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5 Self-Defense Tools: What to Consider Before Buying

5 Self-Defense Tools: What to Consider Before Buying

Which self-defense tool is right for you?

It depends.

One thing I know for sure, it’s not always what someone else says you should carry.

If you look at the online reviews of most self-defense tools, they are written by men who purchased the tool for themselves or for a female in their life they care about. That female could be their wife, sister, mother, daughter, or co-worker. I believe these men had the BEST intention when they purchased the tool as a gift. They cared about that person in their life, and they wanted to give them a gift that would keep them safe from harm.

I appreciate men wanting to do everything they can to help the women increase their personal safety by purchasing a tool as a gift. The intentions are pure, but the gesture comes off as condescending and feels like mansplaining. This is not me hating on the good guys out there, it’s giving the female perspective.

It would be like my husband buying me a new vacuum because I want a cleaner floor, without asking for my input. If I’m the one using the vacuum, let me pick it out. (and really guys-NEVER buy a vacuum as a present-K?)

Now that we’ve covered that subject, what features do you need to consider in a tool that will be best for you?

It depends.

I’m going to break down different points to consider on the tools I carry in the Diamond Arrow Group online store.

(Side note: I’ve been sent other tools to test & evaluate that are not on my site yet. If you’re interested in becoming a DAG product tester, make sure you’re on our VIP email list!)

  1. J5 Tactical V1 Pro Flashlight

-This small but mighty flashlight fits in your cute clutch purse on a night out, as well as the palm of your hand while walking to and from your vehicle. Plus, it comes in a variety of colors, not just black.

-A powerful 300 lumens will temporarily blind a person, buying you time to get to safety if necessary. If they unintentionally got in your space, their full sight will return soon enough and hopefully they learned a valuable lesson. (when you tell them to get out of your space, they best listen)

-Uses AA batteries (let’s be real, if a tool requires a special battery, it’s not going to get replaced quickly).

-Cleared for travel. My flashlight has traveled in my carry-on bag on airplanes across oceans, gone into major sporting events, and attended concerts with me.

-It’s a flashlight. It helps you see your surroundings at night, can shine into dark shadows, and the car parked next to yours.

-The flashlight is made of air-craft grade aluminum (translation=very sturdy) and the beveled-edge is a great scraping (DNA collection) and blunt-force tool if an attacker gets in your space.

-Using the flashlight at night to illuminate your path is also a prevention action. If an attacker is waiting for a potential victim, they will see the flashlight beam first. Who typically has a flashlight at night? Law enforcement and security personnel. The attacker is not going to stick around to find out who’s at the other end of that light.

-Low price point and a lifetime warranty.

-The only thing I can say in regard to the “not helpful” column is that it’s not going to cause debilitating damage to an attacker. In that situation, you’re going to have to go after their eyeballs.

  1. Mace Spray-Sport

-I specifically carry the Sport version for the hand strap. This tool is what I carry when I’m out walking/running in a more rural or less populated area. Having it strapped to my hand and ready to deploy in seconds, without needing to hold on to it, is a huge advantage.

-Having it strapped to my hand let’s an attacker watching me see that I have a tool that will cause excruciating pain if they pick me as their target.

-The spray is a gel consistency and sprays up to 12 ft. in a single stream pattern. I don’t need to worry about a mist spray that will blow in my own face if the wind is blowing the wrong direction.

-The spray has UV dye. When I spray an attacker, I am “painting” them with an invisible ink that will light up under a UV light. This will help with law enforcement identification.

-The spray is less-lethal but very painful and debilitating for a length of time that gives me a great head start on getting to safety.

-The added bonus in purchasing a Mace Spray from DAG? We include a FREE water trainer with every spray purchase so you can practice shooting the spray and targeting. In fact, I highly recommend purchasing two sprays so you get two water trainers and have a water fight with a friend. Using play to get comfortable with using it makes learning fun and the knowledge will stick with you longer.

