Category Archives: martial arts

cut to kill

A Martial Arts Moment:

I was thinking about some knife based Martial Arts, mostly Filipino based, that entertain the concept of “biomechanical cutting”. There can be some confusion with the term depending on the art or the practitioner, but the essence of the concept is the intentional cutting of muscles and connective tissues in the limbs so as to cause loss of function. Some artists have taken the idea as far as employing a blade as an almost “less than lethal” tool in a self-defense situation. They think they can use a knife to disable limbs while not killing…or intending to kill…an opponent.

In theory, I have nothing against “biomechanical cutting”; if your defensive techniques feature limb attacks and those cuts actually do disable limbs in a self-defense situation so much the better. But I question it’s efficiency as a “primary technique”…I will cut up his limbs so I wont have to kill him. That seems to assume an almost “fantasy level” of technical and physical dominance in a fight where you felt you had to employ a knife.

If you are going to argue that you were in such fear for your life that you had to draw a blade and you then went on to fillet the guy at will….I could see an attorney attacking that.

I see stabs as the analog of center of mass firearms hits and “slashes” like limb hits. Sometimes you may shoot at a limb intentionally because that’s the only target you have. If you are shooting from under a car and disable a guy with leg hits great…it was all you had and it worked. Developing a firearms technique that intentionally focuses on limbs as a “less lethal option” is fraught with issues. A gun is NOT a “less lethal” tool no matter where you shoot someone. Think otherwise and I think we start to wander into the “why did you kill him? Couldn’t you have shot him in the leg or something?” territory.

A knife is a deadly force weapon. I don’t know if I’d be willing to be a test subject for a legal argument that it can be employed as a “less lethal” tool. Even limb slashes can kill via exsanguination.

In conclusion, my personal opinion on knives as a “defensive tool” is that if I have to use one its going to be in a “kill or be killed” situation, and the best way to survive such a threat and sustain a legal defense, is to employ it as such.

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Occam’s Razor for shooters….

The Ockraz Logo
The Ockraz Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

William of Ockham was an influential medieval philosopher who is recalled chiefly for the maxim attributed to him known as Ockham’s razor. Also spelled “Occam’s Razor”. The words attributed to him are, entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem…or “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity”.

I bring this up because I have just read a quote from the Dokkodo, the “The Solitary Path”, which is a short piece written by Miyamoto Musashi shortly before his death:

Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what can be of use to you.

I see a link between the philosophies of these two men and an application to weapon training. I will attempt to explain.

These philosophical issues come to mind because I was recently involved in a friendly conversation debating that “Less Filling. Tastes Great” topic of using the slide release vs “power stroking” the slide on a handgun during an emergency reload.

I have a post here regarding this very issue BTW.

Debate points that always seem to come up when discussing emergency reloads are:

“I use the power stroke because I may be using a weapon I am unfamiliar with and running the slide is fairly universal for all pistols while slide releases may vary.”

and

“I use the power stroke because the actions are similar to the manual of arms for clearing malfunctions.”

Being a fairly recent convert to the slide release method, Occam’s and Musashi’s quotes kind of cut me both ways.

I argue that the “It’s universal for all pistols” point either means you own too many pistols or you are saying you are going to be doing a combat pick up of a pistol…or a disarm.

Per Occam/Musashi…if you have so many different pistols that you may/may not be carrying at any one time, you are violating their precepts. I’m not against collecting guns, I’m not against having different pistols/rifles for different applications, but if you worry that you may not be able to “auto pilot” your weapon because you may be carrying something different on any given day, that’s a problem IMO. Pick one and make it a part of your hand.

The combat pick-up/disarm argument doesn’t hold much water for me either. I’m probably not going to disarm an attacker of his weapon and magazines and have to do an emergency reload with them. And the combat pick-up is such a statistically rare issue that I don’t see it as a valid point. Either way, if they worry you then do the power stroke method if that ever happens.

The second point…”I use the power stroke because the actions are similar to the manual of arms for clearing malfunctions.” Is a more valid argument when applying Occam (Musashi doesn’t really apply here). Having one way of operating the pistol regardless of reason (malfunction or running dry) is a stronger point IMO and I have much to agree with.

