A very wise man (Kyoshi Earl Marvin) once told me that a knife should never be underestimated. Later I was told by his instructor, Dr. Ronald Cherry, that “a knife is essentially a bullet with a handle on it that can change directions.” After decades of training in the martial arts and time spent in the United States Army, I added my own metaphor to Dr. Cherry’s insightful words.
“A knife is essentially a bullet with a handle on it that can change directions…it comes with a built-in silencer and unlimited ammunition.” – Curtiss Robinson
When it comes to self-defense, there is a broad spectrum of things we can do. In national defense, the most powerful weapons are obviously nuclear in nature. Of course, we have aircraft carriers, tanks, artillery pieces, and machine guns typically seen on a battlefield but not necessarily used for personal self-defense.
I always find it interesting that on the far end of self-defense we have firearms and edged weapons, yet so many people rely on unarmed combat (martial arts). It seems most people are uncomfortable carrying a firearm or even a knife. It is ironic that many of the scenarios where people are getting killed, the bad guy has a firearm or a knife. Of course, I advocate for proper self-defense. I also believe we should be comfortable with whatever weapon we select. If we don’t want to carry a firearm, then perhaps a knife is the right tool for the job. If we choose not to carry any weapon, then we must be the weapon.
Let me be clear that I am not advocating for kids in school and irresponsible individuals to carry a gun or knife with the intent on hurting people. This article is about being aware of your own safety and how you might defend yourself.
I’ve been teaching martial arts for over 30 years. I know what it takes to get the average human being trained to a level where they can actually defend themselves. It takes a lot of work, and it is a wonderful journey. Sadly, there are very few people who could begin to defend themselves when the enemy has a gun or a knife. I hope this article is as much a warning about dealing with armed thugs as it is a reminder that the most powerful weapon we have is our mind. That mind gives us amazing creativity. That creativity is what is need to survive. Let’s not undervalue weapons that can enhance our ability to defend our own lives. Let’s not overestimate our own ability to fight unarmed.
My early instructors told me stories about knife fighters around the world. One story stuck with me above all others. Guru Dan Inosanto is perhaps the best-trained Kali stick and knife instructor in the world. I’ve met him in person, and I know him to be an amazing martial artist. As the story goes, Guru Inosanto found himself in two knife fights during his lifetime. The first time, he picked up a handful of sand, threw it into his opponent’s face, and ran. The second time, he threw a softball at his opponent’s face and ran. My instructors wanted to impress upon me that if the greatest stick and knife instructor in the world chose not to face a knife fighter, then we should be extremely respectful of anyone who is armed.
Consider carefully what you would do if you were facing an armed opponent. You can imagine the fear you would feel. That fear could paralyze the body. Even the greatest of all fighters have felt fear in the ring and on the street. We must take careful account of what that fear is and why it is present. Facing an angry dog or even a rattlesnake makes our hearts race and hands tremble and for good reason.
In the movies we see our heroes disarming guns, knives, swords, and axes all the time. Remember that those things only happen in the movies. If you find yourself in a situation where you can safely escape, I recommend following the example of Dan Inosanto. Discretion is the better part of valor.
Never underestimate the deadly risk we take in combat. Never underestimate a gun or a knife. Never underestimate a human being standing in front of you. Your life depends on knowing now what you will do then. Decide today. Train hard and live to be an old instructor instead of a foolhardy hot head.