Weapon Self Defense
Before I even go into the lesson today, I wanted to share the following video. Take some time to watch it and fully understand its message.
Martial arts are not some magic pill that gives you super powers, unlike some of the Shaolin demonstration teams would have you believe. You are not going to catch bullets in your teeth, and the likelihood of being able to successfully disarm a gun someone in a split second without something going wrong during a self defense encounter are not as good as you would want to believe. In a controlled situation, everything looks all fine, but in reality (see the video above), things couldn’t be much farther than the truth.
We talk about red flags a lot when discussing other styles and systems and one of the biggest red flag you should watch out for is someone or some style claiming that their self-defense technique is 100% effective and works all of the time. Especially when it comes to weapon self defense. When you are facing an attacker and in a “fair” fight, being trained in self defense gives you a gigantic advantage and if you’ve practiced enough, you should feel confident that you should be able to defend yourself in most situations.
However, when it comes to weapon attacks and defenses, the entire situation changes. Your outcome goes from “very good” to “serious trouble”.
Defending Against Weapon Attacks
The first thing you should do to defend yourself in a situation involving a weapon is NOT defend yourself. It sounds counter intuitive, but for the vast majority of individuals who would accost you, the mindset is simply – easy target, get in and get out. They are not looking for resistance, and most are not looking to go out there and kill someone. When it comes to gang violence, organized crime, and mentally disturbed individuals, it’s a completely different story, but in general compliance with the requests of the attacker is usually the best course of action. Give them your money, your wallet, your keys, cell phone, car, house, whatever they want.
There are two exceptions to this rule:
- The person asks/forces you or others to come with them somewhere, or get into a vehicle.
- You feel that the threats that the person is making against you for physical harm are more than just threats.
- This comes down to environmental awareness. A good example is being in a neighborhood where there have been a bunch of assaults with a deadly weapon lately leading to homicide, and the person accosting you fits some of the descriptions of the suspects.
In these situations, this is where your training needs to kick in, and you need to react in such a way to get yourself to safety or completely immobilize or control the attacker. This is why we advocate for training in a realistic situation. While wooden weapons are a good starting point, you should start training with real weapons as soon as you feel comfortable.
As soon as you start defending yourself the chance of the attacker actually using the weapon against you goes from 50% to 100%. And your chance of serious injury also goes up exponentially.
This is the one area where your level of training can actually backfire. Let’s say you’ve been training for years and are an expert in weapon disarms and feel completely confident in all situations. The problem with weapon defenses is that there is always a chance of being countered and always a chance of not working. There is never a 100% surefire way to defend against a weapon other than not being in a situation where you need to defend against a weapon. Too many stories out there of martial arts getting shot because they assumed they could handle the situation.
This is why, we can not stress this hard enough, in a situation involving a weapon, don’t try and defend yourself unless absolutely 100% necessary as described above.
In any self defense situation it’s not about winning or loosing, its all about LIVING or DYING. You need to make the decision that you are going to survive and do everything in your power to make sure of that outcome.
Why study weapon defense at all?
Why get the flu shot every year? Why have a first aid kit handy? It is all about being prepared for situations you might encounter. Knowing how to handle yourself when faced with a weapon is an important skill to learn. As we say, the way you train is the way you will perform. If you have trained to defend yourself against a gun attack, you are going to be that much more calm and collected in the situation, and are much less likely to make mistakes which end up with you getting shot. Practice makes perfect, and knowing how you are going to and should react in a violent situation only helps you prepare for the situation. Every situation is different, and your reactions can mean the matter of life or death.
This being said, your first reaction should be to try and talk the attacker out of the assault and comply with their request for any and all of your possessions. In 2014, there were somewhere on the order of 1.1 million assaults and robberies in the US. Compare that to only 14,000 homicides. Doing the math, if we assume that all those homicides are a result of the assault, we are left with something on the order of less than 1% of assaults leading to homicide. The actual rate is closer to 0.05% (homicides by felony type).
So putting this together, your chances of someone trying to kill you during an assault are 0.05% if you do not try and defend yourself, and 100% if you do.
White Belt Weapon Self Defense
There are really two schools of thought out there:
- The hard core old school stylists who say that weapons defenses should never be taught until a student has mastered the basics and has spent years of training
- The realistic self-defense schools who know that many self-defense situations involve weapons and want to prepare their students from the start
Here at CMATOS, we fall into the latter category. We want our students to be confident in their self defense situations, and so we teach weapon defense from the very beginning. Our mantra is do what works, and if you are going to be involved in a weapons altercation, you can’t say to your attacker – “hold on a second, I’m only a white belt, I won’t learn how to defend against your attack for another 4 years, so come back some time then and we can pick up where we left off.” You are going to need to defend yourself, but more importantly you are going to need to understand how you will react in these situations so you can be prepared for the worst. Hopefully you will never be in those situations, but the worst thing is for a student to be faced with a situation they didn’t prepare for because the instructor was “withholding” information from them.
We start off with some basic techniques that can be used to disarm an attacker. Are these 100% effective. ABSOLUTELY NOT. Can you sit and study the video lessons and practice a few times and then go out there confidently knowing that you can stop any attacker. NO. They are designed to be the building blocks to further techniques in the system, and need a high level of practice and confidence to execute safely. So then why do we teach these now and not wait for everything to be complete – because we want our students to start getting exposed to various situations so they get a feeling for how they will react in a life or death situation. Can these skills be effective defense against an attacker – absolutely, but the chance of any technique against a weapon has a high chance of failure – especially when you are just starting out. There will be plenty of situations where the techniques learned here will be sufficient, and thus are relevant to being taught at this level. At the same time, there are a million other situations where they won’t be effective.
Again, we repeat for the umpteenth time – in a situation involving weapons, comply and walk away first.
Assessing the Severity
In terms of severity, your weapon attacks can be thought of in the following sequence:
- Blunt hand held objects (e.g. brass knuckles)
- Slashing objects (e.g swinging a knife)
- Swung blunt objects (e.g. bats and clubs)
- Stabbing objects (e.g. stabbing a knife)
- Long barreled projectile weapons (e.g. shotgun, rifle)
- Hand held projectile weapons (e.g. handgun)
Blunt hand held objects are the least sever, as most of the self defense techniques you study work equally well in the situations. The concern is that getting hit now has a much higher probability of injuring or stopping your defense. Slashing knives are the second most severe – it may seem scary, but by and large unless the person is wielding a katana, the thickness of most of your normal clothes usually should be sufficient to prevent serious injury, however you are at a greater risk of serious injury if they do happen to slash to certain areas of exposed skin. The next level of danger comes from swung blunt objects – timing and distance are a huge key here, get the distance and timing wrong on these, you are at risk of a quick trip to the hospital. Stabbing objects are then considered, as they have the ability to penetrate clothing and cause some major internal damage. Finally we get to the guns – rifles and shotguns, while seemingly scary, aren’t as commonplace, and provide greater leeway for mistakes as they are harder to maneuver. Handguns, however, become the most dangerous because they are easily maneuverability, and hardest to secure.
The Golden Rules of Weapon Self Defense
Here are some things to keep in mind when working on your weapon self defense techniques.
- When practicing NEVER hand the weapon back to your partner. Alternate and have them disarm you.
- After you feel confident with the basic maneuver, add more realism to the scenario through role play.
- After feeling confident with the techniques, start practicing with actual weapons (unloaded and/or dulled) – pellet guns are a good tool for speed reaction drills.
- Attack the attacker, never the weapon
- Comply and walk away before trying to defend yourself
- If you do need to defend yourself, be sure that the attacker is completely incapacitated