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Guns For Show, Knives For a Pro

April 24, 2012

Name the film!  Yep spot on, go out and buy yourself a prize it was  Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – a comedy crime caper about a bunch of inept London chancers bungling a robbery.  For them, carrying a knife, or a 15th Century antique shotgun, or a black rubber dildo for that matter (it’s not what you think – watch the film) is all in a days’ work.  A busy and absurdly complicated day admittedly, but a day nonetheless.

But you’re not an inept, two dimensional movie character trying to fence a shotgun and steal cannabis from a drug dealer whilst being chased by a psychopathic fetishist loan shark, are you?  …are you?  No – OK, good then.   No, your fears and daily dangers are of the more mundane sort. Getting hit by a bicycle, becoming the latrine of a passing pigeon, stubbing your toe, that kind of thing.

If you spend too much time listening to one of the many charlatans pedalling McDojo self defence courses on the interweb, however, you;d be forgiven for thinking you were acting out some kind of Hollywood action film with psychotic, knife wielding enemies everywhere you look.  They will be only too eager to tell you about all the horrible danger, certain death ad armed attackers that lurk in every corner, waiting for their chance to stick you like a pin-cushion or spill some of your claret – as they’d probably say in Lock Stock.

I recently met one of these individuals on a LinkedIn forum about self defense.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with these forums, imagine a sweaty, noisy street market where everybody is shouting ‘BUY MY STUFF!  BUY MY STUFF’ at other people who are also shouting ‘BUY MY STUFF’ right back at them, singularly failing to realise the only people within earshot are selling stuff – and nobody is buying.

So there I was, merrily shouting ‘BY MY STUFF’ at the top of my voice, when I encountered one particular man – let’s call him ‘Charlie Tan’ – who was pedalling the notion that we should all walk the streets armed with a concealed blade, just in case we are attacked buy another knife wielding individual and should need to, as Charlie put it, ‘have a duel’.

Such idiocy is not only wrong, but dangerously so for almost every reason any sane, rational human being can think of – but I will try to summarise here.

  1. You won’t see it. The average ambush attack lasts just three seconds.  If somebody really intends to stab you, then you can bet that the attack will be an ambush, designed specifically to maximise their chances of success.  They will conceal their actions.  They will close down rage between you. You will not even know you have been stabbed until after it has happened.   Short of carrying your knife around in your hand everywhere you go, it will be utterly useless as both deterrent and weapon.
  2. If you can see it, they probably won’t use it. Waving a bladed weapon, or any weapon, at somebody has a name.  We call it a ‘threat display’ and the thing about threat displays is that, in all of nature, they are almost universally intended as deterrence to violence – not prelude.  Somebody waving a knife at you is telling you in very clear language ‘I do not want to use this weapon – by showing it to you I would very much prefer you became so scared that you ran away’.  In these circumstances, if you produce your own weapon you are creating a multiplying effect; by making your attacker feel in fear of their own life, they are now far more likely to use their weapon first to stop you using yours.  Your knife has now dramatically increased your chances of getting stabbed.
  3. In the eyes of the law, you are entitled to use ‘reasonable force’ in defence of your own safety.  Arguably, fending somebody off who is attacking you with a weapon by using your own weapon, if it can be proven you were both genuinely and demonstrably in fear of your life would be deemed reasonable force.  But what if you were just scared?  What if you stabbed someone who was just pretending to have a knife?  What if you became angry yourself?  What if a mix of adrenaline, and fear caused you to misinterpret the situation, or impair your judgement?  What if you in fact used excessive force – so easily done if wielding a bladed weapon?  Then you would be the criminal, not your attacker.  Soldiers get this wrong all the time – are you so sure you could make the right call?
  4. If you are trying to stab your opponent, your focus is on overpowering them, not creating distance and escaping.  This is not self defense, it is a fight and will be treated as such by the courts.
  5. It’s illegal to carry a knife.  You are operating outside of the law and your action WILL NOT be construed as self defense, as you left the house armed to hurt or even kill.

When I wander around the web looking at what others are pedalling as ‘self defense’, there are of course many people who offer great advice that could genuinely save your life.  Sadly, though, there are many more who capitalise on your fear, sensationalise the subject or have simply spent too long studying a combative martial art to really appreciate that self defence is not a fight to offer safe, balanced advice.  I’m not really one for bible quotes, but Jesus really did put it best:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit.  Thus you will know them by their fruits”

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