In our quest for greater skills and understanding should weapons training form part of our weekly programme? I hear many people say things like ‘How often am I going to have a pair of sticks in my back pocket when I go down to the pub?’ Answer: ‘Well, I suppose not very often really (but you never know).’ So does that mean that hand held weapons training is a waste of time? Well, there is no one absolute answer, but many of the skills and attributes gained during weapons training travel through into empty hand skills. One simple point to think about is that it’s always beneficial to understand both sides of the story, I.e. how to use a weapon but also how to defend against a weapon.
Ask a knife man the best way to defend against a knife (well, apart from the obvious, run) and he’ll probably tell you to first learn how the knife functions. Then you will have a greater understanding of how to defend yourself. Many points can be raised when discussing issues like these, that’s why it’s so interesting. Example: If you have ever had to defend yourself against a man with a knife and you were unarmed and lucky enough to walk away, then probably you were also lucky enough to meet a guy who didn’t really know how to use a knife properly. Any confrontation with a knife is bad but if the other guy has spent all his life studying and training the knife then there is a very high chance that you will lose. If, on the other hand, the guy thinks he knows how to use a knife but doesn’t understand it, then he is still very dangerous but he’ll probably make mistakes. If you have had experience on the doors and have learnt the skill of controlling a bad situation, maybe you can take the knife away from this guy.
The discussion is endless, but the concept is simple. If somebody is studying a certain area and you’re not then he will have a greater understanding than you. How many times have you heard things like ‘he’ll never get me to the ground, I’m too fast’ or’ I don’t need to study ground fighting because it will never happen to me’? Yeah, I think we have all heard this. Well, when somebody spends every day of his life studying and training the art of how to take a man to the ground, studying all the defences, all the pick ups from punches and kicks, then you are going to find it very hard to stop him (as always it’s possible), but you’d better be good.
By training with sticks, knives, swords and so on, it wakes up a whole new instinct. It makes you start to think more, feel more and it stops you getting lazy. Sometimes in empty hand training the mentality is to take a few shots, absorb a little punishment, that’s why many empty hand arts have conditioning training. But how many shots do you want to take from a carving knife? What kind of training can we do to condition our body to take a direct stab from a blade? Steel usually wins against flesh. So now we need a new set of attributes, the ability to understand energy and movement, because we certainly cannot absorb the steel. This style of training gives you a fantastic tactile reponse, the ability to read and flow movement.
Some people ask me which is best, sheer brutality or tactility. The answer is obvious, both. If you can overwhelm a man with sheer force, excellent, but what if he is as skillful but stronger, you need to read and feel his movement because strength on strength you lose. And little by little you start to realise that many elements are necessary just as in nature. By mixing and understanding elements you can create explosive results. The same mixture is true in the fighting arts. If you are already using weapons training as part of your programme, you know the benefits. If not maybe it’s an area you should investigate. But as always you need to find somebody who can give you good information and good training methods, and stick to it.