Tag Archives: philosophy

martial art or art form?

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.

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.”


“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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a bad decision now?

Thinking RFID
Thinking RFID (Photo credit: @boetter)

I have heard the “a bad decision now is better than a good decision later” meme spouted in places as varied as military NCO schools, police academies and SWAT sources as advice to individuals. I think people who say stuff like that need to be clear that this applies in special circumstances… primarily “life and death” moments. I know a few people who would probably still be alive if they had slowed down and thought about what they were going to do before they did it.

give thanks


Don't let the sun go down on your grievances
Don’t let the sun go down on your grievances (Photo credit: kevin dooley)

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.” -Tecumseh

have faith

“As one looks back through the ages, all the great men are men of faith: the Newtons, Faradays, Darwins, Marconis, men with faith which they confirmed by experiment. Luther and Garibaldi, Washington and Lincoln, men of action as well as thought, were primarily men of faith. But infinitely above all, Jesus himself is the supreme example of a man of faith. Even on his cross he was absolutely confident, though as far as any human eye could see then, his faith, judged by results, was ‘unreasonable.’ The same is absolutely true of social life. The men who are really great and loved in social life are those who have faith in the meaning of life. Faith is the main factor in achieving the loftiest goal in any department of life.”

-Sir Wilfred T. Grenfell

stand for something

Français : Courage
Français : Courage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every so often I get into philosophical debates over “moral relativism”, the philosophized notion that right and wrong are not absolute values, but are personalized according to the individual and his or her circumstances or cultural orientation. My belief is that as a philosophy for living, relativism is simply an easy excuse to avoid taking a stand on anything at best and a rationalization for evil at worst. I just found this quote that sums up the idea that relativism is simply a thought game that leaves one with nothing to lay a hold of to help one to live a life of value.

“But the new rebel is a Skeptic and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then he writes another book (about the sex problem) in which he insults it himself. He curses the Sultan because Christian girls lose their virginity, and then curses Mrs. Grundy because they keep it. As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie, and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie. He calls a flag a bauble, and then blames the oppressors of Poland or Ireland because they take away that bauble. The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic  is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.”

Orthodoxy – G. K. Chesterton.

seeking good companions

Muromachi period samurai, 1538
Image via Wikipedia

In light of some recent events, this post came to my mind so I decided to re-publish it.

If one would seek good companions, he will find them among those with whom he studies Learning and calligraphy. Harmful companions to avoid will be found among those who play go, chess and shakuhachi. There is no shame in not knowing these later amusements. Indeed, they are matters to be taken up only in the stead of wasting ones time completely.

A person’s good and evil are dependent on his companions. When three people are together there will always be an exemplary person among them, and one should choose the good person and follow his example. Looking at the bad person, one should correct his own mistakes.

-Hojo Nagauji (1432-1519 A.D.)

Hojo Nagauji was a “Fighting Samurai” and general of the late Muromachi Period. Some of his writings, namely The Twenty-One Precepts (of which this is a quote), are amongst the foundations of what we know as Bushido.

I find this passage interesting. In it he is advising his retainers to really consider who it is they associate with. He tells them to associate with people who are studious and avoid those who want to spend their time gambling, gaming and carousing. Furthermore he suggests looking for the “good example” in every crowd and avoid being like the bad example.

To apply this to our times does not take much re-contexing, as a matter of fact there are numerous sayings from various cultures that state the same:

Be honorable yourself if you wish to associate with honorable people.
-Welsh Proverb

Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation. It is better be alone than in bad company.
George Washington

I think this sentiment echoes a few of my previous posts; namely my “magic self-defense formula” and Col. Grossman’s “screw golf” sentiment.

We (including myself) have all been in those situations where we have been out on the town with our friends and gotten a little too drunk, done something too stupid or just made too much of a spectacle of ourselves in public. I do not want to come off as a prude, but too much of that sort of thing leads to nothing but trouble and does nothing but lead one from “the way”. If you associate with people who lead you into those types of situations it is time to consider the value of those people and its time to consider your own reasons for associating with them. I’m not suggesting that one needs to swear off alcohol or “going out” entirely. Even Hojo Nagauji did not say that. But he did say that “playing” was only to be considered over completely wasting ones time. If one desires to be considered a “professional” or a “warrior” then there are numerous things you could be doing to improve your skills and your survivability (“screw golf”) other than idle drinking. If drinking and partying is occupying more of your heart and mind then “the way” is, then I believe that you are living in a fantasy world where you want to “say you are… rather than BE.”

