Though the world has long been fascinated with competitions that involve fighting with empty hands, there is a growing interest in the study of weapons for self defense.
The popularity of boxing and, more recently, mixed martial arts competitions such as the UFC have inspired many to train the martial arts both for enjoyment and for self defense. Recently however, training with edged weapons, impact weapons, and firearms has become more and more popular.
This growing trend of training with weapons is in part due to the popularity of weapon based arts in the movies, but, more importantly, it is also because many are seeing the real value of weapons training. Weapons training has many benefits. Weapons training offers excellent skill development at an accelerated pace. Weapons training lends to developing a mindset that is focused on survival. Also, weapons training offers a well rounded skill set that allows one to have more options for self defense.
Acceleration of Skill Development
Training with impact weapons will help you learn how to generate power and hit harder. In the old days, boxers used to chop wood to develop a hard punch. At that time, the axe became a tool for developing power. Swinging a weight (the axe) with power requires coordinated body mechanics. When swinging the axe, the boxer had to increase the range of motion of his hips and shoulders as he twisted them harder and harder to generate force. This increase in range of motion helped the boxer to learn how to engage more of his body into the swing. He developed the ability to use more effective body mechanics by moving the axe and not just his hands alone. This ability then allowed him to tap into those mechanics when he returned to the ring, without the axe.
Weapons train you to hit faster, even with your empty hands. When beginning the swing of an impact weapon, such as a baton, you must first overcome inertia to get it moving. Then, in what is a relatively short distance, you must accelerate your strike to reach a speed that is sufficient for delivering a blow that has enough power to cause damage to your target. When training with weapons you are essentially doing a sort of dynamic weight training. Though the weight is light, it does offer resistance. That resistance develops more speed and acceleration in your movements. This is especially evident when you strike using a similar motion, but without the weapon. You will find that you have cultivated the ability to move your empty hands faster because you have trained the mechanics with the added weight of a weapon.
Weapons training will give you a strong sense of speed and timing. The pace of weapons training can be faster than that of empty hands because the tip of your weapon can move faster than the hand holding it. This effect is greater when the weapon is longer than the reach of your arm, such as in baton training. By training regularly at this faster pace afforded by weapons training, you will become accustomed to defending against attacks at higher speeds. Because of this, you will also develop a keen sense of timing. At a faster pace, your timing must be more accurate and precise because your margin for error is smaller. This pressure will make you more skillful quickly.
Weapons training will allow you to develop very sharp sense of accuracy and precision. When using a weapon, any small motion of the hand at the grip of the weapon results in a much larger motion at the tip of the weapon. This is similar to the affect that you can observe with a bicycle gear. With a gear, more rotational distance is traveled at the outer circumference of a gear than is traveled at the axis. A small turn in the axis, results in more movement of the outside. This same effect happens between your wrist and the tip of your weapon. Your wrist acts as the axis and the tip of your weapon acts like the outside of the gear. Because you must control the tip of the weapon, you learn that very small movements of the hand and wrist can make a big difference.
Managing this effect regularly during training leads to a strong sense of accuracy and precision in your movements. Any small error in positioning with the hand can make or break a technique. This forces students have to focus more with coordination when weapons are involved. That coordination lends to more refinement of the empty hands skills as well. Students who have trained with weapons find that coordinating empty hand movements seems easy in comparison.
Survival Mentality and Understanding of the Offense
Training with weapons develops a survival mentality. Self defense in modern times is really survival. It is survival from more than just the threats of a mugging or an assault. We now have mass attacks, kidnappings, and terrorist attacks occurring more frequently in our culture. In your study of weapons, you must consider when and how you may need to use them. This leads you to thinking more realistically about how to avoid and prevail in these situations. You will become more vigilant. In doing so, you improve your ability to survive by developing a mindset that will keep you observant and alive.
Learning offense gives you a better understanding of what is needed for a good defense. Weapons training not only involves how to protect against an attack, but it teaches you how an attack with a weapon happens. It teaches you the dynamics of an attack. If you do not have any idea of the dynamics of a knife attack, you will have a hard time defending against one. Knowing the offense will allow you to train for a realistic and effective defense.
Training with weapons conditions you to expect a weapon to be involved. Because of this, you will not be caught off guard when a weapon is introduced to the fight. Many people who were victims of an assault did not realize that they were being attacked with a knife until the attack was over. If you train with weapons, you will not make the mistake of assuming there is no weapon, even if you do not see one. Because of this approach, you will not take risks that leave you exposed when there is a weapon.
Weapons training instills sense of urgency in getting your techniques right because you may die if you get them wrong. You may be able to absorb a few punches or survive a takedown and continue to fight, but you cannot afford to exchange knife thrusts or shots with an opponent. Training with weapons conditions you to be decisive and get out of the way. You will not allow yourself to become static and easier to hit because you know that one hit could kill or seriously injure you. This understanding adds intensity of purpose to your training and a focus on getting it right. If there is any advantage you can find from better position, distance, etc, you will learn to take it.
Weapons training is relevant to your self defense. Bad guys use weapons. You need to know how to use them too, or you are at a disadvantage. It’s that simple. You need both empty hand skills and weapon skills to be more well rounded in your self defense preparation.
Maximizing Training Time and Versatility of Application
When you are learning to use weapons, at the same time, you are learning the movements and skills needed for empty hands techniques. You are doubling your training with no extra work because strikes with weapons can be applied using the same movements as those with empty hands.
Weapons training teaches you the entry skills you need apply locks. If you are going to apply a technique (other than disengaging) you must learn how to get in close to counter the attacks of your opponent. You must learn how to get in to apply your strikes and other techniques. To enter and apply a disarm or control tactic with a weapon involved, you must have good timing. By training how to disarm an attacker, you develop the ability to enter and control the opponent with excellent timing and precision. This skill applies in empty handed situations too. The weapons training teaches you the skills you need for the entry of an empty hands technique.
Weapons retention techniques prepare you for learning empty hands control and breaking techniques. In training weapon retention, you learn how to prevent someone from disarming you by learning to escape grabs. In weapon retention, you must prevent someone from controlling your weapon arm. In the course of your weapon retention training, you learn how an opponent can grab and control your arm, and how they can disarm you. You learn to prevent them from grabbing you and escaping any locks they may use to disarm you. This training prepares you for escaping and countering empty hands grabs and holds before they are fully set against you.
Weapons training will teach you how to use weapons of opportunity when you are otherwise unarmed. You may not always carry a weapon, but if you understand how weapons work, then you will be able to use common objects available to you from your environment to protect yourself. If you understand how impact and edged weapons work, then you will understand how to adapt and use as a weapon, objects that are not designed to be used as a weapon. This is especially useful if you are kidnapped or attacked in a non-permissive or secured area such as a school, an airport, or a government building that does not allow you to carry a weapon.
Weapons training has a lot to offer. It can develop your skills at an accelerated pace and prepare you mentally to survive a threat. However, weapons training is not enough for self defense. You need empty hands training too.
With the right approach to weapons training, you will be able to develop your weapons skills and your empty hands skills together. With this approach, your skills will overlap and give you a more efficient approach to learning and skill development. The Filipino martial arts have a well established method of training that incorporates both weapons and empty hands skills. They also include weapons disarming and retention. No matter what system you use for your own training, find one that incorporates both empty hands and weapons training in a cohesive and effective way.
If you are interested in learning more the Filipino Martial Arts, consider joining the Tactical Arts Academy Filipino Martial Arts Program. It includes extensive training that includes both weapons and empty hands. We can help you learn to protect yourself and enjoy making yourself better.
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