Monday, February 11, 2008

"You're Not an Ape -- Use a Tool!"


On a good night, maybe ten or so players show up for our silat class. Enough to fill Cotten's three-car garage. Some of these are newbies, most have been around for a while, a few for a very long time.

I fancy that I can give any of them enough to worry about, hand-to-hand, and if I were a betting man, I'd put my money on me to win, did push come to shove. Yeah, yeah, it sounds egotistical, but like Grampaw Sonnet used to say, "No brag, jest fact." As I see it ...

In the awful remake of Godzilla a few years back, they ran a series of teasers in theaters before the movie came out, and my favorite was wrapped around the phrase "Size matters."

Of course it does, else flyweight boxers would be stepping into the ring and beating heavyweights, and that doesn't happen. It's not all about size and strength, skill can void a lot of that, but with skill on both sides being anywhere close to equal, the itty-bitty guy is usually at a disadvantage. Note: I said "usually."

There are two women in our class, smallish people over whom I have nearly a foot in height and sixty or seventy pounds in weight, and one-on-one barehanded against either, I believe, he says euphemistically, that the match would, ah ... favor me. One is only a year or so deep in the stuff, so I'm bigger, stronger, and more skilled. The other knows as much as I do, probably more, but her skill is not so much greater that it offsets mine and my size in combination.

However, were either of these shrimpy women holding a knife, I would not like my chances barehanded against them so much. At the very least, I would expect to pay for a victory in my own blood and ethilon suture material, things that are not at the top of my list of Fun Things to Do.

The point here? If you are a non-martial artist and you want to protect yourself, get an equalizer. Sharp steel is harder than flesh; unless you came from Krypton, you ain't bulletproof.

A knife or a gun go a long way to offsetting unarmed skills. A gun and a knife are even better.

Of course, a good martial artist is apt to be proficient with such things, too -- any who claim that they are streetworthy who cannot reliably use a stick, knife, or gun -- or all three -- is fooling himself. Guns are the rocks of our times, and the first tools past rocks and dull sticks, were pointed sticks, followed by the earliest incarnations of the axe and/or knife, so they've been around almost as long as we have. There is a reason for this -- the knife is as useful a tool as there is.

You don't have to be a expert to use one. If you have sliced a turkey or a carrot, you know which end goes where. Some small training is all you need to be able to deal with anybody short of Bruce Lee. A little bit more, and you could filet a Bruce-equivalent like a catfish and deep-fry him.

Just my small bit of useful advice for the day ...

17 comments:

Todd Erven said...

I totally agree with you. One of my best friends is a farm boy from Illinois and outweighs me by about 70 pounds. Even back at college when I was a gym rat and in pretty tip top shape, he could still toss me around like a ragdoll.

I remember one time we got in a punching contest, hitting each other in the arm and seeing who'd give up first. I had sap gloves on with 8oz of lead in each one, he just used his ham-sized fists. I gave up long before he did.

If I had a few more years of training and was back in good shape, I'd still put my money on the bruiser if we were unarmed. It's one of the reasons why I always remember keep a tool on me.

Dan Moran said...

Steve, is Silat a good art for kids? My kids have been in karate and my 9 year old wants to study more seriously. Is this appropriate, or should I keep him in the tae kwon do he started in?

I'm not looking to create a deadly killer, just keep him healthy and engaged.

Steve Perry said...

Frankly, I'd be more inclined to put him into judo, Dan.

First off, the choices for silat in your neck of the woods are limited. Outside a few folks, nobody I'd point you at.

I can give you a long list of folks to avoid, but to keep from starting another online war, I'd do that via email.

Second, the art is aimed at hardcore players, and this ain't the old country. We play with knives, and we don't dust it off unless things get serious.

With judo to augment his grappling skills, he'd be able to box and wrestle, and together, that will stand him in good stead.

Silat is one of those things a lot of folks with a lot of training in other things come across, and it either rings a bell or it doesn't. When he's fifteen or eighteen, if he's looking, then he will more likely be ready.

Michael B. said...

While I agree that an equalizer is essential, and a gun or a knife is a great equalizer neither will suffice if the individual does not have the ability to harden ones heart. You can be as skilled as you want in any number of arts with any tool...if you do not have the ability to hit that button in crunch time all is for naught. Far to many times have I seen highly skilled martial artists get totally dusted by some shit bird with a hard heart and a I DONT GIVE A SHIT ATTITUDE. I believe your either born with the ability or your not.

Personally I have never lost 1 iota of sleep over dealing out pain and in a few cases worse. Training will help that is true but unfortunately there is no real way to say whether you can hit the button unless you walk threw the fire. My choices in life lead me down that path where guns, and knives and watching friends get whacked were just a part of the game. That is also what drove me out of the life and into a more calm state.

My advise train as you see fit but stay away from the fire as much as possible, and if it ever comes for you pray you have the ability to do what you have to...even if that is turning someones head into a canoe with a .45 or gutting them like a fish.

PS. It don't go down like it does in class, one had better be prepared to go ugly early and ambush that SOB...and ambush isn't technique it is a mind set. Right , Wrong, or Indifferent.

"If you come for me bring steel, because I'm going to end you" ~ Antonio TATANG ILUSTRISIMO...

Christopher Wayne said...

Hello Mr. Perry

What martial art would teach how to use a knife? I am in Chicago.

Thank you

Christopher Wayne

Steve Perry said...

Christopher --

There are a bunch of martial arts with knife components. SE Asian and Filipino are the first ones that spring to mind -- silat, kali -- especially sayoc guys -- kuntao, like that. But there are a lot of others, ranging from kung-fu to Japanese stuff to western fencing that will serve. You can get some good ideas from the Israelis doing Krav Maga and the Russians with Systema.