In the end, what I am suggesting is being “mindful” in everything you do. If you want to go out and enjoy yourself every now and then by all means do so. But do so “intentionally”. Likewise consider the people you associate with; are they examples you wish to emulate? Do you want other people to think of you the way they think of them? Are they worthy of respect? Are you?

In my opinion, if you find yourself getting “wasted” as routine entertainment, if you like to associate with criminals and “loser’s”, or if you are consistently acting in an undignified manner in public, you are debasing yourself, asking for trouble, and are far from the path of a “warrior”.

why are the white hats taking such a beating?

A repost from 2011..but in light of some recent LE publications I thought I’d bring it back to the top.

Image by SSSasky via Flickr

Chief Joel F. Shults has an article that is posted up at PoliceOne.com titled:

News from ILEETA 2011: Why aren’t cops killing more bad guys?

It starts out with the statement:

With police officer deaths headed toward as many as 200 this year (approximately half of line of duty deaths have been by murder) police trainers are asking themselves some hard questions about what’s going wrong.

Whats going wrong indeed. So far, the end of 2010 and the first quarter of 2011 have produced more news stories of Law Enforcement Officers being feloniously killed in the line of duty than any other within my memory. While the question of “why” these people are killing cops is probably beyond anybodies power to determine (beyond the fact that the majority of them are violent offenders and convicted felons that our courts and parole boards have seen fit to unleash on us) , we LEO’s should be taking a serious look at what it is we are doing in terms of training, mindset and officer safety tactics.  Shults’ article breaks it down into what he defined as the following reasons:

  • Lack of Warrior Spirit
  • Discomfort with Firearm
  • Ignorance of Biology
  • Ambush
  • Fear of the Aftermath
  • Misunderstanding of the Law
  • Negotiation Culture
  • Segmented Training
  • Uncomfortable Distances
  • Lack of Research Data
  • Acceptance of Violence Against Officers
I have a lot to agree with Chief  Shults on these. Some recent videos and LEO deaths make some of these categories stand out.
Again from Chief Shults’ article:
Fear of the Aftermath — John Bostain, a senior instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, believes that police officers should be thoroughly trained on post-shooting protocol. A level of comfort with the realities of officer involved shootings could reduce hesitation. Both Bostain and Artwohl cited statistics showing overwhelmingly favorable outcomes for officers who kill offenders, both legally and emotionally despite the common perception that shooting a suspect has universally disastrous consequences. Surveys show that lag time in deciding to shoot is correlated to fears of these kinds of consequences.
Negotiation Culture — McKenna noted that there is a common practice of issuing repeated verbal commands prior to using deadly force. He postulated that the practice comes from a misreading of Tennessee V. Garner and the policies that arose from that watershed decision. Officers who face deadly adversaries and refrain from shooting are often rewarded for their restraint. Even in situations where observers would agree it was foolish to take the risk of not making decisive aggressive intervention, restraint is valued over lawful force options. Force instructors seldom use the word “kill,” deferring to euphemisms like “neutralize the threat,” “take care of the situation,” and “we don’t shoot to kill we shoot to stop the threat.”
This video provides an example:
One other thing that has recently stood out in my mind, centers around the recent tragic death of Police Officer Jonathan Schmidt. Officer Schmidt was recently gunned down on a traffic stop while trying to arrest a man with a warrant for an unleashed dog. The man came out of the backseat of the car firing and Schmidt lost his life. A quote from a local news article reads:
Wounded in the neck and scrambling away from a gunman, a young Arkansas police officer managed to shove his sergeant out of harm’s way before dying in a shootout while pleading for his life, witnesses told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The event transpired when Schmidt tried to remove the BG from the back deat.

According to Elumbaugh, when Schmidt opened the rear passenger door where Lard was sitting, Lard lunged at him and started shooting. Schmidt, hit in the neck by a bullet, turned away and pushed Overstreet toward safety.

Once Overstreet was behind Schmidt’s police car, Schmidt turned back toward Lard and began to return fire.

While he was shooting, Elumbaugh said, Lard was cursing Schmidt, saying “Die, (expletive)!”

“Please don’t shoot me. Please don’t shoot me,” Schmidt cried out, Elumbaugh said.

