mean improvised weapon sparring is we do have one really big rule – since we are actually martial artists that want to become better at self-defense, weapon or no weapon – we have to limit the contact so we can learn from our mistakes.


So this is not full contact weapons sparring as you see the Dog Brothers matches doing but rather controlled quazi-point matches but with all targets legal and safe to strike.


Those of you familiar with point karate sparring know that it is more realistic that boxing or mma (or most any sport fighting) because groin shots are legal. You would never see fighting in a forward stance in point karate because that guy would instantly become a soprano (no nuts)!!!


So with improvised weapon sparring we use point karate (or what is also called semi-contact) sparring as the model closest to realistic fighting. It is very important to be real when practicing your martial art. If you pretend that groin shots don’t matter in kick boxing or mma – you will not be able to truly test your skills against someone that will smash your family jewels! Men thing long and hard about that point because your legacy might be at stake!


In closing I would like to acknowledge that many will not agree with my methods or assertions but please I implore you to try to train in a way that will help you use your improvised martial arts weapon in the most effective way possible!

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

4 Responses to “Improvised Weapon Sparring; Good Training for Self-Defense!”

  1. Dr. J Says:

    There’s a lot to think about here, John! I haven’t done any of this, so I can see there’s much to learn from adding this to basic karate training. The critical distance certainly changes even if the principles remain the same. Great stuff!!

  2. McBryde Mats Says:

    love knife fighting myself, been doing fillipino style for the last 4 years, its awesome!

    kind regards,


  3. Soke Joe Says:

    I always tell my students that traditional weapons are great for training, but in a real world situation you may need to improvise. Great post!

    Soke Joe
    New York Martial Arts Long Island

  4. Tim Larkin self defence techniques Says:

    Great Stuff
    But the distance certainly changes even if the principles remain the same
    Thanks for sharing these self defence tips.