Austin women, and self-defense

Local TV station KEYE did a good report in response to a couple sexual assaults that happened on the south side of town.

In the report, they interviewed Tina Maldonado, part of A Girl and A Gun woman’s shooting league, and graduate of numerous KR Training courses (disclosure: I’m an instructor at KR Training)

“We’re all responsible for our own self-defense,” said Maldonado. AGAG Club helps teach women safe and accurate shooting but also support, self-reliance and friendship. You can find a local chapter or learn more at

Maldonado says they may be ready to use a gun, but are taught to stay alert and avoid danger first. “You’re your best protection,” said Maldonado.

Another good snippet from the article:

Moy Yat Kung Fu Academy teaches free self-defense. It is different than martial arts. It is a class based on intelligent movement and intelligent choices. “Once you have to attack, once you feel you have to attack, there are no good options. You have to attack with as much aggression as you can in order to survive,” said Vyvial.

Indeed. People view the word “aggression” as a bad thing, but when you’re in a fight for your life (and sexual assault is just that), you want as much aggression as possible.

APD also shares these tips on protecting yourself:

  • Carry items that you can use if you need to call attention to your situation (examples: whistles and personal alarms)
  • Consider taking a self-defense class.
  • If someone tries to assault you, scream loudly or blow a whistle.
  • If you are walking or jogging, stay out of secluded or isolated areas. Arrange to do the activity with at least one other friend, rather than alone. It is best to do these kinds of activities during daylight hours.
  • Do not cover both of your ears with music headphones.
  • Avoid getting isolated with people you do not know or do not trust.
  • Be aware of where you are and what is around you.
  • Keep your cell phone charged and with you.
  • Stay away from deserted areas.
  • Try to appear strong, confident, aware and secure in your surroundings.

A good list of personal protection tips, for women and men. But I’d change a few things about it.

Don’t consider taking a self-defense class. Take one. “Considering” isn’t going to do you any good; you have to actually take classes and get knowledge, training, and skill.

Don’t try to appear strong, confident, aware, and secure, be strong, confident, aware, and secure. If you lack these, work on improving yourself and acquiring strength, confidence, awareness, and security. If you’re not sure where to start, drop me a line, or check out groups like A Girl and A Gun. This is your life; it’s not a time to “feel-good” and lie to yourself, it’s a time to take action and “be good”.


Detect, Defuse, Defend – do we need more emphasis on the first two?

Tony Blauer asks the question: “What would it cost you if you didn’t fight back?

I’m referring to the emotional/psychological taxes. Most people never consider violence’s deeper impact. The noxious effects that create PTSD, the memories that stain our mind’s-eye and silently agitate our nervous system.

When bad shit happens close-up, everything can change.

So what would you pay to avoid some of this? What would you pay to feel safer?

His answer?

Pay attention.

Some days ago, a man on a San Francisco Muni train pulled out a gun and flashed it around. A lot. There was nothing covert, hidden, or non-obvious about what he was doing – he was quite obvious and blatant. However, everyone around him was oblivious, noses buried in their phones and tablets. No one saw what was going on until the guy shot someone.  Apparently it was a random encounter, thus anyone on that train could have been the victim, and they never would have known… they never would have had a chance to do anything.

Now, everyone is quick to blame mobile devices. We have to remember that books and newspapers and Walkman’s existed long ago, and people found themselves just as engrossed and oblivious with those. However, I cannot deny that we’ve changed and find ourselves with our noses buried on the glass screen a lot more these days. In fact, people tend to consider that device of primary importance, more so than driving or walking. I admit, I’ve watched people walking around with their eyes on their phone and not on where they were going, and I’ve been tempted to step in front of them or simply insert my hand between their eyes and their phone. It’d be to make a point that perhaps they should pay more attention to the world around them, alas, I’d just be seen as an asshole and no lesson would be learned. *sigh*

Mr. Blauer talks about the 3 D’s:

1) DETECT (to avoid)

2) DEFUSE (to de-escalate)

3) DEFEND (to protect).

