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Last week a psychiatric patient at Mass General Hospital was shot dead by an off-duty security guard after attacking his doctor with a knife. The security guard has been legally cleared for now as acting in self defense and is heralded as a hero.

I was not there, and do not know exactly what happened. Reports the security guard heard screams from the doctors office, thought she was being beaten, and burst in. When he saw the man had a knife, drew his firearm and told the man to drop the knife. The man reportedly lunged at him, he shot the man twice.

First, sympathies go out to the family of the man who was killed. It sounds like he had psychiatric issues, and surely this is a tragedy for them. If this incident happened as reported, the security guard most likely acted heroically and saved lives.

What burns me a bit is that the family’s lawyers are now questioning if the man could have been subdued, or if the man had to have been shot twice (wasn’t one bullet enough). This is why lawyers are so popular these days. They are trying to drum up controversy where there is none in order to increase their billable hours and/or create an opening for a civil suit.

Let’s be clear about this: Firearms are lethal weapons. There is only one thing you are doing when you purposefully fire them at someone - you are to kill them. A knife is also a lethal weapon, when threatened with a knife  - this is lethal force and it frequently requires a lethal response to survive.

Only in really bad movies does someone shoot  a gun out of someone else’s hand with a pistol, or aim for the leg. Trained people instinctively aim for center mass, under the stress of a lethal threat, this is the area you are most likely to hit. You shoot until the person is no longer a threat, a frequently this is more than once.

To the point of self defense - if this doctor had to wait for someone to call the police, and for the police to respond, she (and perhaps others) would most likely be dead. Again, the police are great, but they can’t be everywhere.

Licensed, law abiding citizens carrying firearms may be our first and only line of defense against such acts. Recently several men have been charged with terrorist plots against crowded targets (such as malls) with automatic weapons. I can’t imagine how a terrifying act like that might play out, but I do know that nothing would stop it short of the terrorists being killed or running out of ammo.

Israel has seen attacks against school buses by terrorists with automatic firearms stopped by legally armed civilians.

The only effect of criminalizing self defense is to increase crime. The UK’s draconian self-defense and weapons carry laws have led to a giant spike in violent crime. After the mayor of Boston announced having the toughest gun laws in the nation, shootings went up over 60%.

The main benefactors of laws restricting self defense are criminals,

Category : news | self defense | Blog

In a locality where citizens can legally own and carry firearms, is there still room for empty hand self defense? How many times have I heard something to the effect of, “if somebody attacks me, I’ll just draw my gun and shoot them.”? The truth is that empty hand self defense needs to be the platform on which all other self defense measures are built.

Firearms, mace, knives, swords, pipes, etc. are all very effective weapons in self defense. But all of these weapons have exactly the same limitations. In order to use a firearm in self-defense:


Category : martial arts | self defense | Blog

In Jungian psychoanalysis, the shadow is generally seen as those parts of us which we have pushed into the unconscious. They may be aspects of our psychology which we despise, are embarrassed of, or have been deemed socially unacceptable. Think about being raised in a very religious family where sexuality is equated with sin. Everybody gets sexual urges, and repressing them out of mind takes a lot of energy.

The main issue with shadow is that it takes a lot of energy to keep that stuff hidden away from ourselves. It’s like holding a basketball underwater with your palm - and the stuff tends to pop up and surface when we aren’t looking. Think about clergy sex abuse cases as a prime example of repressed stuff surfacing in insidious ways.

A lot of psychoanalysis deals with bringing that stuff up to the light and recognizing it. This doesn’t mean that you have to act out your impulses, merely that you recognize where some of your issues come from. Integrating the shadow does not mean you lose your common sense, in fact it will heighten your ability to make good choices.

As warriors, it’s important to be on the path of integrating our shadow. Doing so releases a tremendous amount of energy (the energy we used to hold that stuff in our unconscious). it also helps us to be more conscious about the choices we make.

While I am no therapist, I want to give you a quick beginner’s exercise in how to see and recognize your shadow:


Category : spirit | Blog

kundaliniFrom Taoism, we get the concept of Yin and Yang, the idea that everything in the Universe has two sides which are called masculine and feminine. This concept has counterparts in almost every culture - the two pillars of Kabalah, the Ida and Pingala channels in Yoga, Jachin and Boaz, the sacred feminine, etc. This concept should not be confused with people’s physical gender. The idea is related but not a direct analog.

Even in Christianity - a decidedly patriarchal system, there are many hidden references to the sacred feminine. One small example is, in early iconography, the Christ was frequently depicted inside a symbol known as the vesica piscis - which can symbolize (amongst other things) female genitalia.

In these traditions, the masculine is the active side, while the feminine is recptive. In martial arts, external hard arts like karate exemplify masculine energy, while soft or internal arts like tai chi or jujutsu exemplify the feminine energy. In very high levels of even the harder masculine styles, the energy becomes more receptive and feminine. Jujutsu, sometimes called the “gentle art”, is actually better translated (from the perspective of context and meaning) as the art of defeating one’s opponents by receiving and yielding to their energy.

I was recently listening to a lecture on Youtube by Paramahamsa Nithyananda who talked about enlighthenment being the awakening of feminine energy, and how all of Taoism is concerned with this (although it isn’t always spoken). In Yogic circles the vital energy - kundalini- is described as a coiled serpent at the base of the spine. By awakening this energy and raising the energy up the spine to the crown - one can gain awakening. This energy is metaphorically linked to shakti - a hindu goddess. The idea of it reaching the crown is the marriage of shakti (feminine) with shiva (masculine).

Again we have the balance of yin and yang. In Western alchemy we have the chemical wedding, in Taoism there is the greater enlightenment of kan and li. All these different cultures and psycho-spiritual teachings are talking about exactly the same thing but choosing different metaphors.

