Weapon Taxonomy

There are a lot of different weapons out there. If you include all of the “traditional” martial arts weapons then the variety seems to grow tremendously.  If you want to be as effective as possible in a self-defense situation, then you’d better have some weapons skills, but does that mean that you have to practice with as many different weapons as possible in the event that something strange or exotic is available in a fight?  Thankfully, the answer is a definite “no”.

What you should practice with are some weapons that are representative of their entire category.  If you don’t know what the categories of weapons are, then read on.

Like the classification of living things in biology, weapons can be grouped (and subgrouped) based on their characteristics.  A good taxonomy will have non-overlapping categories.  So, I’ll do my best to meet that standard here.  Keep in mind that while the categories don’t overlap, there are weapons that fit into multiple categories.  Not to worry though.  If you understand how to fight with each of the categories, then that multi-category weapon will work just fine for you.

1. Projectile
2. Impact
3. Edged
4. Pointed
5. Flexible

Let’s look at some examples.
xdm compact
I love my XDM
Guns are the typical example of projectile weapons, but they aren’t by any means the only projectile weapons.  Assuming that stinger missiles and ICBMs aren’t in your arsenal, any of the following would also constitute projectile weapons.
throwing knives
Throwing knives…of movie fame


throwing star
The ever popular “ninja” star
throwing rock
Yes…this is a rock
Anything that you send through the air counts as a projectile.  Let’s look at some impact weapons, which are basically anything that you use to hurt someone by running into their body really fast while it’s still in your hands.


impact stick
Here’s the typical rattan stick ala Filipino martial arts


impact tonfa
Tonfas…like a stick with an extra handle


impact nunchucks
Nunchucks are good for bashing people…
that definitely counts as an impact weapon (also a flexible weapon)
impact table leg
I witnessed the two year old version of my little brother
smash the skull of my older brother with one of these.
It looked like it hurt.  So, this goes here.
impact folding chair
The ubiquitous folding chair of pro wrestling fame
And just to make this explicit, you could use a gun as an impact weapon by simply bashing someone with it.  Try not to knock it out of battery or jack up your optics, but…you know…don’t die either.  Keep your priorities straight.
On to edged weapons…which are anything with a sharp enough edge to slice flesh open.
edged knife
CRKT M16 Z … never leaves my side
edged cleaver
“Butcher” knife


edged razor
Straight razor
edged glass
A shard of broken glass will cut you as easily as
any knife will
I used a typical knife as the first example because that’s what people tend to think of when the term “edged” weapon is used.  However, technically it is both an edged AND a pointed weapon (but nobody really bothers to say that…because it’s inconvenient).  Edged weapons need not be pointed and pointed weapons need not be edged.  As we will see below.  Oh yeah, and all these examples except for the glass have impact potential…and they all have projectile potential.  Anyway!  Pointed weapons…


pointed prison shiv
Prison shiv #1


pointed toothbrush
Prison shiv #2
pointed pencil
The school yard favorite…
pointed screwdriver
Ergonomic handle for really driving that sucker deep
So yeah, anything that you can stab somebody with counts as a pointed weapon.  If you’re really talented, then maybe you could turn these into projectile weapons.
Of all weapon categories, flexible weapons is probably the most neglected.  Or at least, only a very small subset of these weapons have any sort of popularity.  We’ve already seen the nunchucks, which are a sort of flexible/impact weapon crossover.  But that’s just scratching the surface.
flexible 3 piece staff
Three piece staff ala China


flexible kusari fundo
Kusari fundo ala Japan
flexible flail
Flail ala…miscellaneous European countries…I don’t know


flexible belt
I actually wear this kind of belt virtually every day.  The
metal doesn’t look like much, but I could break someone’s
bone with it I’m sure.


flexible sarong
Here’s the famous Dan Inosanto using a sarong (ala Indonesia)
to make some poor guy’s day a little less pleasant

Flexible weapons have a “bendy” part.  They can be used to grab, immobilize, and strangle.  When weighted, they can be used as effective impact weapons as well.

That is about it for categories of weapons.  If you can understand how to use each of the categories, then you should be able to use just about anything that you pick up to defend yourself adequately.  You should be able to improvise just about any object into a weapon of some kind.  Adaptability is key.

I’ve been thinking a lot about various weapons and their applications in self-defense scenarios.  So, expect to see more along this vein in upcoming posts.

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