Saturday, September 8, 2012

Dear drivers of the world...

Dear drivers of the world (and especially those in the US),

Here in the US we have these things called traffic laws. They keep the roads more or less safe when they're obeyed. Are some of them annoying? Yes. Deal with it. Traffic accidents injure millions of people per year and kill tens of thousands. Today, I'm going to give you a little driving tip that not many people seem aware of.

This is a Yield sign. There are a few variations, but this is by far the most common. Yield signs, and their sneaky cousin "implied yield" are very important to your day-to-day driving. The applicable Merriam-Webster definition of yield is "to give place or precedence : acknowledge the superiority of someone else."

In layman's terms, when you happen upon a yield sign, it's telling you that everyone and everything else are more important than you and that you can wait your turn like a patient little boy or girl. Implied yields are a little trickier. Making a left turn? Implied yield, unless you have a green arrow. At a stop sign where the cross-traffic doesn't have one? Implied yield.

Violate the yield sign at your own peril. You jump out into someone else's right-of-way and risk injuring yourself, the other drivers and pedestrians. And to top it all off, you're going to get nailed with a fine for being an idiot.

So to the minivan driver I almost T-boned: you got lucky. Next time you might violate the right-of-way of someone who's distracted, doesn't have time to react or flat doesn't care and wants the insurance money.

Learn to drive or get off the road.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Forgetting the monsters

While discussing the horrific shooting in Colorado, a poster on a forum I peruse a member posted the following regarding the Aurora, CO shooter, James Holmes: "I dream of a day when everyone has forgotten this dirt bags name. That way no one will remember him. because he doesn't deserve remembrancea day when we only remember the people who he killed that day. A day where him, his thoughts his plans and his life are forgotten."

I personally disagree. I think his name needs remembrance. We all remember Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini. We remember Saddam Hussein, Muammar Quaddafi and Osama bin Laden. We remember Ed Gein, Lee Harvey Oswald and Charles Manson. History needs villains. People need to be able to look back on history and see what happens when villains are allowed to practice their craft. What happens when no one stands up and says "no more."

Heroes are the antithesis of villains. For every Hitler there has to be an Audie Murphey. For every bin Laden there has to be a Navy SEAL who double-taps him into oblivion. Heroes are what happens when an otherwise ordinary individual steps up to the plate and says "you have come this far, but no further." When someone forgets about themselves and focuses on fixing the problem, no matter the cost. But a hero isn't just someone who fixes a problem. It's someone who fixes a problem no one else can or will. Anyone can rescue a cat from a tree, or even tackle a mugger or give CPR to someone after an accident. Not that those people aren't good, commendable people. But to be a hero requires one make or be willing to make a greater sacrifice. Heroes stare death in the eyes and continue forward. I'll see your passerby who stops and gives CPR to a heart-attack victim, a truly commendable and selfless act to be sure, but I'll raise you the random passerby who sees a child about to be hit by a vehicle and risks their own life and limb to toss them out of harm's way, or the warriors on the beaches of Normandy who knew there was a good chance they may not come back. Heroes are extraordinary people who combat extraordinary evil at potential great cost to themselves.

Now I'm not saying that we need people to display great evil so that we can have heroes. I'm saying that people will display the capacity and willingness to do great evil one way or another. We need heroes to fight that great evil. Heroes exist because a few stand up in the face of danger. Without great evil there would be no heroes. That's why we need to remember the evil. People need examples. Without examples, evil is just an abstract concept, maybe even an artificial construct. When someone cries "evil", people go on with their lives. When evil has a face people stop and take notice. Faces and names serve to remind people of what evil is capable of, what happens when its leash is too long and that it is indeed real. So history needs villains. Villains frighten the common man deep inside, but for some... For a few among us, villains inspire resolve and strength. Those few will look upon the face of evil and say to themselves, though they may never meet such evil, "this far, and no further." They will resolve to stand in the face of some great, as-of-yet unknown villain, look them in the eye and stop them dead in their tracks.

We need to raise up our heroes and show the world what people can be. We need to remind people that humans have the capacity for extraordinary behavior and accomplishment. People like superheroes because while stylized and over-exaggerated, superheroes represent someone who will fight what they themselves fear. Heroes are who everyone else looks up to. But if we don't remember the villains, people will see no reason for heroes. So give evil a name and a face. Give them their lasting infamy. Maybe that's just what someone needs to strengthen their resolve. Maybe someday someone will look at the name James Holmes and decide there and forevermore that they will not allow such evil on their watch. Let history remember the villain. Maybe he's just what a soon-to-be hero needs to see.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Self-Defense Philosophizing

As many of my (very few) readers probably know, I am a huge self-defense advocate. Concealed carry, open carry, you name it. Something that has been sadly neglected despite my advocacy has been the art of hand-to-hand combat. There are places and situations that will prohibit the use of deadly force, or the deployment of a weapon of any kind. I have always been aware of this, but haven't been able to find a martial art that I felt really suited me. A couple years ago I started looking for one in earnest. I looked at Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Judo, Jiujitsu etc., but couldn't really be satisfied with any of them. Without even trying, I knew they were all good martial arts, and if I ever have a son I'd give serious thought to putting him in one for fitness, self-defense and discipline.

