Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Foolishness of the Martial Arts ...

But first: I've been on vacation. Sorry for the gap in posts, I thought I'd have internet while on the road, turned out to be not the case.

The Long Run is finally edited. My apologies on the delays. It'll go to Immunity tomorrow and should be up sometime on Monday.

... so I'm catching up this evening with the various blogs I read and ran across an interesting post over on Steve Perry's blog. It's here. Go take a look at it ...

OK, power politics in the martial arts community. They exist everywhere, even in sciences which have actual rigor in them -- people are people. So in any field that's essentially artistic, you expect to find stupid politics to one degree or another: I've known enough martial artists over the years that nothing in Steve's post surprises me. Good, bad, smart, dumb, wise, foolish ... just people, same as everywhere.

But serious martial artists, as a group, are every bit as much dilettantes as, say, middle-aged guys playing basketball....

Look, the core of the martial arts is Kicking Ass. (And yeah, I'm painting with a pretty broad brush here, and the emphasis varies among disciplines. Nonetheless.) And Kicking Ass, as a business rather than an art form, changed forever with the introduction of the Colt revolver. You want to protect yourself? You don't need years or decades in some esoteric eastern discipline. You need, roughly, the following --

A little boxing. Not a lot: enough to learn how to throw and slip a punch, and how to deal with your fear of pain -- and learning to cope with your fear is by far the most important part of that. You don't need to learn to like being hit, that's excessive. But the fear of pain shouldn't weaken your knees.

A moderate amount of judo or some other grappling, wrestling discipline. Most fights end up with people grabbing onto one another and you should know what to do once you've clinched.

The above will get your average American male through a lifetime without worrying about his own safety too much -- maybe a touchup once a decade to remember what the shock of pain feels like.

If you're a woman or a smaller man, I'd add pepper spray and make sure that, having used it, you're ready to run -- pepper spray will blind your attacker but it won't stop him from putting his hands on you: spray him, separate from him, and get the hell out of the area quickly.

(For that matter even if you're a big tough guy who's in a bad spot -- no rule says you can't carry spray and then run. I like to say that for a writer I'm a tough guy -- but for a tough guy, I'm a writer. Getting out in one piece is the point of the exercise. Your ego will heal.

(My father once beat a pair of muggers half to death -- and I do love telling that story. But he was 70 and couldn't run.)

And finally, and almost solely for those women who know there's a real threat in their lives, buy a gun and learn to use it. (The NRA and I frequently disagree, but their instructors are first rate.) There are enough brutal sub-human "men" floating around out there that failing to take that next step can be fatal. Don't make the mistake of not taking every advantage you can get. (Guns as a rule are a bad idea. A gun is a tool and if you're in real danger, a tool you should consider: but "real danger." If you don't know there's a monster at the door, I'd skip it.)

And that's it. Take reasonable precautions, do a reasonable amount of preparation, and the martial arts are not cost-effective when it comes to time and energy vs. reward.

Nothing wrong with martial arts as a hobby. But the number of people in this world who need to spend decades studying any martial discipline for any pragmatic reason is vanishingly small. And if you do get into a given martial discipline ... and run into a Guru ... hang onto your wallet and your good judgement, and be damned wary of certainty.

If you meet the Buddha on the road ...


Thomas said...

I've actually quoted a Trent-ism to my children on more than one occasion...something about running.

"Want to see a neat trick?" :)

Anonymous said...

Dan, while I agree with you in general about martial arts -- ie, that beyond learning a few open-hand basics the return on investment is low -- there's an elephant in the room that you are ignoring. Your comment that a handgun is appropriate for "those few women who know there's a real threat in their lives" is severely understating the case.

Handguns are an appropriate defensive measure for *anyone* who knows there is a real threat to their lives, and for many people who know no such thing but who want to be prepared in case one appears without warning. Criminals are not particularly known for attacking those who expect it.

Women clearly deserve some sympathy for being involuntarily designed by nature to be attractive targets for criminals -- but *everyone* has an equal right to self-defense. You don't have to be a likely victim first.

And if you move the bar back a step, to whether people should have a gun in their home, the case is even stronger. Consider the LA riots and New Orleans after Katrina if you need examples. Care must be duly taken, but a household without a firearm of some kind is woefully unprepared for adversity.

(Considering the point of this post, I'll gloss over the non-defensive legitimate uses of firearms -- if martial artists can make Kicking Ass their hobby, well, shooters can make Shooting Stuff theirs).