Two-thirds of your personal safety takes place before you even step on the “X” (The “X” being symbolic for the time & place of an ambush).

The Three D’s is the basis of your ‘ Personal Defense OS’.

Two-thirds of confrontation management relies on awareness, mental toughness and fear management strategies before any contact is made. Avoiding danger should be the primary directive.

Col. Jeff Cooper has his color codes of awareness. Insights Training has their street & vehicle tactics courseSouthNarc teaches about Managing Unknown Contacts (MUC). Karl Rehn has done much to further the utility and use of force-on-force training. Any good trainer in this area is going to stress the importance of such things. Granted, it’s #3 that sells the most because we all like to shoot guns, or practice kata and joint locks, or whatever. There’s not a lot of sexy appeal in #1 and #2, but it’s precisely those that will do the most to keep us alive and out of trouble.

Yes, this is where “force-on-force” training pays off. The thought of “FoF” scares a lot of people because it makes it sound like it’s going to be a UFC battle. Yes, there’s FoF classes (like SouthNarc’s ECQC) that are about going to some physical extremes. But a lot of FoF training is just scenarios, role playing, with little physicality (and a lot of people finding their inner thespian). What it does give you is a lot of understanding of how Detect and Defuse play a big role in your own personal safety. If the only training you’ve had is to “draw your gun” or “palm strike to the nose”, you only know how to do #3, and that’s not always going to be the right answer.

This sort of training helps you make a mental shift. It sinks in a lot of reality, and should enable you to give yourself permission to listen to yourself more. Blauer continues:

This strategically brings us into the next step in enhancing your personal safety: decide right now to respect and embrace your body’s survival signals. If an alarm goes off, respond to it. Got a bad feeling? Address it. Something nagging at you? Stop and look into it. Don’t ignore these signals. Don’t rationalize and mentally correct them. Don’t dismiss them without assessing them. Your body is built for survival and one of its hard-wired systems is designed to alert you to danger.

I know what some of you are thinking, “What if I mistake a feeling, body language, a gesture or movement and react to it.” And? What’s the downside? No one [important in your life] is going to be upset with you for facing fear. Don’t be shy or embarrassed about this. Accept that the human body will generally err on the side of survival. And so should you. There is no downside to being safe or safer. But there is a massive down side to ignoring these survival signals.

And don’t let peer pressure; socialization, fear of fear or other distractions mess with your survival instincts. We are physiological survival organisms, designed to adapt & survive. (FYI, in my courses I’ve re-named us #humanweapons, because that’s the mindset you need when the shit hits the fan, right? I’d rather remind myself “I’m a human-weapon”, and charge forward than scream, “I’m a Survival organism!” self-talk is key. Also, I can use the # on Twitter).

So make a contract with yourself right now that the moment your instincts & intuition raise an alarm that you will take steps to move to safety as soon as possible. Got a bad feeling? Address it now. Get off the “X” ASAP. Start moving when time and space are allies and options.

What’s the cost of learning the most the most important and practical part of self-defense? Zip. Just pay attention. Getting off the “X” is FREE.

Realities: F=ma

There’s just some realities of the world that political correctness and good intentions cannot overcome. “F = ma” is one of them.

John “Hsoi” Daub

In response to my “Little woman vs. big man“, Chuck Rives commented “Good stuff. There’s a reason why even UFC adopted weight classes.”. The above was my response to him, and I think the notion is one that too many people forget.

Little woman vs. big man

A common sales pitch of martial arts is that learning my deadly art will allow a 100# woman to fight off a 300# gorilla.

As well, one common refrain about the use of tools in self defense, is that the tool becomes a way to overcome the force disparity that a 300# gorilla poses to a 100# woman. If you can have a baseball bat, pepper spray, gun, it “levels the playing field”.

So which is right? Or are both right? Or are both wrong? Or is there something else?

