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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

Weapons Woes

I was once told by someone way, way smarter and more experienced than I am (which includes most of the martial arts world) that martial artists consist of about 1% of the adult population.

Weapons nerds like me make up 1% of that 1% of the population.

I don't know if that proportion is right exactly, but the larger point - that martial artists are a tiny minority, and that people who are really interested in weapons are a VERY tiny minority - rings absolutely true to me.

I believe there's an even smaller group of those interested in weapons: people who are interested in learning to actually learn to use weapons versus to only using them in forms for competition.

Maybe the 1% of the 1% of the 1%. The very, very tiny minority.

A recent conversation online brings home the point.

A friend posted this image and asked some folks if they could spot what's wrong with this image:

This image is owned by Century Martial Arts.

To their credit, most people did spot what's off about the image. But a few opined that nobody fights with sai anyway, so who cares?

On the one hand, they've sorta got a point. Outside of some very isolated places in the recent past, sai and sai-like weapons aren't used in the modern world. If we're going for absolute practicality in our training and we don't have much of an imagination... yep, there's really no reason to care what grip that sai is being held in.

But on the other hand, if you aren't going to teach how to use a weapon properly and it doesn't matter how you do it, what's the point of teaching it at all?

I mean, really, if you believe that traditional weapons training is useless in the 21st Century, and you're teaching weapons in your martial arts program... why?

I honestly don't get it. Why bother? Why spend time and money on it at all, ever?

How is it ever okay to teach anything in a martial arts program that the instructor doesn't believe has actual real-life application for students?

If you don't believe in it, why are you teaching it? Why not just stick with what you do believe in, and make your students the very best they can be at that? If that means no weapons... awesome, then go with that.

I know many of you think weapons training is irrelevant to modern life, and while I absolutely disagree with you, I'm not trying to convince you otherwise here.

I am also not running you down if you do teach weapons just as a prop to perform with. I've defended that very thing in the past, but as long as it's clear that what you're doing is just performance, not a demonstration of actual skill with an actual weapon.

But if you're taking the time and energy and money to teach weapons and pretend at all that there's real-world application anywhere in there... then why not make sure it's done properly?

I think the reason this stuck in my craw so much is that I don't think if the tables were reversed that empty-hand folks would ever agree that it isn't important to get the little details of kicking or punching or grappling or whatever you're doing right.

Most of us aren't going to get into fights, after all, at least, not in real life (and if we are, I have to question your choices in life if you aren't doing it professionally in some sort of law enforcement or military application or in combat sports).

If you're just an IT guy or middle management or a caterer or housewife whatever, it's not really THAT important that your empty hand techniques are "correct"... is it?

Or is it?

One more thing before I step of my soapbox here...

It is incredibly disrespectful when people who don't know weapons insist that those little details we weapons nerds geek out about are unimportant. Those little details can sometimes save someone from serious injury. After all, a mistake with sai (or bo or lawds help us if someone's got a live blade) is far, far more dangerous than a mistake with a punch.

So stop insisting that the details with weapons don't matter, and for Pete's sake if you wanna teach weapons, believe in it, and teach them properly after having learned them from someone who actually knows weapons, ok?

The details matter. With weapons, and with empty hand.

If you think weapons training is outdated and irrelevant, don't teach weapons!

Finally, if you don't know what's wrong with that sai picture up there... it's the grip. She's holding the sai with her fingers entwined in the tines ("Raphael" from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is sometimes depicted this way by artists who don't know better - like THIS). Here's a fantastic image of why it matters:

I suspect the image above made it through due to a photographer and model who don't train sai doing their best to get a cool picture, and a busy editorial process that had to get things done on a tight deadline (I've been a marketer myself, I know exactly how that goes). I am certain that plenty of folks at Century know exactly how to use sai properly.

Do you think weapons training is irrelevant in modern times? Am I being over-sensitive here? Let us know in the comments!

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Oct 09, 2019

Oh, and my forged iron Okinawan sai will never see battle. Sadly.

Years ago, TSA tried to seize them. I mailed them home, and there they stay.


Oct 09, 2019

It frustrates me that foam weapons are used for instruction but real weapons are often NOT. What good is learning a technique with foam that never translates to reality.?

If I were in a self-defense situation, I can use an almost infinite number of a available alternatives to "weapons" (in addition to empty hands) - with a little forewarning... I carry a kubotan-type piece on my keys, a punch pen (photo attached) which serves a number of functions, including writing) and employ situational awareness to identify possible weapons, exits and threats.

A lot of talk to say this: if you learn how to defend yourself and pay attention as you wander through the world, you'll likely be able to avoi…

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