Sunday, June 9, 2013

Is It Ok To Create A New Martial Art?

By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2013, All Rights Reserved

A constant of martial arts has always been new styles popping up all the time. For as long as there have been organized fighting systems there have been people putting their own unique spin on them. Every martial art was of course created by someone and often they had rather short time in the arts. Take, for example, an upstart 22 year old who studied martial arts for only 6 years before creating his own art and later took the rank of 12th Dan, he called his art Judo. However, it seems that in perhaps the first time in history the creation of new martial arts is widely shunned.

It isn’t really that hard to understand why; today it seems that people want to study for only a couple years and then create a new art declaring themselves 10th degree grandmasters. This happens all the time. In fact, I recently watched part of a taped martial arts seminar where high ranking martial artists were encouraged to come and share their knowledge and I saw a few even have the words “Grandmaster” printed on the back of their uniform.

There is a pushback in the martial arts against people creating new martial arts and if you really boil it down I think it is an argument for quality. There are a lot of actual masters out there that you could spend the rest of your life learning from and still find they have more to teach. In the rush to put out new styles people often don’t uncover the depth of knowledge already available in the martial arts.

If you ask a lot of long time martial art instructors if they think it is ok to create your own art most will say “no.” They will say that you should find great instructors and study what is already out there because there are lifetimes worth of information already in the arts. I certainly agree with this logic but I don’t agree with it not being “ok” to create a new art. For me it is a matter of time spent in study.

When I was kid I found that I didn’t really care for people my own age. Kids my own age seemed reckless and, well...stupid. After observing people for a few years I came up with the theory that anyone under age 20 was, more or less, stupid. People in their 20’s I believed to be naive and it wasn’t until a person turned 30 that I thought they had spent enough time on the Earth to begin to really get things down. I still hold this belief to a large degree.

Growing up almost all my friends were over 40. It was those people that I thought I could really learn from. When it came time to learn martial arts I looked at it the same way. I was lucky to find a great and very knowledge instructor who had been in the arts for over 40 years. He introduced me to people who had 35 to 50 years in the martial arts and I took the time to learn all I could from their wealth of information.

One thing I noticed from these men is that they didn’t look so much as a person's rank as they did time in the arts. I found that “old timers” considered anyone with less than 20 years of active study in the martial arts to be a beginner. I knew some 6th degrees with less than 20 years in and it seemed weird to think of them as beginners.

Their reasoning is that it took about 20 years to learn the basics, get your technique down, get a higher rank, spend some time teaching, promote a few people to upper black belt, get some experience with other styles and points of view, and see some fads come and go to really get a grasp on how things worked. I took their word for it then but now that I have 25 years in I think that they’re right. After 25 years when I see someone put on a black belt after only 3 or 4 years of study and think that they are an “expert” or that they’re ready to teach I have to laugh. I want to tousle their hair and say, “go get ‘em slugger” as I send them in to teach a couple colored belts they’re new techniques.

In this world where everyone wants something right now, no one seems to have an patience, and most people only study the arts for a couple of years, I find that as I look for my peers I look at rank less and less and instead look for people who have been in it as long or longer than me Looking at it this way new arts are inevitable.

For someone who has been in the arts for 6 or 7 years and has maybe a 1st or 2nd degree in one or two styles not the probably shouldn’t create their own style. But what about after 15 years? After 15 years of study they surely have their own spin that they put on their material. They’ve taken their instructor’s teachings and adjusted them to their personal body type and ability. What about after 25 or 30 years? What about after 40? After that amount of time you have two kinds of people: those that have devoted the entire time to one or two arts and have put their own spin on their instructors teachings and have created their own unique style of their art or you have people who have studied several arts and if you look at the way they train during their private workouts you will find a new martial art unique to their personal experiences and abilities.

So yes, I think it is just fine to create an art but I don’t think that that should be your goal because if it is then it is probably simply self-serving. Instead I think you should study the martial arts in earnest and after 30 years or so you will have built a new art out of your experience and it will have happened by itself out of the simple wanting to learn more and get better each and every day.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Reality of Injury From Knives

By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2013, All Rights Reserved

There is a lot of bad information in the martial arts. A key reason is that many martial arts are technique oriented, meaning that they are focused on specializing in very specific techniques to the point where they kind of lose sight of the overall goal.

An example of this is Taekwondo; Taekwondo is a form of kickboxing from Korea that specialized in kicks and can be taught as a martial art but is mostly just taught as a sport. I’m not insulting Taekwondo by the way, as they freely admit they are a sport and they are proud that they are the national sport of Korea.

I did Taekwondo for years, got my black belt, and found it enjoyable but the school I went to was all based on a large collection of kicking techniques. I went to class and we learned “this” kicking technique, then they showed me “that” kicking technique which was really cool, and then they showed me another kicking technique that had a jump in it that was a lot of fun...but then at some point you stop and say, “This is a lot of fun, but aren’t I supposed be learned to defend myself from a violent attacker, like someone trying to stab me to death or something?” The instructor would then kind of stutter and then introduce the next kicking technique.

Where some of the most misleading information comes about is when you’re taught to use a knife. Very few schools or styles teach you how to use a knife for self-defense and the ones that do mostly take their information from the Filipino Martial Arts which specialize in knife and stick fighting, but a lot of that information isn’t necessarily reliable once modern medical science looks at it. It is the same as all the martial arts schools that still teach the myth that you can kill someone by pushing their nose up into their brain.

In this article I’ll discuss the most commons myths the martial arts teach about using a knife and I’ll go over the truth of what will really kill someone. I do want to state that this is not an article on how to kill someone but rather this article is meant to educate martial artists who are studying the use of the knife for educational or practical self-defense purposes. While I do realize the information I provide can be used in the wrong way, I’m not teaching the majority of criminals something they don’t already know and can’t or haven’t learned in prison, I’m just providing the general public and the serious martial arts student with the same information to hopefully save their lives.

The knife, however, in addition to other stabbing weapons, is not the perfect self-defense weapon. The purpose of self-defense is to avoid, deal with, and escape unprovoked attacks. While the best example of self-defense is to detect a dangerous situation in advance and avoid it, if that isn’t possible it may result in you having to utilize deadly force in order to save your life or the life of your loved ones.

If you pull a knife, or take one away from your attacker, you really only have a few options. One option is that you can brandish the weapon in hopes of scaring your attacker(s) away or trying to create a situation which gives you to opportunity to escape, but that is not very reliable. A second option is that you can attack your attacker with the weapon when they come after you, or be the aggressor yourself and go after them, and this will more than likely end with someone being seriously injured or even killed.

Pepper spray (not mace!) is, in my opinion, a much better self-defense tool than a knife. Pepper spray is convenient to carry, easy to get (in fact you can make it yourself), legal in most locations, allows you to engage your attacker from a safe distance, allows you to engage multiple attackers at once, has disabling effects that occur rapidly, it can disable an attacker for up to 45 minutes, it can mark their faces so the police can identify them later on, and being non-lethal people are rarely hesitant to use it.

With the exception of being convenient to carry and perhaps being legal, a knife is none of the things I described above. You have to get close, you have to be aggressive, and you get blood on you. In addition, since people inherently know that as soon a knife is used serious injury or death can follow they tend to hesitate to use it when they need to which can lead to their injury or death.

