Weapons

5 Categories of Modern Weapons: How to Incorporate Them Into Your Reality-Based Self-Defense Training

The threat of violence is a fact of life for everyone nowadays. Training to protect yourself against violence is very different from gearing up for a martial arts competition or practicing for personal development. That realization led to the rise of what’s now called “reality-based fighting.” Popularized by Black Belt Hall of Fame member Jim Wagner, it’s defined by him as:

“Training and survival skills based on modern conflict situations that the practitioner is likely to encounter in his environment, in an accordance with the use-of-force continuum of that jurisdiction.”

In the reality-based world, empty-hand fighting is crucial but no more so than weapons defense, which often receives short shrift in martial arts schools. This article will remedy that by outlining the five categories of weapons and presenting strategies for using and defending against them. If you’re serious about self-defense, you need to study them whether you like weapons or not because most violent crimes involve weapons. Rule No. 1 is, Always expect your attacker to be armed — with one of the following:

Projectile Weapons

This category includes implements that launch an object that’s intended to injure. It might be a man throwing a rock at you or an assailant firing a gun at you. Although the threat levels are obviously different, the concept is the same.

It’s imperative to learn the basics of how firearms function before you undertake the study of disarms, escapes, cover and concealment, room entries and building searches. Exposure to guns will give you a better idea of what an armed attacker is able to do and, therefore, a better chance of surviving.

Edged Weapons

Many martial artists consider a knife the most frightening thing they’re likely to face on the street. It’s hard to convey the ugliness of the blade as a weapon. Anyone — trained or untrained, male or female — has a great advantage when wielding one and a great disadvantage when facing one. That also applies to broken bottles and other sharp objects. Remember that an attacker doesn’t need a $200 limited-edition ninja knife to kill you. Any implement that can cause a puncture or laceration — whether it’s made of metal, glass or plastic — falls into this category.

It’s essential to train with a variety of edged weapons so you can understand their strengths and weaknesses. Your tactical training should include case studies of criminal attacks, especially those that take place in jails and prisons. Don’t think for one second that a criminal is going to feed you a dojo-perfect overhead assault and wait for you to block or disarm him.

Impact Weapons

Weapons used to strike are the most readily available fighting tools. We’ve been using them since we began killing animals with sticks and stones. These days, impact weapons are used for a multitude of purposes: riot control, prisoner control, military operations, civilian self-defense and, unfortunately, criminal activities.

Although they suffer from limited range, impact weapons can be deadly. Their effectiveness is enhanced when they’re used to attack bony protrusions and nerve centers.

Chemical Weapons

They offer a relatively easy way to escape from a dangerous situation — or to attack an innocent party more effectively. Think about it: If you wanted to rob somebody or beat him to a pulp, what would be simpler than first incapacitating him with a blast of pepper spray? Once he’s blinded, he probably won’t be able to mount a defense.

Chemical weapons come in various forms, including liquid, gas and powder. Pepper spray is the most common one. It’s an aerosol that contains the extract of hot chili peppers. When correctly formulated, it’s the most effective nonlethal weapon available. It will blind a person, create breathing difficulties and induce extreme pain — all temporarily.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

It may sound odd to include WMDs in an article about self-defense, but such devices, especially bombs, are the weapon of choice in global terrorism because such attacks always generate media attention. If you must live, work or travel through large cities, the possibility of a bomb attack is part of your reality.

Although there’s little you can do to protect yourself against the more extreme types of WMDs — nukes and nerve gas, for instance — there’s plenty you can do to boost your chances of surviving a hand-grenade attack, including detecting it before it’s used, minimizing your exposed cross-section as it goes off and recovering afterward.

Training Time

It’s imperative to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the most common weapons from the five categories. The best way to do that is by training with them. That will teach you the offensive side of the equation as well as the defensive side, and it will develop your ability to improvise.

In training, it’s also important to evaluate your reality. …

How to Carve a Thanksgiving Turkey With a Samurai Sword


The subject of Japanese swordsmanship during the holidays is a delicate one. Thanksgiving Day is definitely not the time for practice. When you’re standing in front of a roasted turkey, katana drawn and relatives looking on, the last thing you want to do is rehearse your swing. It won’t impress anyone. The time to hone your technique is now. Then, when the moment of truth arrives, you’ll be able to razor off perfect slices of juicy white meat like Miyamoto Musashi. (If you tried to slice up your bird this Thanksgiving and ran into trouble, then this article is for YOU so you can bone up for next year’s Thanksgiving.)