I will include the video here, be forewarned - if you’re a fundamentalist you might have a hard time swallowing some of what he’s saying. If you can listen with an open mind - you just may get something from this.

Category : spirit | Blog

I am what I am.

In having faith in the beauty within me, I develop trust.

In softness I have strength.

In silence I walk with the gods.

In peace I understand myself and the world.

In conflict I walk away.

In detachment I am free.

In respecting all living things, I respect myself.

In dedication I honour the courage within me.

In eternity I have compassion for the nature of all things.

In love I unconditionally accept the evolution of others.

In freedom I have power.

In my individuality, I express the God-Force within me.

In service I give of what I have become.

I am what I am:
Eternal, immortal, universal, and infinite.

And so be it.

Category : spirit | Blog

Recently, a woman was attacked and robbed while walking alone around midnight on the Esplanade in Boston. The Esplanade, for those not familiar, is a pedestrian area running along the Charles river which is accessible by a number of footbridges. This is not the first such attack - I remember  numerous attacks going back to the early nineties when I first moved to Boston.

The Esplanade is, in my opinion, a mugger’s dream. Lots of places to hide, route to escape by, and spots to lie in wait and make sure no police are around when you attack. It’s a known sleeping place for the homeless who sometimes gather under the bridges.

Many people feel safe there because, during the day, there are large crowds of people. The Esplanade also abuts an affluent neighborhood.


Category : news | self defense | Blog

Here’s a great article from the UK highlighting violent crime statistics.

Here’s the rundown - the UK has more violent crime per capita than any country in the EU, the U.S. , or even the ultra-violent South Africa. This in a country which has banned almost all firearms, knives, and weapons of any kind. Now crime statistics can be misleading as reporting standards differ, but the folks in the UK I have talked to think there is a growing problem.

The anti-gun crowd likes to point to the U.K. as a shining example of a country that has less gun crime than the US.

Here are a few important points to remember:

  • Getting murdered is bad no matter what weapon
  • Licensed gun owners in the US actually commit very few gun crimes - most are committed with illegally gotten firearms
  • In many localities, weapons bans or restriction actually correlate strngly with a rapid increase in violence with the type of weapon banned (stabbings  in London went up around 70% when knives were banned, gun crimes in Boston, MA went up around 70% after the Mayor announced increased restrictions
  • Criminals are less likely to attack when they think it is likely they will get hurt, killed, or caught
  • There is actual research that  shows counties in the US that have the most liberal concealed carry permit laws have less crime - see the reason above.
  • All crime has multiple causes - people don’t commit crimes merely because they own weapons, there are economic, social, political and other reasons that are not addressed by weapons bans alone.
  • No matter how good the police are at their job, they cannot stand there protecting you 24 hours a day. Average response time to 911 calls vary - but in most areas are measured in minutes - not seconds. The only person who can keep you safe is you.
  • Illegal or not, murderers can get weapons.
  • Strangely, people who aren’t dissuaded by the laws and social norms opposed to murder, also don’t care so much about laws preventing them from carrying weapons.
  • Virtually all spree shootings take place in government designated “no-gun” zones such as schools and post offices
  • Lawful uses of firearms in the US  prevent thousands of crimes a year.

The simple truth is this: there is absolutely zero evidence that weapons bans make society safer in first world countries.

Every time there is well publicized shooting or stabbing, there arises a senitiment that, “if only people didn’t have guns and knives this never would have happened”. That simply isn’t true, and it is an oversimplification that makes lazy thinkers feel better.

In interest of full disclosure, I am not a gun owner - but that is my choice. I have a collection of knives that I use for utility, sport, display, and training.  In the future, if I feel my family’s safety would be enhanced, I would like to have the option to get a license to lawfully carry a firearm. As a law-abiding citizen who has never even gotten a speeding ticket.

There is an irrational fear of weapons in many societies, which runs counter to a rational respect for real danger. Freud calls the irrational fear of weapons (hoplophobia) -  “a sign of retarded emotional and sexual maturity.”

Category : news | Blog

When it comes to arguments on the Internet, nothing I’ve seen in the martial arts has spawned as much emotion and posturing as the debate over the effectiveness of certain martial arts systems for self defense. I’d like to throw my hat into the ring on the side of reason. Brace yourself, this is going to be a long post.

First, when I talk about self defense I am not speaking about any mutually agreed upon combat - including many bar-fights. I’m talking about a violent response to the threat of, or to actual, violence. Non-violent responses fall into a different categories, mitigation, avoidance, personal protection - etc. If there is no threat or actual violence then we are most likely talking about assault.


Category : martial arts | self defense | Blog

There is a a lot of fluff, fighting and puffery on the Internet about almost everything in the martial arts these days. Particularly, pressure points get a lot of attention. There seem to be two divergent camps with a lot of people in extremes on both sides: 1. pressure points are really effective, 2. Pressure points don’t work.

This post comes from my real-world experience of decades in the martial arts. Your experience may vary. But this is what I have objectively found: continue

Category : martial arts | self defense | Blog

I was saddened today to learn of the death of actor and martial artist David Carradine. Carradine, 72, was apparently found dead in a Bangkok hotel where he had been staying while shooting a film.

Initial stories and rumors (suicide, murder, accident) are already flying around the net as one might expect from the passing of such a celebrity. Regardless of details, his passing is a tragedy.

Carradine was one amongst a  handful of actors, Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris etc. who really popularized martial arts in the United States. He, of course, is best known as Kwai Chang Caine in the Kung Fu Series.  Most recently, fans got to enjoy his acting skills in the Kill Bill franchise.

He was a legend who became a proponent of the martial arts, Eastern medicine, and philosophy. My heart goes out to his family and friends,

Category : news | Blog