Don’t Put Your Keys Between Your Fingers For Self Defence

Don’t Put Your Keys Between Your Fingers For Self Defence


Even if they haven’t gone so far as to get formal self-defence training, many people (particularly women) have considered what strategies they’d deploy if they were attacked by a stranger. A popular thought is that one would use an object on your person as a weapon of defence – like keys, for instance.

The technique known as “The Wolverine” – wherein you put your keys between your fingers, ready to jab an assailant – is widely known, but according to self-defence instructors, it’s also not a great approach. The belief that putting your keys between your fingers will make your hand into a deadlier weapon is so common a misconception, in fact, that every self-defence expert we spoke with said that they had at some point dispelled the myth for a student.

But as Gabrielle Rubin, founder of self defence course Female Awareness, tells us, even if you’re starting out with less-than-ideal strategies in mind, “I love that you’re thinking of something.” Here’s some more effective ideas to keep you safe – and yes, some of them still involve your keys:

Put Your Keys On Something to Give You Reach

The problem with the keys-in-hand gambit, Rubin points out, is that if you’re at the point where you’re trying to jab at someone with your fist, they’re already closer than you want. She suggested putting your keys on something called a kubaton, which is a kind of keychain based on a small bamboo weapon that can be used to hit your assailant (and also keep track of your keys). It’s both a weapon if they get near you, and a handle you can hang onto while beating them with the weight of the keys themselves.

“I put it on a carabiner,” says Rubin, “So if I was to hold them and swing them on the carabiner, I could swing them like a nunchuck.”

Another option would be attaching your keys to a lanyard or chain, for optimal swinging, though this is assuming you’re rivaling a janitor with your key collection.

Hold the Keys In a Way That Won’t Hurt You

Putting your keys between your fingers may be reminiscent of a wild animal or your favourite Marvel action hero, but the potential for damage to your own hand is high. Matan Gavish, founder of Krav Maga Academy, tells us that holding your keys this way will likely cause more problems for you than your assailant.

“First, the metal jagged area of the key can easily cause damage to the skin between the fingers when being used violently,” he wrote. “Sharp pain like that can lead to opening of the fingers which will immediately reduce the effectiveness of any strike.”

The base of the key hitting the inside of your hand after impact would also be painful, he added, all of which means you might drops your keys, leaving them vulnerable to a bad guy scooping them up. (And you’d be locked out of the house.) However, Gavish does note that if you have to throw a big ring of keys in someone’s face to get away, that’s an option.

He also suggests that if you must use your keys to fight, try “closing a fist around it with the sharp edge coming out the bottom or pinky side.”

Don’t Put Your Keys Between Your Fingers For Self DefenceImages via Matan Gavish.

Images via Matan Gavish.

To Jab or To Pound

When it comes to using your keys, consider how you would want to use them. Rubin boiled the available techniques down to two factors: “hit bone, poke flesh.” If you’re holding your keys like Gavish suggested above, you’re poking. Go for the eyes, throat, solar plexus and groin. If you’re holding them as more of a club, you want to hit them in places with a lot of bones. Striking someone in the hand is always far more painful than the forearm, for example, which is generally protected by fleshy muscles.

Chris Moran from JKD NYC also shared some photos for an effective strike, and though he didn’t have quite as harsh a critique of the Wolverine, he did say that the technique limits a person “to striking in punching mechanics.” He suggested two ways to hold your keys depending on many you have, and then coming down on an assailant like you’re “drawing a ‘X’ with your hand for attacking.”

Don’t Put Your Keys Between Your Fingers For Self Defence(L) Small key collection, (R) Big key collection/Images via Chris Moran.

(L) Small key collection, (R) Big key collection/Images via Chris Moran.

The overall message is that keys can be used as a weapon in a confrontation, but some tactics are much more effective than others, and the most widely-publicized method may actually be counterproductive for your safety.