But I don't need all those things: art, tradition, discipline, showmanship, competition or rules. Many of the usual martial arts are just that though. Steeped in tradition, focused on the execution of their particular forms with rigid perfection, laden with rules based on their respective competitive arenas. Effective styles, to be sure, but I needed something simple, adaptable and utilitarian. Something that didn't restrict some of the most useful moves and forms to higher levels that can take years of dedication to attain.

I had heard about Krav Maga, but hadn't done much research into it because I knew no one in the OKC area taught it. Having moved up north though, I started looking again and found someone here who does. I started researching more about the system and found it to my liking. Developed by Imi Lichtenfeld on the streets of Bratislava during pre-WWII. Originally just his own unique style combining street-fighting and boxing, he eventually moved to Israel and began teaching the style to what would become the IDF. Over time the system has evolved, incorporating what useful tidbits they find from other systems into their own, and adapting them. What has come of that evolution is a system based on simple, effective moves. There's no focus on rigidly following tradition. Of great importance, there are no competitive Krav Maga leagues which would lead to watering down the system to accommodate for rules. This is where a lot of arts like Karate fail for me. Official competitions have rules, and those rules inevitably make it into the curriculum for the system so there's no re-training needed for students who wish to engage in those competitions.

This is where Krav Maga really started to appeal to me. It cuts the unnecessary and teaches its students the important things. Stance, effective strikes, disarms and basic kicks. The focus on adaptable attacks and efficiency of movement is exactly what I was looking for, but Krav Maga also has its own philosophy. Rather than focusing heavily on defense and tit-for-tat counter-attacks, one of the basic principles is that the best way to ensure your safety is to end a fight quickly, and in such a fashion that your assailant is unable to attack you again. I won't go into all the principles and tactics taught in Krav Maga, but I highly suggest anyone looking for an effective, no-frills self-defense system look into it.

What I will do is tell you that learning the principles and basics of Krav Maga has caused me to examine my own philosophy on self-defense. When I first started carrying, I knew that if I should ever need to use my weapon (God forbid) I would have to be in the right mindset to take care of business. I realized when I started thinking more about it though, that while I knew I'd need to be in the right mindset I hadn't really thought about what that was. I have given it more thought recently though, and without further ado here are the basics of what I've decided self-defense means for me.

Be prepared, both mentally and physically.
An attack could come from anywhere at any time, always be aware of your environment and everything within it. This also includes fitness and training. If you are overweight/underweight/poor cardio/etc., you cannot fight back effectively. Get fit and get training. If you can't get fit, carry a weapon. Canes make good beating sticks if you can't carry anything else.

Most importantly, protect yourself and those in your charge.
If you are injured, you can't effectively protect yourself or your family. Do what is best to achieve that end. This may mean fighting ferociously to stop an attacker, or getting the heck out of Dodge. Which brings us to the next point.

If escape is an option, it is quite likely the best option.
You cannot lose a fight that does not happen. Perhaps this means running away, or perhaps this means driving back or stunning your attacker just long enough to let your wife and kids (if you have them) get in the vehicle, then jumping behind the wheel and taking off. If you cannot escape, get in the mindset to fight. This person means to hurt you/loved ones, take what doesn't belong to them and possibly kill you. Do. Not. Let them.

Defense is good, but the most effective way to defend and prevent injury to yourself is to remove your assailant's ability to injure you.
This isn't to say you shouldn't take a defensive posture or block attacks, but rather that you should do so while looking for the first and best opportunity to bring the fight to them. Every defensive move should be followed by a counterattack. If they commit their weight to a strike that you deflect, strike back in a way that follows the next note.

Be fast. Be brutal. Do not relent until the threat is over.
The longer the fight, the greater the chance of wearing out or being injured. Don't strike at them and then wait until they try again to perform another counter-attack. Once you've beaten their guard, keep pounding away, quickly and forcefully, until either the assailant cannot fight back or you need to deflect another attack. Remember, broken bones weaken the integrity of any attack or defense. This is not a sparring match or a playful joust. This is a fight for your life, and the goal is to end that threat. Hit them with everything you have until they can do you no more harm.

There are no rules; use what works.
This may be the most important thing to keep in mind once you've engaged in combat. The only exception is: most laws frown upon using weapons against a weaponless attacker, unless there's a disparity of force. If you can't bring a weapon into play you need to remember that anything goes. This is not a Karate competition or boxing match where you can't hit below the belt. Your assailant doesn't care about rules or laws or they wouldn't have assaulted you. If you see an opportunity to grab your assailant's hair, poke out his eyes or kick him in the groin, do it.

Obviously one has to be reasonable. If you disable the attacker, you've done your job. That's the goal here. Now call the cops and let them deal with the cleanup. If you continue stomping their skull into the pavement until they bleed out, you're taking your living arrangements for the rest of your life into your own hands. This philosophy applies to preparing for the possibility of a fight for your life, and how to make sure you come out on top. I am not advocating killing an unarmed attacker. If the attacker chooses to bring a weapon to the fight, the paradigm changes. The philosophy still applies, but take the last point up a notch. If they introduce a weapon, so can you. Be safe, friends.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

So many new things...

Been a long time since I've posted, and a lot has happened recently. Trayvon martin, a bombing at an abortion clinic, open carry laws in Oklahoma. I suppose I'll have to pick one to start with. What to choose...