Rick Randolph writes that there’s actually something else that matters more:

While it may be unrealistic to think we can teach any 110 pound person to knock out a 220 pound attacker … or use pressure points or joint locks, that is not what self-defense is. See “fights” in a self-defense sense aren’t won with techniques, they are won with what Coach calls indignation.

Bad guys aren’t looking for a fight. They are looking for a victim. Give them a fight, even an unskilled one, and often times they will go look for a “better” victim


Lets face it: it wasn’t their physical skills that saved them. None of the stories tell of fancy techniques. Simply that they chose to fight. And that is the reality of self-defense. It is less about how you fight but more simply about the fact that you fight.

Make the decision you will fight now. You don’t want to wait until you have to.

Self-defense classes shouldn’t be so much about teaching people how to fight, and more about empowering them to fight and fight with everything they have.

And that’s what it is: mindset. You must have the mindset to fight. I’ve heard some say that you should become angry, or Rick above says to be indignant, which is probably a more accurate term. Use that. Let it drive you to drive them off.

Yes, I think there is great merit to using tools. That’s one of the things humans have that other animals don’t. We are gloriously mediocre in our senses and our skills, not really good at any one thing, but decently good enough at a lot of things. And one of those things we’re decently good at is using our brains to create stuff, stuff that helps us overcome our shortcomings and mediocrity. We can’t move fast, so we invent cars and planes. We can’t see well, so we invent telescopes and night vision goggles. And our fangs and claws aren’t much, so we have knives and guns. Tools are useful things and we should use them.

But the tool doesn’t matter if you’re unwilling to use it. If you buy a gun, shove it in a drawer, that does you no good. If you practice with that gun but merely plink or slow target shoot with it, that does you no good. Might you want to take classes to learn about good defensive handgun skills so you can use the tool well under pressure? Or how about taking Force-on-Force classes so you can be put into realistic scenarios and see how you’d react. Maybe see how you might be able to channel some indignation. When you read news articles, put yourself into the story and figure out how you would react to being mugged, beat up, raped, or otherwise left for dead. What would you do? Because if you play out these scenarios in your head, basically a visualization technique, and your response in them is to choose to fight, to choose to be indignant, you’re setting yourself up for success.

I don’t want people to become bitter or negative about the world and live their life in some ugly way. I do want people to acknowledge tho that the world does have ugly elements that are willing to infringe upon your life and turn it into something you could never imagine in your worst horrors. Hopefully it will never happen, but if it does, I hope you will have prepared beforehand. Whether it’s acquiring the tools, the skills, or more importantly the mindset and mentality to fight. That is what will enable a 100# woman to overcome a 300# attacker.

Point, Counterpoint, but a good points

I’m sure the CrossFit world is in a tizzy over Mark Rippetoe’s latest:

For casual exercisers, CrossFit-types and the like, the calculation is a bit different. The vomit I see on the internet – complete lumbar flexion, everything pressed out, everything intentionally rebounded from the floor, all done under the watchful eye of some moron saying “Nice!” – makes me of two minds.

Part of me hopes the fools hurt themselves badly (after all, orthopedic surgeons gotta eat too), and part of me hopes their incompetent, stupid-ass coaches all die in a great Job-like mass of infection (boils, abscessed hemorrhoids, lungs full of fluid, etc.).

It’s both an embarrassment to watch and a testament to the fact that apparently tens of thousands of people don’t know what the fuck they are doing, and have no apparent desire to learn.

But before you get too upset, consider Paul Carter’s recent comments. I don’t know if these are directly in response to Rip’s statements, but the timing was good:

Ok, I can’t stand the crossfit hate. I can’t. I’m so tired of seeing people bitch about it.

Crossfit has tons and tons and eons of women that ended up with hot asses from it. That alone means it has value. Lots of value. An overwhelming amount of value. Value for days. DAT VALUE!

Ok, that’s all. I think this Monster kicked in.


Frankly, they’re both right. And I think it’s worth looking deeper at Rip’s commentary before getting too upset about it.

But the real question here is this: what do you hope to accomplish by doing high-rep snatches, done either correctly or incorrectly? And in either case, is there a better alternative, and why?

