WEAPONS

SAFETY

Including weapons in karate training can significantly enrich understanding of the martial arts by improving hand-eye coordination, enhancing awareness and concentration, adding an entertaining change to training, and providing meaningful insight into unarmed techniques.  Because they can injure in the blink of an eye, look after everyone's well-being by showing weapons special consideration and obeying occasional restrictions.  Moreover, appreciate how non-martial artists view them and the people that carry them.  Consider how anyone feels standing next to someone wearing a knife!  Think first, practice second, and avoid painful or expensive accidents.

One of the first considerations is local law.  Most martial arts weapons are restricted under the California Penal Code's Dangerous Weapons Control Law to certain individuals (police officers, licensed hunters, gun clubs, veterinarians, regulated self-defense schools, etc.)  Nunchaku (clubs chained together), shuriken (throwing stars), knives not seen by metal detectors, firearms, tekken (brass knuckles), blowguns, and shobi-zue (sticks concealing knives) are referred to by name.  Some people are prohibited from ever carrying specific weapons (convicted felons, minors under 16, drug addicts, gang members).  Beyond confiscation and destruction of the weapon, violators can be charged with a crime, pay fines, or even serve time.  Additionally, many schools have codes of conduct with zero tolerance for weapons on campus.  Notify them and get pre-approval before carrying them there.

Look for safe and affordable weapons when possible.  Select safety-inspired (red plastic or yellow rubber) practice weapons instead of convincing replicas.  Higher quality weapons are less likely to disappoint during practice and cost less to own over the long run, but balance that against purchase price.  A $5 rubber knife will not be a bargain compared to the $15 plastic version if it will be used for many years.  Donít start out by buying a $300 handcrafted, imported, cast-iron sai (three-pronged, hand-held spear) set when a $30 chrome-plated one is available.

Looking after weapons and storing them appropriately will extend their lives.  Metal weapons must be kept up to inhibit rust.  Chrome-plated weapons need occasional wiping. Neglected wooden weapons can splinter, crack, or dry out.  The bo (staff) and other long weapons shouldnít be left leaning against the wall to warp.  Stow weapons indoors away from extreme temperatures.  Keep them clear of water sources so they donít get wet and away from heat supplies so they donít ignite.  Donít set them down on the garage floor where they will be run over.  Keep them inaccessible to the young and curious so that they canít be tragically misused.

Transportation is another point.  Keep weapons locked in the car trunk or in a closed carrying case when hauling them around.  Donít drive with a black rubber gun in the lap, passenger seat, or glove compartment!  Apart from traffic stops by police, they might bounce around.  A wooden tanto (knife) can get stuck under the brake pedal, escrima (clubs) can jump out of pickup beds, and cases can strike other passengers on the bus.  Be considerate and keep them locked down and out of the way.  Remember not to leave them in the trunk indefinitely; remove them when not going back or forth to class.

In general, NEVER use actual weapons or allow them to be used nearby.  Even minor mistakes have a high probability of producing a severe injury.  To reduce the threat of injuries take a tip from kendo (the way of the sword) and use modified weapons.  Kendo was originally known as kenjutsu (sword art) and practiced with everything from katana (live steel blades) to bokken (wooden swords); injuries were frequent.  Wisely trading safety for a little realism bogu (armor) and shinai (bamboo swords) are now used.

Appropriate practice weapons can normally stand-in for the real thing with a little work and imagination.  Use empty, small plastic soda bottles instead of metal knives, and cotton ropes, rank belts, or plastic chains instead of metal links.  Try padded clubs, wooden knives, bataca bats, water pistols, inert pepper spray canisters, or PVC piping (anything that keeps true to the spirit of the weapon).  Keep in mind that even these safer weapons are dangerous under some conditions.  If someone is thrown onto a wooden knife or a cap gun goes off next to an ear wounds result.  Assume that people will receive minor injuries and look for approaches that diminish hazards.

Each weapon requires a different safe practice space.  Compare the danger areas around someone practicing with a knife, escrima, or bo.  Always maintain at least that space.  Practice where people canít wander in the way, windows shattered, or branches caught.  When practicing with range weapons (throwing stars, arrows, etc.) know what is anywhere near or behind the target and think about what would happen if those weapons got out of control.

Once in class, ensure that a competent teacher is present and follow their instructions.  Have a first aid kit available and make sure it is kept stocked.  Nails should be short, jewelry removed, hair tied back, and glasses sport-strapped or contact lenses worn.  Use safety equipment (mouth guard, goggles, armor, gloves, shoes, etc.) when practicing against other weapons.  Donít practice if sick, injured, tired, emotional, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Everyone should always check each weapon before use.  Look for defects such as frayed cords, splintered wood, loose handles, or any other kind of failure.  Pack up doubtful weapons and move them where they wonít be used by mistake.  Place usable weapons off to the side and in sight when not immediately in use.  Mend repairable weapons and retire or dispose of worn out ones.

Get in the habit of always regarding simulated weapons as real ones.  Donít step over them, fool around with them, or toss them around. Hand them to others in a way that wouldnít harm anyone if they were real.  Leave unfamiliar weapons alone and always obtain the ownerís permission before examining their weapon.  Know where the weapons in use are.  It is painful and embarrassing to execute a flawless club disarm and then slip on it or stub a toe while clearing away because it went underfoot.  An additional benefit of keeping track of weapons is that it allows a defender to know if a loose weapon is close enough to pick up and employ against additional attackers.

Donít make spontaneous movements that werenít agreed upon and slow down both attacks and defenses.  Since weapon defenses call for more aggressive responses than weaponless assaults defenders will use extreme techniques and aim for targets that are otherwise commonly prohibited (eye gouges, throat strikes, joint breaks, throws, chokes, etc.)  Because of this, spur-of-the-moment actions greatly increase the likelihood of severe injuries.

Attackers should exaggerate strikes, be prepared to pull them if the defender falters, and remain unmoving wherever they end up until the defender clears away and comes to a rest after each defense.  Defenders should only apply sufficient speed and power to enable the attacker to respond as if they had been fully landed.  Defenders should also lead their partnerís reactionary movements away from hazards created while countering their attack.

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