Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Random Thought - Buyer Beware

“I’ve been stabbed several times”

This was the opening line given by an instructor delivering a knife and edged weapons seminar I attended not too long ago.

From that moment on, the crowd pretty much accepted, without question, everything he had to say about knife defence.

I found myself wondering how that statement somehow qualified him as an expert.  After all, isn’t getting stabbed what we’re trying to avoid?  What made him more of an authority on the topic than someone else who’s managed not to get stabbed several times?

In pretty much every other area in life, this would disqualify someone as an expert. 

Would you take swimming lessons from someone that proudly asserted that they’d nearly drowned pretty much every time they got in the water?  Would you take driving lessons from someone that had been in a bunch of car accidents?

The other thing that occurred to me was how many similar assertions I had heard in the past.  It seems pretty much every instructor putting on a new flashy course has been mauled, bitten, shot and stabbed repeatedly.  Amazingly, most of them seemed unfazed by the experience.  Now I’m not suggesting anyone is making anything up in order to sell their particular brand or product or anything, but…

Caveat emptor in all things, I guess.

Note:  I should mention that the instructor in this case had actually been stabbed, and the experience had been the catalyst for him to question everything he thought he knew about knife and edged weapons training.  As such, the seminar was great and I learned a lot.  Unfortunately, this seems to the the exception, and not the rule at most of these events.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Knife Fight - A worthwhile read

I haven't posted on knife survival or knife fighting in a while, but that doesn't mean I'm not actively working on techniques and material.

Wim has a video on his blog and some interesting observations.  If anything, it illustrates how different an actual knife encounter can look from what we practice or see in the movies. I recommend taking a look at the video and reading the article.

See his post entitled Knife fight in Beijing.

I've chosen not to comment on how poor I felt the law enforcement response was.

This is the video posted on Wim Demeeres Blog:

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Mental Game - hard lessons

This article is partially in response to a post made by jc over at Bujutsu: The Path.  In it, jc tells of a friend that gave up his study of martial arts after he and another friend were jumped and beaten up quite badly.

From his post:

"Since that night, about three years ago, my friend has completely stopped training as he felt his skills didn't 'kick in' when needed. He has become disillusioned and cynical when it comes to the art form he used to love"

The part that really caught my eye was about the skills not kicking in.  Now, I go on and on about realistic training and training with a serious mind, but that statement has provided me with a opportunity to (hopefully) articulate a very important point.  I feel that this may be one of the more important posts on this blog.

You need to be ready to respond to violence, not your chosen martial art.  It doesn't matter what you study or what techniques you've learned.  If you are not mentally and emotionally prepared to fight, to commit serious violence to protect yourself or someone else, it doesn't matter what rank you hold.  And you better be able to throw the 'switch' really fast.

This point is often lost on martial artists, people who work out in friendly dojos, in a controlled environment, safe from real violence.  This isn't meant to be critical of martial arts instruction, per se, but it is something people need to understand.  This part of the mental game is up to you, the individual.  You need to really look inward, to see if you are truly prepared to do whatever is necessary to protect yourself or someone that can't.  This is assuming you cannot get away safely, of course.  

Are you capable of real violence?  If you are serious about your study, you need to figure this one out.  I can't give you the answer, and neither can anyone else.  It's not an easy question, by the way.

One of my issues in the world of martial arts is how they can give students a sense of false confidence.  It would often be better to not know any martial arts than it would be to assume your techniques will kick in when needed.  In addition, very few martial arts enter any sort of confrontation with the view that their first technique or two probably won't work as planned. The static or singular nature of traditional martial arts practice can be a serious detriment. Assume what you do won't work and keep fighting until the threat has been negated.  And fight with all you've got.  Don't throw one technique and step back to assess what you assume will follow.  Fight, fight fight, and then get away.  

Once you know you are going to fight with everything you've got, martial arts techniques can kick in and help.  They are tools which make your response to an attack easier, more efficient, and which reduce the chance of serious injury, first for you, and if you're good enough, also for your attacker.  They do not take the place of dark and serious intent.  

If it helps, think of it this way - I would rather fight a black belt in any style than a mother who was protecting her child.  The mom is willing to do whatever it takes, without hesitation, the black belt may or may not be ready for combat.

I know of a guy who was in a true life or death struggle.  He was losing and in a last ditch effort to survive, he actually sucked the eyeball out of the socket of the guy who was trying to kill him.  Gross,  yes, but could you do it if you had to?  Food for thought.

jc's post goes on to say:

"I just think about why he feels the way he does and how I would feel if that happened to me. Are we allowed to 'lose'? Are we allowed to have 'doubts' and weaknesses'?"

These are hard lessons.  As warriors, we don't lose as long as we learn from an experience. If you survive and learn from something, you have not truly lost.  We should always question ourselves, and our chosen martial arts.

One of the single most effective tools is to visualize.  Imagine yourself responding to violence and being successful.  The human brain has trouble differentiating between imagined stimuli and actual experience.  And that's fantastic.  That's one of the reasons you should always ask yourself what you would do it that random person in front of you attacked.  Think with the 'when/then' model.  When that person attacks, then I'll do this, and I'll win.  Do this enough, and when the world finally does go mad around you, while other people are falling apart, you mind will be saying "No problem, I've been here before".

I want to add that I don't mean to be critical of the person mentioned in jc's post.  I don't know him nor do I know the circumstances of his attack, or his martial art style or teacher. It saddens me that he has abandoned his study, whatever that was, but I also understand. To be beaten up is a rotten experience.  It has long term effects on people.  It's a hard lesson to learn.  It can shake their confidence for years to come.  For those who've been there, you understand what I'm saying.  For those who haven't, I hope you never have to find out.  

I hope jc's friend recovers and can learn from his experience and I hope he finds something in the world of the martial arts that he can use and ultimately enjoy again.

I hope I've done this topic justice.  I also hope everyone takes a moment to really look within themselves to figure out what they're capable of.  It's a valuable exercise. 

And if jc's friend ever happens across this post, I am sorry you had to go through what you did.  Whether you know it or not, you are stronger for it and with time, it will get better.

Train well.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bruce Lee - Big Business. Too big?

Call off the hounds, I'm not bashing Bruce.  He was an incredible martial artist, a visionary thinker and influenced martial arts during his brief life and for decades after his passing, to this day.

I was glancing over the magazine rack the other day and saw yet another special Bruce Lee collectors issue.  I realized that I probably owned a half dozen super special 'all Bruce, all the time' editions of various martial arts magazines, several from the same magazine.   For whatever reason, the thought crossed my mind that "Oh great, here's another one...".  The strange part, of course, is that I'm a big fan.  I mean, I'm always saying you should constantly examine your technique, adjust it to your own unique makeup, discard what you don't need or can't use (once you've truly explored it) etc.

I've read some of the articles written by Shannon Lee, and she seems to know her stuff. Her material seems to be trying to honour her father with class and humility.  I have no problem with preserving a legacy or building on the foundation of the giants that we follow. After all, Bruce Lee was never static in his training, so Jeet Kune Do should continue to evolve with the times.  I'm o.k. with all that.

But is it too much?  Have all the books, the re-prints, the posters, the never before seen or read passages, the magazines, the figurines, the comics and all the swag become too much?

Does the big business of Bruce take away from the man and his message?

I don't know.