His point is one of “why are you doing what you are doing”? What are you hoping to accomplish?

If you are just trying to exercise, fine. For most people, that’s enough. Part of the reason I quit studying Kuk Sool was because it was not taking me towards what I wanted to accomplish (self-defense). But I cannot deny the camaraderie/family was wonderful, nor that it helped me really get in good shape; my physical conditioning was the best it ever was. If you want social aspects, if you want just general better health, sure this is great stuff and thus good for a number of people. But if you want to know better self-defense, try something else.

So it really comes down to what do you want. Why are you doing what you are doing.

If you want a hot ass, then by all means keep CrossFitting. 🙂

If you want to get strong, if you want to get conditioned, Rip’s point is there are better means to accomplish that end.

I follow a Facebook page called “Awkward Gym Moments“. There’s often video posted of people performing activities at the gym that just make you wonder what they are doing. Some of these people are great, because they know what they are doing and don’t care what you think. But certainly there are enough activities going on that do make you scratch your head and wonder what’s going on. It makes you wonder, what are you trying to accomplish? What is your goal, and how is this going to get you there? It doesn’t have to be obvious to the dude surreptitiously videoing you, just so long as you are actually doing something positive towards accomplishing your goals.

This isn’t to put anything nor anyone down. This is about ensuring you have a goal and are working to meet it.

Some data about knockouts

Analyst James LaFond studied 1,675 acts of violence that took place between June 1996 and May 2000. At the request of the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, he then analyzed the incidents in his study that led to a knockout.

And here’s a summary of that data. (h/t Shaun Heyes)

Here’s a link to more of the data, from the original study author.

What gets me the most is how easy one can get knocked out. Sucker-punches are pretty typical, and tend to lead to bad things for the recipient.

Empty hands can be ugly things. Weapons (don’t limit yourself to guns and knives) can be uglier. Do your best to avoid the fight in the first place.

AAR – Defensive Knife Workshop with Chuck Rives

On May 19, 2013 I attended a 7-hour Defensive Knife Workshop with Chuck Rives hosted by KR Training.

About Chuck:

Chuck Rives is an Affiliate Instructor, for Mike Janich’s Martial Blade Concepts. Chuck has been a martial artist for about 30 years. Chuck lives in Amarillo, Texas and is an Emergency Manager for a Federal Government Agency. Chuck teaches knife, and defensive tactics regularly to peace officers and corrections officers.

So, Chuck knows his stuff. Chuck’s been coming to KR Training for a while to host shorter classes, and I’ve wanted to check out his classes for some time but just haven’t been able to for one reason or another. But this class I didn’t want to miss because 1. it was a full day, 2. it was also going to have Allen Elishewitz. Alas, Allen was unable to make the class, but that really didn’t detract much because Chuck ran a great class with much to teach. You may know who Michael Janich is, as he’s been a part of the TV show The Best Defense for some time now. While I’m not a huge fan of a lot of the “training” TV shows out there, I am a fan of Michael’s and what he teaches is solid. What Chuck teaches isn’t pure MBC curriculum, Chuck is an Affiliate Instructor of MBC and is highly recommended by Janich.

The knife work is founded in Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) style and concepts. Consequently, it’s logical, simple, and effective. What Chuck has put together for this 1-day workshop provides a basic foundation of simple concepts and techniques that almost anyone can use to defend themselves with a knife.

The workshop started out with a discussion of self-defense, what defensive knife work is (this isn’t dueling, it’s not Westside Story). Some talk about knives themselves in terms of construction and blades. Then a live demonstration of various knives via “Pork Man”. Watch this video:

That’s Michael Janich, and the first 3 minutes or so give his background, followed by some useful footage of actual knife attacks (close, swift, aggressive, brutal), and finally the “Pork Man” demo. What you can see is that knife attacks can be ugly, even with small/short blades. One thing that Chuck’s demo showed that the YouTube video doesn’t, is how blade shape/construction matters. Chuck had a knife that looks evil and threatening — it’s big, black, looks “tactical” and “scary”. But actual cutting ability? It was pretty poor due to blade and edge shape. Then some smaller, less threatening looking knives did far worse damage, but again it was due to superior shape and edge. There’s a lot one can glean from such a demonstration.

