Strength in Numbers?

There is a wave of self-defense instructors breaking from the standard Run, Hide, Fight advice, and instead opting to suggest attacking the attacker. Today I am going to take a look at this and offer my thoughts on the pros and cons of attempting to put this advice to use.

From Government websites to self-defense bloggers, the advice has been pretty standard; run, hide, fight. Run if you can, hide if you cannot run, and fight as a last resort. This is the meat and potatoes of it, although from group to group the phraseology may vary the advice is the same at the core.

And in the interest of playing fair, I need to point out that this has been a major part of what I teach. I am not going to defend this position. I am always looking for a better way to help the most people.

Recently people have been getting a fresh bit of advice with a new take; use the security of strength in numbers and attack the attacker. Rush him head-on and overwhelm him.

And while I get where the advice is coming from, I am still hesitant to offer this as a blanket answer to the problem of “lone wolf” terror attacks.

Why?

On the surface, this seems to be absolutely logical. One guy with a knife or a gun versus twenty, thirty, sixty people. The bad guy will be overwhelmed and will assuredly lose.

I like it!

But there is a drawback. How committed will the group stay when those in the first rush get severely wounded or killed?

Not everyone has ever been in a real life-or-death fight. Many people have lived a life almost entirely free of physical conflict, much less life-or-death stuff. The first time that things go to that level of real, it is terrifying. In all honesty, most people will be incapable of much positive action. I will be generous and call it two out of ten, but that is going to be extremely charitable. There are people in this Country who need a room with coloring books and pictures of puppies if someone says mean things. How well with they match up against a killer? Not well at all, I am sorry to say.

So, let’s say there are thirty of you who were unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the worst possible time. If we use my two out of ten equation, that gives you six people who will go after the bad guy.

What happens when the first two in range drop dead? Will all four of those who joined in the counter-assault keep going? If only two turned and run, your strength in numbers has dwindled into a mere mismatch.

And I hate to be the one to break the bad news, but if the threat has trained for this and you have not, you are up a creek in a boat with a hole.

Please don’t misunderstand, none of this is to say to not fight back.

See, the terrorists that do this stuff, they train, and they go into the act knowing they will not survive. Their goal is to create as many casualties on their way out as possible. It would be awesome if we became a Nation where so many of us were trained and strong enough to squash all of these incidents as soon as they began. Remember, in Texas, when the terrorist wanted to shoot up a place and got killed before he managed to do anything except die? An entire country of that!

And while I am here, I want to add one thing. If you are hiding during an attack, for the love of God don’t make social media updates about sheltering in place!!! Posting a picture of your barricaded room is foolish and vain – never a good combination.

Short form of the above: If you aren’t trained, jumping into a fight with a terrorist might get you killed. You make your own choices, but be smart. If obviously trained people are moving after the threat, stay out of their way. Get the training necessary to be one of those people taking out the threat, and if you find yourself in a position to stop the threat do it!

Be nice. Be a living, breathing example of all that is good in humanity, until it becomes necessary to stop the threat. Then it’s okay to release the Kraken.

Social Media, Habits, and Safety

In this post, I intend to take a look at some of the habits developed through social media and how they impact our safety. And just so you know going in, this is not another post on avoiding stalkers or identity thieves.

One of the problems I have had with the internet in general and social media specifically is the habit people seem to have of instant expert status. People will read something which aligns with their personal bias, and they start to pontificate on the subject. Expertise comes with study, training, and experience. And if you want to really understand any topic then study that topic. Before you share a news article, check the sources. It will also help if you learn to identify when the writer is directing your emotions. The differences between misled and lied, or killed and murdered are something you need to see instantly. If you really want to be an expert on a given subject, then put in the hours to study whatever that subject is, and do it right. The instant path will only lead to your embarrassment.

