Self-Defense from a Diminished Capacity

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Regardless of style and system, we all learn to emphasize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses. But what about those times when we, for whatever reason, are less than 100%. That is our topic this week.

Quick background information as we begin.

On Saturday, April 22, the KickStart Kids State Karate Championships was held in Sugarland Texas (a suburb of Houston y’all). From where I live, it was about a five-hour drive there, the tournament was about seven and a half hours, then a five-hour drive back home. On long road trips, I tend to not drink much water. I also managed to get so distracted by the tournament itself that I never drank any water during the event. I realized this as I hit the road going home. Now I wasn’t trying to be a camel or a showoff or anything like that. When I was a teen, maybe. But I’m pushing 50. No way. So, I did start drinking some water on the drive home, but again – long road trip. I looked at it as sticking to a minimum. Somewhere around the halfway point, I needed to stop for gas. When I got out to fill up the tank, my ankle wouldn’t hold me up. I checked it out, and it looked like I was smuggling a grapefruit inside the ankle joint. Bad swelling. I filled up the tank, hopped back into the vehicle, and made the rest of the drive home. There is a stretch of I-45 that has been under construction for the last 8,000 years. The lanes are narrow and the driving is treacherous. This was the point of the drive where I started cramping in my ankle, leg and both hands. Oh, what fun! Long story shorter, I got home and iced the ankle, treating it like an injury even though I knew I had suffered nothing more traumatic than a ten-hour road trip.

Well, there was no direct trauma. But, as I found out this week, I am gout-prone. I carry higher than normal levels of uric acid on a normal day. If you imagine a jar of salt water. If you leave it out, as the water evaporates, eventually you will see crystals start to form. Well, this is what the uric acid did inside my body. The crystals then settled in my ankle. Oh, just for your information, icing a gout flare-up is not a good idea. The Doctor told me that made the condition worse.

Now to close this background setting; please note that as a person who has had broken bones, concussions, torn muscles, dislocated knees, herniated disks in my spine, separated shoulders. and a chemical burn in my eye, I can tell you that gout actually feels more painful than any of those. The only pain I think might be worse is getting kicked in the groin, but at least that pain goes away more quickly.

I have spent the past week in terrible pain and barely able to walk.

Doing what I do, I took some time to consider what I would do if I needed to protect my family while in this diminished capacity.

To be honest, it isn’t pretty.

Being unable to move much, and even when moving I am in tremendous pain, any offense is going to be weak. I am offensively minded. I am geared that way, I have a Hulk smash mentality. That stuff was not available to me.

Okay fine, defense then.

Well, mobility is offline. I cannot run (okay, fine…I cannot run even without the gout problem). Hand-to-hand would be pretty stupid because I have no root (stance, base, structure), and my entire base for hand to hand begins and ends with a solid root.

It seems I would be in need of an edge.


Whenever it is legal for me to do so, I do carry a knife. While I am no Filipino martial artist, I can use my knife well enough to protect me and mine if things came to that. And even without knife or gun, someone who has trained most of their life is never truly unarmed. A man can fight.

But, what about the real base of self-defense? Awareness is always available to anyone who chooses to use it. Not being a jerk is always an option. What about being polite? Yep, anyone can do that in any physical condition. If someone wants to fight, you may not have an option, but in normal day-to-day life (not the high-stress drama found on cable news) you can get through your day without even thinking about how to best defend yourself from the bad guys.

The basics of self-defense and personal safety do not change with our personal limitations for a given day or week. Stay aware, and mind your manners. After that, you might have to improvise, but take what you can get.

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