Friday, March 23, 2012

Sticks, Stones And Knives That Cut.

Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones but a Knife Will Always Cut You

Growing up in Southern Appalachia fighting came as natural to us kids as did skinny dipping in the creek, or catching snakes in a hot Sunday afternoon. Why is that you ask? Well, let me tell you. It was because we needed some outlet to release our pent up aggression and frustrations. You should understand this was in the day of black and white television, there was no such thing as the internet and tweeting was something you did in the hay loft with the neighbor’s daughter. However, when I say fighting I don’t mean that gentleman stuff where you put up your dukes and say “Okay Jim lets settle this like men.” Or, the flamboyant, artistically inspired, much choreographed movie fighting where the hero always comes out unscathed.   Oh, hell no. I’m talking a primal form of combative behavior that would scare a gorilla. When I was a kid, our fights usually began with name calling and cursing then progressed to the rock throwing stage after which we closed with one another and used sticks and when the sticks had broken it became fist city. And heaven forbid the person who ended up on the ground because grappling without a shirt on a gravel road, hurts worse than getting a tattoo on your privates. As I said, it was all very primal, intensely violent and driven by a survival instinct. We didn’t have to be told what to do, it just came naturally. Fighting was something to the effect of: “There’s my enemy, here’s this rock, presto projectile weapon.” Or, “There’s my enemy, here’s this stick and there’s his head, presto instant concussion.” In fact things got so out of hand one time that the younger brother of a friend grabbed a butcher off the kitchen table and tried cutting us to shreds. The only reason he didn’t was we climbed a tree and since it takes both hands to climb he didn’t want to drop the butcher knife to come up and get us. Our knife defense consisted of spending the entire day in the top of a big Elm tree out waiting our assailant. No wrist twists were involved. Oh-no, especially when the person welding the knife had tears in their eyes and was shouting “I’ll kill all you bastards” at the top of their lungs. 

One of many things that I frequently notice when training in a karate dojo is the lack of weapons defense, or worse yet the over-stylized, very unrealistic approach to weapons defense that gives one the impression they can over come an armed opponent, but in truth actually gets them killed. Such exercises are usually performed in two-step manner, much like ippon-kumite, with one person slashing and the other defending. It all looks very artistic, but is as far from a real assault as me going bass fishing and assuming it’s one in the same as trying to catch a great white shark.  I mean, hardly ever in the dojo do you see someone grabbing the other person by their collar and stabbing as fast and furiously as they can. Maybe it’s because the defender didn’t whisper something like “Hey Jim, I slept with your wife last night and she was good!” If that were the case then we wouldn’t have any problems with realistic self-defense training, but then again most dojos wouldn’t be able to afford the insurance, or hospital bills. Listed below are 5 things you might want to consider before fighting an armed opponent.

1.   Fear all bladed weapons. A Boy Scout knife can kill you, never mind the latest fighting knife with all its bells and whistles.  Broken bottles, sharpened sticks, beer can openers, anything with a sharp edge will hurt you. This includes ink pens and sharpened pencils. Yes, that’s right, if you get stabbed in the eye with a pencil then life as you know it has pretty much come to an end.
2.   Projectile weapons are commonly used in real fights. Humans have been throwing rocks at one another since we shared tree limbs with our monkey cousins. The Greeks threw rocks at one another in the Iliad, so what’s the difference now? Beer bottles, chairs, spitting, etc, etc. It can and does happen when the primal instinct kicks in. So beware, a well placed stream of Redman can ruin your whole day.
3.   Blunt instruments (sticks, clubs, chairs, etc) are part of our genetic make-up. Every since we left our monkey cousins, climbed down out of the trees and developed thumbs we’ve been picking up blunt instruments to fight with. It’s still the same today. Even in the computer age we’re still dragging our knuckles and using clubs to fight with. I mean if you hit someone over the head with your laptop it’ll put them in the hospital. So can you imagine what a bar stool will do to you?
4.   Always assume your attacker will have a weapon.  This sense of fair play, fighting man to man is a karate-ka’s fantasy. If someone is really intent on hurting you they’ll use a weapon. You know a knife, gun, stick, rock, pickup truck, or all the above.
5.   Forget all the fancy disarms you’ve learned because they don’t work. I know, it’s a shame you can’t get your money back, but that’s another topic for discussion. The best defense against a weapon is to get the hell out of Dodge, or where ever you may be. Running may not look brave, but usually it’s the safest thing to do. Yes, there are tactics and techniques for dealing an armed opponent, but the most effective ones usually involve mace, stun guns, or large caliber pistols.  Unarmed fighting is at best a risky venture when pitted against an armed attacker. Always listen to your senses, not what the latest internet self-defense expert said.
  Now, if you’ll excuse me I need to roll up the windows on my Chevy Silverado and lock her down in four wheel drive.  There’s some fool standing in the middle of the road waving a knife at me.


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  2. Right on the money sir. I have to hold my tongue in class when the guy that runs the joint starts going through the Shotokan approved weapon self defense, which will get these people hurt. Not my school...can't say anything, even though I want to.

    Good news is I am slowly chipping away at him...

    Anyway, good point. I might just have to go buy some of your books. By the way, found you by your shout out to yourself from

    All The Way,