Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Found and Improvised Weapons

A simple method of classification.

A few days ago a friend gave me a call and said "I ran across someone who credited you in an article about improvised weapons". I got the name of the guy from my friend, did a little digging, and discovered something fairly kewl.

Many years ago there was a discussion on improvised weapons on one of the mailing lists I used to frequent. I made a suggestion as to how one might organize different weapons in a sort of continuum (1) to one of the participants in that discussion.

The person who I was conversing with on this subject, a fellow by the name of Michael Johnson, ended up writing a very thoughtful essay on the subject, a copy of which can be found here. It brings together a number of different ideas for how to think about found objects as potential weapons. The essay offers a good starting point for exploring the use of found and improvised weapons, so do take a look.

An  image grabbed from the website Improvised Weapons
The conversation that I referenced  took place somewhat over ten years ago if my memory serves me, and I do believe I have refined my model a bit since then, so it occurred to me that it might be fun to talk a little about the model as I use it today.

This is a graphic representation of how I classify objects for use as weapons. I don't, as a rule, use an axis for projectiles, basically because anything that you can pick up you can throw. I also don't address incendiary/explosive devices like Molotov cocktails or cans of hair spray even though under the right circumstances they can make useful weapons.

The map is designed to allow you, with some practice, to index (2) anything you pick up very quickly. Assessing each quality will be somewhat subjective, and the numbering system is perforce arbitrary. Point 5 represents 100% of a given quality, and point 0 represents a perfect balance between two polarities.

For an example of the last, take a well made sword, which must have a precise balance between flexibility and rigidity. Take a look at this video. At about one minute, seven seconds in you will see the sword removing the head from a pig carcass, both at speed and in slow motion. You will see the typical flex that is needed for a sword to shed impact energy without breaking.


You could say that the sword blade sits at zero on the flexible/rigid axis.

If you grab up a five foot digging bar

you have something that could be indexed as slow, long, double handed, heavy, rigid, and blunt. On the other hand, a weighted jump rope

could be considered flexible, blunt, heavy, about halfway to quick, single or double handed, and long.

This model works best if you have a  principle (3) based martial practice. This is because a technique (4) based skill set requires too great of a learning curve, with the need to memorize way too many discreet actions for any given weapon.

For learning, this can be a bit problematic. In my experience,  while a good many people give lip service to the idea of a principle based practice, the reality is occasionally a bit different.

If you find that when you train you are doing a series of discreet actions against a a specific attack, that would be technique based practice. A common example of this is the "scenario" training so popular in some self defense courses these days.

Do please understand that I am not saying that there is anything wrong per se with technique based training. It is a good way to pick up some easy to learn basic skills that might give you an edge in a bad situation. It's just that there is a real difference qualitatively between that and sustained, principle based training.

The way I recommend that one practice so as to integrate this model is to find objects that have the least number of qualities and explore using them. Make note of the primary principles you discover for each axis and then see how you can effective apply these principles.

For example, one of the principles for a heavy object is that of follow-through. If you move while using a heavy object for offense and defense, you will quickly begin to learn how to address that principle.

You will find that a given principle will likely apply to more than one axis. For instance follow-through applies to both heavy and flexible objects.

If you adopt a learning program like this one, as you discover the various principles involved with each axis, you will want to practice until using each principle until you have them embodied at the level of muscle memory. The idea is to be able to pick up anything, let your neuro-muscular system index it at an unconscious level, and use it in alignment with the appropriate principles without conscious thought.

Further Study

There are two people who I can recommend as being able to teach from the level of fundamental principles. (There are undoubtedly others, but these are people I have direct experience of and can vouch for unreservedly) The first is Mahaguru Stevan Plinck, the foremost practitioner of  Pukulan Pentjak Silat Sera in the USA.  Sera, as he teaches it, is one of the finest examples of principle based, positional martial practice. A chance to study with him, even in a seminar setting is something not to be passed up.

 The other person who has a profound understand of how to extract the principles from any movement system is  Scott Sonnon. Scott is a genius when it comes to understanding movement and he has the ability to articulate and teach basic principles in a way that can be applied to any delivery system.

Applying the knowledge of either of these two teachers will go a long way toward helping you discover the basic principles of movement, both with and without weapons.

(1) continuum: A coherent whole characterized as a collection, sequence, or progression of values or elements varying by minute degrees

(2) Index: Something that directs attention to some fact, condition, etc.

(3) Principle: a fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived.

(4) technique: The body of specialized procedures and methods used in any specific field .

1 comment:

Steve Perry said...

Excellent post, Mushtaq. I've linked to it from my Sera blog.