Sunday, January 18, 2015

Self-defense vs Retribution

Self defense is about stopping a threat that is being directed at you, or a member of your family.  There are both violent and nonviolent means of accomplishing this, and the course of action to take is always dependent upon the situation.  Retaliation is getting back at a perceived wrongdoing against you.

Shooting an intruder that has kicked in your door is self-defense.  Shooting a man whose face that you recognize from a previous burglary is retaliation.  One of these is legal (although details vary depending upon the laws of your geographic area).  The other will put you in serious legal trouble.

Self-defense stops once the threat stops.  The window of opportunity for self-defense stops once the threat ceases.  If a transgression against you is in-progress, then a measured response is self-defense.  But once the transgression ends, then it becomes a matter of receiving justice (which is a matter of the legal system).

Self-defense can turn into retaliation if one does not engage in a measured response to a threat.  If one shoots a home intruder and the intruder falls to the ground incapacitated, then the threat has stopped regardless of whether or not the intruder has survived.  If the person in the home goes to "finish off" the incapacitated intruder, then the situation has moved from one of self-defense to one of retaliation.

Once the threat stops, self-defense stops.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

On Martial Arts Training...

I began my martial arts training informally at the age of 8 from my father, and formally around the age of 11.  Over the past two decades, I have studied a wide variety of styles.  I began in UFAF Chun Kuk Do, which is Chuck Norris' derivative of Tang Soo Do Mo Duk Kwan.  Later, I became a Wah Lum student under Sifu Dave Joyner and a distance student of Kenpo and RBWI under Grandmaster Al Farnsworth and Robert Bussey, respectively.  In my late teens and early twenties, I began researching martial arts of African origin and incorporating techniques from the continent and diaspora into my martial repertoire.

Today, I do not adhere to any particular system, but I appreciate the best things that I have learned from all that I have studied.  I have my own philosophy that I began calling "FIWAI" back in 1996 and still use to this day.

The traditional dojo/dojang/kwoon has been placed under a microscope for the past 20 something years (especially with the advent of the UFC), and more reality based combatives and mixed martial arts philosophies have become the norm.  While I myself identify as a reality based martial artist, I still appreciate the life lessons that I learned from the dojo: discipline, character, respect, honor, and patience.

Today, I am seeking a balance.  I want my 2 year old daughter to learn to defend herself.  She is growing up in a sexist and racist world that will seek to mistreat her for being a black female, and I have an obligation as her father to prepare her to survive in it.  And I absolutely do not want to do this by filling her mind with unrealistic preparation techniques that will only get in her way when she finds herself in a situation where she has to fight her way out of being taken advantage of.  However, I want her to have the character development that comes with a traditional school.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Archery for Home Defense

If one would enter “archery for self defense” into google, he/she will find that the question of using one of the various forms of archery for home defense or personal defense. These types of questions always generate dissent from all of the hoplophiles that seem to believe that anyone who does not own a GLOCK 17 is unprepared to defend themselves from a physical threat. And while I certainly have absolutely nothing against guns or owning a gun, I object to the notion that archery is an insufficient choice for self-defense. Archery-based weapons will effectively stop an intruder when in the hands of the right user. This conclusion is not based on fantasy or wild guesswork: there are several documented instances of home and shop owners defending themselves against one or more intruders during home invasions.