-All sprays have an expiration date! Mace specifically prints this date on all their products. You need to replace your spray every few years, even if you’ve never used it.

-Having Mace spray in your purse will not do you any good if you’re attacked. You need to have it in your hand, not at the bottom of your purse. My suggestion: before exiting the building or your vehicle, put the spray in your hand. When you reach your destination and are safe, you can put it back in your purse.

-Playing around with the actual spray and not being respectful of the tool can get an innocent person a face full of “for the love of all things holy make it stop” temporary pain. They will survive, but the pain will last longer than their list of cuss words.

-Not always travel safe. I forgot to move my Mace from my handbag to my checked luggage on a trip and had it confiscated by TSA. The agent was so apologetic because he thought all women should carry Mace, but he couldn’t let me get on the plane with it.

-Depending on your state’s self-defense laws, you need to be able to articulate WHY you used this tool to defend yourself.

  1. Mace Keychain Alarm

-These personal alarms have an ear-piercing sound that activates at the push of a button.

-When walking to your car, having your keys in your hand keeps this alarm handy. I’m not talking about keys between your fingers (that’s a different conversation), I’m talking about being able to quickly get into your vehicle vs. standing next to a locked vehicle while digging for your keys.

-If you wear a lanyard, the keychain alarm can easily clip to it and acts as a visual deterrent to a potential attacker.

-The sound of the alarm is different than a car alarm so people will naturally be more curious as to where the sound is coming from and start looking around.

-This is a tool that can travel with you anywhere.

-This is a tool that you can take on your lunch break walks around your building.

-The alarm has a whistle feature on the bottom.

-This is a tool that will do you absolutely no good if you’re in a rural and less populated area.

-It’s great at waking up sleepy people in the company meeting. (whoops, sorry to accidentally push my obnoxiously loud alarm) Just sayin’.

-If you don’t have this tool in your hand or within easy reach when you need it, it will do you no good.

-In a high-intensity situation where you experience an adrenaline spike, you lose fine motor skills. Pushing the small button on the back may be difficult if you haven’t practice doing so. This is where the whistle feature may come in handy AND help you remember to breathe.

-If the alarm is accidentally activated, it’s not going to hurt anyone.

  1. Mace Personal Clip Alarm

-See the above points under the Mace keychain alarm.

-The difference of this alarm that I really like as a woman, is it clips easily to clothing without causing damage. You can clip this to yoga pants, business attire, or whatever you’re wearing for the day. Women’s clothing is notorious for not having pockets. This clip alarm is a great work around.

-It’s activated by simply pulling the alarm off your clothing item. The alarm sounds when the clip end touches the back of the alarm.

-This is a tool that will do you absolutely no good if you’re in a rural and less populated area.

-This tool will not help you at the bottom of your purse. Heck-clip it to the side of your purse if you don’t want it on your clothing!

-If the alarm is accidentally activated, it’s not going to hurt anyone.

  1. NPE Stabby Tools/Firearms

-NPE stands for “non-permissive environments” which is a fancy acronym for “no weapons allowed.”

You may be wondering why I don’t have these tools listed on my website. Great question. Before I sell or promote a tool that can cause damage to another human, I am going to ask you many questions. I don’t believe in carrying a tool that can severely debilitate or cause death in another human, simply because it makes you feel cool. If you have a specific threat that you want to defend yourself against, I’m here to help guide you through the questions you need to take into consideration.

That includes:

-emotional, mental, and physical planning, preparing, and practice

-legal, ethical, and moral considerations

-a discussion around aftermath and the realities you will face

-a referral to an expert on the specific tool you are considering

Deciding to carry a self-defense tool is a personal choice and is dependent on your lifestyle. No one should be telling you which tool to carry, without asking for your input. That’s what makes the Diamond Arrow Group different than the typical self-defense tool retailer.

I’m not here to sell you something, I’m here to empower you to be responsible for your personal safety in a way that works best for you.

“Don’t base your decisions on the advice of those who don’t have to deal with the results.”