Steve Perry said...

You have it nailed pretty well, Dan'l. Serious martial artists are well past the "need" stuff and into the "want it" thing.

It's fill another need in you when you are apt to get hurt more in class than in a typical street fight and you keep doing it.

I've been playing with one form or another of organized mayhem for forty-odd years, and I will be the first to point out that the scene whereupon Indy pulls his revolver and pots the expert swordsman is both real and smart.

(And real, too, is the sequel, when he reaches for the piece and it is gone ...)

God made man, but Colonel Colt made men equal ...

Anybody who claims to be a serious martial artist who wants to be street-ready in our times has to know how to use guns and knives -- they are the tools of the day.

I own some of each, and have, I can modestly assert, some skill with them.

In a life or death situation, the knife is for when your gun runs out of ammo; your hands are for when the knife breaks.

Attitude matters as much as pure ability. The fight is under the hat, not under the glove, and the tool you use is the one necessary to allow you to walk away. Being willing to do what is necessary is the first and biggest obstacle to overcome. Get that, then the tool doesn't matter.

If you can't bring yourself to hit a poor, hapless nail, a hammer doesn't do you any good.

A hand-to-hand duel outside the Dewdrop Inn on a hot Friday night, limited to your innate biological tools and with a nod to the Marquis of Queensberry is not the same as dealing with armed muggers who might well kill you after they get your wallet.

From where I operate, if you don't know how to use weapons in the society in which we live, you aren't a serious martial artist, you are into it for sport, or personal growth, or discipline or exercise.

I play with the stuff because it's what's at my core, and being able to walk away from a drunk in a bar without stomping him is made easier because I know that if I must, I surely can.

Me, I want to learn the entire system in which I play, and simple self-defense is only the smallest part of it -- I had that before I ever got here. It's about self-realization, and it's an entirely different road.

Like the old saw -- to those to whom it calls, no explanation is necessary. To those to whom it doesn't, no explanation is possible ...

Steve Perry said...

Oh, and a small technicality: In Indonesian martial arts, the word for teacher is "guru." It doesn't have the same connotation as a lot of westerners use it.

I always liked saying, "I saw my guru today."

"Really? What did you learn?"

"How to kick serious ass ..."

Dan Moran said...

Anon -- we'll have to disagree on the gun issue. It's a disagreement of degree, not kind -- there are occasions when guns are useful. I am not a pacifist; pacifism is immoral -- it asserts that the rights of the innocent are of less value than the rights of predators.

But I think the average household in a safe neighborhood is better off without a gun in the house.

And yeah, shooting stuff is a fun, perfectly legit hobby. And safer than trying to smack someone who's trying to smack you back.



I took a couple of your books on vacation. Finished the Musashi Flex and the Machiavelli Interface. I think I said in another post I was halfway through "Man Who Never Missed" -- by which I meant "The Musashi Flex." So I've now read Matadora -- over 10 years ago -- Machiavelli, and Musashi -- though it's weird to read a trilogy by going #2, wait 10 years, #3, and then loop back to #1, which appears to be how I'm going to finish this ...

I'm enjoying it. Musashi is better than the earlier material -- I do hope that, now I'm writing again, I can do work that's better than my old stuff. It's always encouraging to see an SF/fantasy writer get better with age -- it's rare, too. Most SF/fantasy writers get worse as they age ...

Didn't know "guru" was an actual title. I've misread some of the posts on your blog, because of that.

An armed mugger who wants my wallet can have it. Not that I'm likely to get mugged -- I look like work. I wouldn't be, but they don't know that. And the reason muggers are muggers in the first place is laziness and an aversion to effort ...

"It's about self-realization, and it's an entirely different road."

I get that. No one puts decades into learning to fight because they're afraid for their safety -- though the issues surrounding that fear are, I think, frequently sublimated by martial artists. At least half the serious martial artists I've ever known started out as the Kid Who Got Picked On.

Steve Perry said...

Yep, that'd be me -- the shrimpy kid who got into karate because I was worried about being beat-up.

Truth is, as a lad, I got into few fights, and gave as good as I got. But it was not the reality, it was the fear that drove it.

Much of who I am is a study in Napoleonic compensation. Until I was pushing sixteen, I was a rather small fellow, I got my size late. They say that what you look like at twelve tends to shape your self-image, so I've always thought of myself as a small man. (My wife, at twelve, was the tallest girl in her class, so she thinks of herself as big. She's five-three, I'm six-one and two-oh-five.)

