This may seem a controversial subject for the local newspaper in a column that usually focuses on personal development through martial arts.
However the question gets asked of me a lot. Should I carry a weapon for personal-protection and if so what should I carry? Many people assume that because I teach bladed and impact weapons that I favour the idea of carrying a weapon of personal protection, but I will state here and publicly that I do not believe in carrying weapons for security reasons. However this does not mean that I don’t believe in using a weapon if violence is forced on me.
If I am forced to defend myself I will use any tool at my disposal to give me an advantage in a fight. This includes edged, impact and projectile weapons. I don’t carry edged weapons, blunt impact weapons or projectile weapons. I do, however, carry cutting tools, writing instruments, and sometimes if I am hiking a walking stick. All of which can be improvised into a weapon if needs be, and that is what being able to use various weapons and understanding the use of weapons can give you; the ability to make just about anything into an improvised tool of personal protection. That way even unarmed you are always armed.
This is an important concept to understand if you want to be proficient at countering real violence. Tools are how humans put themselves at the top of the food chain and overcame stronger, better naturally equipped predators and prey. Real violence is not sport violence, it is brutal, fast and there are no rules. And one thing that is important to understand it is something that humankind has had to deal with since our beginnings. There is no place for fair play in real violence, only doing what is necessary to get away safe. Any advantage you can have over a violent attacker is a must as long as the force is reasonable in the eyes of the law.
For instance if I was attacked by a man intent on killing me with a knife and (for the sake of this example) I had a loaded shotgun next to me I would not hesitate to use the shotgun. I know from training and twenty years or more of research how dangerous a knife is. I have no illusions of being able to take that knife away without extreme risk to myself and would do everything I could to avoid that risk, and if I was forced to fight I would try to find every possible advantage I could. And I would be willing to take a chance on this being an appropriate use of force in the eyes of the law (I’m not saying it is, only that I would be willing to take that risk in this unlikely example). When it comes to criminal predatory violence there is no place for fair play, only decisive and violent action.
Understanding this, it may seem strange that I do not believe in carrying tools specifically for self-defence. Believe me when I say after twenty years of teaching self-protection I have a massed a wide collection of weapons and tools. But I don’t carry them on a daily basis. I do carry a pocket knife, simply because it is a tool I use every day. I used to believe in carrying specific tools for my own security but over the years I have come to realize that the most important weapon is my awareness, my personal life choices and being assertive about my boundaries. These three things will keep you safer than any weapon, and allow you to access improvised tools if need be because you will likely see a bad situation coming before it is too late.
The problem is that there are two types of weapons carriers, the lazy typical carrier who thinks that weapons can replace all the other skills necessary for personal security. These people feel security in their weapons and don’t understand the concepts of weapons access, weapons retention, and appropriate levels of force and articulation of personal actions to law enforcement and in court afterwards. These people are a danger to themselves and others and are generally immature people living in a fantasy world.
There is the rare weapons carrier who understands the risks he or she takes by carrying personal protection tools. Does not allow that choice to make them lazy about personal safety and knows that it is awareness as well as empty hand fighting skills that allow a weapon to be drawn from a pocket or a sheath. They know that weapons can be used against them, and that they have to have skill at keeping them from an assailant. These people know how it will look for them legally carrying a tool potentially for violent use. They are aware of the pros and cons of weapons carry and decided to carry any way. These are the educated and trained weapons carriers. I have a few good friends I respect greatly who live like this. Personally I weighed things out and chose not to carry weapons because it is simply too much of a hassle and my pockets are full of enough stuff that I will actually use daily instead of filling them up with junk I will likely never have a use for.
There are several important reasons I chose not to carry weapons. The biggest one is I have been in situations with violence and threats and even edged weapons and never have I needed anything other than my fists, my wits or my ability to bargain and communicate. Predatory violence is rare and social violence rarely is an appropriate place to use a weapon, especially one that can be used with lethal force. Using a weapon can suddenly escalate the level of violence you are in. Also for the initiated weapons are everywhere, for example as I sit writing this I have within arm’s reach seven items I would feel comfortable using as weapons. And at least one is potentially lethal. Mindset is more important than tools.
I will never have anything on my person that I cannot use to illuminate the dark, write my thoughts with or cut material. If I carry something with me every day it will have a use as a tool and if it is capable of being used as a weapon that is not the intention of its use. However even though I don’t carry weapons for self-protection if all avenues have been exhausted and violence is forced on me I will try to use every tool at my disposal to have any advantage I can over my assailant or assailants. I am a human being, I am a tool user and I will not hesitate to use the greatest survival instinct we have; the use of tools. Fighting fair is for sport, in real violence there is no fight, only overcoming and surviving. I may not carry weapons on me but philosophically and spiritually I am always armed.
Joel Huncar teaches Eskrima, Muay Thai, Self-defence, and children’s programs under his club name Huncar’s Warrior Arts out of the Rocky Mountain Martial Arts Family Centre. Cranbrook’s only full time fully equipped fighting gym