-Anonymous

Let’s Get Rid of Pedestals

Let’s Get Rid of Pedestals

This past weekend, I was made aware of a woman experiencing some really horrible things. My heart broke for her. Not out of pity, but because of the work I do studying violence against women, I recognized all the factors making it hard for her to know what action to take. Does she have the answer inside of her? Absolutely. Does that make it easier for her to take action? Not at all.

“But Kelly, what factors could possibly be so big that someone would hesitate to take action?!?”

Money

Child(ren)

Pets

Her home

Her routine

And the big one…

Shame

Brene Brown says “secrecy, silence and judgment: those are the three things shame needs to grow exponentially in our lives.”

When anyone is experiencing a traumatic event in their life, it can be paralyzing. There are so many questions they ask themselves. How did this happen? How did I not see the early warning signs? What will people think of me when they find out? People think I’m so great in other areas of my life, how did I screw this part up so badly?!? They want to hide their pain because the pain of other’s judgment feels suffocating and isolating.

In my opinion, social media has amplified the power of shame. It’s the double-edged sword of seeking connection by sharing parts of our lives with others and the dopamine hit of getting likes and affirmations in the comments. We want people to like us, so we continue to refine our public image to keep the good feelings flowing. To share the not-so-great moments of our life and be “real” in the virtual world gets shoved in the closet. The lines between real life and the virtual world are so blurred, that shoving embarrassment in the closet starts happening in our relationships with the people in our physical world. During the pandemic, I found myself not wanting to talk about my struggles online or in person because a.) Everyone was struggling with something, if not everything, in their life so I didn’t want to add to the weight of the world and b.) I strive to maintain a high level of personal responsibility so working on myself to get through the tough times makes me look inward for answers. While that may seem noble, if I’m not careful, I stop sharing my pain with the people who love me unconditionally. I keep the messy parts of myself secret because in the past, the judgment of those I thought would be there for me no matter what, was crushing. I was ostracized by those closest to me and left to fend for myself. (teaser: I dive more deeply into this in my upcoming book. Gah! Being vulnerable was scary but so therapeutic!)

I look at life’s difficult times as lessons, so while I wouldn’t wish my experiences on anyone, I see the silver-lining in what I learned by getting through it. My increased empathy for others, my refusal to judge anyone by their past, and the belief that no one’s life is perfect. My mother tells me when I was a little girl, if I got hurt, I didn’t want to be held. By her account, I would lash out and want to be left alone. In reality, I did want to be consoled, but on my terms. I see the same behavior in my youngest. When he gets upset, he wants to be alone. I wait a beat, then I sit close by and let him know I’m there for him whenever he’s ready to talk or needs a hug. I stay quiet and I hold the space for him. It usually doesn’t take long before he tells me why he’s mad and ends up in my lap for a hug.

The woman I mention at the beginning of this post is in the middle of a storm. What she doesn’t need is anyone making her feel ashamed, feel like it’s her fault, or pass judgment. She needs to know her closest circle of people loves her unconditionally and will hold space for whatever feelings she needs to work through. She needs to know that when she asks for help, she won’t be told what to do, but instead will be given any and all the resources to take action.

No one is perfect. We’ve all got our own shit. Thinking someone else has it all together and finding yourself jealous of YOUR perception of them is toxic. Twisting jealousy into judgement to make yourself feel better is a shitty thing to do. On the flip side, don’t feel like you have to air your dirty laundry in public to be “real” either. It’s your rules. It’s your mental boundaries. Live life on your terms.

“Can we get rid of the pedestals already?

I don’t need to tell you all the times I fucked up in my life so you can feel better about yourself.

You don’t have to pretend you’ve got all your shit figured out for me to respect you.

The grave equals all.”

-Kelly Sayre

Bicycles, Beaches, Bumps and Bruises

Bicycles, Beaches, Bumps and Bruises

I vividly remember waking up my parents on my 5th birthday. I’d been begging them to get me a bike and they decided the 5th birthday milestone was an appropriate age. I couldn’t wait to wake up and see a shiny new bike! It was a pink, banana seat bike. The name “Candlelight” was on the front wheel fork and I decided it was the perfect name for her.