A knife is also not the best killing tool. Again, unlike a gun where you can stand back and pull a trigger, with a knife you have to get close and do all the hard work yourself. People don’t realize the amount of intent it takes to kill someone with a knife. You have to move in on them aggressively and plunge that knife into them as hard and as deep as you can, pull it out, and repeat while being covered in their blood and seeing and hearing them react to being stabbed. As the knife gets covered in blood the blood will lubricate the blade and it will go in easier as you go, but at first you will really have to punch it into their body.

You are also going to have to be accurate in your stabbing. The human body, while very frail and easy to damage, is also quite resilient. There have been people that have been stabbed 60 times and not only survived but never lost consciousness while they were attacked. You have to know where to stab someone to shut the body down right away. This is another drawback of the knife; even if you stab them and inflict a mortal wound that will end up killing them within the next few minutes they might continue to fight you, and scream for help or to alert their friends to come jump in, until they do lose consciousness. The person that you’re trying to injure will most likely not suddenly stop when you stab them so killing someone with a knife is actually a process that is very involved, very violent, and requires a great deal of violent intent to get the work done.

On top of that most knives are not very good for using on the human body. Ideally you want a blade that is at least 5 inches long because a shorter blade may not be long enough to reach everything you want inside their body. Also, a quality blade that has some thickness and weight is desired because a thin blade can bend and have the tip break off if it hits the ribs. If you get attacked in the kitchen and have a choice of what edged object to grab choose a heavy knife with large blade or an ice pick.

So, for these and other reasons, the knife is not the best self-defense tool and it should be looked upon as a “killing tool.” My reasoning behind this is that brandishing it to an attacker in hopes of scaring them away is not guaranteed to work and may cause them to pull their own weapon and escalate the situation and trying to cut someone will not immediately stop them unless they are a good psychological candidate for ASD (talked about below); which leaves aggressively stabbing people and that can be an effective means of stopping someone right away but it can very well be lethal. The only effective combative use for a knife, in my opinion, is to stab people and since that can easily be fatal in my book the knife is a killing tool and should not be brought out unless the decision is made that killing your attacker is a necessity to save your life.

As far as techniques go, most schools teach the tactic of “cutting in and cutting out,” which means that when an aggressor attacks you, or you take the offensive and close distance, you cut everything you can on the way in (arms, legs, face, hands, etc.) and once you’re close you cut the body at key areas to shut down the body, and then back up and break distance as you again cut the limbs and everything else you can as you exit. An example of this might be your attacker lungs at you with the knife he is holding in his right hand and you “defang the snake” by cutting his hand with your own knife to stop the attack and hope that he drops his knife, then you step forwards and quickly cut the inside of his left forearm, followed by the inside of this right armd, turn the knife around and slash upwards into his face, followed by a slash to each side of his neck, the inside of each thigh, across the stomach, and then he backs out as he quickly cuts the left arm again.

The thinking behind this approach is based on shock; when you cut his hand he feels the pain, sees the wound, sees the blood, and he goes into shock allowing you to slice and dice him at will with each cut extending the shock. It sounds like a sound method except that isn’t how shock works. Shock (called “Hypovolemic Shock”) occurs when the body loses so much blood it cannot effectively operate so it starts to shut down. Shock isn’t instant, it is a process of blood loss that can take several minutes to occur.

What we’re really talking about is “psychological shock,” formerly referred to as “Shell Shock” and it now called “Acute Stress Disorder” (ASD). ASD occurs when someone experience, or perceives to experience, an instance of extreme stress or trauma. Someone suffering from ASD can quickly enter a detached and numb state where they dissociate with the outside world in a trance like state (think the guy from the beginning of the movie “Saving Private Ryan” who is walking around the battlefield looking for his arm) and this state can exist to various degrees from hours to several days and can turn into full-fledged Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

So yes, you can slash someone’s arm causing a large bloody wound and they might look at it and panic in an occurrence of ASD allowing you to slice and dice him at your leisure. It is very possible, but reliable. What would make one person freeze like a deer in the headlights is perfectly tolerable for another.

Years back I read an instance of two police officers who walked in on a robbery in progress at a convenience store. The robber fired at the police officers and ran out the back exit. A bullet grazed the hand of the first officer who then dropped his gun and fell to the floor holding his hand and screaming at the small amount of blood making its way down his wrist from the minor wound. The second officer took two rounds to the stomach (this was before officers had to wear vests) but he chased the robber out of the store. Outside the store he exchanged fire with the robber being hit four more times in the chest, arm, and abdomen. The robber ran out of ammunition and turned to flee but the officer chased him, tackled him, cuffed him, called it in, and was waiting for the ambulance when it arrived. One police officer received a minor cut to his hand and was useless while the other took 6 bullets and was still able to think, fight, win a foot race, and overpower another man.

A person going into ASD should never be counted on. If it happens that is great for you but since it is not reliable it should get no more than a mention in training.

Another thing often taught is using the knife for cutting as opposed to stabbing. Cutting is preferred because it is seen as faster and it allows you to keep the knife in motion, but the problem is that cutting merely opens up the skin and all the important things are deeper inside the body.

A key problem, and a big reason I’m writing this article, is that with so much misinformation around people don’t understand what actually shuts the body down and/or kills it. If you want to shut the body down with a knife in a timely manner (the short period of the violent encounter thus saving your own life) you have to either create enough blood loss to induce hypovolemic shock and perhaps death, or you have to go after the nervous system.

To create enough blood loss to stop someone you will either have to severe a large number of blood vessels, a couple large veins, or an artery. This pretty much all requires stabbing, as any good (or bad?) prison inmate will tell you. Even if you cut someone deeply you will most likely not create enough blood loss to end the situation in a time manner, although they may bleed out later or die from infection. It is better to “punch” a blade into their body over and over in rapid succession (as you see in videos of prison stabbings) to severe as many blood vessels as you can, and you may even hit an artery or organ. You can even rock the knife back and forth inside their body to make sure the wound is open wide as possible before you withdraw it.

The best way to achieve rapid blood loss is to go after an artery or the heart. One of the best places to attack is the carotid artery with is located in the neck on either sides of the windpipe set deeply into the neck behind the jugular vein. A common method of execution you see in movies is for someone to have their throats cut. Most militaries in the world teach “sentry removal” techniques which are techniques for sneaking up on an enemy soldier who is standing guard and killing him from behind in a silent manner. It used to be one method widely taught was to “slit their throat” but most militaries have stopped teaching that method because it is not effective.

If you were to take a knife and push the blade deeply against someone’s throat and cut them ear-to-ear you would most likely cut open the windpipe and both jugular veins which sit in front of the carotid artery on both sides of the windpipe. The jugular veins are large veins that take blood from the head and brain and return it to the heart. Severing a vein will cause a lot of blood but as long as pressure is quickly applied and medical treatment is acquired it is very survivable. In fact, there are a lot people, especially immigrants from war torn countries, walking around with large scars on their necks from some criminal or soldier who cut their throat thinking it would kill them and it didn’t. Sure, if you leave them there for long enough with no medical attention they will pass out after a minute or so then bleed out and die but it is not quick.