Don't like public speaking? Take speech classes that make you do it. Afraid of the water, learn how to swim real good. Afraid of being bullied, martial arts offers an option. It's not so much about whether you can really fight or not, but whether you feel confident you can.

As a result of such training, I can stand on the ten-meter platform over the pool and do stand-up comedy in front of a group of bikers ...

Being a control-freak has its drawbacks, you need to learn the Alcoholics Anonymous prayer, but as a side-effect, you can sometimes benefit yourself with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men ...

jj sutherland said...

Dan and Steve,

A couple of years back I was fortunate enough to be trained by a bunch of professional badasses (ex-Royal Marine Commandos and SAS types) on what to do in dangerous situations. This was a course they run for journalists and NGO types about to head into warzones, who, IMHO, are, as a group, the least badass of any of the regulars who show up in places where lots of people are killing lots of other people.

Their advice, and they said they would do the same thing, is to avoid escalation. And the main way to avoid escalation is to do what the man with the gun says and let him feel like he is in charge of the situation. The wisdom of this has become apparent to me numerous times. The main reason is that the kid (and they usually are kids, doesn't matter if it's muggers, soldiers, insurgents, whatever) with the guns are scared out of their minds. And it's that fear that will make them pull the trigger.

Also, and I admit this is in somewhat particular circumstances in my case, but i think it holds true, by bringing another gun into the situation you have escalated it into a lethal confrontation. Someone is going to die, and it will more often than not be you. (I also don't carry weapons in warzones because I'm a non-combatant journalist, but that's a whole different kettle of ethical fish). In my opinion, and believe me, I've thought this through pretty carefully, even if I'm being kidnapped at a checkpoint by folks who are probably going to chop my head off, if I can extend my life another hour, it provides a chance, albeit a slim one, for rescue or release. If I pull out a gun, that time period shrinks to seconds.

I guess part of it is that having been around "badasses" (and by that I mean guys who have killed lots and lots of folks, and will do so again, both good guys and bad guys) I have come to appreciate that scene is Stephenson's "Snow Crash" when Hiro Protagonist runs into the guy with a nuke in his sidecar and is relieved to finally let go of the burden of thinking he might be able to become the ultimate badass, because he has finally met someone who has gone far beyond where he will ever be able to go.

On the other hand, shooting guns is incredibly fun. I particularly enjoy shooting skeet, mainly because it is an awesome feeling to watch something disintegrate because you shot it.

And every group has it's politics, in the incredibly small world of war correspondents the petty stuff is pretty incredible. I think the smallness of the politics is related to the insularity of the community.


jj sutherland said...

One more thing, please post The Long Run as soon as you can. I'm in Guatemala at the moment doing a Spanish intensive course and thought the best thing would be to bring no english books with me.

After a ten hour day of Spanish I am more than interested in reading some english words. Just a chance to not feel like a dyslexic 4 year old for a few hours.

Steve Perry said...

JJ --

I can appreciate your circumstances. And yet, I recall seeing a journalist forced to lie face down in some South American country and then being shot in the back of the head. His cameraman got it on film. Watching him bounce and go boneless was horrifying.

Unilateral disarmament only works if the guy with the gun is open to reason and you can convince him that shooting you isn't in his best interests. If you can't, you are dead.

Me, I'd rather talk than shoot, too, but if click proceeds to bang, I want the ability to shoot back.

Martial arts are about options. The old saw is that a warrior can choose violence or not, but a pacifist doesn't have that choice.

If, to protect your ass or that of your wife or daughter, you are willing to stab somebody, or bash them with a brick,or shove them in front of a bus, then it isn't about philosophy, it's about effectiveness.

Guns are specialized tools with a narrow range of use; however, when you really need one? Better to have it than not.

Ask any of your bad-asses if the military sent 'em into combat unarmed ...

Dan Moran said...

JJ -- thought I was done w/editing -- I had 5 people reading tLR, got edits in just today from the last of them. I'll PDF it tonight.

BTW, my advice is solely for civilians living in a reasonably safe world. If you're an international drug lord or a journalist or something, I would think different guidelines might apply ... in any event any war zone journalists reading me, I Wasn't Talking About You.

Until you come home ...

Steve Perry said...

P.S. --

I'm not advocating that everybody go out and buy a hogleg and walk about strapped. Dan's comment about how much knucklecraft most people need is valid -- most folks won't get into five fights in a lifetime.