Another bit of rotten ice people seem to have no hesitation about running out on is the use of incindiary labeling. For example, when you call someone a racist you need to know ahead of time that that is a pretty freaking serious charge. For almost a decade the term racist has been used as an inescapable shut up. It was used anytime a dissenting opinion was offered. Oh, you don’t like pickles on your hamburger, but you like bacon on it, is that because you are racist? Racism has a very specific definition, memorize it before using the term, please. There has also been developed in our time a dangerous habit of shouting at one another rather than talking. Both sides of any topic want to win rather than do what is best and right, and in so doing they increase the likelihood of things going wrong. Both sides would do well to understand that what is best is not going to be the extreme view of either side.

I need to interject here an important life-lesson; there will always be people who think you are wrong and about half of the time, they will be correct in this assessment. Tattoo this on your forehead if you must, but however you have to do it – get it in your skull. You will not always be right. And if you don’t do your homework as advised above, you will be wrong more than right.

And lastly, I want to remind you that people formulate their opinions and then defend them without consulting reason. Anytime you share an unresearched “news” article or a witty meme, you are either alienating friends or solidifying your echo chamber. We like to tell ourselves that we are creating awareness or countering bias but we are doing nothing of the sort. Such behaviors are little more than self-soothing. The more likes we get from our like-minded friends, the more secure we feel in our opinion. But we would do well to remember that we are insulting almost as many friends as we are affirming.

But what was actually accomplished?

Nothing, if we are honest. Maybe we made ourselves feel better through the approval of our inner circle. But is that really an accomplishment? Getting the approval of people who already agreed with us? What about the friends we insulted? Should we consider them at all?

Your actions will speak louder than your social media overreactions. If you truly believe something – live it. Be the living example of what you want others to see. This is a better way to get your point across. You cannot change another person’s opinion of a topic, but you can change their opinion of people who look at things the way you do.

I hope this helps.

Speak Up!

One of the more challenging things that we have to do from time to time is to tell those people in the group with which we find our identity that they need to tone it down, cool their jets, and in some of the more extreme cases, stand down.

This is being said without regard for your personal political affiliation. I would advise this to anyone, regardless of political, religious, or economic doctrines and beliefs, or identity groups, clubs or causes.

Sometimes you have to tell some of the people on your own side to knock it off. And there is, in a sense, a responsibility to do so. You carry this responsibility to your group because when those on the outside of your group tell them to knock it off they will do the opposite.

They need to hear it from within the group. Those not in the group are, in our time, viewed as the enemy; of course, the enemy will tell them to stand down or there will be blood! But when one of their own starts to notice it going over the top, they might start to listen.

I wish I did not need to point out that those who disagree with you are not your enemy. But, this is the world in which we live. Just to be clear, there are people who can have a deep friendship and yet disagree on major political and/or religious issues. I know this to be true because my political views disagree with the majority of my friends, but I still love and respect them. I like to think they feel the same about me as well.

Back on point; they need to hear it from one of their own.

There are no guarantees. But if you believe in your cause or group, you need to be sure it is seen as legitimate and not extremist.

Take a look around at how the rhetoric has been ratcheted up on every side of the political spectrum. You have people on one side calling for actions that would most definitely be against their own best interest in the long-term, but they are screaming for it because they want that pacifier now. Just a few short weeks ago, some of the people on the other side were readying for rebellion.

The level-headed people in each group owe it to the rest of their group to ensure peace and well-being. In order for this to happen, level heads must prevail. Before this can happen, those who see the truth and the big picture will need to speak up and let the extreme elements know that their actions are over-the-top and will not be tolerated.

I honestly believe that this advice applies to many levels of conflict. I also believe that the opposing sides share more common ground than they care to admit, or possibly are afraid to admit. But the larger goals of peace and prosperity should not be lost amid distractions of heated minutia.

Anyway, that is how I see it. I hope all of you are doing well and for those who celebrate it, I hope you have a peaceful and joyous Thanksgiving!

An (Intentional?) Blind Spot

When we are driving, we are supposed to be aware of the fact that as we drive there is an area in which we cannot see another vehicle. This is the blind spot, and it is why we need to turn our head and look before making a lane change.

Within your own eye there is also a very tiny blind spot. I only notice mine when I have spent too much time reading. I am told this is where the optic nerve connects, but as I always forget to ask my optometrist during my exam, I cannot confirm this.