To get the carotid arteries you have to stab into the neck. Most soldiers are taught that in you’re in front of your enemy combatant to stab them in the carotid artery two or three times rapidly and then stab the one on the other side of their neck the same way. If they’re behind them they are taught to pretty much do the same thing. By stabbing the neck you can get deep enough to cut the carotid artery and you will also cut the jugular vein as well as perhaps the windpipe, several nerves, and also several muscles. Stabbing just gives you a bigger band for your buck.

The main reason a person whose carotid arteries are cut loses consciousness so quickly is because the oxygen rich blood isn’t getting to their brain. Starving the brain of the oxygen carried by the blood in the carotid arteries will produce unconsciousness in under 10 seconds, assuming both arteries are cut which a decent stab will do. This is very similar to applying a “rear naked choke” in Judo except here the blood flow isn’t returned. Death follows in mere minutes.

Other ways to access arteries are in the upper thighs (stabbing into the Femoral Artery), up in between the groin and anus into the bottom of the abdominal aorta, or, if you have a long enough blade, straight into the stomach towards the spine to also reach the abdominal aorta.

Stabbing straight into the torso and going after the abdominal aorta is not optimal nor is trying to stab someone straight into the heart. There are so many things in the torso to absorb or deflect the blade, such as the ribcage,that make efforts elsewhere better spent. The heart sits behind the sternum making reaching it difficult which is why you have to go after it from either underneath or from the side.

In medieval times there were hundreds of ways to kill someone and the manner of death often depended upon how much you wanted them to suffer. A fairly painless way was to stab into the heart by going in from the side just underneath the armpit. In this manner the only thing protecting the heart are a thin layer of muscle and tissue and the ribs and the tip of a sharp blade can easily find its way in between those ribs and straight into the heart.

The other method is to stab the heart from underneath. If you are going to stab someone in the torso, again going straight in isn’t the best method. The upper torso is protected by the sternum, ribs, and thicker muscles and the abdomen is protected by thicker muscles and fat, and beneath that is the digestive system which provides a slower death. The organs, however, are an effective target in terms of stopping a person quickly. Once punctured the heart, spleen, and liver quickly cause a person to lose strength and the will to fight and cause massive bleeding.

Since the organs are fairly well protected you want to attack the upper abdomen and stab at an upward angle with a longer blade. By going into the upper abdomen you go into softer tissue and underneath the ribs and upward into the liver, spleen, heart, lungs, and gall bladder. It is important to think not of “stabbing” them but of punching them as hard as you can with your fist and you happen to have a blade on the tip.

Another area to consider is the kidneys. Punching a knife into the kidneys will have to effects; the first is the impact of your fist and knife slamming into the kidneys which will cause immediate extreme pain. A hard shot to the kidneys is often enough to put someone of the ground and take all fight out of them. The second effect is massive blood loss when the kidneys are cut due to the renal artery actually entering the kidneys. Your attacker will feel a sharp blow, searing pain, and then they will begin to lose their strength. With no medical treatment they will lose consciousness in about 20 minutes and die in about 30 minutes.

An important is the location of the kidneys. Right now place your hand on where your kidneys are and push in lightly and take notice of what you feel. If you’re like most people what you feel is your hip bone. Most people believe the kidneys are a lot lower than they are higher getting close to the middle of you back. If you look at the distance between a person’s groin and their shoulders and draw a line around them right in between you have what we call the “target belt.” On this line are their solar plexus, liver, spleen, floating ribs, and their kidneys. Now place your thumb on your kidney and press in and you’ll find that small amount of pressure quite painful.

Again, with this target you should punch the blade in at an upward angle, rock it back and forth or turn it, remove it, and repeat.

The heart, arteries, and organs are the only effective targets when trying to shut down the body due to blood loss. The other way to shut the body down quickly is by attacking the nervous system. Making someone bleed slowly lead to a slow shutdown of the body while making someone bleed a lot leads to rapid shutdown of the body, however attacking the nervous system can create an instantaneous shutdown of the body.

The nervous system is the electrical system of the body and if you shut that down it is like unplugging a radio, it just turns off. The question is where can you attack with a knife on the body to cause the shutdown? The common teaching is to attack the brain. In fact, an old technique taught in military circles and also utilized by professional killers was to pull someone’s head down and plunge the knife downward into the top of the head so the knife pierces straight down into the brain.

The problem is, it doesn’t always work. I have a photo on an x-ray from an assault victim from brazil where someone had done just that to him and he survived. In the x-ray you can clearly see the large knife sticking out the top of their head clearly inside their brain and one would think there is no way someone could survive. The problem with the piercing the brain is that it is very resilient. No one really understands exactly who it works. Millions of people have been stabbed, shot, had metal pipes or rods shoved through their brain and been just fine.

At the end of the day there are only two areas of the body that can cause immediate shut down: the spinal cord and the brain stem.

The spinal cord is like a large bundle of wires that come out of the brain stem and run down the center of the spinal cord to carry messages to the body. Cutting into or severing this cord will provide a shock to the electrical system of the body and unconsciousness will follow instantly.

Your spine is divided up into three sections: cervical (your neck), thoracic (your upper and middle back), and lumbar (your lower back). There are seven cervical vertebrae (expressed C1 to C7), 12 thoracic vertebrae (expressed T1 to T12), and five lumbar vertebrae (expressed L1 to L5). To severe the spinal cord you hold the knife so the blade is horizontal and you punch it in between the vertebrae. You don’t have to know exactly where one vertebrae stops and another starts, you simple drive the tip of the blade into the spine and the tip of the knife will normally slide up or down in between the disks as your bodyweight follows. Twist the knife or jerk it back and forth and remove it.

Severing or making large cut anywhere in the spinal will cause unconsciousness and the body will no longer be able to send signals to the body below where you damaged it. Therefore, wherever you stick your knife they will most likely end up paralyzed below that spot.

There is a saying that goes “C5 stay alive” which means that if you cut or sever the spinal cord anywhere from C5 down the person will most likely survive, but if anywhere above they will die. The reason for this between C1 and C4 are nerves that carry the signal for you diaphragm to contact and allow you to breathe. Severing these nerves or the spinal cord in this area will cause instant unconsciousness and then death by asphyxiation several minutes later.

This is the same way that a broken neck can be fatal. You can break the vertebrae themselves and have a broken neck but still be conscious and moving around because all the vertebrae are is bones. However, if those vertebrae break and the broken pieces (which are quite sharp) compress, cut, or completely sever the spinal cord that is when you have serious damage.

The last target is the brainstem. The brainstem is where the brain connects to the spine and it is the only area of the brain where a bullet or stab wound is guaranteed to result in instant unconsciousness and death. The brainstem is right above the top of the spinal cord and stabbing through the skull into it is the most efficient way. If you are coming up from behind and you draw a line from the top of one ear to the other that is where you will be attacking. The skull here is a little thicker than it is on the top of the skull, as discussed earlier, so full commitment and body weight is needed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Common Kicking Mistake that Robs Your Power and Can Tear Your ACL

By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2013, All Rights Reserved

About two years ago I was talking to a woman who wanted more than anything to earn her black belt. When she talked about it she got very animated and it was obvious that she had a real passion for Karate, but then she told me that due to a torn ACL she hadn’t practiced in over a year.

