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Emphasis, of course, mine.

I’ll take a crab juice.

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This absolutely cracks me up.

Can you spot the odd one out there?

Extract from Phil Elmore’s personal diary…

I stepped from the train station this morning at approximately 8:15am. I had successfully fended off a number of vagrants on the journey, including one homeless man with a beard, one without, one elderly man asking me for ‘donations’ and a number of youths wearing baseball caps, which I took to be clear signs of their proficiency in the art of gang-style street boxing. As they sat opposite me, laughing and joking and no doubt planning my mugging with codewords like “I want to play half life 2” and “Rebecca is hot” (the last one clearly marking me as a target for hate crime), I fingered my concealed seventeen inch bowie knife, freshly sharpened and ready to slice the throat of any ne’er do well who dared cross my path. The cold steel on my leg reassured me, despite the fact that I am too much of a stupid wimp to ever actually engage in physical combat of any kind whatsoever.

The real horrors of this morning were yet to come however… I had survived the ordeal of my train journey, and made my way to the ticket counter. At this point a dirty looking ethnic approached me, his posture and facial hair clearly indicating his leniancy towards solving situations with violence. He wore a weak disguise, posing as a Ticket Inspector. I knew the truth however, he was one of them. One of those sent to test me, one of those upon whose mind there is nothing but violence. How I abhorr these violent fellows.

I did the only thing I could, putting my hands up in a modified ‘fence’, assuming a subtle approximation of the Wu Sau Double Guarding Hands of Wing Chun Kung Fu. I also let out a small, primal squeal, letting him know that I was a peacock not to be trifled with. Some emissions also escaped from my anus at this time.

He was undeterred, and came towards me still muttering something about my tickets. Didn’t this fool know I purchase a yearly ticket? Apparently not. I was not about to stand down and let my civil liberty be trampled upon by this filthy immigrant. He had gotten past my initial defence zone manouvre, at which point I decided to flash my blade at him. Leaving one hand in the air in a subtle approximation of ‘monkey steals the peach’, I reached around and unhooked my bowie knife from my oversized pants. His face tightened noticably as the reflection of the blade glanced across his pockmarked skin… As it should, for I am a Martial Arts Master, and I also made up my own martial art too. He threw up his hands in a passive gesture but one which screamed out to me ‘Cut me! Cut me! I am on the verge of attacking you like the rabid animal I am!’

We circled each other tentatively for a few moments, with me edging ever closer to the exit so that I could escape the lunacy of being almost attacked by this lollygagger. As my rear end bumped into the turnstile exit, I realised that now was my time to make my escape from the clutches of this madman… He still stood there, pretending to be scared but I knew the truth… He was just waiting for me to turn my back that he may stab me in it. Well, not today, Ricco. I placed one hand on the turnstile, and backed out slowly. At the last minute I quickly reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out my poison tipped throwing needles, flinging them defensively at his face and neck. I did not wait around to see the results, as I turned and fled, safe in the knowledge that I had defended myself successfully from yet another episode of harrassment that I, as a Martialist, have to deal with on a daily basis.

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.’

Response to a Phil Elmore article

Who Are the “Armchair Martial Artists?”
By Phil ElmoreNot too long ago I got into a mild debate with some instructor or other – his name escapes me – at an online discussion forum. Reading too much into a single photo that was part of an article here at The Martialist, the instructor made what I thought were vague and condescending comments. He capped these with the delightful assertion that, as I interpreted it, the way he instructs law enforcement officials is far superior in application to similar material shared by others, especially those who don’t teach LEOs. He implied, in my estimation, that he could not share these effective techniques with the mere mortals frequenting a bulletin board, so all assembled would simply have to take his word for it.


As per usual, a boring, waffling and self-indulgent introduction outlining a personal disagreement with someone from “teh intranet.” Yawn, wake me up when it’s over.

Setting aside, for the moment, that anyone unwilling to share information shouldn’t be participating at an online discussion forum, let’s be clear about two things:
• Truth is not a function of one’s resume.
• There are no secret techniques.


Truth is indeed truth, regardless of who is saying it and what they have achieved. It’s a lovely non-sequiteur that has about as much to do with who is qualified to teach martial arts as stating that Einstein had a lovely moustache.

There are no secret techniques. Nope, that’s right. (Except for the techniques that the instructor knows but keeps from his students… What do you call those again? Oh yeah, secrets. Perhaps you meant that there should be no secret techniques?) But there are limits to how much you can write about a technique, when what is really required is doing the technique, showing, guiding, making physical contact.

Anyone who tries to assert differently should immediately earn our contempt. The first is a logical fallacy – the Appeal to Authority – and the second is just foolish.


