You’ve got a hammer, but everything isn’t a nail

Michael Bane and Michael Janich discuss an important construct in self-defense: that one solution isn’t always the appropriate answer.

Can’t embed the 5 minute video… you just have to click the above to watch it.

I like Janich and he speaks a lot of truth here. I’ve dealt with two realms of “self-defense” training: guns, and empty hand martial arts. In the past and even today, people tend to choose one or the other. As well, many schools tend to only teach one or the other, tho thankfully that’s improving in recent years.

The reality is, like Janich points out, if you have a gun that’s great but that is not the appropriate nor possible response in all possible situations. It doesn’t mean you need to become a black belt in some deadly art, but having more responses programmed in, from simple verbal commands, to escapes, to perhaps basic empty-hand strikes can be a useful thing to allow you to respond appropriately to what’s presented. Insights Training Center is a good place for this sort of integrated methodology. If you want to go a more traditional route, consider Filipino arts, like Pekiti Tirsia Kali (in Austin, check out Leslie Buck).

On the other side, a lot of people take empty hand training but won’t progress to the level of firearms. Well, many traditional martial arts will teach weaponry, but it’s interesting how much of that ends up being demonstration and never application. Granted, it’s difficult to apply sword or nunchaku in a modern context, but what’s the point in learning a weapon if you do not know how to actually fight with it? However, I’d argue to move beyond those weapons because technology has evolved (else we’d all be using clay tablets and not iPad’s) and firearms are the modern sword. Empty hand skills can take you far, but not far enough because I’m sorry… a 5’4″ 95# woman no matter how skilled is just going to have a tough time against a 6’6″ 275# strong man hell-bent on raping her. A gun is a force equalizer.

I know some argue against the notion of “another tool in the toolbox” because then you start to collect a zillion tools and won’t know how to deploy anything. This is true. But there’s a balance point, and it starts by having to acquire more tools. Let’s be literal with the notion of toolbox. If the only thing you have in your toolbox is a hammer, yes everything looks like a nail. You’ll pound screws, if you need a hole in something you’ll just have to whack the hammer through it, if you need to measure something it will be “3 hammers long”, and so on. Well sure that might work, but it’s not very efficient and could cause collateral damage. That’s why you have to acquire more tools for your toolbox: to have a screwdriver, to have a drill, to have a tape measure. There are enough basic tools that one needs in order to have a complete toolbox. The problem starts to arise when you start to acquire too many tape measures… how many rulers does one need? For me, a simple 25′ tape measure is fine and covers all my needs. But a professional carpenter might want a carpenters ruler. Most people only need a claw hammer, but the handyman might also have a drywall hammer, and the roofer a roofing hammer.

So most people don’t need a taser and handcuffs, but a police officer does. A bouncer at a nightclub needs a lot of empty hand arrest and control techniques, as well as good verbal skills. So you can see, toolbox contents, literal or figurative, can vary from person to person and situation to situation. What matters in this self-defense context is that you can go too far. Bragging about having 3608 techniques means… what? Consider Bruce Lee: “Take what is useful and discard the rest”. Or Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”  Whether you listen to the martial artist or the writer, they are both saying that it’s about stripping away, but first you must have something to strip away. If all you have is a hammer, you have nothing to strip away. If you have 3608 techniques, you have a lot you can strip away. In the journey of life, we start with nothing and acquire as we go along. This is the way it has to be, because how else can we find what is useful? How else can we discover what we need? How else can we know what to discard if we’ve never acquired it in the first place? The key, however, is to not just collect, but ensure you periodically review and discard the useless so your collection is meaningful. So, “another tool in the toolbox” is good, but only if it’s useful to you. If all you have is a hammer, it should be because you had an entire hardware store and were able to discard everything else.

One thought on “You’ve got a hammer, but everything isn’t a nail

  1. Thanks for the read! must say that things are starting to change drastically, back in school it was very pratical, nowadays its all health and safety!

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