Stick ‘em up – Carrying a weapon is not a replacement for training

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In the United States, the second amendment of our constitution with limits from the federal, state and local governments allows for the carrying of weapons. This article is not debating whether this is right or wrong. It is the law and there are real dangers on the street.

As we discussed last week, talking about martial arts can get different reactions from different people. The reactions I find most interesting are the reactions of weapon holders. Most of them are adamant that they do not need self-defense training and it is OK that they are out of shape because they have a weapon. Many of the weapon holders I know (I call them weapon holders because I know people that not only carry guns but knives, small bludgeons, pepper spray and Tasers), believe that a weapon is a reliable replacement for martial arts training. I disagree for several reasons.

“You can only fight the way you practice.” Miyamoto Musashi – Book of Five Rings.

1. Training – A weapon does not protect you just by being present. If you do not train with it as if you are defending yourself, the weapon will be more of a danger to you than to your assailant. Most people don’t train to realistically defend themselves. Using a gun as an example, people usually only train with the shooting portion of the defense process. At most gun ranges you are not allowed to draw the weapon as part of the shooting routine. The gun needs to be pointed down range at all times. So even if you go to the gun range often, you are not necessarily ready to defend yourself, since:

– You never practice drawing the gun. Getting a gun out of a holster effectively takes practice.
– You don’t practice releasing the safety. Unless you have a revolver, your gun probably has a safety which is easy to forget in a stressful situation.
– Aiming at a target is a lot different than aiming at a living person.
– Typically, your target at the range is stationary, not running at you.

If you want to use a gun as defense, you need to take a class on how to do so and then practice regularly. It takes a lot of training and practice to properly handle a weapon. Ask any police officer. I would say it takes as much practice as a weapons free self-defense system.

As I mentioned before, I know people who carry knives, pepper spray, Tasers and small bludgeons. These weapons also take practice to use effectively. Just having a weapon on you does not provide self-protection options. In fact, if you don’t train, it can make you less safe since you can injure yourself or have the weapon taken from you and used against you.

2. Speed – There are frequent debates about police officers shooting suspects who “just have knives”. It is amazing how fast someone with a knife can injure or kill you even if they are 10 feet away.

If you are confronted with a knife wielding assailant from 10 feet away and you have a gun, you probably don’t have time to draw, aim and fire your gun before they stab you. The speed of a knife attack is shocking. I recommend you watch this YouTube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_KJ1R2PCMM  to see the speed of a knife attack. To have a better chance of survival, one needs to be able to counter the attack and attack back with adequate force to get oneself out of danger.

3. Accessibility – The number of places you can bring a weapon is shrinking. If you are reliant on a weapon for defense and you are in an airport, or at work, or in a school, what do you do?

Even if you are a fully trained weapon practitioner with the speed to address any threat, what happens if you are attacked in the shower of your gym or if a coworker starts hitting you?

You will not always have a weapon on you but you don’t go anywhere without your body. Having defensive skills that do not involve weapons is the only way to protect yourself in a “weapons free environment”. I put that in quotes because only law abiding citizens feel the need to make it weapons free. Criminals by definition disobey laws and rules so you cannot assume a weapons free environment is weapons free, but it is still inappropriate for you to bring a weapon into one. You need to consider how you will defend yourself in these areas.

4. Excessive Force/Unintended Injury – The quote “It is better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6” sounds really cool on Facebook but is not that great in real life. If your life is in danger, you have every right to defend yourself and you should. You just need to understand that there are consequences to any actions. Crying self-defense is not a get out of jail free card.

Shooting or stabbing someone, even in self-defense, can put you in jeopardy of jail time and wrongful death law suits. On the other side, pepper spray and Tasers widely available to the public, may not have the stopping power needed to disable your attacker, leaving you vulnerable to continued attack.
– With guns you can injure or kill innocent people in your quest to disable your attacker.
– With pepper spray you can disable yourself rather than your attacker.

Weapons are not always reliable and can put you and the people around you in additional danger rather than safety from your assailant. Also, even if you are in the right and were defending yourself, you can be held responsible for the death of someone. You need to understand the reliability issues and consequences before you act with a weapon.

What does all of this mean?

It means that you are better off if you have self-defense options other than just weapons. The best way to accomplish this is to:
Stay in shape – Being healthy and limber can get you out of harm’s way.
Train to defend yourself – Realistic training scenarios are the only things that will prepare you for self-defense.
Don’t just rely on weapons – It may be your right to bear arms but they do not provide a shield of safety.

You have the right to and should defend yourself if you can’t avoid a dangerous situation. You just need to remember:
– There are innocent people around you.
– You are less likely to be successful if you do not practice.

Be safe out there and don’t fall into the trap that a weapon will save you from all situations. Train for your defense and be ready when you can’t get away.

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