Not So Lethal Weapon

A few weeks ago I was participating in a martial arts related discussion group on Facebook. One of the members had been reading my posts. They mentioned that they were interested in reading about my experiences with weapons. My training with weapons have been sporadic over the years.

Before I began my official martial arts training my former brother in law introduced me to various types of martial arts weapons he had received training on while living in another state. I remember one of the first weapons he showed me were kali sticks. He demonstrated the “Heaven and Hell”  combo drill that he personally liked to practice. He explained how you can practice the drill by yourself and how you practice with a partner. In an attempt to help him practice I held a kali stick in my hand. As soon as I made contact with his kali stick mine flew out of my hands and across the living room. – I do good to hold a pen in my hand let alone an inch and half to 2 inches in diameter round stick. Wrapping my fingers around a kali stick has proven difficult for me to do.

Not wanting to give up the idea of learning how to use the kali sticks; I have spent years wondering what would be the best way for me to keep it from flying out of my hands. I recently had an epiphany while watching Marco Polo on Netflix. Thanks to the character One Hundred Eyes, I understand why the Tai Chi sword has a sash coming off the handle. As One Hundred Eyes explained; “it is not there to be pretty, it is there to wrap around your hand and sword so you can learn how to hold it.” – Though I am not as proficient in the Chinese martial arts, so I have not checked the accuracy of that statement from the movie. Feel free to comment below if you want to provide feedback. – I am hoping this concept will work for me. I am in the process of trying finding the right sticks and a couple of sashes.

While growing up and years before starting martial arts I always regarded the samurai sword as the ultimate weapon. What can I say, I was young and naive.  My former brother in law explained to me that in modern day society you don’t find people walking down the street carrying a sword. He explained to me that the most practical weapon is the bo-staff or jo staff. There are many everyday items lying around that can be used as a bo-staff such as a pool stick, mop or broom handle, a wooden or metal pole, and so on. He explained how in some styles of martial arts such as Aikido they train you how to disarm swordsman. This concept had me interested.

I learned in my early years of karate how to use a bo-staff. My instructor found a lightweight staff and cut it down to size for me. I learned a few basic striking and blocking techniques. I really enjoyed working with the staff even though I never got to learn how to disarm someone with a sword. Shortly after receiving my bo-staff I came home from school one day and found that my mom’s dog used it as a chew toy leaving one end slightly pointier. I was upset at first, but my dad sanded down the end that had been chewed on.   It was awesome going into class with it. I went from having a bo-staff to having a spear. My sensei was very concerned that I was planning to turn my classmates into a shish-kabob with my staff

IMAG0984However the only time we worked with the bo-staff is to do the bo kata or the bunkai. I did not care for this kata. As you can see by the picture of my hand, I do not have much dexterity and it is hard for me to curl my fingers around an object. My arms are not long either, so raising a bo-staff over my head for a block is out of the question. I learned very early in karate there is no changing or modifying a kata. I did the best I could with the kata because it was a requirement for advancing to the next rank.

Despite the fact that the only time we worked with the bo-staff was to do kata, I did feel comfortable using it as a weapon. I would go home and work on the striking and blocking techniques that were easiest for me to do and still maintain control of the staff. Before too much longer I began collecting broom handles and dow rods and placing them around the house. I even had a stick in one of the corners at the office I worked in. It was provided for me so I could use it to press the elevator buttons since they were slightly out of reach. Anytime I needed to go to another office on the second or third floor, I had my stick in hand. After working for the agency for several years, one of the elected officials realized I knew how to use it as a weapon and would steer clear of me in a jokingly manner of course.

The Time I Almost Used My Skills

I will say that having a stick around the office was beneficial. I worked for a local government agency and regularly had to deal with the public. Not all citizens were full of sunshine and happiness coming to our office. On one such day, my boss and I were sitting at the main conference table having a chat. The rest of the staff was either out to lunch or out in the field. A citizen came into the office upset over a noticed that they had received. They made complaints and accusations about a particular staff member. There was a partition with a counter top that separated me and my boss from the citizen. In a fit of anger, that citizen came around the counter very fast. As they made their way I jumped up from my seat and grabbed my stick. I got in front of my boss with my stick in hand in a ready position. I had already sized up the person and knew which areas of the body I was going to attack. That person didn’t get any closer once they realized I was ready to defend my office and co-worker.

