As a former bodyguard and law enforcement tactical combat trainer I get a lot of questions about self-protection in our often violent world. A member of my family once called and asked about getting a gun for self-defense because a woman down the street had been shot to death. My answer was not well received. I told her that she did not need a gun unless she was willing to go through training, get a carry license then go through even more training with me and some of my “Ranger” friends who can fill in what one really needs to know to be an armed citizen, things not taught in concealed carry classes. One of the main things that is left out of this picture is, are you mentally prepared to fight for your life and perhaps to take the life of someone else?
Are you ready for the aftermath both emotional and legal of an altercation in which you may be seriously injured or someone dies as a result of your actions, justified or not. If you can live with these things, really live with them, then you may be a candidate for carrying a weapon. You have to examine your heart of hearts not just blurt out some fanciful answer, because I can tell you from experience that once you go down that road, and God forbid you have to or you have to end someone, you will never be the same again ever! If you cannot come to terms with these serious soul searching ideas then you have no business with a firearm, knife or stun gun to protect yourself, because if you hesitate for an instant the odds are you will have your own weapon taken from you and used against you by the bad guy. If you want to know the difference in traditional martial art study and self-defense read on.
OTHER REASONS TO STUDY MARTIAL ARTS
There are many reasons to study a martial art other than just learning how to fight or defend yourself. Martial art training taught in the traditional ways (not MMA) instills discipline and respect, fosters brotherhood and increases flexibility, strength, balance and health. It should instill a code of honor and duty to ones family, students and teachers. Training in traditional martial arts of China or other Asian disciplines is a proven method or reducing physical and emotional stress and improving ones self-respect. It is important to know your goals when seeking a school from which to study, then try to match your goals to the focus of the school and the teacher you choose. Here at The Gompa in Arlington Texas we focus on teaching traditional Chinese and Tibetan martial arts and healing practices along with classical weapons and health preservation, Qigong. Our American Rangers Martial Law Enforcement Training Institute has a focus on practical martial training for police, corrections officers, pro-bodyguards and military.
FIGHTING IS DANGEROUS, UGLY AND DIRTY
It is often a bit sad to meet some people in the martial arts world students and teachers alike who think that doing battle with someone trying to harm them is in some way fun or glamorous. Most of these people while perhaps highly skilled in their chosen martial art have never been in real street combat and so have a skewed idea based on Hollywood Kung Fu movie fantasy of what actual combat is. This is especially true in the internal Chinese martial arts of Taijiquan, Baguazhang and Xingyiquan as well as the so called hard styles like Shaolin. In these internal systems students seldom engage in any type of realistic full speed combative practice. It is true that in Karate and the Chinese hard styles the students may spar, but it is under controlled conditions with rules in place to keep it safe. There is some benefit but it is quite small.
That being said let me also say that there is no sparring or safe form of combative practice that will prepare you for a real altercation where there are no rules and someone is trying to cripple, maim or end your life. Practice scenarios on the gym floor might get close but they will never approximate the real thing. There is nothing wrong with studying a martial art style as a sport, hobby or for health, just be sure you are clear about what you are learning and from whom you are learning it.
SO YOU WANT TO KNIFE FIGHT ?
This is also very true among so many people that I have come into contact with who glorify fighting with edged weapons. In truth there is nothing scarier or more bloody than a knife fight. Anyone who truly wants to be involved in a knife fight with knife against knife is living in la la land and needs to be on a psychiatrist couch or under heavy medication for the sake of us all.
One of my favorite Japanese films depicts the reality of facing a sharp blade. The film is Rashomon (1950) a Japanese drama directed by Akira Kurosawa depicts an episode of rape and murder in a forest. The story is told by four witnesses, each from their own point of view and each is very different from the other. What is of interest for our discussion is the way two central characters, the bandit Tajômaru and the husband of the raped woman Kanazawa-no-Takehiro a samurai, engage in a realistic version of a real sword fight.
I say realistic because in the true version of the story told by a woodcutter we see the two of combatants fully realize the horror of what it means to engage with another person in a combat with razor sharp weapons. There is no stylized fighting, the bandit is armed with a Chinese straight sword (jian) and the Samurai has a samurai sword (katana). What struck me was that they are both trembling with so much fear and rage that the swords are seen to be shaking.
During the fight they run at each other and then separate far apart staying well clear of their opponent’s blades. They go full out trying to use as much force as possible to cleave their enemy in half. The force of their cuts and thrusts often make them fall on the uneven ground. It is not pretty or fancy it is two crazed men attempting to hack each other to death. That is pretty close to what a real fight with blades looks like. How do I know? If I have to tell you then you really do not need to know.
If you feel you must learn to use a blade for defense or even a firearm then you must keep your training real. This means you have to find a teacher with real life experience not a so called “martial arts master” who has lots of knowledge and theory but has never faced someone attempting to kill him with knife or gun. That of course really narrows the field down as teachers of this knowledge are quite rare and many of them will not teach their hard earned life and death skills without a really good reason.
So if you want to learn such things with a blade, be sure you do not play at being some idealistic hero in a movie. Take a practical view, look at what really happens in a combative situation in the real world. Today YouTube is a good place to get the hell scared out of you. There are many examples of real street combat. Most of them are not on martial YouTube channels. Simply go to You Tube and type in real knife fights or real fights and if you can stomach watching them you will have many examples that show the real VS the false. Let me warn you it is not for the faint of heart and once you see some of these things it is impossible to “un-see” them! If you do see these you get closer to understanding what really happens when people lose control and go at each other with fists, feet or anything that comes to hand. My council is to avoid any altercation if at all possible and if you must learn street survival then be real in your training if you claim it is for self-defense.
Shifu John P. Painter
Capt. American Rangers Martial Law Enforcement Training Institute