Weapons & Self Defense
by Donn Schucker

In this day and age, the necessity of having the ability to defend oneself is constantly brought to our attention. Violent crime exists not only in the cities, but also in the suburbs and rural communities as well. Those who years ago sought the relative refuge and safety that came with living outside the urban areas now face much the same dangers as the city dwellers on a regular basis.

Volumes have been written on the subject of awareness, self defense, personal safety, rape prevention and other related topics. It has been said that in an ideal situation, one would never allow themselves to be present where the threat of imminent physical confrontation seemed likely. Hopefully the intended victim would be able to sense or detect and avoid a potentially dangerous situation before reaches the physical level. After all as any warrior can attest, greater safety lies in avoiding trouble than trying to prevail in an actual confrontation.

Unfortunately, we don't live in an ideal world. In our world school shootings, rape, murder and any number of other horrific crimes occur with alarming regularity. All too often, the unaware are caught in the crossfire (so to speak) and aren't trained in the necessary responses  to correctly and effectively deal with the chaos unfolding around them. In one sense, I feel that Israel has the right approach to this sort of ever increasing violence - they have made it mandatory that each and every Israeli citizen serve at least two years in the Israeli military. While there is no doubt that this likely doesn't meet with the approval of many of Israel's people, it certainly does make some rather large steps toward ensuring that each and every citizen has tools at their disposal to help avoid becoming a victim of crime or terrorism.

For many, their sense of security comes from a small hand held weapon that they always carry on their person. The exact nature of the weapon varies considerably; from handguns to pepper spray to kubotans and more. Many people are betting their very survival on these tools of self defense. With good reason! In trained hands, any of these can quickly and effectively diffuse a situation and may well save lives.

The problem with weapons is the general lack of training possessed by the very people who rely on them for protection. Any weapon, whether it is a gun, knife, chemical agent, club, etc. is only as good as the person using it.

About 25 years ago, an incident occurred that drove home this point and reminded me of the importance of proper training - especially when it comes to weapons. At that time, I was a black belt and had roughly 20 years of training behind me. As a friend introduced me to a co-worker of hers, she warned me that her friend was a self proclaimed comedian and loved to heckle and joke with just about everyone. The introductions were made and sure enough, before long the heckling started! It was all very lighthearted and in fun, so my friend told the heckler, "You better watch it, he's a black belt in jujitsu!"

The heckler replied, "That's OK, I'm a black belt in baseball bat!"

Everyone had a good laugh and we enjoyed each others company.

That night, while reflecting on the day's events my new friend's remark came to mind. It occurred to me how silly it sounded to make the statement that one was "a black belt in baseball bat," and I began to wonder if he really had any idea of what that would mean. How long had he been studying the baseball bat? Who was his teacher? Was he certified in it's use?

These are, of course, ridiculou questions, but they make a good point. If someone carries a weapon for self defense and relies on it for protection, they MUST be properly trained in it's use!

A weapon can be taken from you, even if you are skilled in it's use. This is potentially a tremendous problem, and underscores the need for quality training that is effective and directly applicable to what is likely to happen in the real world. Let's face it, there's always someone who is tougher, stronger, meaner, or more determined to prevail than you. For this reason, it is absolutely essential that all people who rely a weapon for protection be well trained and familiar with all of it's inherent strengths, weaknesses, and uses. In my experience, a considerable percentage of individuals carry some form of chemical agent (pepper spray, mace, etc.) but only about ten percent of them have ever sprayed it - if only to see how it works.

How far will it spray? Is it a mist or a stream? Is the trigger mechanism in a location that allows for a natural hold and spray position, allowing for a good aim and contact with the intended target?

These are questions that one must know the answer to if the chemical agent is our weapon of choice. The same goes for a knife, gun, kubotan, keys, etc. realistic analysis of how you may be attacked and then frequent practice of how to use your chosen weapon in defense of that attack is critical.

Training is vital! Practice is even more mandatory to develop and then maintain the skill necessary to effectively wield your weapon! We will never see a bus driver at the controls of an aircraft, but somehow, people seem to feel that since they can use a can of spray paint or hair spray they can survive a violent attack by using a can of pepper spray. The same goes for guns. Somehow, many feel that since they have been hunting deer for decades, they will be able to use a handgun for self defense. It's just not so, my friends! It's apples and oranges!

Training in any contemporary weapon is not complicated, nor does it need to be a long drawn out process. The initial training is, in fact, the easy part! The hard part is exactly the same as the hard part of more traditional martial arts training; having the willpower and motivation to practice and practice and practice, regularly.

If you carry a weapon, any weapon, seek qualified instruction and then practice. Remember that any weapon is only as good as the person using it.

(This essay was originally written by Sensei Schucker and published in the Fall 1994)

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