Well, yes and no. It’s not as clear cut as that. Truth is truth, no doubt about that. But the martial arts are not always about what is intellectually, academically true. They are about experience, about skill, about knowledge. These things, in particular, often are dependent on your “resume”. For example (and this is only an example), it is a truth that, in the Japanese language, the verb often comes at the end of the sentence. That’s true, but not everybody knows that, and I didn’t know it, until somebody told me. Now, don’t give me the response that we can find these things out for ourselves. If that were so, we would not need martial arts teachers, or teachers of any kind, and we would simply bumble our way through everything discovering everything for the first time each generation. No, we learn from people, from their experience, combined with our own. Truth is truth, but one person cannot know all the truth in the world. There are plenty of truths in quantum physics, but can you tell me them? Probably not, because you have no idea about quantum physics. Would I take your word over that of a Quantum Physicist? Only if I were an idiot.

Let’s say I wanted to learn how to shoot a gun. On the one side, I had a man who had been in the army, shot and killed numeruos people, and recieved a sharpshooter’s award.

On the other hand, I had a guy who had read all there was to read about the theory of shooting guns, knew all the same “truths” as the other guy, but had never actually used a gun for its true purpose; combat.

Who would I choose to instruct me? Who would you choose? The answer is obvious. And that’s why your statement, that truths are truths no matter what your resume, is not a good one, especially when it comes to martial arts.

Anyone who makes an assertion (or who criticizes your honest presentation of an idea) but will not offer his or her own assertion in equal measure and detail is evading the issue.


Either that, or they are just lazy. Are you implying that when someone “honestly” presents an idea, that it should not be criticised? “I spent many hours in front of my computer writing honestly about what I think I know about fighting. You can’t criticise me until you’ve written at least 2,000 words on the subject and stayed up all night writing, too!” Sounds kind of crazy, doesn’t it? Yes, I realise that was a bit of a straw man, but this is basically what you are saying. Remember, truth is not a function of your resume!

He or she has learned that it is easier to criticize than to create. The loudest critics online are those who create little or nothing themselves. The Web is rife with them. They are armchair martial artists.


Funny – didn’t you, mere minutes ago, make the point that the truth does not depend on your resume? Couldn’t we therefore extrapolate that you don’t need a long resume of articles published online in order to refute a point that you disagree with? I also find your definition of armchair martial artists almost too hilarious for words – you are implying that armchair martial artists are those with little or no online presence, those who have not created something tangible for all to see. I know many an incredible fighter who has never put pen to paper with their ideas. Are they armchair martial artists?

My argument with the instructor – in which I ridiculed his responses fairly viciously, as I have no patience for online silliness related to the martial arts –


Do excuse me, I think I just choked on my noodles.

managed to anger the participants at a small, low-traffic discussion forum in another country. I gather that these participants either know, or know of, the instructor in question. They were very angry that I did not afford him the deference they felt he deserved. What all of them missed completely was the frank reality that respect must be earned.


How is respect earned? By the amount of essays you publish online? The amount of logical fallacies you can point out in someone’s response? The distance you can raise your left eyebrow? And especially in the martial arts, how is respect earned? By doing. Not by talking.

Anyone who offered the responses I ridiculed would have received the same treatment from me – for I brook no evasions when someone takes issue with me. I urge anyone reading this to do the same. This does not mean I am never wrong, of course. (On the contrary – I am always learning, as I believe we all should be. This is why I encourage dissenting opinions in print at The Martialist and online at our discussion forum.)

What it does mean, though, is that waving your resume around and demanding to know someone else’s law enforcement credentials and training (if any) doesn’t win an argument or settle an issue. In the course of venting their ire at me, the foreigners I managed to irk took a few shots at me (as one would expect). One called me an “armchair martial artist.” I read that and literally laughed out loud sitting at my computer.


I can imagine you would. How could anybody dare to criticise you? 😉

I’ve never claimed to be an expert of any kind. I will never tell you, “Agree with me because I am the publisher of The Martialist,” or, “I am right because I say so.” I do not, however, pontificate from ignorance. I train under two different instructors, spend a great deal of my free time researching the martial arts, and regularly publish this magazine. While that’s not the resume of a Jeff Cooper or a Chuck Norris (or even an Aaron Norris), it’s also not the profile of an inactive, uninvolved practitioner. I live and breathe what I do and I believe strongly in it.


Somebody who denies their position as an armchair martial artist by claiming to spend time researching martial arts and publishing a magazine about them is not doing much to help their cause. Those are exactly the activities of an armchair martial artist. What was it your old wing chun instructor said? That you hardly ever turned up to class?

Who, then, are the real armchair martial artists? They are the children (and the adults who behave like children) who comprise a vocal minority within the online martial arts and self-defense community. They’ll accuse you of egotism – because of a self-involved envy that you, not they, have taken the time to build something of value.


