Karate and Carrying Weapons

Traditional weapons used in Okinawan kobudo

This article is going to be a bit controversial, but I feel that it is an important topic that is too often neglected. As traditional martial artists, we often learn how to handle classical weapons–swords, bo, tonfa, sai, kama, etc. This is seen as a normal part of training, and a way to enhance your karate. Indeed, many of the techniques these weapons utilize can be done with a variety of everyday items. From a self defense perspective, it makes perfect sense to be trained in the use of weapons. Despite that, many traditional martial artists shun modern weaponry. Clearly, though, the old Okinawans had no such qualms with carrying the weaponry of their time.

Basic firearms training for police officers

Firearms have been common sidearms for hundreds of years, but modern RBSD (Reality Based Self Defense) systems, like some Krav Maga schools, seem to be the only arts that incorporate them. In my opinion, these tools should really be part of every martial artist’s repertoire! To ignore them is to ignore the realities of violence. The bad guys have no problems carrying and using these weapons, and we shouldn’t, either–provided it is legal where you live. Will every attacker be armed and intent on killing you? No. But it only takes one.

My carry weapon, and the holster I made for it

Having a firearm, and being properly trained in its use, gives you a major leg-up when dealing with a violent attacker. The vast majority of the time, merely drawing the weapon is enough to cause an attacker to flee–if I remember the statistic correctly, 97% of the time. In the event you must use deadly force to defend yourself, it is much easier to do so with a weapon than with your hands and feet. This becomes especially important as we get older, or when we have people with us that we want to protect, or if we are sick or injured. In those situations, our ability to fight one-on-one becomes compromised, and we need all the help we can get.

When faced with deadly force, unarmed techniques are vastly better than nothing–do not think I am saying that martial arts are useless! Many proponents of carrying firearms will insist that “gun-fu” makes martial arts training obsolete, but this simply isn’t true. The skills that you develop in unarmed training actually enhance your ability to handle a weapon. In addition, they give you something to fall back on should you find yourself disarmed, or find your weapon broken or otherwise rendered unusable. You may even find yourself ambushed in such a way that you cannot bring your weapon to bear without first fighting off your attacker. Thankfully, some instructors of weapons-based self defense courses, as you can see in the video above, have started to address this more and more.

You may also find yourself in a situation where force is required, but not deadly force. A firearm is always considered deadly force, while your hands are not (although they can be). It is important to understand, and be able to work within, various levels of force. If a friend, relative, or even a stranger is being threatening and violent, but not endangering your life, you have no right to use deadly force. Joint locks, takedowns, and strikes may be much more reasonable responses to deal with that kind of threat. The decision to use force is a vital one, but equally vital is the level of force you choose. This is something that should be incorporated into your training, or it can be very easy to make a mistake.

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About Noah

I began training in karate (Shuri-Ryu) in the Summer of 2006. Subsequently, I started training in judo, kobudo, and iaijutsu within the next 6 months. During my training there, I earned the rank of Sankyu (3rd Degree Brown Belt) in Shuri-Ryu, Gokyu (Green Belt) in judo, a certification in the use of the bo, and passed proficiency tests for the four tachigata of Shinkage-Ryu iaijutsu. I moved to Arizona in the Summer of 2008, and continued training and researching karate at home. I continued regular training in judo at a local club until 2010, when I was able to start training in Shorin-Ryu with Sensei Richard Poage. I have been training with him ever since, and currently hold the rank of Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt) in Shorin-Ryu under him. In addition, I began studying KishimotoDi under Sensei Ulf Karlsson in 2014.