Do Women Really Need a Firearm for Self-Defense?

The other day, exercising my curiosity, I googled “Webley Bulldog self-cocking pistol.” I was reading the book Son of the Morning Star about George Custer. According to the book, Custer carried the Webley at the Little Big Horn rather than the standard issue cavalry sidearm. As I was reading a site about the Webley, an ad popped up on the topic of women’s self-defense. The ad video featured anatomical charts and other illustrations endeavoring to prove that women are weaker than men and therefore cannot defend themselves against men without the use of firearms. The ad was obviously intended to sell firearms to women.

I am not anti-gun, but I do have several concerns about relying on firearms for civilian self-defense. First, when you rely on a firearm for self-defense, you escalate the threat directly to deadly force. Deadly force is appropriate in some situations, but not in all situations. Second, when you rely on a firearm for self-defense, you have to be prepared to use it.

If you are at all squeamish about using deadly force against another person, relying on the firearm for self-defense can put you in a more dangerous situation. Firearms have no loyalty. If the attacker is not intimidated by your deploying your firearm and continues to approach and threaten you, must shoot or the attacker will take the firearm away from you and perhaps use it against you. Firearms linked to the owner by devise or biometrics would help mitigate this problem, but for some reason they are controversial. You would be better off with a big dog, who is loyal and intimidating, or with training in unarmed self-defense.

Of course, the ad video did not consider the potential of unarmed self-defense. Skill in unarmed self-defense has several advantages. First, the assailant cannot take away your skill and use it against you. Second, skill in unarmed self-defense can allow you to manage the process of escalation without your having to go directly to deadly force. Third ou can take your skill in unarmed self-defense and the air of self-confidence it gives you everywhere, even places where firearms are prohibited.

Those who know and practice Taijiquan would scoff at the video’s premise that a woman cannot defend herself against a man unless she has a firearm. Taijiquan doesn’t rely on bodily strength and trying to out muscle an opponent. True, it takes longer to become proficient in Taijiquan than to learn to shoot a firearm. But the acquisition of skill in Taijiquan has many other benefits because it will improve every aspect of your life.

As for Custer’s Webley, it is still not clear to me why he made such an unusual choice.

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Protecting and Nurturing the Spirit (continued)

Root and center are the keys to our physical stability. In Taijiquan we train to strengthen our root and refine our center. Root is our connection to the earth. Center is the area of the body that when a strong force is applied might cause us to lose our balance and thereby destroy our root. Untrained people have a very large and unrefined center. If you push untrained persons on the shoulder, it is likely you will uproot them.

Taijiquan training enables us to refine our center to make it firm and less vulnerable to outside forces. With practice, we can refine our center to a point in the lower abdomen. Push such trained persons anywhere else and you will not find their center and not be able to uproot them. Some are able to hide their center even when pushed directly on the lower abdomen. Training on bricks enables even more refinement of the center.
The upper and lower Dan Tians are the keys to our energetic center. When you train to keep your mind focused there, you will be able to conserve and increase your Qi. If you want to learn more about this process, see Dr. Yang’s book on Embryonic Breathing.

Preserving and nurturing our spirit requires that we strengthen our spiritual root and refine our spiritual center. Let’s say that our spiritual center is our sense of self: who we are and how we behave; recognition and awareness of our self-worth; recognition and acceptance of our strengths and weaknesses; and setting and pursuing our goals for self-development to build on our strength and reduce our weaknesses. For example, a person with an unrefined center, when called a “moron”—let’s say it’s the verbal equivalent of a push on the shoulder–might become unbalanced and lose his center and root. He might feel hurt and cry. He might feel anger and lash out.

A person with a refined center will not be unbalanced and uprooted by such a remark. A person with a refined sense of self-worth and strengths, might react with an internal voice that says “nonsense, I’m no moron!” He won’t feel the need to verbally counter-punch or even reply with a dismissive gesture. Alternatively, the internal voice may say, “true, I am not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I am aware of my weaknesses and have learned to accept them.” It is even possible that the internal voice might say, “yes, I am no moron, but I just did something that could be called moronic and I should make amends.” In that case, the person with a refined center will make amends and feel no loss of center by so doing.

Next strengthening the spiritual root.