My dad attached training wheels and off I went! I don’t remember how long it took me to gain balance on 2 wheels, but I’m sure I didn’t master it the first time I tried to take Candlelight down the sidewalk.

We’ve all been new at something. There isn’t a single thing that people decide to try and they’re instantly great at. Everything takes trial and error and regular practice.

Kids are great at this. Everything is new to them and they want to try to do it all. That’s why parenthood is exhausting. You take your eyes off them for 1 second only to find them climbing on furniture or sticking fingers in outlets. It seems you are repeating safety warnings daily, hoping someday they’ll remember them on their own.

At some point in our lives, our “things we want to learn” list gets short and we stop adding to it. There are many reasons why this happens, busy schedules, budgets or perhaps complacency. It’s different for everyone and yet the same. As adults, we get to a place where we are comfortable with our life. We reach a place we’ve been dreaming about for years. Maybe it’s a full-time dream job or finding a partner and having kids, a dog and a cat. We carve out our cozy little corner of the world and finally feel like we can relax and be content with our life. The new challenges we face are created by outside forces and out of our control. Changing procedures at work, new child development stages in our kids, moving to a new city for a job, and other curve balls life throws at us.

Before all the self-help gurus jump down my throat, I’m not saying that’s the way it should be, I’m saying it’s the way it is. I believe our life path is pre-determined and the only thing in our control is how we respond to it. We can choose to have a good attitude and take these changes in stride. I think that’s the best way to deal with unforeseen disruptions to our regularly scheduled life. That’s not the point of my writing. My point is we stop choosing the new things we want to try because we’re trying to handle the unplanned life events. You’ve probably heard, “Things happen in 3’s.”

It’s like finding out you’re pregnant, while going through a job change that requires you to sell your house and move. 

Those examples might not apply to you, but I’m willing to bet you can look back on your life and find situations where everything seemed to change all at once.

When those events happen, we feel close to mental overload. So many new things to think about! So many unknown changes that we don’t know what’s around the next corner. As the time passes, we see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re thankful we made it through, and swear we’re never going to go through it again.

Is it any wonder why, as adults, the thought of purposely trying something new, with so many unknowns, is a no-go? We swore we would never put ourselves purposely through the mental anguish of uncertainty again. No one likes to stumble around like an idiot, not knowing the correct next move. Especially in front of everyone who seems to have their shit together.

No one wants to be the class dunce.

When I look at the world of self-defense, I see instructors talking about their years and even decades of studying martial arts. I see retired military or law enforcement individuals talking fluently in a tactical language that is foreign to anyone outside that world. Is it any wonder why women look at self-defense as this insurmountable skill? If it took those instructors DECADES to be proficient in their personal safety, when the hell are they going to find time to dedicate to learning? Not to mention the cost. Or the seemingly great physical shape you need to be in in order to be proficient. (I’m talking about the muscle bulging, tight shirt wearing, I lift heavy, picture taking and post to social media people).

Most women are trying to survive the women’s empowerment movement, telling us we can have fulfilling careers, be June Cleaver-esqe moms, with weekly Sex in the City lunches with our besties, homes that look like we’re channeling Joanna Gaines, and rock our wonder woman bodies.

All without breaking a nail.

Consumer insights tell us women control approximately 85% of purchasing decisions in the household. I believe it. But the study I want to see is how much of that 85% is ACTUALLY SPENT ON THEMSELVES. I’m not a gambler, but I’d wager the percentage to hover between 1-2%.