And there are plenty of places where guns aren't allowed -- post offices, airports, courthouses even if you qualify for a concealed carry license and there are a lot of places where you simply cannot get such unless you can document a threat on your life.

But a shotgun at home with a trigger lock stashed somewhere out of the way but easy to get to is way better than 911 if somebody is kicking in your front door ...

Ken Prescott said...

BTW, my advice is solely for civilians living in a reasonably safe world.

And there is the rub.

A "reasonably safe world" can turn unreasonably unsafe in one random encounter.

Shooting is a somewhat complex skill--it does not mimic throwing a rock or swinging a club--and being under real threat from a drooling psychopathic stalker is not the time to try to pick it up.

Best to learn the essentials now, maintain them with range time and a rented weapon, and be ready to pick up a firearm at need, if such be your philosophical/ethical bent.

Dan Moran said...

Ken, no disagreement -- learning to shoot is a useful skill, and you shouldn't wait until you know you're going to need it before trying to acquire it.

Anonymous said...

I knew you'd say that. We've had this argument before, at length, and I like to think that we are at the point where we can respectfully disagree. (Guess who Anonymous is!)

I mainly wanted to spotlight a few things that you said in the original post that I don't think stand up to close examination. Specifically, that it's only appropriate for *women* in response to a *specific threat*.

The right to self-defense is not gender-linked. That's my biggest object. Secondary to that is that the right of self-defense is not conditional on specific credible threats either. Many threats today are not specific or forewarned, yet nonetheless deadly. Statistically, if any law-abiding citizen can carry a concealed firearm, there is a small but significant chance that by defending themselves they will save other lives as well. People should have that choice, and knowing that not everyone will take advantage of it reduces the risks.

The relative merits of household gun ownership are a much more subjective question, and I think we can both agree that people should be allowed to choose for themselves, whether their choice is to own a gun or not. I think it will help for most people, but I concede that there are some who won't be made safer, and going beyond that requires dueling statistics.

Oh, and something else that should be mentioned in your original post. In some states, possession of self-defense tools such as pepper spray is illegal -- and in several cases, just as illegal as carrying a firearm. This renders your advice impractical at best. Can we at least agree that those restrictions are wrong?

And a couple follow ups to Steve: I read Mushashi Flex when it came out, now Dan is hinting about other books in a series? Tell me more... I liked Flex, it was interesting, written well, and the inner dialog of the main character worked well for my sense of how a good fighter thinks.

And a general comment on resistance to attack: the rule of thumb I have always heard is a simple dichotomy. If they want just your wallet (or purse or whatever), let them have it. No point in starting a fight just for that when they have the drop on you already. BUT, the moment they try to tie you up or take you somewhere else, then you need to resist RIGHT THEN... because your chances of resisting or getting away are NOT going to get any better.

I'd add a corollary to that, which is that if they attack you straight off, that also needs to cue immediate resistance.

(Let me add a call for AI War here, too. You've kept us waiting far too long for that one).

Dan Moran said...

Anon -- don't actually know who you are. I've argued guns with a dozen guys over the years, sorry.

The right to self-defense is not gender-linked. That's my biggest object.

The gender distinction is sloppy writing on my part, and sexist to boot. "If you're small and weak and know there's someone out there looking to do you harm, a gun can be a reasonable step." Better?

Secondary to that is that the right of self-defense is not conditional on specific credible threats either.

Your right to self defense isn't conditional on anything. Whether carrying a weapon is a pratgmatic decision is conditional on a lot of stuff, though.

Everything else is probabilities, and like you, I'm disinclined to throw stats around.

BTW, pepper spray is legal in all 50 states.
I've read this several places -- if you know differently, I'd be interested in hearing specifics.

Personally, I'm in favor of gun control -- when you define gun control correctly (and no, I'm not going for the redneck joke here.) Training is the key -- someone who's committed no felonies, on no psychoactive drugs, and has passed the same sorts of tests a police officer has to pass to carry a weapon? I have no problem with that person carrying concealed. I have a big problem with any yahoo who can afford a Glock wandering around packing heat.

Musashi Flex appears to be a precursor to the Man Who Never Missed trilogy. I just started "Man" the other day -- it's moving well, like all Steve's work, but I do think Musashi Flex is better.

Anonymous said...