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Protecting and Nurturing Your Spirit

The practice of Taijiquan and Qigong should not be confined to the classroom or the training ground because these arts art not just a classroom exercise; they are a way of life. By living according to their principles, you learn how to develop your physical health and strength, to cultivate and accumulate your vital energy (Qi), to calm and concentrate your mind, and to nurture and strengthen your spirit. By spirit, I mean everything from the state of your morale up to and including the energy entity that survives the cessation of physical life. The strength of your spirit affects all the other aspects of your being—your physical health and strength, your mental health and strength, and the quantity of your Qi and the quality of its circulation. Developing a strong spirit requires a long time of nurturing and cultivation during which time the spirit is fragile like an infant and can easily diminish and even perish if not properly nurtured and protected. Properly nurtured and protected, your spirit will eventually become strong and self-sustaining. In trying times like the present, nurturing and protecting your spirit is especially important.

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Preparing for autumn’s arrival

As you know, autumn will be arriving soon.  The Yin organ that bears the burden of the seasonal changes from late summer to autumn is the lungs, and the corresponding Yang organ is the large intestine.  Past experience shows that the over-worked, stressed-out residents of the DC area will soon start experiencing respiratory and intestinal illnesses.  It is time to begin lung Qigong to help your lungs adjust to the change.  You can find my video of Lung Cleansing Qigong on YouTube here.  In addition to Qigong exercise, you might want to try herbal supplements.  Two that I have use and believe are effective are:  Respiratory Defense by Nature’s Secret and Clear Lungs by Ridgecrest Herbals.  I don’t benefit in any way if you purchase them, so there is no conflict of interest in my recommendation.

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What every young girl should know

If there is a teenage or pre-teen girl in your life that you love, please consider showing her the video at this link and having a discussion with her about what to do if she ever is faced with a situation like that shown in the video.  Video of abduction.  The video shows a man confronting and leading away a girl in Sarasota Fl.  The girl’s body was found a few days later.

Two important points to make in discussing the video are.  First. if you see a stranger approaching you who makes you feel uneasy, you should turn and run to a place of safety, which can be a place where there are people or traffic, an open store, a lighted house.  Do not worry about the stranger’s feelings.  The important point is: your safety first, the stranger’s feelings second.

Second, if a stranger attempts to take you somewhere, do not go with him.  Scream, claw, kick, poke and punch, but whatever it takes, do not go with a stranger.  He may say, “Just do what I say, and you won’t get hurt.”  Do not believe him.  Do not go with him.  Do not let him take control of you.  This is the consensus advice of law enforcement and personal safety experts.

In the next few months I will shoot and post videos on techniques that can be used if a stranger grabs you.  But the best defense is not to let a stranger get close enough to grab you.

Yes, the odds of these things happening are small, but if it were to happen, you will be so much safer if you are mentally prepared for what to do.

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Centering

Centering, like other combat training exercises in Taijiquan, should not be practiced as though it were an end in itself. Always keep in mind that it is a step in a progression to building skills in Taijiquan fighting. When I participate in or watch centering, I often see gross violations of Taijiquan principles, which will become dangerous bad habits if allowed to continue into subsequent levels of combat training.

One common violation is the departure from the principle of centered and upright (no tilting, no leaning). Here the partner contorts himself forward or backward to avoid losing his balance and “losing” the centering “contest.” These contortions expose the groin when bending backwards and expose the back of the skull when tilting forwards. Very bad habits indeed.

Another very common violation is resisting, the use of force against force creating mutual stagnation and turning centering into Sumo. The skilled practitioner will quickly resolve mutual stagnation by turn Yang to Yin, but this if difficult to accomplish when the rules do not allow stepping.

Butting, the use of excessive force as noted by Yang Ban Huo, is another common mistake. When a partner attacks with excessive force–in effect throwing his center into the attack–a skilled practitioner can send him stumbling across the room by directing his attack to the side, but practice is necessary to develop effective reaction and timing.

Finally, there is the failure to give up ego and accept Cheng, Man-ching’s principle of “invest in loss.” Don’t look at centering as competition. Look at it as training. You are supposed to make yourself vulnerable so that you can increase your skills. Thus, the suggestion to stand high rather than low. If you consistently “win” at centering–and especially if you resort to violation of essential Taijiquan combat principles to “win”–you learn nothing except that your partner is not skilled enough to make you improve.