She told me that shortly after she earned her brown belt she was sparring during class when she got too excited; facing one of the senior black belts in the school she wanted to put on a good show so she recalls stepping forwards and throwing a right front kick as hard as she could...and then feeling as sharp pain in her left knee and falling to the ground. She had torn her ACL in the left knee and found out she would be in recovery for about a year and a half. Unfortunately, when I looked into it I found this was not that uncommon for martial artists.

About seven years ago man named Tom came to my school. He had earned his black belt from a local Taekwondo school and wanted to see what else was out there. I began giving him private lessons and he quickly found that a key difference between my school and his old school was that in my school we spend a great deal of time hitting things whereas his school spent most of their time kicking the air. Having spent so much time kicking the air his body wasn’t used to dealing with impact of really hitting something with his kicks and punches and as a result when he would kick a bag or kicking shield he would pretty much just bounce off. It took a little while to modify his kicking technique but soon he could stand in one place and drive his foot through a pad without being pushed off balance.

Tom still attended class at his Taekwondo school here and there and after one class he reported that the sudden improvement in his kicking technique was not winning him any friends in that school. Apparently, the entire class formed two lines and the first line held a kicking shield so the second line could practice their front kicks. He said everyone in his line was kicking the shield in a steady rhythm...except for him. Everyone else was hitting the pads with one kick after another but every time Tom kicked the pad he knocked his partner back a step and a half so his partner had to step back up and reset breaking the classes rhythm.

The problem came when Tom had to hold the pad for his partner and the guy found that, kick as hard as he could, he could not knock Tom backwards. To make matters worse Tom was a slender man in his 60’s who rarely came to class and his partner was a muscular man in his mid 20’s who attended class twice a week so as the younger man kicked harder and harder only to see Tom not move he got madder and madder as his ego became more and more bruised.

Both instances above have the same element in common, the lady at the start of this article didn’t know this kicking secret and became injured while Tom did know it and developed a front kick that was the envy of his class.

Tearing the ACL is, unfortunately, a somewhat common injury in the martial arts and it tends to happen the same way in most cases. The cause is often kicking while your base foot is pointed at your target. When you kick you throw your body weight forward, so your weight starts pretty much over your heels and then as the kick extends and your weight goes forwards and your center of gravity travels up your base foot towards your toes. As your body weight goes forwards you become unstable so you dig the ball of your foot into the ground to push backwards and keep your balance, and this does two things; first it pushes your body and your body weight away from the kick preventing you hitting as hard as you could have and transferring all of your body weight. This is one reason people lack power in their front kicks and one of the main reasons that, try as he might, the younger guy couldn’t knock Tom backwards.

The second thing that happens is that when the ball of your foot digs into the floor pushing you backwards your upper body is still going forwards. The result is everything above your knee is going one direction and everything below your knee is going the other and you end up with anywhere from a little bit of knee pain to a torn ACL.

How do you fix this, simply look to Tai Chi. The best footwork in the martial arts comes from Tai Chi, and what do they do in Tai Chi before they throw a kick? They turn their base foot out. If you’re going to throw a right front kick you should first turn your left foot outwards 45-90 degrees from your target. By turning your base foot out it opens your hips giving you a better range of motion and then when your weight transfers forwards it simply goes over your heel allowing your entire body to travel into the kick. Turning your base foot outward protects your foot and your knee from strain and allows you to put all your body weight and musculature into the kick.

Tom knocked his younger partner back when he kicked the kicking shield not because he was bigger or stronger than him and not because he generated more force when he kicked, in fact the opposite was true. Rather by using correct structure he was able to transfer more of the force into the kicking shield which is a great example of working smarter and not harder.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Street Fighting and Physical Conditioning: An Examination

By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2013, All Rights Reserved

“It’s well-known that one of the most common reasons people lose fights on the street is lack of conditioning.”

This quote is by some guy in some magazine I recently read and it made me step back and take notice. I want to examine this quotation and discuss its validity. First let’s look at the subject of “street fighting.”

When I was a young teenager studying martial arts my real goal wasn’t to build character or to be able to defend myself, it was to build my ability at “street fighting.” All the movies I watched, all the magazines I read, and all the people I talked to in the martial arts all talked about the street fight. I can even remember one of the black belts at a Taekwondo school I attended started a class with, “I’m not proud of it, but I was in a street fight this weekend and it taught me a valuable lesson…”

It was about this time that I really started to think about it and I suddenly had to ask myself, “where is this mystical street at where all these fights are happening?” The more I really started to look into it I could see a lot of reports of crimes such as aggravated assaults, assaults with a deadly weapon, and home invasions, but I couldn’t find evidence of all this street fighting everyone in the martial arts was supposed to be getting ready for.

Years later the internet came about and soon I was on there watching videos of street fights; only the fights I saw really weren’t fights. I saw video after video of one person just walking up and beating another person with little warning. These were assaults not street fights and there was nothing about them that I wanted to train for.

Fast forward several more years and a lot more training and I realized what a street fight actually is. To break it all down there are three categories of personal combat and they are:

1.) Mutual Combat With Rules. This is what most people think of when they think of fighting. This is boxing, kickboxing, wrestleboxing (mma), sparring, and any other time two or more people voluntarily agree to engage in a combat activity that is confined by set rules and often has some form of safety equipment and a referee.

2.) Mutual Combat Without Rules. This can be said to be the typical bar fight or the street fight. This takes place when two or more people voluntarily agree to fight each other but there are no rules or referee.

The thing I want to draw your attention to is that both of the above are forms of mutual combat; all parties are voluntarily agreeing to fight so if they get hurt it is their own fault for fighting and if they didn’t want to fight they could have just walked away in the beginning. The third category is a little different.

3.) An Act of Criminal Violence. This is different than the others because there is no mutual combat; here one party simply attacks another party often with little to no warning. With this category of violence one party can’t just simply opt out and walk away because the other party, the criminal, wants something from them and pursues them to get it. Also, the stakes in this manner of violence are higher because where in the two categories of mutual combat the violence is ego based and each party generally serves to stroke their own ego by besting their opponent, and so the goal is to “beat them up” and send them home with a black eye and bloody lip; in an act of criminal violence the goal is often to seriously injure or kill the other party.

In an act of mutual combat you may go home with a broken nose and bruised ego, but in an act of criminal violence you may be stabbed, shot, bludgeoned, stomped to death, end up in coma, suffer brain damage, or be killed.

Once I realized that the honest reality I faced wasn’t some guy picking a fight with me it was criminal violence I gave up on the notion of street fighting. Today if someone challenged me to a fight and called me, my wife, and my mother every name in the book to egg me on I’d simply smile and walk away. My main concern is keeping myself and my family safe from the real threats of the world and that is criminals who don’t put their hands up and square off with you before they attack you.

That is the reality of “fighting on the street,” and I think that if you get into a street fight then you’re kind of an idiot. If you want to go around picking fights then that is fine, but let me know where you’ll be so I can be on the other side of town with all the other people that left their junior high mentality back in junior high.