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To do this without breaking a sweat, you’ll need to develop the “inner principles” of movement:

Breathing

The primary element of action is breathing. The flow of air into and out of your body is directly connected to how smoothly you flow from one slice to the next and how cool you look. Caution: Inhaling the aroma of your Thanksgiving meal can stimulate your salivary glands, causing uncontrolled drooling. If that happens while your mouth is positioned over your blade, you’ll need to wipe the droplets from the metal and immediately apply vegetable oil to prevent corrosion.

Make your inhalations and exhalations calm, smooth and full. It’s essential to observe the transition between moving air in and moving air out. When standing in front of a golden-brown bird and being watched by family members who may not understand the intricacies of swordsmanship, nerves can cause you to gulp in air. Proper training beforehand, perhaps using a cheaper form of fowl, can prevent that.

Footwork

Don’t stand flat-footed with your feet relaxed. The bones of your feet can move a considerable distance within the skin that encases them. Their musculature must exert firmness to take up that slack. No matter how hungry you are, take time to use your muscles to anchor yourself to the floor. Go barefoot if it won’t offend your guests; then you can actually “grip” the floor with your toes.


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Even though you’re facing a foe that not only has been slaughtered but also has spent the past three hours at 450 degrees Fahrenheit, you should imagine that it’s a wild animal, coiled and ready to strike. Hear its breath flowing in and out. Envision its muscles ready to drive its beak into your neck and tear out your windpipe. Calm yourself by breathing properly while glancing down at the 3-foot-long piece of hardened steel that separates you and the beast. Release all the tension in your body but remember it.

Posture

Your posture should provide balance during your action. Give it too much angle, and you’ll lose your balance. Give it too little, and you’ll fatigue your muscles more quickly. The result: slices of turkey breast that are anything but parallel. Even worse: an errant cut that severs the wishbone and injects fragments into the meat.

Don’t let your contracting muscles shrink you. Strive for height in your posture. Use the length of your arms and legs to enhance your stature. Tower over that fowl. Your hips and core are the connection and energy-transfer point for generating power and moving it through your swing. Firmness should be the norm in the pelvic region, back and tailbone area — yours, not the turkey’s! With practice, you’ll be able to create energy and hold it in place before spreading it throughout your body and into your blade.


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Samurai Weapons Philosophy: How the Samurai Sword Can
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Swing

Strive to ground your structure from the waist down and elongate it from your torso to the base of your skull. This may sound contradictory, but the balance of power and unified articulation of these areas depend on inner awareness. That connection and the energy of your grounded body are transferred to your shoulders during the swing. Your shoulders and the rest of your being must cut down into the target.

But don’t cut down too much. Remember that there’s a platter underneath, and damaging it may not be viewed kindly by your spouse. That’s why our warrior ancestors — in both the sword arts and the empty-hand arts — emphasized control. Paramount in their practice was the ability to perform a precision technique and stop the motion a half inch …

Samurai Training: Toshishiro Obata and the Five Rings of Shinkendo Japanese Swordsmanship

Samurai Training: Toshishiro Obata and the Five Rings of Shinkendo Japanese SwordsmanshipIf you want to be a swordsman, you have your work cut out for you. For true samurai education, you must learn how to properly handle and maintain a real blade. You must master the basic body-sword mechanics and train safely and effectively in two-person and solo forms. You must study combat strategy, etiquette and the philosophy of the warrior — all elements of the samurai code of bushido. It’s a tall order, to be sure.

For guidance in this quest for samurai education, which is one of the most popular in the martial arts, Black Belt turned to Toshishiro Obata, a renowned master in samurai training who now heads the International Shinkendo Federation in Los Angeles. Before delving into the essence of samurai education and samurai training according to Toshishiro Obata, some background information will help put things in perspective.


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The Beginning of Toshishiro Obata’s Samurai Education

In 1966 Toshishiro Obata left a small town in Gunma prefecture, Japan, and headed for Tokyo to begin a career in the martial arts. He found himself at Yoshinkan Honbu Dojo, the birthplace of aikido, where he became an uchi-deshi, or live-in student, under headmaster Gozo Shioda. Toshishiro Obata stayed there for seven years as a student and instructor, eventually teaching the Tokyo Metropolitan Riot Police course. During that time, his samurai education in Japanese swordsmanship began — specifically, when he observed several demonstrations by Taizaburo Nakamura, headmaster of nakamura-ryu.