The bo-staff isn’t the only weapon I am familiar with using. In my jujitsu class, we learned how to defend ourselves from batons, clubs, and edged weapons. Since we are “civilians” we learned a few striking techniques with the weapons so we would know what to do once we disarmed the attacker. As far as I have seen in my local area, if a person wants to learn a specific weapon system then there is the Iaido (samurai sword) class. Again, where is the practicality of samurai sword class when people do not regularly carry swords? Unless your names are Conner or Duncan MacLeod then you might get away with carrying a sword everywhere. However some of the dojos in my area do offer a more in-depth training session on weapons. These classes and seminars were mostly designed and advertised for people working in the public safety profession.

Defensive Bladed Weapons Seminar

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I am using energy, not strength, to hold up Professor Ernie Boggs from hitting the ground. This was taken at the West Virginia Public Safety Expo 2013.

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to attend such seminar. This seminar was specifically developed for law enforcement officers and public safety officials. The focus was on edged weapons. The seminar was taught by Professor Ernie Boggs. I was excited to find out that I would get to learn from him. Many of my classmates I practiced karate with over the years had been to several of Bogg’s seminars. My classmates only had good things to say about his seminars. I also knew that Boggs would have an assistant instructor with him. I was most excited to work out with the assistant since that instructor knew me from a very young age and had been following my progress in martial arts. This was the person I remember my father telling me about when he was working road patrol.

I practiced a variety of offensive and defensive techniques with a knife for 8 hours. The best part is that Professor Boggs understood I had limitations. He and the members of his entourage worked to modify techniques so I could execute the moves effectively. Boggs even found a practice knife that would work for my hands specifically. I learned how to strike and block attacks. I learned where all of the vital areas in the lower half of the body.

In the last year, I have become fascinated with the Filipino art of Kali and learning as much as I can from YouTube videos with Doug Marcaida, Brian Johns, and Jackie Bradbury. I would like to continue exploring various weapons and try to find one that will fit my needs perfectly. Maybe perhaps I will take a page out of ninjutsu history and use everyday items that are within reach as weapons for self-defense. The next post we will look at using assistive devices that people with disabilities can use for defending themselves.

I would like to hear from you the readers about your experiences with weapons. Have you been able to adapt a weapons system to your disability? Feel free to comment below and share your story.

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4 thoughts on “Not So Lethal Weapon

  1. Hi Larry, great to hear talk about your experiences with weapons. I think adaption is the way to go. While I’m not that experienced in weapons, here are my thoughts.

    You’ve mentioned that you have a weaker grip – using a sash will work. But every solution has drawbacks. Consider the liability of not being able to release the weapon if the opponent decides to throw you (or manipulate your joints). This is not to say that tying the weapon to your hand is a bad solution. Tie the sash in a way that allows you to release the weapon quickly when needed.

    In addition, because of grip issues, two-handed weapon grip techniques might work better for you. I’d also imagine that forceful swinging that rely only on your arms would be difficult to execute. I’d suggest focusing on tai sabaki when using a jo; i.e. use predominantly your entire body’s movement to move the weapon, instead of relying on arm movements. This comes from my limited experience with Aikido defensive weapons (bokken, jo and tanto) training.

    Ultimately, I believe that martial arts form is empty if you do not adapt them to your characteristics. It’s about making the technique sensible and easy to use during a threatening situation; not straining to perform a technique with several weaknesses. You can be sure that a person attacking you will exploit those weaknesses.

    Anyway, I think you should followup on this topic. There are definitely people looking to adapt weapon training to their disability. And there is not much information out there.

    All the best!

  2. Larry, in addition to traditional karate, atour Dojo we practice escrima (similar to kali). We work on defense, offense, disarms, takedowns, and edged weapons. One of the many drills that we do is to take common objects and use them as weapons. Everything from magazines to pens, markers, hair combs, and food make excellent field expedient weapons. We recently taugbt a seminar on this at the Jackson County Army Reserve Center. Check out the photos from the event on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/dbkukv/

  3. “Maybe perhaps I will take a page out of ninjutsu history and use everyday items that are within reach as weapons for self-defense.”

    We have a gentleman here in town named Harry Dach, who runs the local martial arts supply store Dach Oriental Imports. He recently taught a workshop at our school addressing something very similar to this. As he pointed out, a lot of the traditional martial arts weapons were the workmen’s tools of the day… so he spent the time and effort to come up with ways to use modern-day tools as weapons. The hammer was a pretty obvious one, but the really surprising one was the paint-roller!

  4. Pingback:Weapons of Opportunity - Karate Kickin Dwarf

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