“No, it does not mean that you strip down and while the guy is gawking at you, you kill him,” joked Jonathan Maberry, starting off the panel held on Saturday in Hanover C-E (Hy), “though that might work. It means you can pick up literally anything—you don’t need a sword or a gun. If you have any object around you, you are armed; you have potential to defend yourself.”
Time for the disclaimer: “This is not a primer for going out and mugging people. We’re talking about what you can do in a self-defense situation.”
The New York Times bestselling author knows what he’s talking about. A former martial arts instructor and long-time practitioner (48 years for Jujutsu, 44 for Kenjutsu), he challenged the audience to envision how they might use everyday objects to defend themselves should they be attacked.
First up: a pen. It may seem unassumingly simple, a mediocre weapon at best. Yet, under Mayberry’s instruction, the knowledge of how to wield it properly can—and has—sent a would-be rapist to the emergency room, courtesy of one of his former women’s self-defense students and her trusty medium blue Bic. “He was retired from the rape business,” Mayberry informed us, the response from the audience indicating that no further elaboration was needed. Afterwards, he said, they contacted the Bic company about the incident. “They sent me cases! Every student of mine at Temple [University] for the next 14 years got Bic pens.”
Not that he’s making light of the techniques he teaches, or the painful, possibly lethal, results they can produce. “A lot of this sounds kind of brutal,” he said. “Of course it’s brutal. If you have to pick up something to use in self-defense, it’s not a situation where someone’s offering you a puppy. It’s a situation where someone is trying to actually cause you some degree of physical harm, so you need to respond in a way that’s appropriate.”
Okay, so a pen can be a pretty darn dangerous thing. What about a plastic cup? Held over the top, it turns into a smashing weapon. A swizzle stick? Fold that sucker in half, and you have a nice, sharp cutting edge to lend oomph to your punch. Same goes for a plastic drinking straw. And a paperclip?
“My personal favorite for a weapon you’re never going to see,” said Mayberry . You just straighten it out and place it in your fist, and you have two little tines sticking out that are equidistant between the eyes, the sinuses, and the carotid artery. Oh my.
Mayberry then went on to describe the potential uses of such innocuous items as a book of matches, a salt shaker, even an iPod and its cord. “This is nasty but I’ll tell you anyway,” he chortled evilly. “What you can do with this slender cord is wrap it around mid-head, around the nose and face area, and pull. Essentially you’re garroting the nose. It’s not visually very attractive, but you’ll like the effect.”
The general consensus from the audience? Gross. But in a cool way.
There are other ways to use the items around you to aid in your defense. “What’s required to use something in self-defense isn’t necessarily that it is, by itself, a weapon. Sometimes it allows your natural weapons to work better.” Throw a handful of pennies or M&Ms. Or even a tissue. Throw that tissue, making the motion obvious, and then your attacker’s attention is drawn to whatever is going to come out of your hand. Not only that, but its slow speed will help slow the attacker’s reaction. “People tend to react at the speed something’s coming to them, which slows down their reaction time and their counter-attack.” That leaves them open for you to kick them in the knee, foot, groin, or whatever else is in reach.
“There is no such thing as an unfair blow in a fight,” Mayberry stressed. “If you’re defending yourself, there’s no referee and no rules.” Of course, there are moral and legal issues involved. You do what you need to do to survive the moment, he said, but you don’t go wild on the person.
“The more well-trained you are, the less damage you’re likely to have to do.” But if you’re not well-trained, and you’re picking up something to use as a weapon because you’re that fearful of your life, then you may have to do some damage to stop somebody. “If someone’s really enraged, then a little bit of pain’s not going to go a long way. Even a broken nose may not stop somebody who’s really enraged, or stoned, or drunk, or used to pain.”
The bottom line is, if you’re defending yourself, you don’t know what you’re defending against, and the defense response is extreme out of necessity, especially if you’re smaller, if you’re a woman defending against a man, or if you’re defending against multiple opponents. “You can’t be impractical. Which could you endure more: putting someone’s eye out, or getting brutalized, hospitalized, or maybe killed?”
When not offering his fighting and self-defense wisdom for students and fascinated Dragon*Con attendees, Maberry applies his knowledge to his writing career, including his many graphic novels for Marvel Comics; his novels, which include the Joe Ledger and Pine Deep series; and his non-fiction books, which include Zombie CSU and Ultimate Jujutsu.