Many newer cars no longer require the use of a key to enter the vehicle or start the engine. In this case advocate having two free hands for transition into and out of the vehicle. The flip-side of this is that your house key is very likely a physical, metal key that requires manipulation to unlock your door.
The Danger of Transition time:
Aim to minimize the time that you would be digging through a purse, bag, or pockets looking for your keys. This transition time can provide a larger window of opportunity for an undesired person to make contact while your awareness is shifted to focusing on locating your keys. In these instances my advice is to have your keys readied if you need them.
Are you a janitor? Not literally, but does your keychain have 45 keys, tassels, rabbits feet, and other non-functional junk that make it burdensome to carry and practically useless to employ as a potential weapon? Lose the extra keys and unnecessary objects – they cost you time. And that is time when your guard is down.
When and How to Use Your Keys:
If you had to use your key as a weapon the objective would be to cause soft-tissue damage to the eye(s) to facilitate your escape, but there are a few things that should be considered.
The fight is likely an ambush with someone bigger, faster, and stronger who is likely selecting you at a time when they perceive you as vulnerable.
Even if you master quick transition time and maintain perfect situational awareness while finding your keys, other factors that may inhibit your key’s effectiveness to attacker’s eyes are: having a non-compliant moving target, aiming a very small weapon to a small target, inadvertently striking ridge of the eyebrow instead of the eye, and the startle-reflex of the eyes blinking and musculature that can protect the attacker’s eyes.
What I’ve read from a few sources is to hold the keys with about 1/4 to 1/2 inch extending between your thumb and index finger. To see how this worked I tested this multiple times in a completely static environment.
Could I accurately hit my target, the eye of “BOB” my creepy “Body Opponent Bag” in a safe, static environment? In this example nothing was moving, there was zero stress, and I would get zero reaction, movement, energy, or response from my opponent.
-Pros to this test: I’m using my usual house key to strike a 3-dimensional target shaped somewhat like a human, set at an average adult male height, and I’m making contact at full speed.
-Partial list of cons to this test: there’s zero stress, I’m not being attacked, I’m pre-emptively attacking a static target, and Bob can’t tell me how effective my key-jabs are or whether he would be still able to fight if this was for real.
So how’d I do?
Not as great as I thought I would given that I am fairly coordinated & have a lot of training. At first it was harder than I had anticipated to effectively hit the eye at full speed. My first several reps my index finger knuckles bounced off the ridge of the eyebrow, missing the eye completely.
So, after these considerations and flawed tests, is using your keys as a weapon something I would suggest?
If I have my keys in my right hand and the attack happens, I feel that I could maybe dig a key into the eye if I grab the person and clinch around the head/neck with my other hand (to keep him from escaping/turning his head), but if I can do that I could likely slam my elbow into the face or throat repeatedly, since that’s inside the realm of my skill set.
So why would I go for a lower percentage shot with a smaller weapon to smaller target? I wouldn’t.
If I had to choose between something that was occasionally “decent” in a safe, controlled environment and a palm strike or elbow that has more a much greater chance of doing damage even if my aim is not perfect I'll prioritize the strike. Do what works for you - if keys are not for you, find something that you can pull off with consistently effective results.
Would I advocate keys as a weapon for someone who has significantly less speed, strength, and training than me? No, not really.
My exception would be this:
Using your keys as a weapon could be a valid option if your keys are held in hand at the time of the attack and you have practiced the mechanics of how to do it to a 3-dimensional target while adding stress.
But hey, don't take my word for it. Go to Dick’s Sporting Goods & try it for yourself; they usually have a “BOB” on display. See how you do on pre-emptively jamming a key into a static target under the moderate fear of getting asked to leave by a high-school age store manager.
My takeaway from this blog post is that there is no end-all be-all to any self-defense concept. There will always be situations where it works and situations where it fails. The best thing you can do is broaden your perspective and try things out as realistically as possible to see if they can work for you. Advice can be a good thing, but more valuable is learning and trying things out for yourself.
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Train smart & stay safe,
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