Since “street fighting” is actually avoidable the average person just has to concern themselves with acts of criminal violence so let’s look at that and how physical conditioning relates to it.

Most acts of criminal violence happen in five stages: stalking, closing the distance, the initial assault, completing the crime, and quickly escaping. These five stages often happen quickly and with little warning.

First you have stalking where the criminal stalks their intended target, perhaps following them until they get to an area that offers concealment.

Second you have the criminal closing the distance with their target but doing so in a manner that won’t make them feel threatened. They want to approach their target without setting off any warning bells so they often walk up to them but act disinterested like they’re going to walk right by (and then attack by sucker punching them from the side or the rear), they may engage their target in quick innocent conversation like asking for the time, directions, or a cigarette and then close distance and attack once the person gets distracted by answering them, and of course sometimes they just run up and attack.

Third, you have the actual attack which we have already touched on above. The last thing the average criminal will want to do is get into a fight and risk getting hurt so they’ll try to close distance without spooking you and then take you by surprise so it is important to remember that a real criminal will not put their hands up, they don’t square off, they don’t let you get into a fighting position, and they don’t get into a kickboxing match with you.

Fourth, once they have their target in a reactive state, often bleeding on the ground, they complete their objective which is either to rob them, rape them, abduct them, or kill them.

Fifth, with the task being done they quickly leave to avoid being caught. Thin entire process can easily last less than 10 seconds and normally does.

So where does conditioning come in? It is important to be in shape in your everyday life and being in better shape may deter a criminal but in most cases it really isn’t that important in order to survive a typical act of criminal violence. If you want to put your hands up and get into a fight with someone in a ring then being physically strong and in good aerobic and anaerobic shape would be a necessity because you would be competing in an athletic endeavor. If you’re engaging in mutual combat outside of a ring then it comes down to causing injury which can happen very quickly and the situation is not necessarily athletic anymore. In this situation the outcome comes down to pure violent intent, luck, and experience more than any form of anaerobic or aerobic conditioning.

Here is an example of an actual instance of criminal violence: you’re walking down the sidewalk with the street on your right side when suddenly you see a car pull up next to you. A man leans out the window and says, “Hey, do you know where the nearest gas station is?”

You stop for a second to think and you notice the guy opening his door and stepping out of the car. You stop and point up the street and you barely notice that he has taken a few steps towards you. He turns in the direction that you’re pointing and asks a question and you instinctively look and point in that direction when suddenly he takes another step forwards and sucker punches you in the face. You stumble back and bring your arms up to protect your face but he grabs you and throws another four or five quick punches into your head and you drop to your knees. He pushes you over and goes through your pockets taking your wallet before he jumps back in his car and drives away.

In this example that repeats itself over and over thousands of times a day conditioning isn’t really a factor for either one of you. Now if you turn and started to run as soon as he got out of the car then you would have the issue or aerobic conditioning, granted in this particular situation it is very unlikely he would have chased you.

Let’s play that situation out differently, this time instead of sucker punching you and then overwhelming you, when he distracts you this time he instead steps forward and grabs you by the shirt with his left hand and puts a knife to your throat with his right hand, pulling you forward and growling, “Give me your @&*$# wallet!”

Thinking you might be killed you place your left hand on his right elbow and rotate your body slightly clockwise as you push his elbow into his body and pin it against his chest to remove the knife from your throat. You then step into him with your left foot and drive your right fist into his throat following all the way through, knocking him backwards about 4 feet. As you get ready to follow up with a kick to the groin he drops to his knees and lies down on his back making a strange gurgling sound as he grabs his throat and tries to breathe. Since it is clear he is no longer a threat you turn to run to someplace safe so you can call the police.

That is a realistic situation that also plays itself out, in one way or another, all over the country and how much conditioning did it require? The simple truth is that while instances of mutual combat can last several minutes or longer, acts of actual criminal violence are usually over in 10 seconds or less. Criminals are predators and don’t want a fight.

If a lion stalks a gazelle and it detects her (females do most of the hunting) and runs away she won’t chase it because she knows she won’t catch it. However, if after she successfully stalks it and closes the distance she springs out and charges it and it turns and runs, there is a very short window when she will keep chasing it. The second she feels that she can’t catch it she stops running and starts looking for another prey. Criminals are the same way; they don’t want to fight with someone and most will only expand a little bit of energy before giving up and going after someone else.

Most of the guys I knew when I was younger that got in fights and won weren’t well conditioned at all, they were just big and aggressive. They hit first and they hit often and when they weren’t hitting someone whey were sitting on the couch watching TV.

Conditioning is great and I highly recommend it; it will only make you more effective and give you more options in a violent situation. However, as the level of violence goes up the length of the encounter typically goes down and so does and so does a person’s need to be aerobically fit.

The question then becomes what kind of conditioning is most effective. Mental training is very important and the best way to do that is to visualize yourself successfully defending yourself in a life or death situation. Your body parts should also be conditioned to sustain impact without being injured, and the best tool for that is makiwara. Over time your bones will sustain small fractures and repair itself causing the bones involved in striking to get thicker and harder, able to sustain more and more impact and letting you hit harder and harder.

When the topic of conditioning comes up most people think of cardiovascular conditioning and that is also important. The problem with most people who train to “fight” is that they focus on aerobic conditioning. You see boxers, wrestlers, and wrestleboxers out there jogging and jumping rope getting themselves in great shape but then they become winded after just two or three rounds. Why is that? Aerobic conditioning trains your body for sustained repetitive motion but fighting is not repetitive. Fighting contains random and chaotic movements; you may throw 4 punches followed by 2 kicks, followed by hopping around for a few minutes, and then a minute or two of grappling. Nothing in a typical fight is about sustained repetitive motions, rather it takes place in small but very aggressive bursts.

To prepare your cardiovascular system for the random movements of a fight you should do aerobic workouts but you should focus most of your training on anaerobic conditioning. To a large degree, mastering offense is about mastering your ability to do the most “work” in small extremely aggressive bursts over and over. How do you train this? Simply start with a heavy bag and go all out striking the bag non-stop for 20 seconds. Focus on aggressiveness and overall intensity. Take 20 seconds to rest and do it again. Build up until you can go all out for 2 full minutes taking only about 30 seconds break in between. Take it into the ring and go all out with your partner for a full 2 minutes non-stop and do the same thing. If you can do this, you will have little problem overwhelming your opponent.

Monday, January 28, 2013

My “Master Teaching”, the Reality of Guns, and Why Chad Tatum Isn’t Bangable

By Matthew Schafer
copyriht 2013, All Rights Reserved

I have long known that I’m rather opinionated; I have no problem with that as I believe it is how you go about being opinionated that determines whether or not you become one of those people that walk down the street and have others grimace and say, “Shit, here comes that guy.” I’m actually quite careful about expressing my opinions because I learned early on that most people couldn’t care less what you have to say. Therefore, I largely limit the expressing of my opinions to my wife and through written word. I feel this is acceptable because regardless of what I write people have to voluntarily read it so if they don’t want to hear my opinions they just don’t read what I write, and my wife, well...she kind of has to listen to me because that’s the way it works, she’s trapped.