After Pork Man, we had discussions of targeting, stance, deployment, grip, and then angles of attack. Again, if you’re familiar with FMA, these angles of attack are familiar. I won’t give away all that Chuck teaches — you’ll do better to learn from the teacher. But if you’re a student of Kali or Arnis or Escrima, you probably already know what’s going on here. Basic blocks and attacks, all based upon the same/similar concepts. At first, it seems like you’re learning a lot, then you realize as the day goes on that you’re learning the same thing and it doesn’t seem like much, and that’s the great thing about it — it’s simple, it’s less to learn, but yet it’s effective regardless. This means when the flag flies you have less of inventory to hunt through for a response, which means a faster response. Good thing.

What Chuck taught was simple and effective, but there’s no question you cannot just take the class then forget about it. You are going to need to practice these things to get them smooth and reflexive. When practicing these, I found myself a few times with brain fade and reverting to techniques I already knew from past martial arts experience. What was soberingly evident? Chuck’s techniques strive to get you on the outside of your attacker, which is generally a safer place to be, especially when a knife is involved. So much of what I learned in the past? Works to get you inside your attacker and keep you there. Really, there’s no one right place because inside and outside can have advantages and disadvantages, reasons to want to be there and reasons to not want to be there. It was just an interesting contrast to have Chuck’s material presented, which focused on getting outside, and finding myself at times reverting to old habits which want to keep me inside.

Was there anything bad about the day? Well, it was hot, sunny, windy, which really took a lot out of you. In the later afternoon we probably should have taken it back inside, cleared the room, and continued working in there. But Chuck was good about taking breaks, cooling off, getting water. It’s good when instructors aren’t just attentive to material, but also these other realities and necessities of teaching. I do wish there was more way to apply the techniques, like some FoF scenarios. But I’m not sure logically how that could be worked out. I know in past martial arts study we’ve done things like get a red magic marker and white t-shirts, so it doesn’t hurt too much but it also shows the damage done. But that’s also probably too much material for one day (2 day course? Maybe a “Level 2” workshop that starts with a review of this material, adds a few more things, then spends the afternoon in FoF?).

One thing I kept thinking about was my past defensive folding knife training with Insights Training. I thought Insights’ work and Chuck’s work went well together. It’s cool when you have different people with different backgrounds and different courses that wind up in essentially the same place. I don’t think one replaces the other, but they do complement. For example, both came down on about the same side of knife selection (Chuck with a Spyderco Endura, Insights with Spyderco Delica). I still like Insights’ approach of two knives, one in each pocket. I thought Insights did more to cover drawing and getting the knife into play, and discussion of that importance. But it’s interesting how Insights tended to focus more on being in the fight then getting your knife; Chuck spoke a lot about how you can get the knife ready before the fight is on. Insights seemed to have a bit of “gun as your primary” tendency, whereas Chuck acknowledged the knife may have to be your primary and how to treat it in the face of that or NPE’s. Insights focused on a few simple but different techniques. Chuck focused on a few simple but similar techniques. However, application was different. For example, Chuck addressed distance, getting outside, and getting away. Insights had a solution for the clinch and being caught in close. Both focused on targeting to disable your attacker so you can get the fight to stop and/or escape. Insights had a stance where your knife-side was back (thus your “empty hand” was forward). Chuck put your knife forward, so your empty hand wasn’t just a target. On this last point, I think Chuck’s position is more sound, either when attacking with or defending against a knife (so long as you have one too); but that’s going to be very hard for gun folk to learn since so much gun technique is about keeping your gun side away from the attacker. Anyways, I don’t think either group has a monopoly on knowledge and technique. Both present sound solutions, and I think they do far more to complement and augment each other.

