Another response to a Phil Elmore article

As an exercise and response to Mr. Elmore’s boast that his work has not been substantively criticised.

Self-Defense in Context and within
Constraints

By Phil Elmore

Many of the articles in The Martialist deal with weapons of one kind or another. Weapons are force multipliers, enabling the individual to deliver greater force to an attacker than with empty hands alone. To deny the utility of weapons is to evade reality, for success in self-defense requires that you recognize your own weaknesses. You are not stronger, faster, or more skilled than everyone. Weapons enable you to stack the deck in the gamble that is self- defense. You cannot win every bet, but you can cheat as much as possible.

Here, you are countering a perceived viewpoint, not held by yourself, that there are some that “deny the utility of weapons.” Although I can’t presume to speak for everyone, I am sure that nobody denies the effectiveness of weapons. Clearly, a bullet propelled from a gun will make a mess of somebody’s face, in much the same way as a knife slashed across skin will split it open and cause serious injury. Nobody in their right mind would deny this fact. You are setting up your opponents in this arguement to be cretins who don’t believe weapons are effective, which is unfair. This is a straw man arguement.

The actual viewpoint held by those who you feel oppose you on this subject is that empty handed self defence should not be neglected in favour of armed self defence. There is no denying the importance and power of weapons in the modern world of self defence. But a punch up at the fish and chip shop or a verbal arguement that spirals out of control is hardly the forum for fatal gunshots or stabbings in the name of ‘self defence’, and there are innumerable occasions where the use of a discouraging but non-fatal blow is warranted and legal, use of a weapon is not.

You state that “you are not stronger, faster, or more skilled than everyone,” as a reason for training in the use of weapons for self defence. This is a weak arguement, as a logical extrapolation is ‘you are not a faster draw, more accurate in shooting / stabbing, or more skilled in the use of weapons than everyone’. It works both ways – you can only train to make yourself better. You may be a quick draw, but what if your attacker is a quicker draw, and has the cajones and the experience to use it? As you say, you can only stack the odds in your favour. That would include, therefore, training in a proven hand to hand fighting system. However, this topic on its own deserves an entirely different article.

Although you address it later in the article, your magazine is an international one and as such it must be remembered that in many countries, even owning a gun is illegal. And in most countries, the use of appropriate force is outlined in the following way:

• was the use of force justified in the circumstances, i.e. was there a need for any force at all? and
• was the force used excessive in the circumstances?

Obviously, this is a very subjective description and is open for interpretation. However, it is clear that an appropriate level of force must be used if your actions are to remain within the confines of the law. That means that shooting a gun at somebody and possibly ending their life should be a response only to the same perceived threat to you. In my life, I have never once felt that my life was in real danger, even during aggressive physical confrontations. Each time I felt that my response should be physical, bodily violence, but I have never entertained the possibility of killing somebody even when I was being attacked. My response is to do just enough to deter the attacker or give myself enough time to run. Hand to hand training has been enough to achieve this. Again, this is a topic for another article.

For all our recognition of the place of arms in self-defense methodology, there are plenty of scenarios and circumstances in which the martialist must face his or her foes unarmed. Our international readers are well acquainted with such constraints, for in many parts of the world the carry of a gun or a blade is a serious offense in and of itself. You may work in an office with a “zero tolerance” policy that forbids such tools on company property even if you live in a US state that allows concealed carry of firearms. You may be a government employee, a visitor to a government building, a traveler on an airplane, or a even private citizen with a checkered legal past. For whatever reason among the possible explanations, many of us cannot be armed. What, then, are we to do?

First, do not lose hope. Do not feel marginalized or otherwise impotent when faced with the
task of self- defense. Society and your legal system may make it more difficult for you to prepare for the threat of violence, but difficult is not impossible. You still have options.

First, you can be hyper-vigilant. The most important facet of self-defense is awareness – being aware of your environment, of those in it, of those near you, of escape routes and areas of conflict, and so on. Nothing is more important than being aware – and you
can choose to be extra-careful and extremely wary if you know you must go unarmed into areas of potential peril.

There is a reason your work often goes unchallenged, and it’s not because of your towering intellect or ability to argue. It’s because you make claims that are often impossible, if not pointless, to refute. Here, you are giving readers the advice of “be aware.” Well gee whiz, give this man the nobel prize for peace. And to be extra aware in case I go to an area of potential peril? Well thanks, I’ll remember that. Please excuse the sarcasm, but when you claim some kind of ego boost that your work goes unchallenged, please allow me a chance to deflate that ego somewhat.

I realise that your whole ‘thing’ is that you are an average joe imparting common-sense, useful information to those interested in self defence. But come on. You make a living from this. Give me something more than ‘be aware of your surroundings.’ For your next topic, why don’t you tell us all to remember to breathe in and out and wear clothes on a daily basis?

A friend of mine who has no fighting skills and no inclination towards violence practices this form of self-defense exclusively. He stays in at night and remains ever-vigilant when he is out of his home. This is not how most of us choose to live – if you did, you would not be reading this – but it is one way and it can work for anyone.

A man who does not go out and when he does is ever-vigilant would seem to be suffering from paranoia or anxiety. This is not a good case to support any arguement you make about being prepared.

Second, you can focus on unarmed combative skills. At The Martialist we’ve profiled and will profile all sorts of extremely useful unarmed self-defense curricula. Train hard knowing that your life and the lives of those you love are literally in your hands. A certain amount of conditioning is appropriate if your body and your mind are to be your only weapons.

This is sound, if painfully obvious, advice. You also concede that conditioning is appropriate. It is difficult to argue with such banal and obvious advice.