Doing a quick google on the pepper spray issue since my usual reference is down. As I recall Maryland used to have a pepper spray law that required a concealed-carry license to carry it, but that was repealed after a publicized incident, but I believe still has some restrictions in place. Suffice it to say I am fairly sure this isn't a complete list and probably doesn't cover the restrictions on carrying it (as opposed to possessing it):


Massachusetts: Residents may only purchase Pepper Spray from licensed firearms dealers. In order to possess or use Pepper spray you must have a Firearms Identification Card.

New Jersey residents may only purchase defense sprays from licensed Firearms Dealers or licensed Pharmacists in that state.

Pepper Spray is not prohibited in the state of Illinois but in the city of Chicago it is illegal.

WASHINGTON DC - Possession must be registered with the DC Metropolitan Police

New York: * No sale to minors under 18. * No sale to anyone with felony convictions or assaults. * Sale only through an authorized dealer, pharmacy or gun dealer. * Sale after you complete a form with your name, address, birth date and signature.

Steve Perry said...

One more thing you might want to read:

Sometimes the stuff doesn't work, and sometimes, even when it blinds somebody, they can still grab you and thump you pretty good.

No magic bullets -- even when you use real bullets. Not much you can carry upon your person that is one hundred percent effective at stopping a determined attacker.

The unarmed martial arts stuff is better when you can't carry hardware, you forgot it at home, or you dropped it. Or for your drunken Uncle Harold at the Christmas party, when blasting him with your nine would make for an awkward family dinner.

I have a buddy in L.A. who used to carry a can of pepper spray in his jeans pocket. It went off once and heated up his, um, cocktail weenie.

He doesn't carry spray any more ...

Anonymous said...

To pass on another bit of wisdom that isn't mine: non-lethal defensive devices (such as tasers or pepper sprays) make more sense for law enforcement to carry then they make for ordinary folk to carry. For law enforcement, who can expect backup on scene asap, and whose job involves apprehending belligerent or violent people rather than retreating from them, having a non-violent options is necessary and even vital. Police officers can't reasonably retreat from someone who throws a punch at them, and a dose of pepper spray or electricity is much preferable to a beating from three or four officers with clubs -- or a fatal shooting.

For a private citizen, by the time you are allowed to use pepper spray or a stun gun, you are also generally allowed to use lethal force. Conversely, if you are NOT ready to shoot someone (ie, in fear of your life), then you generally aren't legally justified in using any force at all. Furthermore, the "non-lethal option" with a gun (ie, the THREAT of lethal force not necessarily used) may be more successful than pepper spray in actually stopping an attack and is definitely less likely to trigger an attack instinct.

So, I think that pepper spray is a good defensive option when you don't have any other legally-permitted options, such as in the few remaining states that do not allow shall-issue concealed carry. However, if you CAN carry a firearm for self-defense, it is likely to be your most effective option.

It's not a casual decision, though.

Michael B. said...

Let me break this down if I may:

Yes I do agree that politics rear their ugly heads within the Martial Arts world...but does that mean every person plays them?

You seem to have lumped every single practitioner of Martial Arts into the dilettante category, that to me seems odd and a bit naive. I have been training 27 years in the arts and I know people who have been training for longer than that who are dead serious about this way of life (hardly dilettante material). For you to merely shrug off life long pursuits because you view them as superficial is ludicrous at best.

The core aspects to some may be the kicking ass portion as you so eloquently stated but there is so much more involved than one would realize. Have you ever studied? Have you dedicated the years? The effort? The blood? I won't be shocked if you say NO. It seems you fall into the mindset that a little boxing and a little wrestling or judo and a colt .45 will win the day...and maybe it would in a perfect world..but let me ask you many times have you been in a boxing match in the street? Not many right..of course not people don't box in the street..they don't stand toe to toe and duke it out...and as far as your summation on the grappling goes...where do you get your facts that all this leads to a clinch? Maybe you ended up in a clinch because that's what you know because of your little bit of this and little bit of that attitude (a dilettantes mindset).

You speak of a touch up...what world do you live in? People kill people nowadays..they shoot you and they stab you, and they beat the ever living dog shit out of you with a pipe etc. and in most cases it is an ambush..and I have yet to see boxing and judo deal well with this scenario. Maybe this average male theory of yours is for the pseudo wanna be touch up crew...guys who believe fight club is real!

Pepper spray is a good idea but here again you assume that it is merely spraying and fleeing when nothing could be further from the truth...perhaps a good solid course in deployment of said weapon would be in order and how to build a proper exit strategy..but then again that may be martial in context and not needed by your summations!

