Necessity or Obsession?


By Mike Sullenger

DEC / 2013

Nov / 2013


Many of us train with weapons. Some of us with firearms, others with a variety of edged and/or impact ones. The goal with guns is to develop the ability to shoot quickly and accurately at the drop of a hat. Those who develop and maintain this skill will likely survive an attack on the street.

Others train with knives and/or different types of impact weapons. Collapsible batons like the ASP (an impact weapon carried by police and security personnel) are easily carried and very affective. Knives are more intimidating and equally as deadly. Both require continuous training in order to develop the conditioned reflexes necessary for us to be competent in a street survival situation.

You may be wondering why Iím stating the obvious. Itís in order to set the stage for a hypothesis some will take exception too. Over my five plus decades of training in the martial arts, and in teaching civilian and police personnel for more than 46 years, one thing is clear; the competency of those who train in both the martial arts versus just with a weapon is greater.

So what exactly do I mean with that statement. Itís simple. A person who develops the ability to use the weapons God gave him (his feet, hands, and wit), has a better ability to survive than those who donít. Over time their self-confidence grows. With the training and self-confidence also comes competence in and with their skill sets.

Still shaking your head? Still wondering why I would make such an assertion? Maybe this statement will help to clarify things. With the exception of firearms, a weapon is merely an extension of oneís arm. If a person develops the skills to use his hands and feet effectively against attackers, adding a weapon allows the practitioner to extend their reach and the affect of their defensive and offensive movements. Guns donít have the necessity of close proximity as they are very capable of reaching out at greater distances to touch their intended target.

Now I know people who swear they donít need any martial arts training. They are totally comfortable with their weapon of choice. When I hear these people take this stand Iím reminded of the firearms enthusiast talking with the martial artist in a bar. The gun toting character extols his prowess with his weapon and tells the martial arts he wouldnít stand a chance against him. The martial artist says, ďReally? Can I see your gun?Ē The other guy responds, ďI donít have it with me. I left it in the truck.Ē To which the martial artist says, ďGee thatís too bad. How are you going to shoot me if you donít have your gun? I have my training and ability with me 24/7.Ē Additionally, a knife or other such weapon is a single item used for offensive and defensive moves. A trained martial artist learns how to handle such attacks using his empty hands, as well as other weapons.

Iím sure the point Iím making is clear by now. When you train in the martial arts you are prepared at all times. Your weapons never leave your side. If you leave your gun in the truck, or your knife on the night stand and you donít have even well developed basic hand to hand skills, you may be S.O.L.

There are a couple of other issues one must consider regarding the use of weapons. First is whether your weapon of choice is legal in your state. Secondly is the ability to justify the weaponís use. We all have the right of self-defense. But you must be able to clearly articulate the circumstances that resulted in your use of the weapon after the fact. That justification will be examined by lawyers in more depth and over a longer period of time than you may realize. Many of us in the cop career field refer to these nauseous in-depth analysis and examination of our statements as a proctologic exam. Once itís over there is a great sigh of relief.

Many martial arts weapons are illegal in states from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Hand gun concealed carry license are available in all in America today, though some states make it more difficult than others to acquire them. Knives are limited to a blade length or overall length when considering the handle, and a single edge. Students are not allowed to carry any kind of weapon on school campuses. So choosing a weapon for use on the street in self-defense comes with a need for serious thought and reflection, coupled by knowing the law of your respective state. In the end developing the ability to defend yourself with your hands and feet will enhance your ability and skills with a weapon.

Not all those who train in the arts carry weapons. Their confidence in the abilities theyíve developed gives them the comfort to know theyíre ready if the need arises. Many who do carry a weapon may not realize it is their confidence. Without it they feel less brave when venturing out. In the American Karate System we begin teaching weapons after a student has reached a mid to upper level grade rank (green to brown belt levels). After that each black belt must demonstrate his expertise with weapons every time he or she tests for the next black belt level. This process ensures our members develop well in both unarmed and armed capabilities.

For those who chose to carry a weapon donít forget it. If for some reason you leave the weapon at home, youíll always have the natural ones with you, if youíve trained with them.

Mike Sullenger, Major USAF Retired

9th Dan, AKS Chief Instructor,

Adjunct Professor, BSCJ/MSIR, TSTC Harlingen, Texas

Valley International Airport Chief of Police