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On the Usage of Peppers as a Means of Self-Defense

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On the Usage of Peppers

as a Means of Self-Defense


By Finnasar
with Gratitude for those Persons who Aided in the Study


~ Summary ~

When in the course of History the Men of Númenor sailed from Middle-earth into the West after the sinking of the Isle, they happened upon a new Land, and the many fruits and animals that grew there. Of the historical significance of their voyages this treatise deals not, for there is much to be said, but the results of their ventures included the introduction of smoking-weed (variously known as tobacco or pipe-weed) and the piquant fruit known as the 'pepper' into the farming-fields of Middle-earth. It is on the latter that shall be the focus herein, and specifically the thin, red variety that induces a burning sensation into the lips and tongue when consumed. Colloquially these are known as 'hot' peppers, and so they shall be noted hence. The culinary effects of the pepper are well-documented, such as its use as a spice; it has come to the realization of the Author that such effects could be weaponized for the purposes of self-defense, if the hot peppers were properly treated and utilized. Herein is documented the methods investigated by the Author and their results.


~ The Effects of the Dust of Hot Peppers ~

~ as applied to the Eyes and Throat ~

The Author feels it vital to stress the severity of the symptoms of applying this technique. The distressing sensations of wood-smoke in the eyes and chest is known to all who have stood too close to a camp-fire when a sudden breeze directs the column of ash toward them, but powdered hot pepper is many times more debilitating. The efficacy, if applied properly, is such that even strong Men are wont to suffer, and it is feared that to a weak Man, especially children, it would be no less than inhumane torture. It is therefore with the utmost caution that the Author suggests the usage of this technique, not only in application, but also in preparation. It is, in every good sense, a weapon, and a sword cares not what flesh it carves. The Reader is urged to treat this technique with all due respect.

Immediately upon contact with the eyes the victim shall suffer a sensation of intense heat, not unlike holding one's face near an open flame. This heat shall be accompanied by a sudden dryness, as if one had faced a great gust of wind and sand without blinking, squinting, or otherwise shielding the eyes. Even if one were to force their eyes open in spite of the burn, the detritus and sudden tearing would still effectively blind them. Upon the lips and tongue one would feel a similar burn, less so if one was accustomed to eating the fruits, but unpleasant and painful all the same. Far worse still is if the powder is inhaled into the chest, especially through the nose, as the effect would spread throughout the sinuses, throat, neck, and torso, and force the victim into a fit of uncontrollable coughing, which shall greatly impede walking and the wielding of weapons. Such effects occur in all areas instantaneously and do not diminish in severity for several minutes, whilst minor symptoms may last an hour or more.

The aggregate effect is, within reasonable approximation, not unlike inhaling glowing-hot wood-ash, and shall, without long-term harm, debilitate most, if not all, foes with swiftness and ease.


~ A Method for the Drying and Comminution of Hot Peppers ~

Before a pepper may be used in this manner, it must first be subsumed into a powder. Upon ripening to a near-orange colour, the fruits of the pepper plant may be cut and dried, either by hanging above a hearth, exposure to the Sun, or repeated saltings. For swifter drying a direct flame may be used, but it is important to not let the peppers burn or cook; a soft heat, similar to that of meat on a spit, should suffice, though several hours may still be required. Although the fibrous stem may remain during the drying process, it should be removed in its entirety before reducing the flesh of the fruit into a powder. Once the fruit is fully dry to the point of crumbling or breaking it may be comminuted with mortar and pestle. A fine-grain powder, not unlike baking flour, should be attained for maximum efficacy.

This process shall yield a powder of red to brown colour, which is the primary substance used in the techniques described herein. However, a far more potent light green to white powder may be derived by utilizing only a particular section of the fruit. To isolate this area, first cut away the outer flesh of the fruit. This flesh is connected to the stem at the base and tip, and by means of thin interior walls. The stem, which is fibrous outside the fruit and softer within, sprouts numerous tiny seeds. It is the surface of this seed-bearing flesh, identifiable by its numerous blister-like lesions,  which is most efficacious. Remove the thin walls and seeds, and slice or peel this flesh in thin layers from the stem. This flesh may be dried and powdered as before, and utilized in the same way. Note, however, that this will yield substantially smaller quantities of powder, though the resulting effect shall be many times greater.

Safety precautions must be taken when powdering the dry peppers. This will naturally effuse the dust into the air, which will be painful in the eyes, nose, and mouth; verily, this is why this technique is being utilized as self-defense. Wrapping a scarf of tightly-woven wool around the nose and mouth can protect them from stray particulates, and reducing the dried peppers into a powder should be done with slow, steady movements to prevent the rising of the dust. If accidental exposure occurs, wash all exposed areas (including the eyes) thoroughly and completely with clean and boiled water at lukewarm temperature, which should be prepared beforehand.

Once the powder is prepared, it may be safely stored in any container for many years. It is recommended to keep this powder out of reach of children, and in a secure vessel which will not break or be opened without intent, nor will it allow the powder to leak out. Cloth is ill-advised due to its porosity; soft leather, earthenware, and metal would suffice, but thick parchment envelopes and wooden casks are preferable, as they would also aid in keeping the powder dry. Salt may also be added, one part to twenty of powder, to preserve and maintain dryness.


~ Martial Techniques utilizing Weaponized Powders ~

The use of defensive powders in the martial arts is limited, inherently due to its non-lethal nature, difficulty of usage, ease of defending against, and the high probability of the user being affected as well as the target. It would therefore be in the mind of the martial artist to judge any technique based upon these criteria. The first of which does not enter into the martial art itself; usage of a powder is unlikely to depend upon the type of powder, for a powder it is and shall remain, and diffuses into a cloud almost regardless of technique. Furthermore, as a powder is most efficacious in the areas of the eyes, sinuses, and throat, and that defending these areas is relatively easy, a powder-based weapon is best used with a measure of stealth. Two criteria remain: difficulty of usage, and probability of the technique affecting the user. The following techniques attempt to investigate these.