Not only did I pick up on direct course material, but I took home some other things. First, I still feel good about choice of Spyderco Delica. They are fast to deploy, solid, and you just don’t have the fumble factor that other folders suffer from (e.g. due to pins; the big hole really helps with thumb deployment). They have good design, and aren’t too expensive such that if you have to lose or ditch the knife, life goes on. Still, a folder isn’t as good as a fixed-blade, and Chuck had a technique that was so simple towards carrying and deploying a folder that I’m going to experiment with it for my own carry. I also picked up on some things for my own teaching (“Tony Chin”). I liked Chuck’s style: very personable and friendly, very passionate about this material, and you can tell he really wants to take the time and care to ensure people learn and grow.

If you care about personal defense, you should care about the knife. If you choose to carry one, you ought to know how to use it. To know how to cut veggies in the kitchen is one thing, but to know how to defend yourself with it is another. But even if you don’t carry one, you’d do well to get some training in how to defend yourself against a knife. Yes, a gun can be an effective defensive tool, but you first need to get your gun out. Being able to perform a few simple movements (again, the FMA-based techniques can work for you if you have a knife in your hand, a club in your hand, or empty hands) to stave the initial attack, get to the outside, and buy you the time to get your gun out… well, there’s much to be said for such knowledge and ability.

I look forward to training with Chuck again.

On one final note, I’d like to give some love to my friend, Shawn Hatcher of Hatcher Knives. Shawn came out and was my training partner for the day. He was kind enough to fashion a trainer version of the REH out of some G10. We spent the afternoon beating each other up, overthinking together, and having a grand time. I must say, Chuck’s techniques are more directly suited for a forward-type grip, so I did use my Delica Trainers for much of the class. But I did use the REH trainer when I could to see how it would convey. Because the REH is designed with a reverse edge and also to typically be held in a reverse-grip, I found myself thinking WAY too much about technique application. But on the same token, most of Chuck’s techniques became even more ugly due to the hooking motion. Yes, some techniques wound up just striking the blunt back-edge of the REH, but as you followed through with the technique… yeah, fun stuff. Shawn took the REH home with him — going to add some “version 1.2” refinements. The joys of custom knives! Shawn’s really evolving as a knife-maker, and if you’re in the market, you should give him a try.

Avoiding Conflict

Best fights are the ones we avoid.

– Mr. Han (Jackie Chan, the 2010 remake of “The Karate Kid”)

Whenever people dole out self-defense tips, it tends to be under the guise of you being in the fight. The fight has started, or the fight is inevitable, and how can you manage the fight. Granted, sometimes this is how it goes. But what might be better is if we could avoid the fight in the first place.

There are good techniques for this, like SouthNarc’s Managing Unknown Contacts (MUC) techniques, or just following the Insights Training ABC: Always Be Cool. Marc MacYoung knows a lot about the subject too, and when he posted this article I thought it was one worth sharing.

The article is titled “Eight Self-Defense Tips for Men to Avoid Violent Conflicts“. I would argue these are good self-defense tips for everyone to follow, but I can see the author’s point towards men because I get reminded of LowTechCombat‘s examination of Alpha vs. Predatory.

Here are the 8 points, without elaboration (you can find that in the article):

  1. Forget what you see on the screen
  2. Live, love and be happy
  3. Know yourself
  4. He’s human too
  5. Get over yourself
  6. Leave
  7. Peyton Quinn’s rules
  8. Stick to the mission

Notice there’s no tips on how to punch him just right, how to shoot more effectively, none of that. It’s about mindset, it’s about mental approach and tactics for situations — before they become situations. This is more important.

It’s also about humility. There’s so much bravado, so much macho about fighting and self-defense. I recently saw a posting on Facebook, of a picture of a bank holdup scene and captioned basically “and what would you do”. The comment thread was full of big talk, heroics, fantasy, and few posters acknowledged realities involved (tho it was cool to see Rog mention the Beer & TV Maxim; one of the few rational comments on the picture). I think about #8 of “stick to the mission” which is basically:

Every time I leave the house, my mission is to return to it and my loved ones safely and unharmed so I can live a long and happy life with them.