The simple idea of “I’ll use my keys!” is tied to what Rubin calls the “illusion of safety”; lots of people are afraid to carry more serious self-defence devices, because they fear they will be turned against them. Also, most of us would rather just not think about the upsetting prospect of being attacks. But if someone is close enough to poke with your keys, you’re probably better off pulling their hair, scratching with your fingernails, and going for their eyes. Also, she points out that scratching someone “gets their DNA.”

Hmm, wonder why no one wants to think about all this.

This story has been updated since its original publication.


  • Kubatons are illegal in Victoria. Rape alarms are illegal. Anything that can be used as a weapon is illegal. Your best bet is to be a good victim as we don’t have a right to self defense. You can only use self defense as a legal defense. Call the police and after they come minutes later after everything has happened and you’ve been beaten up, had your money stolen or worse the attacker is probably going to escape. If they’re caught they’ll probably get a slap on the wrist and after some community service can reoffend in the near future because they know they’ll be let off scott free.

    I’m not saying legalize guns I’m saying let’s create a bill of rights for every Australian with the right to self defense as one of these rights. This is never going to happen if people keep on voting for the major parties. If evidence suggests that people being able to own kubatons, pepper spray, rape alarms etc prevents people from being assaulted, raped etc then this should be legalised.

    • I agree there needs to be a compromise, banning weaponistic items generally only hurts the law abiding citzens, as the dickheads are already breaking the law they wont care about breaking it again for using weapons.

      I can see why they outlaw pepper spray and some weapons because it reduces the chances of a drunken bozo using them against someone in a scuffle, but that doesn’t stop them one punch killing, or using a pen against someone.

      I didn’t know rape alarms were illegal though, do people prefer to hear the sounds of a rape than an alarm ? Rape alarms should be standard (i wish we lived in a world where they were not necessary, but some men can’t seem to keep it in their pants).

          • “designed to cause permanent or temporary incapacity or disability, or to otherwise physically disorientate a person” do you seriously think that rape whistles cause harm to rapists? No, it is designed to SCARE the rapist away or at the very least alert others.


          • Not quite right. There IS a diference between an alarm and an acoustic weapon, which is designed to be of a volume and/or frequency to, as the law says, cause incapacity or disorientation.
            Personal alarms are solely to create noise to alert others of your trouble and thereby, hopefully, also cause your attacker to flee.
            In all honesty, most things are outlawed because police are afraid they may be used against THEM.
            Why else would bullet proof vests, for example, be considered a weapon and outlawed on account?
            Same for pepper spray, acoustic and light weapons.
            It is never about protecting citizens.
            Australia truly is the biggest nanny state in the world. . . And Australians roll over and ask their nanny to tickle their bellies.

    • Or you could just defend yourself and then not talk to the police.

      A few months ago some guy got charged after he pointed a gun at an intruder. Idiot! Why volunteer this information to police? Say nothing.

      • Did he actually volunteer that piece of information, or did the intruder mention it while being questioned by police?

  • Who’s telling people to do wolverine keys? They only key method I’ve been told about by a girl at a party is to hold the big car key in a closed fist.

  • Back when we had one and two cent coins, my wife used to carry a couple of bucks of spare change in an old footy sock. It made a handy impromptu mace.

  • As I found out today from Federal Police at Sydney Airport, a solid keyring that was gifted to me, that I had used for years and taken through many domestic airport checkpoints (including 8+ international checkpoints in the USA) was actually a Kubaton and they are absolutely considered a weapon and are illegal to carry in Australia.

    Please remove this false information from your article before someone encounters Australian Federal Police officers that are less understanding than the two I encountered today and do more to you than just confiscate the item. I can only credit the fact that I am a thirty-ish, fairly unintimidating looking woman that was polite, apologetic, and co-operated fully as the only reason I was let go with a (still severe) warning. As I was informed, ignorance is no excuse and they could easily have charged me with a federal crime had they been so inclined. As it was, the offence is still registered against my name in their system – which is awful – but it all could have been so very much worse.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!