However I would counter that Occam said “…must not be multiplied beyond necessity” he didn’t say “never multiply”. The slide stop method has some things going for it; speed, efficiency, the weapon/hands stay more oriented to the threat, etc. The necessity of multiplying your manual of arms to gain those advantages may be debatable, but I would debate it.

Either way you choose I find Occam and Musashi’s points as interesting ways to analyze our choices when it comes to weaponcraft. What do you think?

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i am not afraid. you will be….

Just came across this little nugget:

In the description it states:

Abduction is rampant, even in America. According to the FBI, Sex slavery is now the 2nd highest grossing criminal enterprise in the world (after Drugs). Watch this video to learn what to do and what not to do to avoid falling victim to this social epidemic. For more information, contact us at

Rampant eh? In his book Protecting the Gift, Gavin De Becker states that compared to a stranger kidnapping, a “child is vastly more likely to have a heart attack, and child heart attacks are so rare that most parents never even consider the risk.”

And juvenile kidnapping is a larger percentage of kidnapping statistics as a total than adult kidnapping.

The vid flashes up an assortment of crime statistics implying that you (the woman in a parking lot) are at a dangerous risk of abduction into the sex trade…like a scene right out of “Taken”.

Just critiquing the “facts” presented in this vid… Having been involved  (even if tangentially) in at least one successful Federally prosecuted human trafficking case, I can confidently claim that those statistics are not about the “average woman” being taken in a store parking lot. Women in the US being trafficked come from an entirely different set of life circumstances. Tragic circumstances all the same, but VERY few come form the movie set of “Taken”. Sex slavery is a very complicated crime to approach sensitively when trying to discuss who falls victim and how. While sex slavery may be the “2nd largest grossing criminal enterprise” in the world that does NOT mean that women are being tossed into vans in our suburban parking lots to fuel it. That’s too much movie watching there.

And of that 300,000 children “at risk” of abduction per the FBI stat shown in the vid. “At risk” means something entirely different from actually being abducted. A huge percentage of that number is the non-custodial parent abduction scenario. Depending on what set of statistics you look at juvenile kidnapping is as low as one tenth of a percent of all crimes against individuals.

Be alert, prepared and trained for any circumstance….absolutely. But I don’t know that I support selling martial arts training based on fear mongering founded on inaccurate portrayal of crime statistics.

be careful who you trust

Martial Arts
Martial Arts (Photo credit: Tom Gill.)

A martial arts acquaintance of mine recently posted the following quote on a social media site:

“Only act with honorable people. You can trust them, and they you. Their honor is the best surety of their behavior even in misunderstandings, for they always act according to their character. Hence, it is better to have a dispute with an honorable person than to have a victory over dishonorable ones. You cannot deal well with the ruined, for they have no hostages for rectitude. With them there is no true friendship, and their agreements are not binding, however stringent they appear, because they have no feelings of honor. Never have anything to do with such people, for it honor does not restrain them, virtue will not, since honor is the throne of rectitude.” -Baltasar Gracian

Reading that got some wheels spinning in my head. The first association I made was with a previous post I authored here called “Learning good things from bad people”. There I addressed the issue of people overlooking the character flaws of some Martial Arts instructors because they believe that they can separate a teachers “issues” from the “good stuff” they teach. That post ended with the following:

What is the deciding factor that determines what you will overlook for that “good training”? Is it money? Is it just that the guy is close by..he’s “there”?  Is what he’s teaching really THAT much better than anybody else can show you? Is it because the instructor/style that you have invested a lot of your time, your money, and to some extent your “self” in is involved with this person?

Where do YOU draw the line?

In another mindstream I was mulling over a study I discovered a few years ago called Instructor-Student Commonalities in the Martial Arts: Leadership Traits and Similarities by Martin Thomas McGee. A snippet of this study states:

In a rigid social hierarchy, like martial arts, it would make sense that people would become more similar as a function of time, because everyone’s situational experience is relatively the same within the dojo. However, this hypothesis is not supported by Sylvia and Pindur (1978). Their findings suggest state that socialization takes place early and is independent of time and rank.