Toshishiro Obata left the Yoshinkan in 1973 to pursue swordsmanship full time. He studied and achieved high rank in many other renowned Japanese schools, including ioriken battojutsu, toyama-ryu, yagyu shinkage-ryu, kashima shin-ryu and Ryukyu kobudo. He also joined the Tokyo Wakakoma, Japan’s elite group of stuntmen and fight choreographers, and was responsible for the introduction and increasing popularity of aikido on Japanese television and in movies. During this time, he also won seven consecutive All-Japan Target-Cutting Championships.

A Samurai Education System of His Own

Throughout his studies, it became clear to Toshishiro Obata that although each sword school had its own strengths, none of them taught a complete, comprehensive system. In Japan, traditional schools aren’t permitted to change or even expand on their original curriculum. Each art is considered a living, breathing historical treasure that must be preserved as faithfully and precisely as possible.

The inheritor of a traditional school is therefore duty-bound to teach techniques, training methods and ideals exactly as he learned them. To change anything would be seen as disrespectful to the art’s founder. It was for this reason that Toshishiro Obata, having mastered many of the old schools, came to America in 1980 to start a comprehensive samurai education system known as shinkendo Japanese swordsmanship.

For this samurai education system, Toshishiro Obata chose the name “shinkendo” for a variety of reasons. The word can be translated in several ways, but perhaps the most important one is “way of the real sword.” That doesn’t just refer to practicing with a real sword; it also means studying real, complete swordsmanship — a vital element in one’s overall samurai training.

In shinkendo, the major aspects of swordsmanship are broken down into five areas of study: suburi, goho battoho, tanren kata, tachiuchi and tameshigiri. These separate fields of samurai training are like five interlocking rings, each one relating to and providing context for the components of a student’s samurai education. This provides a comprehensive foundation and allows students to view all the techniques from a bigger perspective.

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Samurai Training Methods: The First Ring of Shinkendo

Suburi, the first ring of study in this samurai education system, teaches basic sword and body exercises. These include proper posture, effective movement and balance, and basic sword swinging. These essential elements are the foundation on which the other rings of samurai training are based.

Without an effective stance, you can’t generate power and you’re easily knocked off-balance. Without knowing the essentials of gripping and swinging the sword, all movements become as meaningless as dance steps.

Suburi drills include assuming basic kamae (ready stances), making simple cuts and practicing hard stops, follow-through swings and transitions from one cut to another.


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Samurai Training Methods: The Second Ring of Shinkendo

Goho battoho, the next ring of study in Toshishiro Obata’s system of samurai education, is based on the five methods of combative drawing and cutting. Here, you learn how to handle the sword and wear it properly. You also learn how to swiftly draw it from its scabbard and cut down an …

“Mack” on Movements, Weapons and Targets in Combat

Richard "Mack" Machowicz on weapons, movements and targets for Black Belt magazine.Richard “Mack” Machowicz, an ex-Navy SEAL and former host of the cable-TV series Future Weapons, as well as a student of taekwondo, muay Thai, kali, boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Paul Vunak’s jeet kune do, discusses the three dynamic elements of combat (movements, weapons and targets) in this exclusive footage shot on location by Black Belt magazine.

“Rarely if ever will you experience combat,” Richard “Mack” Machowicz says, “and most likely you will never see combat in a literal sense, but the principles that make for effectiveness in battle are relevant to the daily challenges you face.”

It’s his way of telling people that the benefits of what he’s about to explain extend far beyond fighting. After interrogating Richard “Mack” Machowicz for 10 minutes, however, I learn that it would be a huge mistake to dismiss him as a guy who uses self-defense to preach self-help. It would be just as erroneous to brush him off as just another retired military man who doesn’t know that the skills civilians need are radically different from the skills soldiers need.

Twenty minutes into our interview, it’s clear that Mack is a martial artist who can throw down and a guy who sees the big picture with respect to violence. Which is probably why he’s so successful at what he does.


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After he’d become a hand-to-hand-combat instructor for his SEAL Team and studied muay Thai, kali, boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Paul Vunak’s take on jeet kune do, Mack found himself in an interesting quandary. “There were so many ideas I wanted to convey that [I had to convert them] into simple principles,” he says. “Why? Because people tend to get stuck on technique. They don’t understand that techniques apply to specific situations at specific times in specific ways. That means techniques are limited. Principles are more universal. The basic principle of ‘target dictates weapon and weapons dictate movement’ can apply to everything in life because everything is a target, a weapon or a movement.”

