Although many Taekwondo dojangs do not teach the use of weapons, weapons are still an integral part of any martial art. This weapons topic discusses traditional martial arts weapons and contemporary street weapons, other than firearms or explosives. Weapons may be classified as defensive or offensive. A defensive weapon is used primarily for defense against an attack. It is not intended to harm the attacker seriously; rather, it is intended to discourage further attack. An offensive weapon may be used for defensive purposes but it is used with the intent to harm the attacker seriously to discourage further attack or to render the attacker unable to continue the attack.
Weapons training is a specialized area of training that is most appropriately taught after basic empty hand skills are mastered. Since the body and mind move and control the weapon, it is appropriate first to have good coordination. Although it is possible to develop the body and learn weapon usage simultaneously, as some systems such as Escrima and Kali do, it is easier to develop basic body coordination first and then add weapons training.
Weapons training is important for several reasons
- It preserves a rich history of combat prior to the advent of modern firearms
- It develops the body and mind in ways empty hand training alone does not.
- It teaches how to defend against weapons (blade, club, etc.).
- It is much more flowing in its movements. In a series of Taekwondo or karate techniques, a pause may occur. You do not have this when you have a weapon that is usually in constant motion.
- It increases coordination, especially eye-hand coordination. It also teaches you to trust your body, allowing it to do as it has been trained.
- Weapon techniques may be used in self-defense. You may not use the exact weapon, but the training learned may be transformed into use with common objects. A golf club may be used instead of a bo or a short stick nay be used as a sai.
In many cultures, prior to firearms, knowledge of a weapon was part of an educated man's learning. In other cultures, only certain classes of people learned a specific weapon. For example, in Japan, only the Samurai class was permitted to carry the Katana. In China, scholarly gentlemen tended to carry the "jian" (saber) whereas soldiers tended to carry the "dan dao" (single broadsword). Preserving this history and knowledge of the culture is important. One remembers something much better after doing it than after merely reading about it.
From a more practical standpoint, many weapons have some weight to them (at least the original steel ones did, unlike some modern day "wu shu weapons") and practice with them develops the body in a way that empty hand work alone cannot. Some weapons develop certain parts of the body more extensively than others. For example, the staff and spear develop the waist and legs. The arms alone are not sufficient to power these long weapons.
Because many weapons move at greater velocities than the body alone, eye-hand reflexes and coordination are developed to a greater extent than would be possible with empty hand training alone. This is one of the benefits of two-person weapons forms where students must react to weapons coming toward them. The psychological toughness of dealing with weapons transfers to empty hand situations. If one can face a weapon without fear, fists and feet do not seem very threatening.
The techniques used in many classical weapons forms often translate directly to objects that may be available for use in a self-defense situation. A belt or dog leash may be used like a chain whip or rope dart. A stick or broom may be used like a sword, a pair of scissors like a dagger, etc. Actually, many classical weapons were originally tools that were adapted to combat.
Many benefits may be gained from training with martial arts weapons; however, when it comes to self-defense, the bottom line is: the best weapon is a firearm. If you live in a state that has concealed carry permits and you qualify for one, the best defensive weapon is to carry a concealed, readily accessible semi-automatic pistol.
Most karate weapons are of Okinawan origin. A common belief is that Okinawan kobudo developed as a result of the Okinawan samurai being stripped of their weapons at two different points in their history; however, this belief is based upon misconceptions.
The first time Okinawan samurai weapons were supposedly confiscated was during the reign of King Shoshin (1477-1526 AD). While documents show that Shoshin ordered his provincial lords, or aji, to live near his Shuri castle, it is no longer believe that he totally disarmed his ruling class. A famous stone monument, the Momo Urasoe Ran Kan No Mei, which is inscribed with the highlights of Shoshin's reign, describes Shoshin seizing the aji's swords, and how he amassed a supply of weapons in a warehouse near Shuri castle. Historians now believe Shoshin was building an armory to protect his ports and prepare for any potential invasion by wako, or pirates, not that he was stripping the samurai or the general population of their weaponry.
The second time Okinawan samurai were purportedly disarmed was after the Satsuma invasion of 1609 AD. However, documents describe that, while the Satsuma outlawed the ownership and sale of firearms, all the samurai of the Pechin class and above were allowed to keep family firearms. Documents show that in 1613 the Satsuma issued permits to the samurai to allow them to travel with their personal swords (tachi and wakizashi) to the smiths and polishers in Kagushima, Japan for maintenance and repair. It appears that, while there were restrictions on carrying weapons in public, the weapons were not confiscated.
