Tag 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.

the “warrior thing”…again

Young Delta Force Operator :-)
Young Delta Force Operator 🙂 (Photo credit: Podknox)

The initial reason for starting this blog was to try and frame a discussion about what “warriorship” is. One of the first posts here was an attempt to define the term:

http://tgace.com/2013/10/09/defining-terms/#comments

The discussion in the comments became an interesting exploration all of its own. A definition of warriorship that was explored stated that the warrior put him or herself at risk of serious physical injury or death for the sake of oneself or others. Someone else then asked if that would include “non-martial types”, such as a doctor who goes into dangerous places to treat others. I responded with a quote from Musashi:

It is said the warrior’s is the twofold Way of pen and sword, and he should have a taste for both Ways. Even if a man has no natural ability he can be a warrior by sticking assiduously to both divisions of the Way. Generally speaking, the Way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death. Although not only warriors but priests, women, peasants and lowlier folk have been known to die readily in the cause of duty or out of shame, this is a different thing. The warrior is different in that studying the Way of strategy is based on overcoming men. By victory gained in crossing swords with individuals, or enjoining battle with large numbers, we can attain power and fame for ourselves or our lord. This is the virtue of strategy.

A vital component of the definition, (according to Musashi at least…and I would dare say most historical “warriors”) is the point that the warrior exists and trains to overcome other people who are trying to impose their will against him and/or his group/community/clan/nation.

I also believe that being a “Warrior” comes with a price tag. And a pretty hefty price tag at that. Service, sacrifice, risk…Just “wanting to be one” isn’t enough by my standard. Neither is “putting on the clothes or skills”. Some folks like to apply the “warrior” label to one who simply practices a martial art.

Karate no more makes you a warrior than being a football player would. Karate (and pistol skills, rifle schooling, lock picking training, knife fighting training, etc.) are “warrior skills”. Skills that I believe some people pursue to live out their “warrior fantasy”.

If you want to be a “Warrior” then you have to go out and “put it on the line” and put those “warrior skills” to use. Anything less than you are practicing the “Warrior Lifestyle”. Much like training exactly like a NFL football player but only playing some backyard ball with your buddies doesn’t make you “as good as” a Professional Football player. Or having all the skills and gear of a Delta Force Operator doesn’t make you “as good as a Delta Operator”.

There are some martial artists and authors who have a different opinion than me:

http://thewisdomwarrior.com/books-by-bohdi-sanders/warrior-wisdom-volume-3/

This is a common misconception where the true warrior is concerned. While the main definition of the warrior found in most dictionaries is, “Somebody who takes part in or has experience in warfare.” This definition is not the one that should be used to define the true warrior, and is not an accurate definition for the warrior lifestyle. A better definition for a warrior is, “Somebody who takes part in a struggle or conflict.” The true warrior is engaged in a struggle and it is a daily fight. His battle is not necessarily on the battlefield, but rather a personal battle to perfect his character and to become a man of excellence in every area of his life.

While it is true that martial arts training is a vital part of warriorship, it is not the sole component of a true warrior. There are many people who are trained fighters who are not true warriors. The world is full of killers, gang members, and people of low character who are well-versed in weapons and how to take a human life, but is this the singular requirement for being a warrior? Are these people true warriors or simply trained thugs? Anyone can learn to pull a trigger or destroy the human body. Does this knowledge make them a true warrior, or is there more to the warrior than the ability to fight?

While I agree with the sentiment that warriorship is not all about skills. I’m not convinced that the word “warrior” or the concept of “warriorship” necessarily has or ever had  a mandate of being “virtuous”.

Many “Warriors” sacked cities, carried off women as slaves, burned down villages and did other things we would consider reprehensible today. Would one suggest that the Vikings were not “Warriors”?

While I of all people value the “Warrior Ethic”, as we have re-codified it with our modern values; I would hesitate to define the basic concept of a “Warrior” as necessarily being “virtuous”, at least by any modern standard. Remember though that what the Mongols, Romans, etc. did back then was the “Way of War” in those days. Warriors were warriors because that’s what they were. Many were born into a caste system, Knights, Samurai, Tribal Warriors etc….Soldiers were the “Average Joe’s” that joined (or were conscripted) into armies, taught how to fight, paid in some manner and sent into battle. Many went back to being “Joe Farmer” afterwards. Some became “Career Men” and sort of crossed the Soldier/Warrior boundary. In our times I would say that the difference between a Warrior and a Soldier is a matter of professionalism, commitment to craft, and the honoring of a “code” either personal or codified. In the military, when you meet a “Soldier” vs. a “Warrior” you know it….