We do have another blind spot, and this is one that affects our safety. I am still unsure if this blind spot is intentional, or reflexive. What I am sure about is that the behavior can lead to less than ideal circumstances in terms of our own safety.

Put simply, if you resort to the same tactics in your own actions that you are condemning in others, you are gambling that they will not take things to a level that you are not prepared to deal with.

If you truly believe that the actions being taken by someone are wrong, then you leave yourself without a moral leg to stand on when you take those same actions. If bullying is wrong, it is still wrong when you do it. On that same point, it makes you a bully too. If threats of violence are wrong, then it is wrong for you to use such threats.

In our time, people see their own actions as being justified because their motives are righteous.

Here is where this behavior can become problematic; not everyone follows your worldview. There are people who have learned from an early age that violence can settle disagreements in their favor. There are different subcultures that can be very different from yours. A person raised around violence will see violence, threats of violence and other methods of intimidation as tools. Many of the people in our day forget this and do so at their own risk. When you spew vitriol at someone for whom violence is just a tool, violence is what you will probably get, and this will happen without regard to your oh so pure motives. The intimidation rhetoric will work on those who wish to avoid all conflict, but not everyone falls into this category. In spite of all of the attention that the snowflakes get, there are still people who prefer fighting to arguing.

Short form of the above – learn to identify when you are using the tactics you are opposed to, and stop yourself. If it is wrong for them to use those tactics, it is wrong for you as well.

Training That Counts

I remember reading an article that mentioned Muhammad Ali’s approach to pushups and situps. In this article the author stated that Ali didn’t count the pushups or situps until they started to hurt, then he would start counting. This was because until he pushed past the number he was already strong enough to already do, he wasn’t getting anything out of the exercise.

I want to use this as a thought on training in martial arts, but with a slightly different focus.

I want to look at training on the days when you are too tired or short on time or bogged down with problems, or in other ways simply not feeling up to the task.

Obviously, if you have the flu and are contagious you should stay home. That is a given and it is absolutely arrogant and inconsiderate to place the health of others at risk.

But those other times, when you are distracted by other issues – that is the perfect time to train.

In the wild, the tiger on the hunt does not look to bring down the biggest and healthiest prey; instead, they attack the weak, the sick and those unable to keep up with the herd.

Human predators are not that different. They are most certainly not looking for a fight. They are looking for the reward. And the will not be looking to attack the person who is looking strong, healthy, aware, and confident.

 If you feel you are good in your style of martial art or self-protection on the days you are up for the class, awesome! Now be awesome when you are just not feeling like being there. Be great when you have some out of the ordinary pressure at work or are less than 100% in some other way. In this way, training when you are at a disadvantage; distracted, not up to it, or not in the mood to go through this, you are getting training that really counts.

Trigger Warnings or Personal Strength? Your Choice!

In my previous post, I began with what I thought to be a funny opening and poking fun at the overly offended people in our time. I am sure this was insensitive in the eyes of some people, but allow me to explain.

I play around a lot. My sense of humor is quite wide, and everyone who has known me for any length of time will tell you that there is very little that I take seriously. I am quite often very sincere, but only rarely serious. While I love my friends more than even they know, I generally could not care less about the groups, political parties, and social causes which they belong to and identify with. I can, and typically will,  view you as a real treasure, and not care one bit about your periphery.

So, in this article, I started with a trigger warning. A trigger warning is a warning for those who might be offended or traumatized by information or images contained in a presentation. I hate the entire concept of trigger warnings because it allows people to cling to a victim identity and in so doing, avoid the opportunity for growth and personal strength. No one ever becomes stronger by avoiding topics that bring up bad memories or otherwise make them uncomfortable. People become stronger by facing fears and growing past bad experiences, and in so doing they become a living, breathing example to others who have similar experiences. True, some experiences are harder to overcome. They must be overcome nonetheless if you are to experience any growth at all.

As a youngster, I was bullied. I was bullied because I was fat, socially awkward, and in general had no charisma or natural talents of any kind. I was unloved and, if I am being honest, I was pretty unloveable. And  all of this was in addition to being physically and emotionally weak.