I’d really love to take this opportunity to ask you to stop citing this fucking bullshit strawman arguement. It’s very frustrating. I, personally, know of nobody who feels envy at what you have created. You are barking up the wrong tree here, so please stop it. It might impress your buddies, but not anybody else.

The reason people become angry with you is because you have built an entire website, career, persona, movement, publishing ventures… on NOTHING. You even say yourself, you’re nobody special. You don’t have much real world experience. You are by no means an expert. Then, what they hell are you doing in the position of an expert? Experts publish books. Experts lead discussions. Experts teach martial arts. Experts head up websites about the martial arts. I know, I know, it’s your “angle”. Hey everybody, I’m Joe Schmo, just like you. Hyuk hyuk. What in the world would make you think that I want to pay money to be taught anything by a Joe Schmo, nothing special, non-expert? You’d have to be insane to do so.

Just drop the act. How long are you going to claim not to be an expert? Until the day you die? Come off it. You’ve been training for over a decade (sounds more important than 10 years, doesn’t it?) and you consider yourself not an expert? Is that because you only attend class once a month, or are you just a slow learner? Why not have the confidence to say something and believe it – “I tell you this because I am an expert in this field. I have the credentials, I have the knowledge, I have the experience. Listen to me, I am an expert.” No, you use the line that you are not an expert as a kind of scapegoat. If you never portray yourself as an authority, then you can never be taken down a peg. If you never claim to be an expert, no one can accuse you of not being an expert. It’s devious, and I feel sorry for the people that fall for it.

The problem is, your words and actions don’t correlate. It’s like somebody claiming they love animals while stamping on a kitten. You say “I’m no expert” but you act like one.

They’ll happily criticize your efforts – while offering no efforts of their own. They’ll micro-analyze every photograph you publish – while offering for public scrutiny no photos of their own work.

Truth is not a function of your resume.
Some of your loudest critics have videos, photos, and writings of their own plastered all over the internet for all to see.

They’ll bitch and moan about the articles you haven’t written – because it’s easier to demand why a single article doesn’t cover the sum total of martial art since the dawn of time than it is to create even a single article of narrow scope. They’ll dash themselves on the rocks of their own anger, their own bitterness, their own insecurities – because you dare to have an opinion and defend it, committing the ultimate sin of failure to be convinced by their feeble efforts.


I’ll just sit here and drink my tea until you return from la la land.

These are the armchair martial artists, who may indeed go regularly to their dojos and kwoons and halls. They dwell in the armchairs of their minds – soft places from which they spew their envious vitriol while fleeing mentally from the truth of their own failings.


Wait – are you actually trying to make things easier for me? I think the common understanding of the term Armchair Martial Artist is someone who sits on his fat ass pontificating about martial arts rather than actually practicing them. Therefore, someone who regularly goes to the dojo or kwoon and trains hard is not an armchair martial artist. You’ve somehow actually got the definitions reversed – that the people who go to training but don’t publish anything online are the armchair martial artists, while those brave, valiant intellectuals furiously typing (and spell-checking) essays on martial arts are the true hereos.

To get up out of the chair, you must be willing to stand. You must be willing to create. You must be able to endure criticism, most of it ignorant. You must accept what Ayn Rand knew decades ago – that the good are often hated for being good. You must be willing to expend tremendous effort, knowing that you will receive few thanks but absorb much grief.


Ah, no. You must be willing to go to training regularly. That’s about it, dude.

I am proud to believe that among The Martialist’s readers there are no “armchair martial artists.” I know this is true because our readers contribute and because they participate. They get it – and I am honored to serve them while serving myself in bringing them, and you, this publication.


What if I make up an article for the Martialist based on common sense and tidbits I learned from the internet and mailed it to you, despite being someone who has never in their life practised martial arts, what would that make me? (Hint: an armchair martial artist.)

Helicopter pilot Ken Cox once spoke of how fascinating he found criticism – seeing himself through others’ eyes. He also referred, much later, to the hypocritical manner in which I believe the armchair martial artists hurl accusations at others. He called it “the pot calling the refrigerator black.”
The armchair martial artists know who they are.
They fear you.


The armchair martial artists fear everything, because they are wimps.

You started what could have been a great article about the definition of an armchair martial artist. (Who knows – it could have been as virally popular as your definition of trolls and been cited on at least two websites!) (Okay, I’m joking there. I have no idea about how many referred to it.)

Unfortunately, you give only a passing mention to the real subject, and instead carry on a personal quarrel (offering us no links or background or actual quotations). Did your psychiatrist tell you to write these articles, as a cathartic process? Maybe you should buy a guitar and write a song every time someone makes fun of you, instead. But then again…
(Cue the Martialist dramatic signoff line music…)
That would involve getting out of your armchair.