I don’t really now of any example in military history where significant things were accomplished by warriors who “fought alone”. The lone wolf, Rambo “Warrior” is a myth IMHO. Even the Samurai and medieval Knights who were of the “Warrior Class” fought in organized battles. Examples of individual combat did absolutely exist, but all warfare is typified by some form of teamwork. Our modern definition of “Warrior” is very different from the historical model IMO. For example, the Samurai were “Warriors” by caste and at the same time there were Ashigaru “Soldiers” recruited from the other classes who fought at the same time. They all fought, bled and died pretty much the same, but what was expected of the Warriors by their society was quite different. There really is no “class” difference in the military these days (besides the officer/enlisted split), so the difference between a Warrior and a Soldier has picked up all of this philosophical/spiritual/mystical stuff. I just think of the difference as one of “dedication to craft”. The difference between somebody who “does something” from someone who “is something”.

That “service, sacrifice and risk for ones clan/community” I mentioned earlier…note I didn’t add any sort of “virtuous conduct” to the definition. The German SS were an elite group of “warriors” they were using their warrior skills in the service of their nation. I wouldn’t describe what they were doing as virtuous by any means, but I would still consider them “warriors”. The Samurai of Japan were noted for..at times…lopping off heads for simply not bowing swiftly enough.

So in a nutshell. My definition:

  • Trains to overcome other men/people.
  • Seeks to perfect those skills.
  • Uses those skills in service to others.
  • Sees this honing of “craft” and “service to others” as a “way of life” vs. SOLELY as a paycheck/term of enlistment/college money/retirement package/etc.

While virtue and “self-improvement” are desirable and some historic warrior groups attempted to codify/instill those virtues (Bushido, Chivalry, etc.),  the cultural and historic “fuzziness” of what is “virtuous” makes this aspect sort of an “add on” depending on the period and people making the definition.

Of course, there are no “warrior police” out there, so everybody is free to label as they wish. However this blog is about my definition so…there it is.

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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.

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.

mental bearing

Samurai.jpg
Samurai.jpg (Photo credit: Andy Heather)

 

A quote that I use as a signature on an internet martial arts forum goes as follows:

“Mental bearing (calmness), not skill, is the sign of a matured samurai. A Samurai therefore should neither be pompous nor arrogant.”
– Tsukahara Bokuden

I think that the author makes an interesting point. I interpret this passage as saying that all Samurai have the same “basic training”. One can expect that a Samurai has skill with the sword, the bow, a spear, horseback riding and so on. The mature Samurai though, he possesses the presence of mind and calm demeanor that allow him to apply those skills freely and at the opportune time.

I’ve often thought about how this applies to modern combatives. An average practitioner is expected to have some training in basic combative skill. The thing that will set that student apart from others will be that “switch” between the physical techniques and “mental incorporation” for lack of a better term. A black belt with an encyclopedic knowledge of technique that “tweaks out” under stress is worthless. An untrained person who can stay calm under stress, grab a ball point pen and stab an attacker “about the head and neck” with it is a successful survivor. Mental bearing, willingness to commit and a pre-thought “action plan” are key. I honestly believe that successful martial arts training has more to do with getting a person to ACT when the time comes to act, the technique or system is secondary to this. I think that the advantage being seen in MMA is due to their training program vs any “technical superiority”. They train to take and deliver blows. They train against resisting opponents. I think that almost any martial art can reap these benefits through a re-evaluation of their training protocols. However, not everybody studies martial arts for this purpose. Studios that depend on the children’s programs, the fitness pitches or the “hobbyist” martial arts students will not attract or retain as many people as they would like if they make the training too demanding. It comes down to the instructor and his goals.

On another point, people who take this business seriously need to “pre-plan” for as many situations as they can dream up. Even if the solution is as simple as “I will never allow myself to be forced into a car and transported elsewhere. I’d rather fight and die quickly on the spot than be taken somewhere to die”. The survivor needs to have a basic “mental flowchart” already downloaded into the brain. This will foster this “mental bearing”.

I think that the pursuit of this state of mind is what attracts many martial artists to Zen and meditation; but while that can be a substantial aid I don’t see it as a “magic potion” unless it is made into a part of ones everyday life. Often it seems that westerners look at things like Zen as a “martial arts supplement”…take your daily dosage and watch the amazing results. I think that benefits like these are cumulative and the changes so slow and subtle that a person will rarely notice a change in themselves. Taking that route requires a life long commitment and a permanent shift in ones concept of reality.

The best way to learn to control your mind under stress is to “inoculate” yourself against it. Face the small battles everyday. Push yourself physically and mentally. Train to work through fatigue, fear and stress. Another thing I have often read about mindset is paraphrased as “you are how you choose to think”. In other words “act calm” under stress, even if you don’t think you are calm. For all intents and purposes, you will be controlling your mental state and if done long enough you will find that you really do start remaining calm under stress. Life rarely has “magical transformations”, most change comes from consistency. The formation of good habit is key.

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