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Who controls your life?

Master Yang often asks, “Do you control your life or does your life control you?” I think that for most people the answer isn’t either or but a question of degree. I think that there are some people that have very little control over their life. Their life mostly controls them. On the other hand, I find it hard to imagine that anyone would be able to have total control over their life, unless they have isolated themselves from society and all attachments.

During my previous career, I set my life up so that my job controlled only 40-50 hours of my life per week, except as I like to say, when tanks were in the streets of Moscow. Now, as a Taijiquan and Qigong teacher and school owner, my life controls most of my time–teaching, training, and studying. But I set my life up and made my choices so that my life would control me in that way. For example, this morning I taught my Qigong class with only one student, but we did 1/2 hour of Primary Set, 10 minutes of liver Qigong, 15 minutes of White Crane Qigong and 20 minutes of Taiji form. If no students had shown up, what would i have done–train or not train? Maybe not train.

Having set my life up to control me in this way helps me deal with another of Master Yang’s frequent observations: “The hardest thing is to conquer your own laziness.” With the help of my students and the way I have set my life up to control me, I can say, “yes, I can conquer.” Does your life control you in ways you approve of or not? If not, maybe you should make some changes.

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Taiji Cane

During the past two years I have been developing a Taiji Cane program for Qi Elements Taijiquan curriculum. We have been teaching Taiji Saber for a while, but our saber lacked foundation. I have to admit to a serious prejudice when it comes to turning martial arts into modern dance, which is the outcome when bare-hand or weapons are taught without martial foundation. Of course, some people may say that learning the martial foundation of saber or sword is not a productive direction for kung fu (time and effort) in the modern age. After all, in some places carrying a sword or saber is illegal whereas carrying a firearm is not. But you can carry a cane legally everywhere. So kung fu applied to Taiji cane is very practical.

If anyone has developed fundamental training for Taiji cane, I have yet to find it. I took the techniques of Taiji saber and sword from Master Yang and other sources and employed them in Taiji cane. The vast majority of weapon and supplemental hand techniques of Taiji saber and easily applicable to cane. Even some of the sword techniques like dian and beng (flick down and flick up) can be used with cane.

We demonstrated our Taiji Cane at World Tai Chi Qigong Day last week, and it attracted a lot of interest. The demonstration of le zha (rollback and poke) evoked several gasps from the audience. Yes, it is nasty.  Our simple level one beginner cane form is on our You-Tube channel qielements1 as are our techniques from level one and level two. I am still working on creating a more complex form incorporating all of the level one and two techniques as well as a cane vs cane matching set (you know, for when we are all in the old-folks home jockeying for place in the dinner line).  Go to Qi Elements’ You-Tube Channel

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Regulating the Spirit: Moderation in attachments

If you want to build up and maintain a calm and steady spirit, it is a common tenet of philosophy that you have to avoid attachment to the things of the world.  This is why monks retreat from society and go to the mountains for self-cultivation.  Of course when most people think of detachment from the things of the world, they think of material things, but it is also necessary to avoid excessive attachment to living things.  They are all subject to the cycles of growth and decay. In the case of a pet, the cycle of growth and decay can be as fast as 10 or 20 years.

In addition, people are subject to their own fate or destiny.  People can change their own destiny with effort, but most don’t make the effort.  You can help someone change their destiny, but you can’t do it for them.  If you become attached to changing someone’s destiny, you are likely to suffer disillusionment.

Excessive attachment to another person or a pet can make your spirit vulnerable to their fate.  Thus we must be moderate in our attachments.

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Regulating the Spirit

If you wish to maintain a calm and steady spirit, you must embrace the fact that the world moves in cycles of growth and decay.  The cycles may last days, years, centuries or millennia, but they are inevitable and unavoidable.  During my visit this weekend to my former home town, I was reminded again of how this little city, once bustling, is now decaying.  Experiencing the cycles during your lifetime, you will see things that you love bloom and decay.  You will see things that you hate, rise and prosper.  You yourself will rise and then fade away.  If you cannot train yourself to accept these cycles with equanimity, how can you maintain a steady spirit?

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