Learning how to use and defend against weapons is essential for self defense. In a serious assault, it's likely your opponent or opponents will be armed. If they're not, they'll probably be bigger, stronger, or more numerous than you. It's unlikely you'll be attacked by a smaller, weaker, single individual with no weapon. Think about that. If you get attacked, your opponent will probably have some perceived advantage. Being able to defend against an armed attack and knowing how to use weapons will allow you to turn the tables in your favor.
Weapons come in different forms, each with advantages and disadvantages. We broadly classify them as follows:
Notice in the classifications above that many everyday items fit into each category. Learning how to use a "stick" translates very well to a great variety of items. It's obvious that a kitchen knife can be used just like any other knife, but by learning to use weapons you'll also be able to use a pen, glass of water, plate of food, or a clothing iron to defend yourself, not to mention everyday tools like wrenches, hammers, and flashlights.
If you get attacked, your opponent may also be using weapons to attack you. By understanding how each weapon works, what the effective ranges are, and how to defend against them, you'll be able to remove your opponent's advantage to some extent. By using a weapon of your own, you can even the odds or give yourself a serious advantage.
The links above to each weapon type include techniques and training methods for those particular weapons. In addition, in FSD we have a 4 Step Matrix for training and fighting with contact weapons. Finally, see our main training page for more on best practices for weapons training.
The links to different weapon types at the top of this page contain techniques related to each weapon type. Here are a few examples:
Keep in mind that the use of weapons for self defense must be in accordance with self defense law wherever you happen to be. Otherwise, the legal and ethical implications are unacceptable. Many martial arts and self defense schools that teach weapon use pay no attention to this whatsoever, teaching knife vs. empty hand tactics for example, that would be both highly illegal and unethical. It's important that you only train the way you want to act. If you train pulling a knife on a smaller, unarmed opponent who threatens you, you may end up doing the same in reality, and spending the rest of your life in jail as a result.
In addition to learning how to use and defend against weapons, training with weapons will provide knowledge and skills that translate well to unarmed fighting. While getting punched in the face isn't pleasant, it's nothing compared to getting stabbed, hit in the head with a hammer, or sliced in the neck with a machete. Training with weapons will add new dimensions to your footwork, because especially when dealing with long sharp weapons, you had better get out of the way! Weapons training requires effective footwork not used in most unarmed training. Combining this footwork with the most damaging techniques will give you a significant advantage.
The angles of attack that can be used with weapons are also different from those most commonly used in empty hand fighting. However, these angles can be used in empty hand situations. So training with weapons will also lead to skill in unconventional angles of attack and methods of defense.
The majority of self defense training takes place in sparse, padded, relatively empty rooms. The real world is generally unlike this. Indoors there is furniture everywhere, from tables and chairs to bookshelves and appliances. Outdoors there are cars, bushes, curbs, garbage containers, railings, and countless other items and features that can be used to your advantage. Time should be spent training in these environments, actually practicing slamming your opponent into hard and pointy objects, causing him to trip over objects, throwing things at your opponent just before attacking, and learning to avoid them yourself.
This can be done both in the context of sparring and in isolation drills. One drill I particularly like is where your opponent attacks, and your defense must include either causing him to trip over something or slamming him into something...his head into a wall or corner for example. The environment can often either be your best weapon or your downfall. Make use of it.
Note: For much more on weapon use and defense, see The Ultimate Guide to Weapon Use and Defense.