Some years ago a friend of mine had an unsettling experience in the course of his work day. He was in a reception area awaiting to see someone with whom he had made an appointment, when he realized that the person he was about to meet was not the person he'd been expecting. Rather, it was a business competitor who had a very shady reputation, The meeting had been arranged with my friend under false pretenses and he suddenly felt threatened.
He immediately cast his eyes over the waiting room and, when the other individual appeared with an 'associate', my friend was standing slightly turned away with his right hand in his pocket clutching a glass ashtray that had been on a side table.
In the end he got out of the situation safely, but the point I wish to make is that his first instinct had been to survey the room for a potential weapon...and this despite the fact that he was a senior black belt in a full contact martial fighting style. He was experienced and under no illusions. He knew that having something that could be used as a weapon could make all the difference in what looked like a potentially nasty situation
In the Asian martial arts it is common to supplement empty hand forms with the study of various weapons: sword, sabre, staff, spear, stick, fan, dagger.... The list goes on. The thought may arise, what is the practical self-defense utility of studying such things?
The purpose of a weapon is to extend the combative potential of our own bodies. As inanimate objects they themselves do not feel pain while they do enhance our our ability to apply force in order to protect ourselves or subdue an assailant.
When we practice with various weapons, we familiarize ourselves with handling objects of different shapes and capacities in a combative context. Although martial arts practice is more directed to health than fighting, it is still true that fighting is the basis for the design element in all martial arts forms. A fan may potentially be a weapon, true enough. But handling a fan imparts skills which are transferable to handling other objects such as rulers, figurines, rolled up magazines or newspapers, candlesticks, harmonicas, pens and pencils, hairbrushes, knitting needles....the list is endless. Similarly, martial exercises with sword or sabre are transferable to metre sticks, walking sticks, umbrellas....
You don't have to be in your kitchen (all those handy knives!) to be quickly armed. If you are sitting in your living room or standing at your front entrance just cast your eyes around. How many potential weapons can you see within two paces? If you are walking your dog, what might you be able to do with that leash? (The other night, while walking our aged terrier, a coyote crossed the sidewalk in front of us!)
The cultivation of defensive awareness should be both environmental and situational. This is not paranoia, just preparedness. As Confucius is reported to have said, The cultivated individual does not anticipate evil, but is nevertheless prepared for it!