Keys for Self-Defense

Keys as a Weapon

Keys are an ideal improvised weapon for self-defense. The “key knife” approach is effortless, simplistic, and natural to use for personal protection if attacked.

Self-defense with keys may be used to jab, slash, and insert into a lock. Other objects can also be used such as key cards, mini-flashlights, and key chain knives, kubatons, and the Key as self-defense devices or tools.

Holding keys for self-defense can provide confidence when in an uncertain and fearful situation such as walking to your home or vehicle. Not covered in this section, using the keys as a weapon is simple, but should involve physical preparation such as physical self-defense training.

When a woman was walking home, she was violently robbed. She also thought she would be raped. After being hit several times, she put her hand inside her coat pocket, grabbed her keys and then jabbed and slashed the attacker’s face and eyes. He was blinded and fell onto the grass. He laid there crying in pain. The woman was able to run to safety and called police who apprehended him. Before going to jail police took the robber to the hospital. She held her keys in the key knife position when used her keys for self-defense.


Self-Defense Key Knuckles vs. Key Knife


Key Knife

keys as a weapon

Keys held in knife position for self-defense.

Use the “Key Knife” position to hold your keys. To apply the key knife self-defense tactic, simply hold keys in your palm with the primary key between your index finger and thumb (see Figure A). Most people use this position everyday when unlocking their vehicle door, or the lock to their residence and workplace. The key knife position provides the most versatility when unlocking a door, allowing the key to be used as a jabbing weapon if necessary.

Your keys transform immediately and naturally into an improvised personal weapon that offers an effective means to strike into the eyes, throat, or ear canal, jugular notch, and testicles. You do not need to worry about concealing your keys because this is a natural manner in holding your keys. Depending on how many keys you have on your key ring, your keys might naturally be concealed within the palm of your hand. Your keys are more than a quick fix device, but an immediate improvised self-defense weapon.

If you use a key fob instead keys for your vehicle or proximity sensor for your residence, you can still use the edges of the key fob or sensor as a self-defense weapon in a similar manner as the key knife. If you prefer the extra jabbing potential a pointed key offers, you might consider placing your fob on a key ring with another key that is spaced out with additional rings or a lanyard to allow your small finger to trigger the unlock button to the vehicle or swipe next to the access sensor.

If you are traveling, a hotel key card may be used for self-defense. You can use your hotel room card to eye jab. A hotel key card may also be used to similarly strike the eyes in a slashing motion.

Overall, a key to the eye is likely to be more effective strike than striking with various fingers, but a the key strike requires fine motor control for holding and aiming that deteriorates when under stress. If the key hits the bone of the skull instead, it becomes a wasted strike whereas using fingers offer more variables for success. Many people may have an aversion to striking into someone’s eyes, where a heel palm strike to the nose may work instead by slightly modifying the wrist of the key knife hand position. One strike may not be enough, but you also have another hand and legs/knees you can use. Pain can deter some attackers but it may just infuriate an already adrenalized attacker, which is why additional skills should be practiced as taught in the Model Mugging Basic self-defense course.


Key Knuckles – Key Fist

keys knuckles

Keys positioned as key knuckles for self-defense, also called a key fist.

For decades, the “Key Knuckles” or “Key Fist” was commonly recommended as method of self-protection as a makeshift key weapon.

The key knuckle technique involves arranging your keys (Figure B) like brass knuckles by sorting the keys on your key ring according to the order in which you will use them. For example, the house key should be held between your thumb and index finger, and the car key in between your index and middle fingers.

The key knuckle position has some disadvantages.


Four reasons not to apply Key Knuckles or Key Fist:

key knuckles for self defense

Key knuckles used for self defense may cause pain if assailant grabs the key fist.

  1. Distraction: Although this key arrangement may be used for eye gouges, slashes to the face, and strikes to the throat, it takes longer to organize and can distract you from your environment as you arrange your keys. If you strike the body of an assailant, the strike may not be effective because the impact may actually hurt your fingers, hand, and/or wrist.
  2. Painful: If you carry your keys protruding through your fist, during a struggle, an assailant might be able to grab your hand. This is not a natural way to carry keys and a predator may attempt to control your key carrying hand. If he squeezes your hand (Figure C), he may simultaneously press the keys together and pinch the metal against your finger bones. This can cause intense pain from the metal pressing against the bones in your fingers. Most likely, an assailant will attempt to grab your arm or wrist to protect himself from injury, but his hand may slide down to your wrist, giving him direct control of the weaponized keys. Additionally, if you strike with a punching motion you run the risk of cutting the tissues between your bones and webbing of your hand. Punching with your keys in this configuration may cause wrist sprain or tendon damage.
  3. Property Damage: The keys between your other fingers may get in the way. Protruding keys may scratch the door or door frame, especially a vehicle door. If threatened with an attack, this is irrelevant to safety. But applying this key formation as a daily or nightly tactic can cause unnecessary scratches to your vehicle or house door. Instead, you can always release the other keys and focus on the primary key.
  4. Slower Key Use: Dexterity for inserting the key into the lock of the door to a car or house is reduced using the key knuckles. You must release the key knuckle position to unlock the door. When scared of being attacked, this is extra movement and fine motor skills that slow you ability to unlock the door and get inside your vehicle or home. If you release the keys from your fist, you are now back to applying the “key knife” position. You might as well keep it simple and apply the key knife tactic from the beginning.

The key knife tactic is faster and natural. If the assailant grabs your weaponized hand the keys will not cause you pain. You do not damage your property, and it is faster to insert your key into the lock and open your door when approaching your home or vehicle.


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