Key Flailing For Self-Defense DOES NOT WORK

A few years ago we touched on the topic of key-flailing, specifically to point out that using your keys as the tip of a flail (on a cord, on a purpose-built device as are sold online, or on a kubotan used as a handle) is not an effective self-defense technique. There are, nonetheless, a number of people who continue to advocate the practice, as well as a few other ways to use keys for self-defense that simply aren’t advisable.


The worst of these recommendations is shoving your keys through your fingers to use them as some kind of makeshift punch-enhancer. I soft-pedaled my criticism of this technique previously, but the fact is, you’re going to hurt your own hand worse than you are going to hurt an attacker with your keys through your fingers like this:


It’s far better, when using your keys to jab an assailant in the eyes or throat (the only really viable targets for this technique) to simply hold a single key as you would normally hold it. My car key, for example, is perfect for this. It’s large enough to be useful, sharp enough to put in someone’s eye to good effect, and is typically already in my hand when I’m on my way to the car. Transitioning from indoors to a vehicle, or leaving a vehicle, are two major points of vulnerability for any of us.


Of course, the problem with using your keys for self-defense is that if you damage them or lose them, they become useless for their intended purpose. If you lose a house or car key you might even be putting yourself at risk for a future crime. If an assailant picks up your keys and runs off with them, if he has some idea where you live, he may just come back to help himself to your vehicle or let himself into your home. Still, in most cases a quick jab to the eye with a car key is better than… well, not doing that.


Let me reiterate a more important point explicitly, though:

Using your keys as a flail is an ineffective self-defense technique.

I don’t care if the keys are on a handle or on the other end of a cord or purpose-built keychain device. Yes, it is possible to build up quite a bit of momentum with a wad of keys on the end of a cord. Why, if you really work at it, you can smash cinder blocks and eviscerate pumpkins with such a device. (What all these targets have in common is that they are completely stationary.) There’s absolutely no way you’re going to do anything like this in the adrenal stress of a self-defense encounter. Sure, you could sting somebody with your keys. You could even cut them open swinging your keys around on a cord. The fact remains, however:

You will not neutralize an attacker with flailed keys.

That is my definition of “ineffective.” I don’t care what stationary targets you have harmed with a keyring flail. And a key flail is NOT a slungshot or monkey’s fist, which is a solid weight at the end of a flexible handle or cord. Keys are ineffective for the same reason slungshots can be: The keys are not heavy enough to do more than cut and annoy an attacker, whereas a solid weight can actually impart enough damage to hurt someone badly.

If key-related shenanigans figure prominently in your self-defense plans, consider picking up something disposable that can stand in for the same purpose. (“TheLolly” or a similar implement is perfect for this.) Remember, though, that if your keys are on a substantial key chain or fob like a kubotan, you are better off striking with the kubotan than with the keys. Be content to let the keys rattle along as you hit with the fob as it was intended to be used.


To be honest, if your keys are all you have for self-defense, it’s probably time to invest in something more substantial. This is easier said than done in some locales. Still, it’s a serious issue, and something that should be on your mind if your only plans for self-preservation revolve around using your car- or house-keys to fend off a mugger. Just, please, whatever you do, discard any notion that you’re going to key-flail an attacker into submission.

It’s simply not going to happen.

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3 thoughts on “Key Flailing For Self-Defense DOES NOT WORK

  1. Don’t know why people still perpetuate the key flail technique as a viable self defense strategy. If you have no other option for self defense get your self at least a metal pen for a force multiplier. I know in my neck of the woods a monkey paw is kind of frowned on- but this is New Jersey

  2. It is amazing how many times I have seen this technique shown in publications.
    Some antique Warded Keys were over 6 inches in length and could be used as a short
    weapon to strike with.
    Although with the short Pin Tumblers keys it fails to work as you state.
    Pin Tumbler keys are made of sharp edges lol

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