Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Self Defense: The Risk of Weapons

The reality of weapons training is that we are introducing an element where the risk of serous injury and/or death dramatically increases versus an unarmed fight.  Now, there's tons to be said regarding the legality of the use of weapons in self defense, and I recommend you check out Andrew Banca's excellent The Law of Self Defense to learn more about those issues.

But this post is not about the legality of self defense - it's about the moral and ethical concerns.

When we think of lethal weapons, of course, a firearm is what first comes to mind.

In the heat of a violent situation, the use of a firearm theoretically has a high probability of lethal results.   After all, in firearms training, we learn to never to point the weapon at anything we aren't willing to shoot or kill. 

When I was originally trained for self defense with firearms (long before I took up the martial arts), I learned to "double tap" and aim for the center (the heart, lungs, etc.) and the head.  I was trained to assume that I had to completely neutralize the threat, and that could mean to the death of the other person.

Whatever is in front of this firearm,
assume it is going to die.
Before we go further, I'm completely supportive of firearms training and I agree very much with Robert Heinlein when he wrote, "An armed society is a polite society."  You may disagree, or you may live in a culture where gun ownership is prohibited or severely restricted. But I live in Texas, so it's highly likely that when I'm in a public place, there is at least one person licensed to carry a gun and is doing so, and not only does that not bother me, but I'm glad they're around.

Knife training is also common, especially in my art, but then you have to consider the use of all of the other weapons we train with in the martial arts.  Here's a list at Wikipedia, but you also have to consider weapons of convenience, like glass bottles, brooms, chairs, statuary, scooters, and shovels.

As the maxim goes, you fight the way you train.  Many of us are engaged in self-defense training that includes an element of lethal counter-force, but especially when you train with weapons.

I think I've made it abundantly clear I advocate weapons training.  As passionate I am about this subject, there's something you really have to take into consideration before you train to use weapons.

My question to you is this:  Are you sure you are willing to kill someone?   In all circumstances, no matter what?

We always envision some nebulous evil person who's coming to kill and plunder with evil intent when we train self defense.  But is that the threat we are always going to encounter, or is even the most likely thing we will encounter?
  • How about just some drunk father of two small children who's gotten out of control at the bar?
  • What about a mentally ill person who is having trouble with their medication and has turned violent?
  • What about your teenage son or daughter who's high on drugs?
  • What about the person who just temporarily lost complete control of their temper and starts swinging a chair?
Is lethal force is called for in any of the situations above?  Is getting too drunk one night or having your medications go wrong or punching someone out of the blue grounds for execution?

Is this woman asking to be killed if she
takes a swing at somebody?
Let's say that the person involved is indeed a bad guy intent on harm. Are you certain you have the emotional, moral, and mental fortitude to take a human life, even if it's the life of someone who's not a good person?

I first really thought through where I stood on the matter when I read Rory Miller's Meditations on Violence for the second time.  My reading of that book made me examine my own mind and what I am willing to do in order to defend myself.  I spent a lot of time thinking about this, and what I'm really training for when I do martial arts.

I suspect it took the second reading of "Meditations on Violence" for this one point to really become clear to me, as I was much further along in my training and I understood what I was doing better than I did when I first began (which is when I first read the book).
  • Every time I train to hit someone with a heavy object to the temple, I'm training to deliver a potentially killing blow.
  • Every time I train to cut a vital artery, I'm training to kill.
  • Every time I train to break a neck, I'm training to (potentially) kill - a neck break is not an automatic death sentence but the risk is high.
With that understanding, I accept the risk I'm assuming of causing permanent injury, or even death, to another person.   It's not something I seek, but given I am a middle aged small woman, I believe it is necessary for me to use weapons as an option in self-defense.

So, in your training, I urge you to take the time to reflect upon this, make up your mind where you stand, and train accordingly. If, like me, you are unwilling to kill unless absolutely necessary, adjust your self defense training and plans accordingly.

Because taking a life is serious business, and nothing to ever take lightly.  Ever.