  • In 1982, 38-year old John Brown of Glagsow, Scotland found his home being invaded by a group of drunken intruders. Armed with a crossbow, he and his wife Elanor (armed with a samurai sword) fought them off.
  • In 1988, Tom Hedgecock found himself at home in Lackland, Florida when three individuals invaded his home in search of a leather jacket. Mr. Hedgecock fired a crossbow at one of the intruders and struck him in the chest, mortally wounding him.
  • In 1993, 45-year old Monte Rothman’s home was invaded by a man armed with scissors. Mr. Rothman chased the man out of his house with a crossbow that was not even loaded.
  • In 1997, Claude Gates defended his shop against burglars with a crossbow. He fired two shots at the intruder, who refused to halt after being ordered by Mr. Gates to stop. One bolt struck the intruder in the side, while another struck the the intruder’s leg. Mr. Gates did not want to acquire a firearm out of fear that it could be used against him in the heat of battle. The intruder survived and was arrested.
  • In 2007, 19 year old repeat youth offender Howard Stone Coburn decided to continue his career of crime by breaking into the home of a resident. The resident was awaiting Mr. Coburn on the other end with a loaded crossbow, and Mr. Coburn’s criminal career came to an end after he was arrested and later sentenced to six years in prison. Hopefully, Mr. Coburn learned that crime doesn’t pay and has gone straight since then.
  • In 2012, 75 year old Don Keifert was able to stop burglars with a homemade bow and arrow without even having to fire a shot. After hearing barking from his dog, he grabbed his bow and arrow and went to investigate and found two burglars. One ran, while the other surrendered.
As with any weapon, the secret to successful archery-based self defense is preparation.
  1. Know your weapon’s abilities and limitations. Regularly practice shooting your weapon.
    1. Crossbows come with different levels of strength. The higher the strength, the harder it becomes to draw the string. 50-lb crossbow pistols are the easiest to pull back, but have the least strength. 150-lb crossbow rifles are powerful enough to take out very large game, but take time and strength to load. In between are 80-lb and 100-lb crossbows that have more striking power than 50-lb crossbows (which are still very dangerous despite being the weakest of all crossbows), but not as much as 150-lb big game hunting crossbows. Crossbows operate like regular bows, but fire like guns. Also be advised that crossbow pistols are illegal in some areas, such as the State of New Jersey.
    2. Slingshots come in different sizes and ammunition is very easy to acquire, as just about anything that is small enough to be fired can be fired. Professionally made slingshot ammo is very cheap to purchase and can be made from glass, steel, or lead. In addition, the slingshot can be used as a striking weapon in close range.
    3. Blowguns are very simple, very easy to operate weapons. But they can get you killed if you attempt to use them without understanding blowgun caliber and ammunition, as well as proper technique. I’ll discuss more on those in another article.
  2. Use the advantage of familiarity with your surroundings. Your intruder does not know your property as well as you do. Your home defense strategy should exploit this advantage.
  3. Have a means of early warning. In the case of Mr. Keifert, it was a dog. But a home security system may have also worked. Installing a home security system will alert you to the presence of intruders and call 911 for you while you secure yourself, your spouse, and your children from the present threat. Many alarm systems can be ordered online and installed yourself.
  4. Be prepared if your weapon fails. A backup weapon like pepper spray would help. You should also have sufficient empty hand combat skills. Know how to throw a punch, a kick, how to escape common holds, and pressure points. If you manage to shoot your intruder who still has not stopped after being shot, you can exploit the intruder’s wound as an advantage in close range combat.
  5. Know the relevant laws in the place that you live. Using archery weapons would certainly be considered deadly force, as they have more than enough potential to kill a person, and shooting a person that is not engaged in an activity that is legally considered threatening could result in very serious legal consequences.
The beauty of using archery to defend your home is that taking up archery as a hobby both relieves stress while increasing a person’s “weapon IQ.” Even if an attacker never enters your home in your entire lifetime, you would have acquired a fun and relatively inexpensive hobby.

Remember, any weapon is only as reliable as the person using it. With the right level of preparation and execution of strategy, archery weapons can defend a home, a business, and/or a family just as good as any other weapon, as proven by several citizens that have already chosen bows and crossbows as their means of fighting back.
Suggested Reading:
  1. Archery: Steps to Success by Kathleen Haywood and and Catherine Lewis
  2. The Backyard Bowyer The Beginners Guide to Building Bows by Nicholas Tomihama
  3. Slingshot Shooting by Jack H. Koehler
  4. Blowguns: The Breath of Death by Michael Janich