On the news today is the story of a wackadoo Muslim who was fired from his job. He responded by beheading one former co-worker and stabbing another. I do not know details of the attack, except that it happened here in the USA.
Obviously, our civilized society is not entirely safe. We cannot rely on the police to protect us. There are situations where our safety depends entirely on us.
Ultimately, we are responsible for our own safety. Part of that is being able to defend oneself. Had either of those women or their co-workers known self-defense, perhaps the outcome might have been different. Perhaps. Self-defense is not a 100% guarantee. However, it provides a fighting chance. Usually, that is all you need. All it takes is a short course in self-defense to give you something you can do to help yourself and your loved ones.
Self-defense is not the same as martial arts. Self-defense is a collection of fighting methods to protect yourself from an adversary. Martial arts are sports and traditions that require years o f dedicated study. They focus on perfection of technique and sporting ability. Most martial arts regard practical self-defense as a specialty.
Few people have the interest or devotion to become skilled martial artists. Indeed, most who attend martial arts schools lose interest in a few months. Self defense is different. It can be learned in a much shorter time. The focus is not in perfection of technique but the ability to fend off an attacker.
The hand-to-hand combat taught by most military organizations is an aggressive self-defense course. Soldiers generally learn a few unarmed combat tricks plus bayonet fighting. They may also learn stick and knife fighting tricks. Military courses are aimed at younger adults in good health and better than average physical condition. They are developed with the idea of fighting another soldier in similar condition.
Civilian self-defense is designed for folks with less physical conditioning. Most are designed for handling muggings, street attacks and other violent situations involving civilians. These include defenses against attackers, robbers, sexual assaults, etc.
I believe every individual who has the physical and mental capacity should learn self-defense. Those who join the military usually get some instruction these days. Others will have to seek it on their own. The best thing is to be taught under the direct supervision of an instructor. There are nuances to the strikes, kicks and holds that cannot be adequately taught in books or CDs.
Courses in practical self-defense are often offered by civic centers, athletic clubs & gyms and police departments. They run about ten to twenty lessons and teach a variety of striking and grappling techniques. Courses like this do not make you invincible. They give you something you can use in a bad situation. Something is better than nothing. You have a fighting chance that you did not have before, and that is a big difference.
The course I liked best was by Charles Nelson, a Guadalcanal veteran who taught in New York for almost 50 years. It was brilliant and effective. I had used its methods in serious situations and it worked. A couple of books of Nelson’s methods are available. As I said, it helps if you already have at least some instruction in self-defense before you try to learn from a book. Still and all, Nelson’s techniques were refined for civilian situations. He had originally learned the O’Neill system from a Marine sergeant who had been stationed in Shanghai in the 30s.
There is another good book entitled GetTough and a slightly different version called All-in Fighting by WE Fairbairn. The latter title has very brief additional information on bayonet and rifle shooting. The unarmed combat methods are simple and practical. They include escaping from common holds and various defenses. Also included is instruction using the dagger, the stick and a small machete called a Smatchet. The Smatchet tricks could also be used with a short stick. The book is over 70 years old, but its methods are as applicable today as in the past. Again, it helps if you have had some instruction before you try the book.
I suggest learning to use the stick. You can find basic manuals on the riot baton. Having been trained on the baton, I can speak for its effectiveness. The method can be used on any stick from two to six feet. An umbrella, axe handle or other long, rigid thing can be improvised for use as a baton.
Modern bayonet technique as described in the Army Combative Manual can also be used with an umbrella or stick. Be aware that an umbrella thrust to the throat can kill, so use caution.
There are various other methods of stick fighting. One-handed systems for a short stick are common. A good example is the stick fighting illustrated by John Styers in his book
Cold Steel. There are others. The best are simple to the point of intuitive.
Knife fighting is a very different thing. Many books have been written on it since the 1970s. Most are flashy and unrealistic. Half of the criminals who use knives end up cutting themselves when they try to stab and thrust. Their hand invariably rides up the blade and they cut themselves. A small knife is best used to cut anything an enemy extends to you – hands, leg, etc. A larger knife can be used like a short sword or small machete.
Many people are entranced by nunchaku, various known as nunchucks, chucks or chucka sticks. They were popularized by a famous entertainer named Bruce Lee. There was a lot of hype about them in the 1970s but in actual practice, they had some flaws. Any flexible weapon requires a lot of control. The wielder must know how to maintain the proper distance. Many a nunchaku wielder had hit himself at an inopportune moment. A tap with a stick can ruin their rhythm. So can throwing something at the face of the wielder. Flexible weapons are a poor choice for self-defense.
There are other tricks. One involves pouring hot coffee, hot water or boiling food on an attacker. My friend told the story of when his uncle came into the kitchen in a rage, about to beat his aunt. His grandmother had oatmeal cooking on the stove. She poured it on the man’s back and then belted him with the pan. End of hostility!
One can spray paint, bug spray or anything else into an attacker’s eyes. . You do not need to ignite it with a lighter, as some silly self-defense books show. Another trick is to drop a bar of soap in a sock and use it as a blackjack. Another trick is to pick up a pot or pan and slam the opponent. Throw a chair at him. Hit him with a chair. Improvise as you need. Do what you must to allow you to escape.
