I am, in general, against the majority of ‘self-defense tools’ for most people.
Most situations happen suddenly, and are over too quickly, for you to use them.
Additionally, these tools give you a false sense of security. You may think just by having them that you are safe, and that you do not need to be aware. In truth, awareness is your very best tool in self defense.
Tactical flashlights like the one below are an excellent exception to the rule. If it is dark and you have it with you, flashing 300 lumens in the eyes of a criminal will give you a lot of time to try to get away.
Self Defense tools require a lot of practice to get into play quickly, and these skills must be consistently maintained to be useful. If you are going to use pepper spray, this is a particularly good kind.
Tazers are an especially powerful tool, but they convey an especially strong sense of security if you have them. However, like any tool they take a long time to bring into play, are not always appropriate for the situation, and can be used against you. I will not recommend a tazer to a civilian.
If you want to learn to hit, it is best to have a knowledgeable teacher’s supervision so you develop proper form. Poor form can give you only about 10% of your possible power, or worse yet, set you up for injury. Proper form can give even small, light people enormously more power than they would have otherwise. Check with your teacher on what equipment they prefer. I like heavy bags. Here is one that is appropriate for beginners. I like this style of banana bag because it is long enough that you can do low shin kicks, and all different heights of people can use it well. The disadvantage is that it does not move a lot until you get more power, and in real life, people move a lot. It is good for training static power for beginners.
This design is also good. What I like about this one is that it is light enough to move a lot when you work with it, which is very realistic. Be sure to mount this bag at a height that allows you to kick the bottom of it so you can practice kicks to the groin with the top of your foot.
You will need a wall mount for your heavy bag – this one easily adjusts the height if the bag is down.
If you need a standing bag because you cannot use a wall mount, none are too good. Absolutely avoid the ‘cardio’ or ‘aerobic’ versions – those have no resistance and are no good for training. Here is the classic version:
Here is one with a body and face target to help your accuracy
You should use gloves to protect your hands
These are fine for light work (beware of lower quality counterfeits)
If you punch a lot, even with proper training, you will develop some splitting and discoloration with your hands. This stuff is a godsend, make sure you have it before you need it.
If you like to wear shoes when you are training, here are my favorite ones because of the turning point in the ball of the foot and the wide base. Avoid other styles of indoor soccer shoes that may have a narrow base which is bad for balance.