All cultures have access to blades. The main thing is to get used to handling one, know what it will and won't do, and where to apply it for best effect.

The principles of bladework alter somewhat when using different lengths, but below six or eight inches, the differences get small enough so it doesn't matter so much. You use a samurai sword differently than you would your Swiss Army knife, but the goal is the same -- stab or cut, going or coming.

Yep, size matters, but any knife is better than none against a barehanded attacker.

Knife work is the same as barehanded stuff in that the motions are going to be push and pull. You can fancy it up with a lot of names and positions, but it isn't rocket science.

Most traditional arts have some kind of short blade, and you can use a tactical folder like you'd use a short fixed-blade knife, assuming you don't break the lock or the hinge pin ...

Fixed-blades are usually sturdier, but harder to conceal, and illegal when hidden in a lot of places.
A short-blade pocket knife is legal in a lot of the country, check your local laws.

The SoAfrican art of Piper, which comes out of Cape Town's prisons is really nasty, though I dunno if anybody is teaching it in Chicago.

Where you run into problems is more on the bare-hand-against-a-knife defensive end. A lot of arts offer these, there are seminars and some of them will surely get you killed if you try them.

Irene said...

And as Guru observed, "Bigger is better. Sorry guys, but size does matter."

steve-vh said...

Mike beat me to it - "intent matters".
I see this time and again in my son. He is not a technician, not even close. But his "fight computer" as I call it, has a much higher processing speed than most and has no firewalls to stop him. I've seen him time and again beat people with far superior skill simply because as Mike puts it, he can "hit that button".
I take a small amount of solace in knowing if it does go down, he will be able to "go there".

As to Dan's question, Steve's right. A mix of Judo, boxing, some jui jitsu and perhaps even some Muay Thai should give him a nice mix to prepare him. See if you can sign him them up for a MMA class, my son can't wait for class at 7AM on Saturday morning when all I want to do is sleep.

Steve Perry said...

I'm not disagreeing with the idea that if you need to drop the hammer, you have to have the wherewithal to do it. But I think that this attitude is one you have to bring with you. It's like anything else -- the greatest teacher in the world can't help you if you don't want to do what it takes to learn, regardless of the subject.

Intent, the willingness to do what it takes to stay alive, to survive, yep, you gotta have that or the biggest gun or knife won't help. If you see yourself as prey, then that's what you are.

And if that's how you see yourself, nothing much I have to say about martial arts is going to do you much good. At heart, you have to believe in Desiderata's line, "You have a right to be here." and woe to anybody who tries to take that from you.

I'm not out recruiting folks and trying to convince them that they should step up when the need arises; more how they might do it if they are willing to give it a go.

If you would rather die than kill, should it come to that, this isn't a blog you should bother with.

Steve Perry said...

Irene --

Well, sometimes bigger is better. Sometimes smaller is.

That can depend on whether you are, um, pitching or catching ...

Dan Moran said...

Judo it is. Thanks, guys.

Tiel Aisha Ansari said...

Christopher--- check the law in your area on carrying knives. Look up the actual law: don't go by what people tell you.

Christopher Wayne said...

Thank you for the reminder about the law. In Illinois you cannot have a blade longer than 3 inches or a double edged knife.

Coming from a cop family, I run things past my uncles. One of them said that a mag light flashlight is ok to carry, as long as the batteries work. If they work, it is a flashlight, if not, it is a weapon.

Dan said...

With all respect to your uncles, most cops don't know the law very well. They have a handle on what they need to know, but even then it often has little relation to what's actually in the statutes or the cases.

As for the length of blade, I have a suspicion about the numbers and certain anatomical measurements touching on the average male legislator and police chief...

Steve Perry said...

A lot of this information is available online, if you know how to look. Here's an excerpt regarding Chicago:

"Chicago – Unlawful to possess switchblades. See, CHICAGO, ILL., MUNICIPAL CODE § 8-24-020 (2005). Concealed carry of dirks, daggers, stilettos, bowie knives, “commando knives”, any knife with blade greater than two and a half inches, ordinary razors, and “other dangerous weapon[s]” prohibited. See, id. Unlawful for person under 18 years of age to carry or possess knife with blade two inches in length or longer. See, id. Carry on person or in vehicle passenger compartment of “utility knife” (e.g., box cutter) by person under 18 years of age prohibited. Certain exceptions apply. See, id. at § 8-24-021.

Jason said...

So in Chicago you can not really have a knife.

I mean, 2 and a half inches? Yee hardies, I think my first knife when I was 3 was longer than that and my mom is a pacifist. (Of course, my grandpa gave it to me - bless him.)

Steve Perry said...

Jason --

Do a little anatomical research and you'll find that in most people who aren't grossly obese, the major blood vessels -- arteries and veins -- are all closer to the surface of the skin than two-and-a-half inches. The biggest ones, outside the aorta, probably aren't half an inch deep -- call it three times that on a fat guy.

Anybody much heftier than that is probably working in a sideshow or as as sumo wrestler, but even they aren't knifeproof.

True, you wouldn't want to have a duel against the Three Musketeers with your penknife, but my small kerambits have cutting edges that range from from an inch and three quarters to about two and a half inches.

Size matters, of course. But you can do more with less if you practice.

People say a snub-nose revolver isn't accurate beyond across-a-card table distance, but there are plenty of guys who can shoot five for five out of a .38 snubbie and keep them all on a standard torso target at fifty yards all day long -- even I can do that.

You can make do without having to haul a bowie knife around. If those are your limitations, you can learn to work with them -- and that's just to keep things legal.

In Oregon (and I believe Washington state), you can carry a four-inch pocket knife. Until 9/11, you could usually even take one that size or shorter on a plane. The boxcutters used by the terrorists were under two inches long, bladewise.