Third, you can focus on weapons that are improvised or otherwise “politically correct” in nature. A koppo-wrapped Minimag flashlight makes a great pocket stick and is generally legal. Tactical flashlights can be used defensively and also serve well in utility roles. The Super Sharpie is a great improvised pocket stick. Other “covert” weapons include flexible weapons like bandannas and scarves, which can be used to grapple, to whip, as saps (when loaded with weight), and as emergency bandages. Where improvised weapons are concerned, you are limited only by your imagination and the basic principles of physics.

That last sentence is a clincher for me. You are not only limited by those things. If your self defence world exists only in your mind, then yes. All you are limited by is your imagination and the principles of physics. In reality, you are limited by practicality. When faced with an attacker in front of you, perhaps he has decided to give you some trouble outside the taxi rank or bus stop at the end of a night out. He gets belligerent and you feel a fight coming. Which is more useful then – the ability to throw a decent punch, or throw an attacker to the ground, or the ability to turn everyday objects into weapons? How many people carry a flashlight to the pub? How much time do you have if you are wearing a bandanna to take it off your head and wrap it around an attacker’s wrist? How can you promote grappling with a bandana and scarf, which is totally preposterous, and be against the idea of grappling as is in a self defence situation (as is clear by your body of work)?

Even while giving empty handed self defence a shallow and cursory acknowledgement, you still revert to advice about using weapons. What about if you literally have no weapons? It’s a hot day, you are wearing shorts and a tshirt. You don’t have any concealed torches, coin-stacks or crustified pizza wedges to attack anyone with. All you have left to rely on are your own two hands and feet, so to speak. What then? Will you perhaps reconsider your reliance on weaponry? Or will it be too late?

To succeed in self-defense, you don’t have to leave your home each day with a .45, three knives, a SureFire light, and a can of pepper spray – though if you can legally do so, you might as well. Use your mind, apply what you learn to the context in which you live, and learn to adapt to and work within your legal constraints. Such constraints make self- defense more challenging, but not impossible. You still have choices.

A gun, three knives, a flashlight for bludgeoning people and pepper spray. Where do you live, Iraq? Do you not feel that this is, for want of a better word, overkill? Why do you need so many things? You can only use one at a time, right? The fact that it is not practical to carry more than one weapon at a time, considering that you can only effectively weild one weapon at a time, leads me to believe that those who do carry more than one (unless they are police or law enforcement officers on the job, who may need different weapons for different situations in the same day) might be just a little paranoid, and unjustifiably so, particularly if they rarely have to even think about using their deadly weapons.

Those who face real danger on a daily basis may be justified in carrying around large amounts of weaponry. For example, although I hate this generalising term, in the ‘ghettos’. In very rough neighbourhoods, people feel the need to carry weapons because they know that the people around them carry weapons. There is a very real threat that somebody might try to kill them, and in that case, they need to be able to defend themselves.

But can anybody look on that situation and say ‘now there’s a healthy society. There is a model of self defence I’d like to follow!’? Because that is what you are doing. By carrying weapons around and convincing yourself that you are ready to use them at any time, you believe that your life is constantly in danger, that you are living in a warzone. A ghetto, if you will. But are you? Or do you really live in a white suburban neighbourhood with clean lawns and high-income neighbours? Is your life really in danger all the time? Do you need to carry a gun, a knife and more just to feel safe?

Imagine yourself being on the receiving end of a hyper-vigilant martialist’s vigilance. Perhaps you’ve bumped into him on the way out from the cinema. He’s angry with you and now on the alert because you’ve invaded his personal space. He tells you to watch where you’re going. You tell him that it was an accident (because you have trouble keeping your mouth shut.) He detects a steely confidence in your voice that puts him on guard. You reach into your pocket to get something innocuous like your mobile phone and BOOM! He’s shot you, preemptively. Or stabbed you. Or pepper-sprayed you. Or bashed you with a flashlight. Jeez, you might think if you were still alive, that was a bit over the top.

That, my friends, is martialism.

Choose wisely.

Perhaps I chose the wrong article to respond to because, basically, this article says hardly anything that isn’t either excruciatingly obvious or common sense. What happened, did you get close to your monthly deadline and realise you had some space to fill?

I am a peace activist. I wish to live in a world in which the rights of individuals are protected and civil liberty is not threatened by random violence. Towards that end, I advocate the appropriate use of force in self-defense – preemptive, proactive, and in response to offered violence.

A peace activist is someone who campaigns for peace. That you are not. You hold the view that you are already in a fucked up world that requires that you be armed to the teeth and ready to do damage to anyone who ‘offers’ violence. Peace activists are people who, though it may seem impractical, advocate things like weaponless societies. They strive for a goal that might even be impossible, but is nonetheless admirable.

What do you see for the future? What is your hope? Do you hope that in future, everyone will be armed and ready to kill? Do you really think that is healthy, desirable? Instead of finding new and more effective ways and weapons to kill each other, what about finding new and more effective ways of preventing violence, of discouraging the human race from inflicting violence and pain on others? A man such as yourself, with creative talent and drive (I feel dirty), would surely be more valuable to society campaigning for change, rather than ‘oh well, the world is a fucked up and dangerous place anyway, let’s just look after ourselves and get strapped’?

Anyway, I’ve wandered and rambled.

No doubt if you see this you’ll respond to it with a lengthy rebuttal. And your arguements will probably be very logical and difficult to refute, embedded as they are in your intricate and intensely ‘reasoned’ world view.

Arguing a point is very easy Phil. With enough words and creativity, you could argue that the sky is green, weapons for killing are tools of peace, and all muslims are rabid fundamentalists.

Whatever.

In the words of Ghandi, ‘an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.’

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