  • The Method of Throwing: In its simplest form, a powder may be held in the hand and either blown or thrown toward the opponent. A reservoir of powder may be carried in a satchel for multiple uses. This technique is perhaps most useful in regards to self-defense, particularly for those who are not familiar with combat; there is little to no training required. However, it directly exposes the user to the powder by hand, and the resulting dispersion cloud would also be nearby enough to possibly affect the user. Methods of defending oneself could be employed to mitigate this effect.

  • The Method of Throwing-Bags: By placing the powder into a porous linen pouch, not unlike the kind used for steeping tea-leaves, one could hurl the powder a great distance with accuracy, reliably striking a target with training. Depending on the fine-ness of the powder and the spacing of the stitching of the linen, a sizeable cloud of powder would be produced upon impact. This method does have the same drawback as the Method of Throwing in exposing the hand of the user to the powder, but it allows a greater flexibility in offensive technique. A similar result could be obtained by using balls of loosely-woven thread which have many piles, similar to sack-cloth. A fabric such as this, if placed into a reservoir of powder, would attract and cling to the powder, only releasing it upon impact. Both of these methods would allow the user to carry a reservoir of powder, in case the sacks have been depleted and one must resort to simply throwing the powder by hand.

  • The Method of Air-Tube Dispersion: Being that blowing the powder toward a target most effectively disperses the powder, one may employ a hollow tube, similar to a closed flute or reed, into which powder is packed, to direct the resulting cloud towards a target. Whilst this method has the great advantages of dispersion, and of protecting the user from the dangers of the powder, it requires preparation aforehand and it suffers from low reusability. Some considerations:

    • One could carry several dispersion devices by collecting several thin tubes and packing a measure of powder into them between balls of cotton, wool, or parchment. If packed properly, these should be able to be carried on one's person without spillage, but with a forceful blow would still diffuse the powder.

    • By means of a chamber of powder connected to a tube which extends from a bellows, one could theoretically craft a multiple-use device which allows for several  distinct dispersions. Such a device could be held in a single hand and operate similar to a hand-crossbow, allowing great ease in use.

    • Consider the smoke-ring. A powder, ground finely enough to emulate the particulates of smoke, could, by means of a sounding chamber with a round hole, be relocated through a distance with minimal spillage and with great accuracy, and done so several times before the reservoir of powder is used up.

As the powder is meant to be used as a tactic of self-defense, immediately after using the powder one should depart from the area at the greatest speed, preferably toward a place of safety or into a crowd where further protections may be acquired. It is in the user's best interest to not linger to see how the powder affects the target, even if curiosity may desire it; an immediate departure is part and parcel of this technique, for the target may have developed defenses against it, but even in those defenses a brief moment shall be allowed for the user to escape.


~ Defenses Against the Techniques ~

~ and Treatment ~

Given the powder's efficacy as a stealth weapon, it would be difficult to master a defense against it. However, as is the case with any skill, such a defense can be developed. First and primarily, one must not panic: the initial phase of doubt and confusion when powder is thrown will cause the chest to gasp for air and the eyes to widen, as is the response to any weapon being drawn in anger; this is to the benefit of the one wielding the powder, but the obvious detriment of their target. Though the instinct, honed into every fighter, is to keep one's eyes open, it would be the case in this regard to close them immediately. The powder does not linger long in the air, and can be swiftly dispersed, or diffused to the point of minimal effectiveness, with a swipe of the hand, after which it would be safe to re-open one's eyes. Similarly, the instinct to take in air must be repressed and reversed; rather, one must exhale sharply through the nose and mouth, and maintain this lack of breath until the air becomes clear. Once again, this will happen swiftly; in the few seconds that follow the initial attack, the body will not require a steady supply of air, and a sharp breath can be drawn soon after. Further, the cloud will tend to be isolated to a particular area; any wind would serve not to shift the cloud, but to diffuse it to the point of uselessness. Therefore one may step aside or retreat from the cloud. This, of course, if one does not wish to simply wear a restrictive scarf at all times. It must be said that, whilst all of these defenses are effective, one may not find them practical; anyone who uses powders will likely attempt to do so when their target is vulnerable to them. Such is the way of combat.

Whilst the powder is effective at disabling an opponent, it is not lethal, and the symptoms will fade naturally over time. This can be hastened in the eyes by submerging them in clean water and blinking repeatedly; this will not be a pleasant experience, but it is better than the alternative of suffering the powder. If the powder is inhaled, the only solution the Author has found is to breath steam, as if from a cup of tea or a boiling pot; but this will not hasten the recovery, it will only offer a mild reduction of the symptoms, and thus must be continued until the symptoms themselves cease.


~ Conclusion ~

The Author finds the usage of weaponized powders viable as a method of self-defense, and with minimal training required, thus allowing citizens without skill in arms to defend themselves, if briefly, from attack. The benefits of non-lethal but entirely effective defensive weapons must not be underestimated, for all life is sacred. However, as with all weapons, the severity of the impact shall depend upon the one using it. An axe may fell a tree, or a foe. A knife may cut portions of food, or a coin-purse. Thus it is that the Author has decided to withhold select research from this Work, in the hopes that it shall be used as it is, and not in a manner the Author does not wish it. The Author begs the Reader for forgiveness for this dishonesty, but asserts that the good of the proliferation of a means of self-defense by those without training in arms is more valuable, and outweighs the preservation of knowledge.