The second time Okinawan samurai were purportedly disarmed was after the Satsuma invasion of 1609 AD. However, documents describe that, while the Satsuma outlawed the ownership and sale of firearms, all the samurai of the Pechin class and above were allowed to keep family firearms. Documents show that in 1613 the Satsuma issued permits to the samurai to allow them to travel with their personal swords (tachi and wakizashi) to the smiths and polishers in Kagushima, Japan for maintenance and repair. It appears that, while there were restrictions on carrying weapons in public, the weapons were not confiscated. Since there were restrictions on carrying weapons in public, the Okinawans relied on "kakushi buki" or the practice of concealed weapons, such as the sai and nunchaku, for self-defense.
The basic rules for self-defense against any weapon attack (firearms included) must be executed in the order listed:
- Clear your body from the weapon's line of fire or angle of attack
- Stabilize and control the weapon
- Disarm the weapon
- Neutralize the attacker
Even the best Taekwondo practitioner is vulnerable to the weakest weapon wielder. When defending against a weapon, prepare to be injured. Your goal is to minimize your injuries before you gain control of the situation.
Rules for Weapons
Be proficient with the weapon. Whichever weapon you carry, use must be proficient with it. It you are not proficient with a weapon, leave it at home. Some weapons are as dangerous to the user as they are to the target of the weapon. In the case of firearms, many people are shot each year from accidental discharges and "unloaded" weapons.
Carry the weapon. A weapon is of no use to you unless it is readily available, and even then, it must be in your hand for you to use it.
Weapons laws. There are special state and federal laws pertaining to weapons, carrying weapons, and using weapons. If you carry a weapon, you must know about these laws, especially those in your city, town, county, and state.
A weapon is a merely a tool. In itself, a weapon is merely an inanimate object, incapable of taking action by itself. What the weapon is used for and how it used are the responsibility of the person using the weapon.
Potential weapons are all around us. Be aware of objects in your surroundings and their possible usage as a defensive weapon for yourself or as an offensive weapon that may be used by an attacker. Following are some potential weapons that may be found in our everyday surroundings:
- Ash Tray: used as a striking weapon or the contents may be thrown into the face of an attacker.
- Coat: throw as a distraction, use for choking, use to wrap around attackers arms or legs, use as a cloak to ward off attacks, or wrap around arm to fend off knife attacks.
- Drink, throw it into attacker's eyes.
- Pool Cues: best used for thrusting attacks or defending. Pool balls may also be used.
- Napkin holders, Salt & Pepper Shakers, Sugar bowls, etc. use for clubbing or throw contents into attacker's face.
- Club Wheel Lock: use as a club or as a substitute tonfa.
- Flashlight: use long Maglite as a club. Mini Maglite may be used as a yawara.
- Jumper Cables: use for choking techniques.
- De-Icer/WD-40/Etc: spray into attacker's face or use as an impact weapon.
- Tools: use as clubbing or thrusting weapons.
- Coins: forcibly throw into attacker's face.
- Keys: use to thrust or rake at soft tissue targets or pressure points
- Scarf: use for choking or as a defensive weapon.
- Wallet: throw as a distraction before escaping.
- Pen/Comb: use to thrust at soft tissue targets.
- Umbrella: used for thrusting attacks or to assist with locks.
Be aware of other potential weapons in your environment, and how you, or an opponent, may use them.
Why carry a defensive weapon
- Rape occurs every 5 minutes
- 1 out of 3 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime
- Assault occurs every 10 seconds R
- Robbery occurs every 46 seconds
- 1 in 5 families will be a victim of crime each year
- 4.5 million dog attacks occur each year
Since no weapon is useful unless you have access to it, any useful weapon must be one that is legal to carry. All states except Illinois have some law permitting concealed carry. The ability to gain a permit/license is very restricted in some states (New York, New Jersey), less restricted in others (Utah, Florida), and minimally so in others still (Alaska, Vermont). Although a firearm is the ultimate intimidator, many people do not want to deal with a firearm. I think that next in line is a double-edged fighting knife. People seem to have an instinctive fear of knives, and, if used properly, they are highly effective. If a knife meets length limitations and not an automatic type knife, it may be legally carried in most states. After firearms and knifes, I think any martial art weapon whose techniques may easily be applied to common objects a person may be carrying or pick up from his or her surroundings would be a good choice.
Echanis, M. D. (1977). Knife Self-Defense For Combat. Burbank, CA: Ohara Publications.
Freeman, C. T. (2001). Weapons Training.