Now. I’m going to say something here and I want to be perfectly clear that I am in no way impugning Officer Schmidt’s courage, his sacrifice or the heroism that was shown in his effort to shield his brother officer from harm. I have fortunately never had to face this sort of situation and hopefully never will. If I do I may very well do the same as Schmidt and plead for the gunman not to kill me. What I do think though is that it’s an example of a mindset that we would do well to learn from. The mindset of FIGHTING, of getting angry and “Taking arrows in your forehead, but never in your back” needs to start with each and every one of us right NOW. It may sound like bluster, but I believe that if you think enough about something you have far better odds of doing it when the time comes. We have to start thinking about this sort of thing.

It’s my opinion that the “shoot to stop” meme so popular in our profession (and made necessary by attorneys) ingrains in us the mindset of “please stop..please let this stop him…God stop him!!”. In this sort of situation, where a gunman has hit you in the neck and is screaming “DIE F$%^#R!!!” at you…perhaps it should be entering into our minds that it’s KILL or BE KILLED! If he’s yelling “DIE MOTHER F#$@%R!!!” I’d prefer to see officers yelling “YOU FIRST A$$%^!E!!!” through a barrage of bullets.

I said this in a post back in 2008:

As risking ones life is part and parcel of being a warrior, a person on that path has to reconcile themselves with the possibility (and natural inevitability) of their death. The Samurai wrote about it fairly constantly. If death on the battlefield didn’t claim them, the possibility of being ordered to commit seppuku was always around the corner.

One of those writings, the Budoshoshinshu, has the following to say about it:

“One who is supposed to be a warrior considers it his foremost concern to keep death in mind at all times, every day and every night, from the morning of New Year’s Day through to the night of New Year’s Eve.”

“As long as you keep death in mind at all times, you will also fulfill the ways of loyalty and familial duty. You will also avoid myriad evils and calamities, you will be physically sound and healthy, and you will live a long life. What is more, your character will improve and your virtue will grow.”

Another passage says:

And all this misfortune springs from his not remembering to keep death always in his thoughts. But one who does this whether he is speaking himself or answering others will carefully consider, as befits a samurai, every word he says and never launch out into useless argument. Neither will he allow anyone to entice him into unsuitable places where he may suddenly confronted with an awkward situation, and thus he avoids evils and calamities. And both high and low, if they forget about death, are very apt to take to unhealthy excess in food and wine and women so that they die unexpectedly early from diseases of the kidneys and spleen, and even while they live their illness makes them of no use to anyone. But those who keep death always before their eyes are strong and healthy while young, and as they take care of their health and are moderate in eating and drinking and avoid the paths of women, being abstemious and moderate in all things, they remain free from disease and live a long and healthy life.

Basically. If you are putting your life on the line, make it worth it. If you keep in mind the fact that if you fight you may be killed, you will choose the proper time and place to risk your life. The knuckleheads killed in barrooms over “respect”, compared to a person who dies rescuing another is a good example of this concept.

The first time I seriously thought that I was going to die was in an auto accident when I was 18, but that happened so fast that it didn’t dawn on me until after the car stopped spinning. The first time I remember thinking “this could be the end of me” was when I was rappelling. I was 19-20 years old at the time. With little training and my gear consisting of nothing but an anchor rope, a carabiner, and a rope harness…dumbass that I was…I went off to a local cliff. I came off the rope, fell down the cliff (50-75 ft/slightly sloped) , bounced twice, and landed hard. Fortunately the rope wound around my arm, burning me pretty badly but slowed me down enough to just knock the wind out of me……then there was the time I tried a slack jump off of a railroad trestle….

Currently my career track has been diverting me farther and farther from “the road” so the odds of meeting my maker on that venue have been somewhat reduced. However I do still manage to get out on the street and lock a person up on the odd occasion so I do think about the possibility every now and then. My hope is that if it ever does happen, that I will “take it like a man”. I have no plan of going out begging for my life or crying and screaming as I have seen in some chilling training videos. I plan to go out angry, swearing and shooting, or at least trying to.

When it comes time for the “we all have to go sometime” moment, the only thing I hope is that it sneaks up on me and is quick. Preferably in my sleep. Otherwise suddenly will suffice.

2011 should be a wake-up call for us all. Instead of thinking “This will never happen to me”, perhaps we should start thinking about what we are going to do, and how we would like to act, WHEN it does. Be that on the Street or on our deathbeds.