You make a good point on the usage of firearms but here again you don't seem to realize that training properly in the realm of tactical practical firearms is martial arts and it takes discipline and time to become truly proficient and ready (and both of those are up to deliberation)...unless of course you advocate target shooting as a proper methodology for combat readiness, I for one do not!

You lump martial arts with cost effectiveness...WOW that is absurd..Yes there are people who will take advantage of other folks to earn a quick buck but that craft transcends martial is in-fluxed into damn near any and everything, including writers. There are on the other hand people who teach their crafts with honor and integrity who make very little if anything. It is CAVEAT EMPTOR my friend.

There are many more attributes to martial arts training than just kicking ass..if you cannot see that then perhaps this entire dialogue has gone right over your head and NO there is nothing wrong with martial arts as a hobby if one chooses to view it as that, but there are others of us who take it to the highest degree where we embrace these arts and the cultures they come from as a way of life....and NO it isn't easy to understand for those who do not choose this path just like it isn't easy for some to see why a person climbs EVEREST.

You say, and I quote " people in this world who need to spend decades studying any martial discipline for any pragmatic reason is vanishingly small" I agree but need has nothing to do with it for those of who choose this path.

Another interesting tidbit from you, and again I quote

"And if you do get into a given martial discipline ... and run into a Guru ... hang onto your wallet and your good judgement, and be damned wary of certainty"

I find this statement to truly be sad..perhaps you have had bad run ins with instructors of various disciplines but that doesn't speak for everyone out there...your assumptions are just that assumptions..and you know what they say about them..Yep they are the mother of all F*** ups...

Certainty...unless you were born with a gilded spoon lodged somewhere tightly this word doesn't even ring true!

Michael B.

Steve Perry said...

Michael --

Re-read Dan's posting as if you weren't a martial artist, i.e., with as objective a view at you can manage.

I know, I know, it's hard, but ...

Basically what I get from it is not that the martial arts are a waste of time, only that the amount of time a serious martial artist puts into the study is difficult to justify on self-defense grounds alone.

And that's true. He's not saying you shouldn't do it, only that you aren't really apt to need it, and that the cost/benefit ratio is maybe not so good.

For me, needing it a time or two over a lifetime is enough to make it pay for itself, and my training already has done that. But anybody who is into the the stuff for more than a few years should have gotten enough for basic street self-defense already. If not, he needs to be looking for a different art.

A guy who can box a little, wrestle a little, who has a gun, and who isn't afraid to mix it up will have most of what he will need 99% of the time.

Us hardcore guys train for that other 1%, and some of that, you can't cover. If the Chinese Army comes over the hill, you are in trouble no matter what ...

Past the self-defense, you train for mastery or self-realization or to stay in shape or for the old ego -- for a lot of reasons, and they can all be good ones.

I didn't hear Dan say you shouldn't study. Only that it's really hard to justify fifteen or thirty years of practice for that 1% possibility.

And that there is a lot of political, and I'm-the-Sensei crap in the arts, which you surely know is true. For every humble, honest teacher out there, there are three puffed up jackleg frauds who pretend to knowledge they don't have.

Michael B. said...

I hear you Steve and I do understand that he isn't slamming studying the art...I do disagree however to the little of this and the little of that theory for winning the day.....perhaps in years past when violence wasn't so passe. I am hard pressed to to buy into the continuum that combat is a duel where a bit of boxing and wrestling and a pistol will rule. From my experiences of life and the scars I bear tell me otherwise.

Steve unfortunately I have trouble reading it other ways..after 27 years of diligent pursuit I find myself viewing most things in life from the martial perspective or the art is hard to defer to another mindset.

As far as justifying 15 to 30 years for that 1% chance in a lifetime (which I do not buy..I have had many 1% SNAFUS in my life). There is no need for justification when pursues this path...that is something know one will understand unless they walk it! And there in lies the difference between a dilettante and a warrior!....Which is something very few understand at all.

Steve Perry said...

Michael --

I'm not saying you should defer to a non-martial artist viewpoint, only that you see it as commentary and not an attack.

I started doing these dances forty-odd years ago, and they have shaped the way I look at things, too, but Dan's point stands because there are a lot of martial artists who do justify the study for self-defense. Some of them are dilettantes in the sense that word has come to mean; originally, it meant an amateur who cultivated a skill, not a dabbler, and was not an insult, but a compliment. Bet Dan knows that, too ...