Women have been trying to be the best version of themselves, according to what society tells them that version looks like. They’ve been focusing on self-love and self-care by carving out 5-minutes of uninterrupted peace and that feels AMAZING. Sure, they’d love to have hours and maybe even an entire day (or 5) to relax and do what they want, when they want, without someone needing them every waking moment of the day. A few years ago, a good friend and I had the opportunity to travel to Australia to represent a charity at a gala function. It was 24-hours of planes, trains, and automobiles to get there. We were exhausted. But when we arrived at our accommodations near the beach, we dropped our bags in our room, changed into beachwear, and headed for the sun and sand. I think we sat there for maybe 10-minutes before we realized it was as close to a heavenly retreat as we could’ve ever imagined. It was mid-day in Australia, which meant it was midnight back home in the states. No one needed us. We didn’t have anywhere we needed to be for a few hours.

We could just be.

Sounds amazing right? That was 2-years ago. I can’t say I’ve truly felt that relaxed since. I literally had to travel halfway around the globe to separate mentally and physically from my daily tasks. It’s not exactly something I can do spur of the moment. The memories of that trip are forever encased in a special place in my soul. I visit that place every now and again when I need to reset and remember who I am.

Me.

Not any of the labels I proudly carry like wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend, entrepreneur-me.

Little ol’ me.

Take the everyday woman I am and juxtapose that with the woman I was on the beach in Australia. It doesn’t feel like there’s a middle ground to me. I’m either 100% everyday life or 100% beach bum. I guess if I lived near an ocean, it would be easier to go between the 2. But like the saying goes, “No one needs you until you finally sit down to relax.”

When I talk to women about personal safety and learning how to be more situationally aware, I can see the everyday woman voice in their head saying, “When would I have time to take a class? How would I justify the cost? I can’t do that-I haven’t worked out in ages!” The beach bum voice says, “If you start investing time and money into that, you’ll NEVER have time to yourself. That will become your ME time.”

I don’t know about you, but if you want me to choose either sand between my toes, sun on my face, salt in the air, waves crashing on shore or the image of a stereotypical male ex-military/law enforcement/martial arts expert teaching me women’s self-defense by gouging eyeballs and crushing throats, I’ll pick beach bum every time.

I had a phone conversation with a guy (who I shall not callout publicly because that’s not how I roll) who wrote a self-defense book for women. The first 20 minutes of the call involved him telling me it was nearly impossible to get women to make their personal safety a priority. That his very famous friend, who encouraged him to write the book and even wrote the forward, was not able to help the book reach women like he’d hoped (It probably doesn’t help that this friend has had numerous accusations of sexual misconduct from women, but I digress.). His belief is that women needed to learn how to physically fight, and situational awareness is a by-product. When I look at his marketing, all I see bulging muscles in too-tight shirts and an angry scowl.

I’d call that a misfire.

I’m the first to say that it takes all types of people with all different backgrounds to make the world go ‘round. How I like to learn things may be different than the person sitting next to me. I’m not saying that guy was completely wrong in his approach. I’m saying if your current approach of marketing to women is not working, maybe try something different.

Or not.

I don’t care. You do you.

I truly don’t believe he should try to be anything other than himself. Women want authenticity. Women want honesty and vulnerability. Brene Brown is beloved by so many women because she promotes these traits. What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.

So, where does that leave us? How do we change the conversation, the marketing, the look, the feel of self-defense- so women see it and feel like the training is absolutely worth the time, cost, and effort? Remember, you’re asking them to give up their version of beach bum to learn something new. You’re asking them to trade those precious moments of uninterrupted bliss to feel like a 5-year-old on her first bike. Bumps, scrapes, and bruises included.

Is learning self-defense worth it? Definitely. Should every woman have a resource and place where she feels comfortable learning these life-saving skills? Of course. Has the self-defense industry done a good job marketing to women? Nope. Before you think I’m all doom and gloom, I think the industry has started to do some self-reflection. I think the industry as a whole, truly wants to help women learn how to be safer in their daily life. I know lots of self-defense instructors who are open to suggestions on how to change their marketing approach to appeal to women.

They are also determined 5-year-olds, getting their first bike with training wheels, wanting to learn how to do something new.

“Be brave enough to be bad at something new.”

Jon Acuff