So does your macho, your bravado, your fantasy, your heroics, do they permit you to fulfill your mission? Granted, your mission may be different, but then at least you know your mission. You do clearly know your mission, right? If you don’t, if you cannot stop right now and state it clearly aloud, then perhaps you should take a moment to define what your mission is. It will guide you and your decisions, which may be critically important when the flag flies.

Give the whole article a read. It’s quite good. In fact, most of these tips will apply beyond “violent encounters”. I mean, we have conflict on the job or in other interactions in our daily life. Tips like Peyton Quinn’s rules will help you manage those just fine too.

Found More Canes

I’m a fan of canes, because they can be a useful self-defense tool in addition to being a walking aid. And let’s be honest… while we would like to always carry a gun, we can’t. Gotta get on an airplane? Carrying a gun isn’t going to happen. There’s just times when you have to look for alternative solutions. I think a cane is pretty tough to beat.

It probably stems from my martial arts study years ago in Kuk Sool and Hapkido. From day one, the cane was the weapon that appealed to me most because it was most practical. A sword isn’t going to cut it (pun intended) these days. A short stick (dan bong) actually can be pretty useful and have wide application, but it’s short: it’s a close-in weapon. A cane is about 3′ long, and useful at a slight distance and at helping to maintain some space. There are other weapons, but in many regards aren’t feasible or practical. Cane works, and will always be available and with us.

In my quest for a good cane, I finally found one a few years ago. While good, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. But certainly it got me through. Nevertheless, my eyes were always open for another cane.

A couple months ago one came along.

When we were headed out for a family day, we stopped into the Bastrop Buc-ee’s. Wandering around the store, saw a container of canes and dug through them. Found this one.

There was no identifying tag on it, so I cannot say for certain the make/model/manufacturer, but I can say it looks a LOT like the Twisted Oak Walking Cane from Brazos Walking Sticks. I couldn’t be surprised if that was the case, given how it was being sold. It was a similar setup to my first cane, and given all I discovered when I looked up my first cane well… it seems to be in line there.

What I liked about this was the almost straight shaft. The twist? Looks neat, and adds some hurt. I also liked how the crook was a bit more open in the neck area, and yes this hooks around limbs and necks much more easily. The fact the end/butt doesn’t extend too far either also is welcome for ease of hooking and releasing. Oak, so it’s strong. Really, I’m thrilled with this. It’s not perfect, but it’s good.

A few weeks ago we went to the Sherwood Forest Faire. Wife and Kiddos sat down to get ready for a show to start, and I looked behind me and saw a vendor selling canes, walking sticks, and other such things. Turns out they are Lady Mac’s Horns, Canes, and Staffs. Alas, I cannot find any sort of website for them, but if you search you’ll find them referenced on other “Ren Faire” websites and forums. I saw some gorgeous work there, including one cane with a thick and beautifully crafted mesquite shaft topped with an elk antler “handle”; if I needed a full-time cane for walking, I would have bought it in an instant. I actually saw only one crook-neck cane, and I couldn’t resist trying it out…. and yes, buying it:

This cane is made of hickory, and I loved the “unfinished” look with the bark still on. The shaft is as straight as it can be, given it’s attempting to look more natural. Really, it’s pretty straight but yet has just enough “kink and bend” to be interesting. It’s also slightly thicker than the other two canes… and that’s why I think I like it more.

See, there’s something about the shaping of the handle, where your palm actually rests. I tried to capture a picture of it but couldn’t get one that did it justice. They have to shave the wood down some to make the bend, but here they didn’t shave too much. Plus they shaped the top of the handle to be round but just a hair flatter… it’s slightly more oblique than circular. All that shaping, combined with the slightly thicker wood? It feels just awesome in the hand, and is very comfortable to walk with. Makes sense, because now you are spreading weight over a greater area.