I would never have become who I am or been able to get over all of that if I had just avoided anything that reminded me that I was fat, awkward, unlikable, irritating, afraid, untalented, or weak. Rather than avoiding such reminders, I became stronger, learned to stand up for myself, and (eventually) worked on my people skills.

But there are a large number of very vocal people who insist that they never should be reminded of things that make them uncomfortable. Such was the case with the post on my much loved Gurkha Kukri. When I turned a trigger warning into a joke, someone became…well…triggered.

In a rant where I was called every conceivable name in the book, I was chastised without mercy. The bully tactics were there with threats of certain actions to be taken against me. The email contained veiled threats of worse action as well, but threats from a person who can be damaged by insensitive words don’t mean a lot to me.

But the strange thing was the way in which this person was acting as if their unkind behavior was justified because they are nicer than I am. Obviously, they are not nice to me. I might want to assume that they are probably triggered by anyone who disagrees with them on anything at all if I am to base broad judgments on a single email.

We have fallen far. There was a time when our nation was filled with people who were independent, free, and able to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps whenever they fell, or even when they were knocked down. Remember the old saw “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” What ever happened to that?

And one thing that I have to add; we never let other people define us.

If someone says mean things about you or whatever group you choose to identify with, why should you even give their words a ghost of a thought? Do they define you? Does their opinion define you? Do the thoughts and words of anyone else define you?

Or do your actions define you?

Do you let your circumstances define you, or will you be defined by what you do with your circumstances?

We all have these options. I recommend choosing strength and self-determination. If my opening to the previous article hurt your feelings, I can apologize, but it will be up to you to get over it and move on, or pitch a hissy fit, whichever you prefer. Your actions are the only ones under your control.

Gurkha Kukri

Gurkha Kukri

*Trigger Warning* If you are anti-knife, this post may traumatize you. This is not a butter knife we are going to discuss and ~gasp~ look at today. The Gurkha Kukri might be described by those who have little to no experience with knives as a “fully-semi-automatic-high-powered-high-capacity-military-style-assault-knife”. Proceed with caution.

The latest addition to my collection of blades is something I have actually wanted for a long time, but never found the one that I thought was the right one. Given the varying quality of the Kukri available, I preferred to wait until I found something sturdy.

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The Gurkha Kukri has always appealed to me. The physics of the blade give it a cutting power that is grossly disproportional to the small size of the weapon. It is known to be capable of severing limbs (tree or human) or removing heads. Like on those infomercials of old, this thing can truthfully be said to slice and chop at the same time.

The Kukri I have is from Kukri House in Nepal. As with anything, there are varying opinions on the quality of the craftsmanship from Kukri House. Personally, I find the work to be of excellent quality. The blade is made of 1095 carbon steel, full tang, and is not mass produced. It also happens to be a beautiful blade as well. The three fullers reduce the weight of the blade, and they also add a certain something to the look.

There are differing stories about the little notch near the base of the blade.

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The common story is that the notch prevents the blood of your enemy from getting on the handle. I have not tested this theory for the obvious reason that I have no enemies. Others claim that the notch is of religious significance, and I know nothing to argue for or against this thought. And other people say it is for trapping an incoming blade. It would be a tiny trap, but sometimes that would be enough, so I cannot say this is incorrect either.

I don’t know why it is there, and I don’t care.

This blade is a beast, which would explain Beast being the nickname of this knife.

It weighs about two pounds and measures about seventeen inches overall, with a twelve-inch blade. It comes from the Kukri House already sharpened. As with anything hand-made, there are minor differences here and there on the blade. But a slight variation on the width of the spine, for example, does nothing to detract from the quality of the knife. Hand-made products will all have slight differences and that is fine. Unless, of course, you have to have every little detail exact, no matter how insignificant the detail may be. Then these things might drive you nuts. In that case, go get a factory made product and you will be a lot happier.

I am impressed with the knife and the craftsmanship that went into making it. I would recommend this one and will be chopping wood and other inanimates soon. I don’t do destruction tests because I prefer to let other people throw their money away, but there are easily found video destruction tests on this product, and I can tell you that even in the zombie apocalypse this blade will survive.