Never let an attacker pull you into a car, an alley or a building. Once he gets you there, you are trapped. Fight with everything you have to keep from getting taken inside. You are fighting for your life. Once he has you inside, your chances drop considerably.
Learn to use cover and concealment. Cover protects you from bullets, blasts and projectile. Concealment hides you. Learn how to use concealment so you can escape.
Throw your jacket, towel, blanket over his head to give you time to strike or evade.
Do not believe an attacker’s promise that he won’t hurt you if you comply. He will tell you any lie to get you where he wants you.
Groin kicks are not as easy as you think. A man who has been kicked there will know enough to be careful. You often have to set it up with a strike somewhere else. If the man’s genitals are in range, they are easily hurt. Hitting, kicking, clawing, twisting and biting cause intense pain. Be aware the pain does not last long. Use that instant to get away or hit him somewhere else.
Firearms are another matter. Again, the laws in some states (such as NJ) are ridiculous. Many places make it impractical to carry a firearm outside the home.
Laws notwithstanding, if you are going to own a firearm, you have to learn to use it. Firearms require safe handling. I grew up in a family of hunters and was around rifles and shotguns for entire seasons. Safety was no problem because it had become second nature. For those new to guns, it has to be taught. Most areas that are firearm-friendly have gun and hunting safety classes.
You should know how to load, unload, clean and operate any firearm that you own.
I have used rifles, pistols, shotguns, and fully-automatic weapons. If you had a choice of one firearm to own, the most useful is the shotgun., You can hunt with it. You do not have to be a great shooter to hit a target. The shotgun is also a potent defensive weapon. The police favored them in the days before SWAT-O-Mania. Legend says that the Colt .45 pistol won the West. The truth is that the shotgun won the West.
Pistols are easy to conceal and use in close quarters. In combat situations, when the adrenaline is flowing, they can be wildly inaccurate even in the hands of professionals. The old saw from the Wild West said, “A man with a rifle will beat a man with a pistol.” The rifle is more powerful, more accurate and tends to be steadier when things get dicey. The shotgun has the same advantage as the rifle under 75 yards.
You should be able to fire your weapon standing, sitting, kneeling, prone and crouching. You should also learn how to use cover when firing.
Back in the bad old days, my friends and I played both sides of the fence insofar as the law. Some carried weapons, legal or otherwise. A knife and a small pistol fit nicely into an engineer boot, etc. The thing about carrying a weapon is that the person has to be willing to use it. Do not carry a weapon if you are not ready to use it, if need be. I have seen punks carrying some big scary knives acting all big and bad, only to get backed down when someone figured out they did not have the balls to actually draw them. People can sense if you would use a weapon or if it is just a prop.
Some things I have noticed over the years
I have never been in a fight – win, lose or draw – that I did not get some injury. It may have been a simple bruise or scrape or sore muscle. Nobody gets out unscathed. That’s the nature of a fight.
No self defense course or martial art will make you invincible. The best you get is a fighting chance, and that is far better than nothing. A fighting chance gives you a good likelihood of getting out alive.
Sometimes you can talk your way out of a situation. I have done it more than a few times. Even as you are talking, be ready to fight if your words do not persuade him. Talking can buy time. it can buy you enough time to look for a way to escape or get help.
Most fights are ridiculous and can be avoided. Many times, you can drive away from road rage incidents. Let the cops handle road ragers. People who lose their tempers like that tend to do stupid things. There is no point arguing with them on the side of the road.
Before you fight, ask yourself, “Is it worth it?”
In the vast majority of altercations, alcohol plays a part. Rarely is there a fight where both sides are sober.
Wisdom of the street: the person who throws the first punch after an argument is the one who ran out of words first.
If you want to negotiate your way through situations and avoid trouble, read the Havamal from the Poetic Edda.
Some people are violent for no reason. Some can turn violent for no reason.
Don’t get controversial in places where you do not belong. Know when to leave. The best time to go is about an hour before you would start shooting off your mouth.
Read the signs. If you see a lot of looks being exchanged and the atmosphere starts getting either electric or stuffy, LEAVE! It may not be your fight, but you can get caught up in it just by being there.
The game called “slumming” is nothing more than making entertainment out of less-fortunate people. And believe me, they know what you are doing. Whether you go as a group or a couple or alone, you are offensive. It is only a matter of time before the fight starts. Leave those people alone. It is their world and their safe place. You have no business pissing on their good time.
There are a lot of wannabe bad-asses out there who make themselves annoying. They are loud and obnoxious and despite their bluster, they are usually harmless. The problem is that if you or someone else puts them in an awkward position ,they may feel they have to prove themselves. That is when the trouble starts. Ignore them. They are not worth it.
Do not feel you have to be nice to people, especially if you think they pose a threat. Your well-being is more important than anyone else’s feelings. Do not get talked into something just to seem nice. Make no apologies. Walk away briskly.