My wife, Mary, listens to my opinions and she either finds them interesting and it lead to a discussion, disagrees with me to a large part which also leads to a discussion, or she is disinterested but like the dutiful wife she is she sits graciously and pretends to listen all the while in her head she contemplates things like what character from the movie “Magic Mike” is the most bangable. The only opinion I have about this topic is that no one named “Tatum” can be bangable; say “Tatum” to yourself a few times...I bet each time you say it, it becomes less appealing. The word makes me think of either a potato gum or a gum that comes from your taint. It’s like going through the school lunch line and seeing the lunch ladies in the kitchen drop fistfuls of warm tater tots down the back of their pants and then do deep squats until the potatoes are smashed together between their underwear and bare oversized buttocks forming a potato paste that’s drenched in ass sweat. Just as you’re about to vomit the person next to you says, “Really? Tatum again? I have yet to get a scoop of Tatum without at least one hair in it!”

Anyway, I want to talk about the actual benefits and the reality of guns. (That’s right, it seems like my segue from potatoes covered in ass sweat to a hot topic like firearms is the simple and solitary word “anyway”) First, it really bothers me when people make the use of firearms special. Every time I hear the terms “gun violence,” “gun crime,” or “gun deaths” it is like nails scratching on a chalkboard. Why do these terms exist? Why don’t people just say “violence,” “crime,” and “deaths?” Why include the word “gun” as if it makes the crime special or unique.

There needs to be a distinction between violence and criminal violence, crime and violent crime, but why is there a distinction between violence that involves guns and violence that doesn’t? As I’ve mentioned numerous times more people in the US are killed with baseball bats than any other weapon so why don’t we say “baseball bat violence”, “baseball bat crime”, and “baseball bat related deaths?”

When you get right down to it there are three main classifications of weapons: 1.) impact weapons like a bat or a stick, 2.) edged weapons like a knife, razor, or broken bottle, and 3.) projectile weapons like a bullet, arrow, or missile. (there is also chemical and biological weapons but that is off topic) In the US more people are attacked with and killed with edged weapons then bullets so why aren’t edged weapons special? To me it makes no sense to make guns special and it only serves to single them out and put the connection in people’s minds that guns equal violence, crime, and murder.

That is a very important point. Our brains work largely on associations, which mean that it likes to connect something new to something old and it likes to connect things with other things in general. If I say the word “General” and ask you to give me another word there is a good chance that you’ll say “Motors.” Why, because people often see the name General Motors and a connection in the brain builds between the two worlds (you could also have said “electric” or several other things, that isn’t the point) If I show two words together constantly you will start to think of one when you think of the other. So, if someone says “gun” then there is a good chance that violence, crime, and/or death also pops up in your mind, often without you knowing it. It works the other way too, if you say “crime” there is a good chance somewhere in your mind the word “gun” also comes up. The human brain is quite easy to program and marketers use this all the time to tie things together like beer with sex, the act of being beautiful with certain brands of makeup products, or certain clothes with a high level of athletic ability.

In terms of causing injury there are four main benefits of having a gun. First, if I have a gun I can cause injury from a greater distance; without a gun, if I want to injure someone that is on the other side of the road I have to walk over there first and get them at a close distance so they are in my “work area.” However, if I have a gun and I can effectively use it then I can stand where I am, fire across the road, and get my injuries from there.

Second, it is a labor saving device. You don’t need a gun to cause injuries, in fact every single injury that a gun can cause you can cause without one, by simply throwing the person on the ground and repeatedly stomping on them. The reason getting shot stops people and sometimes kills people is because the bullet injures the central nervous system (the spine, brain stem, or the brain) so the body cannot communicate with itself and it shuts down and/or the bullet tears a hole and causes internal bleeding which, if left untreated for long enough, can cause loss of consciousness and death.

So, if you come home and find someone about to rape your spouse (men do get rapped) you may decide that in order to stop the rapist you want to puncture their liver, crack their ribs, create massive internal bleeding, and then reassess the situation. If you walk over and throw them on the ground and start stomping on them you might be able to accomplish that in 10 seconds or less, but if you had a labor saving device like a baseball bat you might be able to cause that 2 seconds, and if you had a firearm you might be able to cause that in less than one second (maybe, bullets are very unpredictable). You are very capable to causing the same injures but the firearm lets you get inside their body faster than you can with your bare hands.

The third benefit is it allows you to engage multiple threats rapidly. If you have a gun and four attackers you can fire at them in rapid succession to hopefully injure all of them quickly. This does take a bit of training and hopefully you have a semi-automatic handgun with 15 rounds (or better yet a rifle with a 30 round magazine) instead of a 6 shot revolver because even if you don’t miss you will most likely have to put several rounds in each person (like the woman that recently shot an intruder in her home while protecting her two daughters, she got lucky because after shooting at him 6 times not only did the guy not drop dead but she got lucky because he got scared, ran to his car, and drove away even though he had 5 bullet holes in his head, neck, and shoulders). You can certainly engage the same four attackers with your bare hands and prevail but it will requires far more training. It is far easier and safer to keep your distance and engage them with a firearm or a non-lethal weapon like pepper spray (not mace).

The fourth benefit to a firearm is it requires less intent to do the same amount of work (get your injuries). In most altercations is it the intent to cause injury or death that tips the scales either in your favor or out of your favor. America is quite unique because here where a private citizen can own a gun and be as well armed as the criminal element it is only, in most cases, intent that gives the criminal their advantage. The criminal quite often has no special training and no special...anything really, but what they do have in the intent to grab you by the throat and squeeze until the last drop of life leaves your body. The average citizen doesn’t possess that and so they just stand there and do nothing while they are murdered.

Since most people lack the basic and proper intent to cause injury to their fellow man in extreme situations they have three options: 1.) they can do nothing and end up being an accomplice in their own murder, 2.) they can come to people like me learn it (it is a perfectly learnable skill and has nothing to do with “right” or “wrong” and won’t make you a more aggressive person in your everyday life) so now they respond to the murder’s intent with their own intent and now instead of just standing and being strangled to death they might do something like simply reaching overtop their grip and easily pulling the hands of their throat (it’s simple physics and very easy), breaking their jaw with an elbow, breaking their wrist, dislocating their shoulder, and then looking around to reevaluate the situation, see if you have to do more, and if there are more threats in the area; or 3.) they can buy a gun and get properly trained so instead of doing all that physical stuff they can just fish out their gun and pull the trigger a few times (and pray because it is rarely that easy).

A gun reduces the amount of intent a person needs to have, and this is easier on most people both physically and mentally. It requires a lot of intent to be confronted by a violent criminal who is most likely bigger and stronger than you are and who is coming at you with murderous intent and to be able to look back at him and see his throat, his eyes, his neck, his knee, his groin, his...whatever...and say to yourself, “Ok, I don’t care what this guy plans to do to me, because THAT belongs to me!” and then step in and make your entire world consist of nothing but breaking that one thing that you’ve chosen, and once you’ve broken that and this guy is screaming or laying on the ground clutching a body part you do that over all over again and as often as necessary to make sure that that violent criminal is no longer physically able to harm you. Unpleasant at that is, that is what it takes to save your life. Even if you have a gun it may malfunction, you might be out of ammunition, or whatever the case may be, guns don’t always work or may be not be readily available and that is why competence in hand-to-hand combat is paramount.