Against a dedicated and skilled martial artist, a little boxing and wrestling probably won't do the trick. The gun will help, assuming the MA doesn't get his out first.
I believe Dan's point was that most of the time in most lives, there won't be that much need for self-defense. That is true, by the numbers. In forty-odd years of training, I've had to use the stuff for real one time. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I know plenty of guys my age or older who haven't been in any kind of fight since they were nine years old.

And any warning against the cult of personality, i.e. Realized Masters for whom you are encouraged to venerate every word? That's good advice. Cults abound, and they cause a lot of damage across the board. I know guys who have gotten involved with teachers who allowed themselves to be the object of worship and who suffered in terms of time, money, and heartache.

It is Buyer Beware, and that's what Dan was saying.

As I read it.

Michael B. said...

Caveat emptor...I do agree....perhaps I am a tad sensitive due to an over abundance of mileage as you put it...and I do mean abundance! No harm meant..just voicing my opinion from my personal pulpit.

Dan Moran said...

Steve's arguing my position at least as well as I could, so for the most part, what he said. And re the word dilettante -- I'm using it as he suggests. I'm dead serious about my basketball, you know what I mean?

And if anyone takes anything away from what I said, take this: people who have the Answers are not to be trusted. Most of them are frauds, and the ones who aren't have found their answers ... which may or may not be yours.

And the very rare exceptions, men and women who have real Answers about how to navigate life, and their Answers are useful to you -- may be the most dangerous of the bunch. With the best will in the world, you can only guide another person so far -- any parent knows this, but not all gurus do ... using word in the non-silat specific sense.

Steve Perry said...

Somebody -- I think it was Ram Dass -- made the distinction between a teacher and a guru (in the non-silat sense of the latter word).

Teachers can be good or bad, but you can learn from them.

Gurus are like big fires: Too far away, you don't get any heat or light; too close, you get burned.

Unless one is a total didact, teachers are necessary. And at some point, even gurus are useful; the trick is always how to get close enough to enjoy the warmth without being turned into a crispy critter.

I've always like the examples of "When a student is ready, a teacher will appear."

And the converse: "When a teacher is ready, a student will appear."

It's a tricky road on either side, but while I also believe it is true that the man who learns teaches himself, we all need some help now and then ...

Rob said...


With respect to the second post, the anonymous guy, I've got to say I kind of think both you and the poster are missing the point.

I'm a lifelong shooter, celebrating 24 years so far. As of late most of my work has been spent with an AR-10A4B/SPR chambered in .308 Winchester, working at ranges of between 200 and 400 meters. This is pretty far for hunting and pretty much way beyond any sort of combat I'm ever likely to see. (I'm a soft-around the middle UNIX geek; if I ever need a rifle for social work, it's going to be in a city at a range of under 100m.) I also do a fair bit of work with various pistols in .45, and I keep current enough with shotgun to be a creditable partner on a duck hunt. Not that any of this matters, of course, but I think a person's background should be considered when judging their perspective, so I present it.

Anonymous says handguns are an appropriate defensive measure for anyone who knows there is a real threat to their lives, and for many who just want to be prepared. There are two different clauses here. The first one I think is batshit nonsense. The second one is pretty accurate.

My first pistol instructor gave me two pieces of very useful advice. One of them was "if this makes you feel safe, you're being stupid." If you're scared and under threat and your heart is racing, picking up a gun is usually the stupidest thing you can do unless you've spent enough time training for how to safely handle firearms even when stressed and scared.

Amadou Diallo was shot at 41 times at point-blank range by elite cops who were heavily trained in small arms. Only 19 rounds ultimately had his name on them. The other 22 were addressed To Whom It May Concern. While I think a person has the right to defend themselves, I think a person has the moral responsibility to take into account the safety of other innocents who have an equal right to live. If you can't shoot better than a cop while under stress--and believe it or not, that's not hard--then your first response needs to be to GET THE HELL AWAY AND GET HELP, not to pick up a firearm.

The overwhelming majority of people can be trained to a degree that they are safer and more accurate in their weapons usage than cops. With such training, I think it's entirely reasonable to allow average people to carry. But the overwhelming majority of people also think a gun is a magic device that bestows on its user the skills necessary to use it safely.

I am a big advocate of responsible concealed carry. I have a sharp philosophical difference with people who simply advocate concealed carry.