Mack explains that fighting is composed of three dynamic elements, then forces me to exercise my brain a bit to see the light: “From nukes to hand-to-hand combat, everything in life is a movement, a weapon or a target.”

During the photo shoot to accompany the interview, he put the theory into practice with our creative director, as shown in this video:

RICHARD “MACK” MACHOWICZ VIDEO
Ex-Navy SEAL on Movements, Weapons and Targets in Combat


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Nunchaku Training: How to Use Nunchaku Techniques Against a Knife-Wielding Attacker

You’re reading a book or an article on nunchaku techniques. You read that a person is confronted by a knife-wielding assailant and the defender slips his nunchaku around the waist of his attacker, gives a twist and sends the brute flipping onto his back.

Or the defender parries a knife thrust, adroitly steps inside and gets the attacker in a nunchaku chokehold.

Or the defender knocks the knife from the person’s hand with a nunchaku technique, lunges forward and down, wraps the nunchaku around the assailant’s ankles and sweeps him off his feet.

How do you feel when you read something like that? Do you buy it? Do you honestly think these types of nunchaku techniques would really work?

The Realities of Nunchaku Training

Imagine yourself in the role of the defender in a real-life situation. You’re walking down a street — alone. Suddenly, someone approaches. This someone is holding a knife. By his words and actions, you have no doubt that he intends to use the knife on you.

It’s a narrow, dead-end street. Consequently, your best defense — escape — is not possible.

But you do have your nunchaku with you. You grab hold of the sticks and face your attacker. ln that precious fraction of a second, you have to decide what you are going to do and which of your nunchaku techniques you’re going to use.


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How to Use Nunchaku Techniques in a Dangerous Situation

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you really want to get close enough to attempt slipping the nunchaku around his wrist? (There’s a hand at the end of that wrist, and there’s a knife in that hand.)
  • Do you really want to try to parry a knife thrust? (Remember, this is for real.)
  • Are you really sure that, under such circumstances, you could be accurate enough with your nunchaku techniques to knock a knife out of someone’s hand? (Hands are pretty small and very mobile targets.)

If your answers to the preceding questions are “No,” well then, what do you do?

Something practical. Something realistic. A nunchaku technique that has a very good chance of working.

You may only get one chance.

Choosing Nunchaku Techniques

Whatever nunchaku technique you choose should meet the following criteria:

  • It is fast.
  • It is unexpected.
  • It does not require unrealistic accuracy or power.
  • It leaves you in a good position to strike again or withdraw in the event your attacker is not neutralized.

With these criteria in mind, the following two variations of a practical nunchaku technique against a knife attack are proposed. Both variations share the same general outline:

  • a feint (to draw the attacker’s attention away from the direction of the actual strike)
  • the strike itself
  • good final position (ending in a stance that is neither awkward nor defenseless)

One variation of the nunchaku technique uses a forehand swing of the weapon to the attacker’s head, the other a backhand swing. Let’s analyze the steps in each variation.

Nunchaku Technique #1: The Forehand Variation

In this nunchaku technique for self-defense, the defender squares off against the knife-wielding attacker and leads with his left side. The nunchaku is held in a ready position over the right shoulder. The defender leaves a fairly large distance between himself and the attacker (always a good idea when up against someone with a knife).

The defender then throws a low (about knee-high) front kick with the rear leg (his right leg). This serves three purposes:

  • It draws the attacker’s attention down and away from the nunchaku, putting the assailant, at least for a moment, on the defensive.
  • It closes the gap between the two combatants while the attacker is on the defensive, putting him in range of a nunchaku strike.
  • It pivots the defender, turning him in the same direction as the upcoming strikes, thereby adding power to the swing of the nunchaku.

The feint-kick is not meant to connect with the attacker’s leg; it is meant to divert attention downward. (Glancing down at the attacker’s knee just before throwing the kick can help draw his attention downward.) The kick should look forceful enough to put the attacker on the defensive, but it is not necessary to make contact. This allows the defender to maintain a safer distance because the striking range of nunchaku is considerably greater than that of a kick or a knife.


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The real strike is a full-swinging nunchaku forehand to the attacker’s head. The strike should begin…

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