Martial arts schools are hierarchal, indoctrination-like social systems. Because of their rigidity, participants share the same experiences. Also, during this same time, modeling of super-ordinate positions occurs. These in-class experiences and modeling yield similar personalities among members. These similar personalities contain leadership qualities, such as a high need for cognition, strong locus of control, and strong motivation. Due to the subjective and reflexive nature of evaluation, those who have leadership qualities most similar to their instructors will be promoted to the next rank. Those who lack leadership qualities similar to their instructor will not be promoted. Not being promoted has nothing to do with being liked by the instructor, but not being qualified by displaying the attitude of one who is to be promoted to a higher rank. Or, because of this lack of attitude similarity as perceived by the student, there are differences in values that cause him or her to withdraw from classes. Hence, time “weeds out” those who are dissimilar from their instructor.

In other words, the “leadership”/instructors of a system are naturally self-selected from people who share personality traits with the head instructor.

In my opinion, the hangers-on of some of these teachers…even though they may deny it…are picking their side despite their assertions that they disagree with an instructors character but desire the skills nonetheless.

martial art or art form?

This old post seemed appropriate in light of the conversation my previous post is involved in.

I find Kyudo an interesting art and an interesting subject for discussion of the term “martial art”. While Kyudo has its roots in combat archery and does use a weapon, it is obviously a spiritual and meditative pursuit rather than a combative skill. While Kyudo is called a “martial art”, I doubt that any Kyudo practitioner has delusions of being “combat effective” or believe that they are training in an art that will provide them with “street survival” skills. However I do believe that there are practitioners of various stylistic, meditative and “traditional” arts that DO believe such things. These are the people who believe that working on their “Chi” rather than their punching skills or physical conditioning will help them survive a confrontation. They are the people who think that a fight will somehow adhere to the protocols they follow at the dojo. These are the people who equate “martial art” with “combatives”.  A Kyudo practitioner is not the same as a historic Japanese combat archer. A sport fencing master is not automatically someone who could survive a real sword fight and a master in a “martial art” who has never faced a resisting opponent should not be presumed to be more likely to prevail against someone who has.

what is an expert?

Im in an interesting discussion over at:

http://www.martialtalk.com/forum/showthread.php/108916-Is-it-possible-to-quot-train-quot-for-something-that-you-never-actually-do/page7

The following is something I posted there:

“Expert” is a subjective term. Having been through ALL sorts of training from martial arts, military, LE, SWAT, Federal LE schools I can attest that there are experts and there are EXPERTS.

Seeing that more of my training now centers around the “tactical” and firearms. In this world you have experts like Todd Jarret:

Todd has no military or LE background and I doubt he has ever had to shoot anyone. That being said, LE and Mil actively seek his instruction/expertise in what he does.

On the other end of the spectrum are guys like Kyle Lamb:

Former Army Delta. “Blackhawk Down” veteran…Iraq war Vet..etc. Has shot people, has been shot at…numerous times.

While Jarret is probably faster and more “expert” than Lamb when it comes to driving a gun, Lambs instruction is coming from an ENTIRELY different source. Shooting is shooting. Jarret and Lamb are both drawing, aiming and shooting firearms…what makes one “different” from the other?

This isnt to imply that I think one is “better” than the other. LE/MIL seek them both but what they provide isnt identitical.

So what is an “expert”? I myself have been through all sorts of training, Ive won some awards and tactical/firearms competitions. Im former mil, SWAT officer, a veteran police officer..so I am an “expert” of sorts compared to others. But Im nowhere near the “expert” these guys are and likely never will be…

the mystical and the mundane

I’ve often wondered how people (especially martial artists) can consider this:

an Art with all the benefits we ascribe to martial arts (discipline, mental clarity, improved concentration, moving meditation…etc.).

While they dismiss this:

As simply “shooting”…a hobby enjoyed by “gun nuts”, right wing extremists, rednecks and “preppers”.

Not that Iaido is NOT an “Art” or that it doesn’t have those benefits mind you, but the physical mechanics of drawing a sword are not “mystical”. The discipline of a trained firearms user is little different IMO. I laugh at the idea that a sub 2 second failure drill is somehow “less” than a clean sword cut.