If I could boil all my teachings down, if I could distill the last 26 years of my life into one master teaching that would save people's lives it would be this: intent is the heart of hand-to-hand combat; if you have sitting within you the intent to cause serious injury to another living thing and perhaps kill it if you ever needed to, to save your life or the life of someone else, then you’re on an equal playing field with the criminal element and every altercation you go into starts with a 50/50 chance of you coming out alive. However, if you lack that you are at a huge disadvantage and in any altercation you get in with a violent criminal you probably have less than a 5% chance, and I hope you’re not cornered in a room because you’re best bet at that point it start running as fast as you can and hope for the best. (Luckily if someone pulls a gun on you and you turn and run 95% of the time they won’t try to shoot you and if you do shoot at you they probably won’t hit you and if they do statistically you have a 97% chance of surviving, provided you’re only shot once) An instructor of mine once told me that if we could just bring in a big 50 gallon drum of intent and pump it into us he could simply hand us a diploma and send us all home.

It takes a lot of intent and training to be confronted by a violent criminal and then instead of cowering in fear like he expects you to do, you step in, grab his wrist as hard as you can, and then use your body weight to snap it like a twig. It requires little training or intent to pull a trigger which is why firearms are so useful and attractive for self-defense.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that gun owners shouldn’t have training and intent because having training and intent will only make you more effective at using your firearm and more efficient at handling it and the real experts have lots of all of the above, but from a purely physical standpoint someone with no training and very little intent could still pull a trigger. Perhaps that person with little intent that pulls the trigger is a violent thug or maybe it is a 76 year old grandmother whose physical limitations prevent much anything beyond pulling a trigger to protect her from some thug who has just broken open her front door.

When you get down to it I guess people preface “violence,” “crime,” and “death” with the word “gun” because it reflects their own fear. Although most people probably can’t articulate it the way I did, most people realize the radically lower amount of intent that it takes to pull a trigger and that scares them. What I’ve found over the years is that anti-gun people are usually scared of the idea of themselves owning a gun. If you ask them to describe why sooner or later it comes back to them not feeling they could handle the responsibility of owning or even handling a gun and because that scares them they project that fear to everyone else and therefore they’re scared of other people having the responsibility of owning or even handling a gun. After all, if it is too much for them then surely the person down the street couldn’t handle it either.

Question an anti-gun person, or perhaps that isn’t fair, so lets say a person who only thinks guns themselves, in inanimate objects that they are, are very dangerous so only certain people should own (not talking about criminals and the mentally handicapped) and sooner or later pretty much everyone will talk about not wanting a gun in their own hands. They often picture an evil gun sitting in their innocent hand and they’re instantly uncomfortable because they don’t want the responsibility of that perceived power a firearm offers them. They want that perceived power away from them because it is too much so they want to send it out of their hands, out of their homes, their neighborhoods, and even out of the hands of a responsible gun owner.

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that most people who are anti-gun are really anti-gun because they fear the perceived power and responsibility that they would have if they owned a gun and so they don’t want one and don’t want anyone else to have one either. The good news is that this really boils down to a lack of education and training; I have also seen that most people that are properly introduced to firearms and are educated and trained in their use not only lose their fear but find their prior fear kind of silly. Once you are properly trained and educated you come to the realization that there isn’t too much difference between a gun and a stapler. Both are tools that serve a specific purpose, operate in a somewhat similar manner, and have no free will of their own.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Case For Assault Rifles and Why We Need Them

By Matthew Schafer
All Rights Reserved

Some people ask why the average citizen needs a rifle that can carry over 100 round clips and shoot 1000 rounds a minute, and those kinds of people should be told to go sit down while the adults are speaking because there isn’t anything about that that is actually correct. I understand that is insulting but this is a serious issue so if you’re not really informed you can’t really contribute in a positive manner. If you think the average citizen can go to a gun store and buy a weapon than can do what I just described, and if you think that that is what the currently proposed assault weapons ban is about, then you’re simply not informed.

FDR banned the private ownership of assault rifles nearly 80 years ago and they are still illegal today, this fact should be known to everyone. What the public has available to them today are not machine guns or even actual assault rifles, they are semi-automatic rifles that have adopted many of the cosmetic features of actual assault rifles. The cosmetic features that our rifles today have adopted make the weapon more ergonomic and more comfortable to use and they make it more convenient to operate. Many of the features actually make the weapon safer to own, but what none of them do is make the weapon more lethal.

Before I get into specifics, I want to point out that studies show that when “assault weapons” were banned in 1994 it had ZERO effect on crime! Not only that, when the ban expired in 2003 and people could legally own these weapons again crime when DOWN, not up. In fact, violent crime has gone down 50% in the last 20 years resulting in this being the most peaceful time in human history.

That’s right. Human beings on this planet have never been safer than they are right now. Some may say, “What about mass shootings? We have been hearing a lot about those lately.” Mass killings are a result of mentally unstable people existing on this planet and it is unfortunate but they will always happen. However, those too are at an all-time low. Mass killings in America peaked in 1929 and with one exception they have been decreasing ever since.

Economist John Lott is widely regarded as the foremost expert on the subject of violent crime and firearms. Years ago after he began his study of the subject he authored a book called “More Guns, Less Crime” and this book, now in its third edition, is the most precise and involved study of violent crime and firearm use in the world. This book does not contain any opinions but rather contains real data and statistics that show one thing: when gun ownership goes up violent crime goes down.

The FBI, which has studied this since its creation, has been telling us the same thing. The ONLY thing violent criminals fear is getting injured or killed, and if they know that citizens in an area are likely to be armed they will stay away from that area. Largely as a result of the work of John Lott the majority of US states passed laws allowing private citizens to obtain a license to carry firearms concealed upon their person and the result surprised many. When the bill was purposed many shouted from the rooftops that allowing people to walk around with guns would result in the streets turning into bloodbaths, violent crime would skyrocket, and society would turn into a version of the movie “The Road Warrior.” What happened was exactly the opposite; violent crime rates dropped, gun violence dropped, and communities became safer.

On the subject of concealed carry, called “right-to-carry,” John Lott said, “All the results indicate that violent crime falls after right-to-carry laws are passed …. There is a large, statistically significant drop in murder rates across all specifications. The before-and-after average comparison implies that right-to-carry laws reduce murder by roughly 20 percent. In all cases, right-to-carry laws cause the trends in murder, rape, and robbery rates to fall.”

So, how did this whole witch-hunt start? Those uneducated about firearms noticed in the 1980’s that legal and publically available rifles were starting to look like military style rifles (adopting cosmetic features) and the mistake was made that their local gun store was selling fully-automatic assault weapons. Unfortunately, a large group of Americans who have more than likely never handled a firearm let alone fired one and have received all of their firearms training from TV shows and movies didn’t understand the difference and decided that modern semi-automatic rifles look too scary and they need to be made illegal.