The crook is a little tighter, but still hooks around necks. In some regard it’s a difference between a “practice cane” and a “street cane”, if you will. That is, with a practice cane you want to be polite to your partner, so a larger, more open crook is desired. With a “street cane”, you aren’t as concerned with politeness to your attacker. If I had to classify, I’d say the twisted oak cane above is more “practice” and this hickory is more “street”. Regardless, it’s certainly more comfortable to walk with.

Here’s a close-up of the three cane neck/crook areas:

L-R: #3, Lady Mac; #2 twisted oak; #1 first cane

This picture should give you a better idea. You can see with cane #2 that it’s rather open at the neck as well as very straight of shaft. #3 is a little tighter in terms of the hook and length. #1 is even longer.. and if you can see, there’s a little “hump” at the top of the crook and the wood is very thin — it’s no where near as comfortable to walk with as #3.

Anyways, #3 is my current go-to. But since I’m building a little collection, I need to find a way to store them all. Thinking about ideas, because I suspect more canes will be in my future.

Leveling the playing field

Now, 15 years later, virtually all law enforcement agencies and officers are either issued AR-15 style rifles, or have them accessible. But, that is the police. In the context of self defense, why do armed citizens need AR-15 style weapons? Because, the armed citizen faces the VERY SAME criminals that police face. The only difference is that police, because they are more often called TO the incident, face these criminals more regularly. Understand, though, criminals do not prey on police, but instead, they victimize the public.

If the armed citizen wants to have a fighting chance against criminals who are armed with high capacity rifles and pistols, they also need effective weaponry. Just like the police did back in the 1990s and today.

Marty Hayes, President of the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network, responds to “why anyone would need one of those”.

In reading Marty’s response, it made one thing clear: it’s about “leveling the playing field”.

I’ve often said that a firearm is a force equalizer. A petite woman vs. a 300# beast of a man? Force disparity. Old man vs. young thug? Force disparity? Fit able-bodied person vs. small gang? Force disparity. So much of self-defense is about overcoming that disparity. I mean, when some martial art talks about how it’s techniques allow that weak tiny woman to overcome and cripple a 300# man, the underlying message is that martial art allows you to overcome force disparity, and thus it’s a good thing. Rape prevention techniques talk about using tasers, pepper spray, walking in groups – all means of overcoming force disparity. It’s all about reducing the disparity, or better, becoming the one with the force advantage so perhaps no one will mess with you in the first place. However, the reality is while these measures are all useful and do overcome force disparity, a firearm is a better tool for overcoming force disparity. It’s like any technological advancement; it’s why we blog and tweet and email, and why the US Postal Service is shriveling up.

We seem to put great stock in “leveling the playing field”. Why do we drug test in sports? Because we don’t want someone to gain “unfair advantage”. Why is there large political movement to change this country’s legal and economic structure? To stop few people from gaining unfair advantage and control over the rest of us. We want the field level, or whether people want to admit it or not, if the field is going to be tilted they want it tilted in their favor. So why should self-defense be any different? Why should we put ourselves at a disadvantage or force others to be at a disadvantage? That’s akin to telling the petite woman to not fight back against her rapist. To use force of law to deny her effective tools? That’s akin to tying her hands behind her back. Doesn’t it sound stupid to suggest “Hey ladies, the most effective way to keep from being raped is to lie there and take it! Just give him what he wants!”? So why do you suggest solutions that effectively create this situation?

There are numerous reasons why someone would “need one of those”, be it an AR-15, a modern semi-automatic firearm (rifle or pistol or shotgun), a firearm that could hold more bullets than you deem to be “necessary”. Fundamentally it comes down to overcoming force disparity and ensuring that “level playing field”. It’s about allowing the weak to stand strong. And yes, YOU are weak. There is always someone stronger than you: physically, mentally, economically, politically. And if not today, tomorrow you may be weaker (if nothing else, someday you will be old and frail). Are you willing to resign yourself and your fellow man to being crushed? Or would you prefer to stand strong?