Don’t confuse people out shooting at tin cans with skilled shooters. There are plenty of people out swinging martial arts weapons in their back yards with no training (as we all know)…they do not seem to taint the entire pool of martial artists though.

jack of all trades?

Japanese helm and armor, from Metropolitan Mus...
Image via Wikipedia
I just read this passage from the Hagakure:

There are many people who, by being attached to a martial art and taking apprentices, believe that they have arrived at the full stature of a warrior. But it is a regrettable thing to put forth much effort and in the end become an “artist.” In artistic technique it is good to learn to the extent that you will not be lacking. In general, a person who is versatile in many things is considered to be vulgar and to have only a broad knowledge of matters of importance.

The way I read it, Yamamoto Tsunetomo was saying that some people look at teaching, practicing or dedicating themselves in a martial art as the pinnacle of “warriorship” but that becoming an “artist” and being a “warrior” are two different things.

He furthermore says that when learning “artistic technique” it is good to learn only enough to be proficient, but he says that only having a broad knowledge of matters of importance is “vulgar”.

I am a bit confused by this passage. The first part, where he says that it would be “regrettable” to become an artist, I think I understand. It seems to me that he is saying “look..a warrior USES martial arts to accomplish his goals…martial arts do not define the warrior. Don’t get so involved in practicing the martial arts that you forget what your job is.”

I tend to agree with that sentiment. I have stated repeatedly in my writings here that I think that simply teaching or training in a martial art doesnt place you in the “warrior class“. If you want to BE a warrior, you have to get out there and put your ass on the line FOR something. Enlist, become a Fireman, an EMT, a cop, join the Peace Corps…get out there and DO something. Even if you have no martial arts experience I believe that you are closer to being a “warrior” than someone who goes to the corner dojo twice a week.

The people who hone their martial skills, the citizens who attend every firearms school from Blackwater to Gunsite…they are training in the “warrior arts” or perhaps trying to live “AS a warrior”, which is perfectly fine and honorable. Many of them are simply enjoying a hobby, some are preparing themselves to be self-sufficient in defensive skills, and myrid other legitimate reasons. Then there are some who think that practicing the skills of the warrior somehow “makes” them a warrior, but paying to learn all the skills and techniques of a Navy SEAL isnt the “same as” BEING a Navy SEAL.

So I agree…being an “artist” and being a “warrior” are different things. Then again, perhaps I am simply interpreting this writing to match my opinion because Tsunetomo goes on to say:

In artistic technique it is good to learn to the extent that you will not be lacking. In general, a person who is versatile in many things is considered to be vulgar and to have only a broad knowledge of matters of importance.

I can read the first part  in two ways. Either he is saying; “when you are an Artist you can “get away with” learning enough so as to not be lacking”. Or he is saying; “when you are a warrior who is learning an artistic technique it is best to not waste your time honing it too much to the detriment of other skills”.

I think that the last sentence tends to support the first interpretation. As if the writer is saying “well..if you are an Artist then learning enough to get by in many skills is all well and good, but being a generalist is vulgar.”

That tends to run contrary to my understanding of what “artist” means though. I would think that the “artist” would be concerned with refining and honing every minutiae of technique, while the warrior has many skills he/she needs to do their job.

Then again perhaps the authors “artist” was different than our modern interpretation of the term. Maybe he was saying; “Martial Artists are interested in learning anything and everything to do with their art so they tend to learn just enough to be skillful in those many things. The Warrior should not worry about gaining many mediocre skills, he should focus on becoming expert at his necessary skills (i.e. swordsmanship, archery, horesmanship etc.).”

To make a modern military analogy, this is like saying a “military artist” would be someone who tries to learn about everything; artillery, airborne operations, naval operations, intelligence, infantry tactics, armor etc. As such the “military artist” gains a broad but shallow knowledge of all these skills. Its as if Tsunetomo is saying “dont be a Military Artist…focus on your infantry skills. You may not know squat about Tank Warfare but you will be an Infantry expert.”

I wish that Tsunetomo was around so I could ask him to clarify. Does anybody else have an interpretation of this passage that differs from mine?

Any way you interpret it, this passage raises some interesting thoughts about the relationship between your “mission” and your training goals.

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