I am not going to make an argument that we need assault rifles because that is a moot point, assault rifles have been illegal for nearly 80 years, but I am going to make an argument for why we need modern semi-automatic rifles.

My first argument is the very simplistic: why wouldn’t we need modern semi-automatic rifles? The only difference to the average person between a semi-automatic rifle and a bolt action rifle is you can carry a few more rounds and you can fire quicker. That is it. It is not some godless killing is just a rifle. What I have found is that most people don’t understand what an assault rifle is and they are confused about its capabilities.

The truth is that if you go to the gun store and by a .223 caliber rifle is may have a cool sounding name like a “Bushmaster AR15” and it may look like the military M4 assault rifle but it is not. Most states have laws that limit magazine (what people incorrectly call a “clip”) capacity to 10 rounds or less (you can get higher capacity but depending on your state it may not be legal) while the M4 assault rifle can carry 20 rounds to over 100 rounds depending on how it is fed. The M4 can shoot in bursts (it will fire 3 to 5 rounds every time you pull the trigger) and it can often fire on fully-automatic (it will keep firing as long as the trigger is depressed and there are rounds in the magazine). The .223 you bought at your local gun store can legally hold about 10 rounds and can only fire once every time you pull the trigger, because it is a rifle…that is all it is, it’s not a machine gun.

Government compiled statistics show that semi-automatic rifles, while scary looking, are used in less than 1% off all crime in the US. So, what are we getting bent out of shape about? Even if you just look at mass shootings like what happened at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook you’ll see that semi-automatic rifles are rarely used. Most mass shootings are accomplished with handguns and shotguns.

The simple truth is that semi-automatic rifles are not very attractive for the criminal element. Why? First, why get a semi-automatic rifle when you can get an actual assault rifle? Criminals don't’ get their guns legally and they can get their hands on actual fully-automatic assault rifles and submachine guns so why would they bother will semi-automatic weapons?

Second, they are more expensive. Most criminals either get their firearms by stealing them or they buy them from other criminals for extremely low prices; for example, a criminal might sell you a revolver for $100, a semi-automatic handgun for $250, a shotgun for $150, and then a semi-automatic rifle for $800. Most criminals will stick with the handguns and shotguns every day of the week and statistics prove it.

Third, they’re complicated to use. Most firearm experts would consider the average police officer barely proficient with their weapon so how skilled do you think the average criminal is? Most criminals fire their weapons rarely if ever, they instead use them to intimidate their victims. Criminals are often great at violence but have little to no training. The most common firearm used by criminals is a revolver (Smith & Wesson .38 to be exact) and that is because they are cheap, easy to use, and easy to operate. In a semi-automatic weapon there are different levers and such to manipulate and if your gun jams you have to stop and manually clear it, but in a revolver you just put your rounds in and keep pulling the trigger and that is all there is to it. Criminals don’t train and most of them don’t know to properly shoot a gun so a semi-automatic rifle is the last thing they would want.

Fourth, they are hard to conceal. If you’re going to rob someone on the street or hold up a liquor store you’re not going to be walking around with a rifle for everyone to see. Criminals rarely use any kind of rifle.

So, why should the public have access to semi-automatic rifles that happen to have a cosmetic appearance similar to military issue assault weapons, other than the fact that there isn’t really a good reason to take them away? People need them for their own defense. It is as simple as that.

It is estimated that every year 2.45 million crimes are stopped by private citizens who own guns. Statistics also show that whenever there's a spike in guns sales there is almost always a sharp decline in gun related crime. We’ve seen over and over that a well-armed public equals lower crime and safer streets; where in America is there the highest concentration of guns? Chicago. What major city in America has the lowest number of gun violence? You guessed it, Chicago.

We’ve seen, over and over, what happens when the general public is denied access to firearms, just look at what happened in Australia; the Australian government had to make home invasions illegal because when people had guns they never happened but as soon as the public was disarmed they happened in epidemic proportions and prosecutors didn’t know how to charge the perpetrators.

Why do we specifically want a modern semi-automatic rifle for personal defense? A small portion is principle because there is no logic in taking away guns that just look scary; however, the main argument is because they are a better more effective weapon than a handgun. I can defend my family better with a semi-automatic rifle than I can with a handgun. It is a better weapon and it is as simple as that.

My family is simply safer with a semi-automatic rifle in the house then they are without one. Hopefully nothing bad ever happens to my family and hopefully I will never have to pull a gun, let alone a trigger, with the intent of taking a life but if I have to I want to have the most effective weapon possible. I have a .38 revolver in my bedroom but in all honesty I wouldn’t go to that weapon if someone was trying to break into home or harm my family because that gun isn’t a very effective self-defense weapon. It is underpowered and not very accurate. When you shoot a criminal that is out to harm you or your family you want to shoot them and stop them right away and there have been criminals shot numerous times with a .38 and not even realized they had been shot. A shotgun would be better but I wouldn’t have the control and accuracy I’d have if I got out a semi-automatic rifle.

A major problem is that often people have been brainwashed by Hollywood and they don’t understand what it takes to put someone down. On average you will have to shoot someone 3 to 4 times in the torso to make them stop and you just might have to shoot them 5 or more times. There are police officers who have had to shoot suspects 10 or 15 times to stop them, and there have been soldiers who have had to shoot enemy combatants over 20 times (with actual assault rifles) to stop them. People just don’t fall down dead when they get shot, you might just have to put 10 or 15 bullets in someone to save your life so why not do that with the most effective weapon possible?

Consider this last argument: if the new “assault weapon” ban passes it will ban law abiding citizens from possessing many semi-automatic rifles and handguns as well (while criminals are largely unaffected because they don’t get their guns from a gun store) and those that already possess them will be allowed to keep them but they will have to be registered under the “Federal Firearms Acts” (FFA). Every single weapon will go through a thorough registration so the government will know exactly what you have in your home. The problems with this are, first, you cannot take those weapons across state lines without permission from the government which currently can take up to 4 months. If millions of weapons were added the strain on the government would be so great it could 9 or 10 months to get approval. So, if you wanted to go to another state to visit relatives (for example) but your concealed carry handgun fell under this stupid ban you can’t just go, you might have to wait 10 months or more until you can do get permission to do something as inane as that. It is absolutely ridiculous to have to plan your travels perhaps a year out in advance.

Second, historically every time a government has required mass registration of firearms a disarming of the public has followed...every time in every country. What will most likely happen if this ban passes is those firearms will be registered, and then nothing will change because there is no logic to this ban and these weapons are not being used by criminals, just like nothing changed under the last ban in 1994, and sooner or later another mass shooting will happen. When the next mass shooting happens, or maybe one or two beyond that, they will say it since things aren’t changing they need to confiscate our registered firearms and those weapons will be taken away. After disarming the public to that degree it won’t be hard to keep going and in 50 years criminals will be running around with actual assault rifles and the general public will only be allowed .22 caliber single shot rifles to defend themselves with. This is not the smart direction to go in or the direction our founding fathers would have approved of.

Bottom line, the only people buying up and using semi-automatic rifles are law abiding citizens. Criminals don’t want them, especially when they can get their hands on the real thing, so it is only responsible law abiding citizens that will suffer if we take them away.