Knifes, Guns And The Bourne Sheeple

weapon disarm“The problem with so many knife and gun disarm techniques is that the person teaching them is usually like a virgin claiming that he can teach you everything you need to know about sex because he’s watched a lot of porn.” Marc McYoung


I was inspired to write this article after a recent discussion on the Combative Mind Facebook page. The discussion on the Facebook page was prompted by the picture below.

weapon disarming

That picture is a representation of the woe that I feel every time I see a picture or a video of someone disarming someone else of a knife or a gun. Without exception, in these videos, the person doing the technique is invariably calm, relaxed and unhesitant in their response. Their movements are quick and smooth. They make the whole thing seem effortless (it’s very much like watching someone do a magic trick actually).

And that’s because disarming a fully compliant training partner who has a rubber knife or gun trained on you while you both stand in a matted training area, is effortless. With just a little practice, it can become ridiculously easy to disarm someone who is holding a (fake) weapon on you.

The relative ease with which you are able to do these techniques is an underlying problem associated with these magic tricks, because it creates a sense of false confidence in the practitioner. After a few hundred repetitions, a person could start to feel like they really could disarm someone of a real knife or gun if they had to.


Lack Of Realism

This kind of confidence would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that the conditions under which the techniques are practiced are completely unrealistic.

Aside from the lack of realism in the type of environment in which the techniques are practiced–and also the lack of any real pressure and the knowledge that no one can get hurt–the single biggest factor lacking in these scenarios is the psychological shock element.

Point a rubber gun at someone and they barely flinch. Point a real gun at someone and convincingly threaten to kill them if they don’t do as you say, and that person will likely shit themselves and do exactly as you say. They’d be mentally terrified and physically frozen. It’s kinda hard to pull off a good disarm technique when you’re in that kind of shock. I’d say it’s near impossible.

Is this little fact ever mentioned by instructors who teach these disarm techniques? In my experience, no, it is not, because if it were mentioned, then people would stop going to these classes because they would realise they were just wasting their time with this shit if there was little chance of them pulling it off for real. Business would slump somewhat and we can’t have that, can we?


You’ve Got The Weapon—What Now?

But let’s say by some miracle you did manage to pull off one of these disarm techniques in a real situation. What would some of the likely outcomes of such a feat of skill or luck be?

In the case of a knife, what do you do with it once you get it? Assuming of course, you didn’t stick it into the other guy during the struggle to relieve him of it in the first place, in which case, good luck with the paper work on that one. Or if the reverse happened and you get stabbed during the struggle…again, good luck.

So you are left holding a knife. What to do with it? Throwing it away might be an option. That may even up the fight if your attacker hasn’t already legged it, which could well happen. Or you could run away, another viable option. Or you could panic and stab the other guy, maybe killing him. Good luck justifying that in court.

So really, there is roughly a 50/50 chance of things ending acceptably well for you if you manage to disarm the knife. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not such action is worth taking or not.

Although let’s be clear here: The chances of you actually taking a knife of someone who really doesn’t want to give it to you, and to do so without sustaining (potentially serious or fatal) damage, are slim to none. I’m not saying you couldn’t do it cleanly, without taking damage. Anything is possible. But really, when you think about it, what are the odds?

More importantly: Are the consequences of trying and likely failing worth it to you? I guess that would depend on how much danger you thought you were in at the time.

Another thing you should be aware of: If someone really wanted to stab you, you probably wouldn’t know it until after you’d been stabbed, or at least attacked in some way. Someone who threatens with a knife is doing just that, threatening you, not attacking you. They are trying to scare you into giving them what they want. This will be clear in their instructions to you. Listen to them and give them what they want and you will most likely survive the encounter unscathed (physically anyway)



Now let’s look at guns. Guns are a different animal to knifes. You may actually sustain less damage from a gun than with a knife, but the difference being, the damage caused by a gun can be a lot more serious.

So what are some likely outcomes of managing to disarm someone of a gun? You could throw the weapon away, or run away yourself. Or you could panic and shoot the other guy…paperwork again.

Another outcome could be that the other guy goes for the gun again and one or both of you get shot in the struggle. You may also be left holding the gun, go to shoot the other guy and the gun jams. He may pull another weapon or just attack you unarmed. Either way is not good.

Again, if you are being held up, giving your assailant what they want is your best bet if you don’t want to get shot or injured in some other way. Of course you may still get shot even after you do as your assailant says, but that is a chance you have to take unfortunately.


Life Or Death Situations

It should go without saying that if you think you have no other choice but to try and take a weapon of an assailant then you should do so. If you are in a situation where you have nothing to loose by going for it (if you were going to die anyway) then you should go for it. That’s called survival and survival is always justified. Taking silly risks has got nothing to do with survival and everything to do with ego.


Lessening The Shock

I personally hardly ever practice disarm techniques. I prefer to concentrate my training efforts on techniques that are of more use to me, techniques that I will likely need to use more often than any disarm technique. That’s my choice. If I live to regret that choice, that’s on me.

However, if I really wanted to seriously practice disarming knifes and guns, then one of the first things I would try to do would be to ease the psychological shock element as much as I could. It’s the psychological shock of having a real weapon held on you that causes you to freeze in terror and become totally compliant towards your attacker.

One way to counteract this would be to completely familiarise yourself with the weapon, either knife or gun. Have a detailed look at how they work, their component parts, exactly how they cause damage. Everything about them.

I’d also try to get some experience in using them. For guns, go to a firing range if possible and fire of some rounds. For knifes, get a few different ones and use them on something like an animal carcass (like when Stallone punches the hanging beef in Rocky, but you’d be stabbing it instead). See how the blade causes damage, the effects of the different stabbing and slashing movements.

I’d also have someone point the weapon at me (obviously the gun would not be loaded…duh!) just to see how it feels looking down the barrel of a real gun or the blade of a real knife. I’d expose myself to those feelings and try to put them in the context of everything else, so as to heighten the pressure in drills.

Another thing I would do would be to look at research and evidence concerning real stabbings and shootings. I’d look at the kind of damage caused by these weapons in real incidents, at the kind of wounds they caused and which wounds were survivable.

I might even be surprised to learn that the human body is capable of taking severe damage and carrying on regardless. That there are many cases around the world of people who have been shot and stabbed in the most severe ways (bullets to head and chest, multiple stab wounds) and who still managed to survive to tell the tale.

I would banish from my mind, Hollywood notions of falling down and dying at the slightest sight of a gun or knife and recondition my mind based on the new evidence that I’ve collected, telling myself that surviving an armed encounter is entirely possible, no matter how much damage you may sustain.

This kind of education and training would certainly be helpful, but it wouldn’t guarantee success, not by a long shot. You’d still be playing with fire and you’d still get badly burnt in some way, either by your attacker or by the law.

Of course I would only really go to those lengths if I was deadly serious about weapon disarm techniques, which I’m not really. Like I say, I can think of better ways to use my training time.


The Bourne Sheeple

If some are happy training under instructors and organisations that care more about money and fame than actually trying to help people and give people a truthful depiction of the realities of violence and what self defence actually is, then that’s up to them. That makes them sheeple in my book, not free-thinkers.

Sheeple need to be led, that’s why they are sheeple. For their ignorance, sheeple are invariably led by dishonest and corrupt leaders who crave money and power above all else, and who shamelessly use the flocks of sheeple they command to get it for them.

Spin the flock a yarn (lol!) about there being some amazing self defence system that was created by the military, and about how it’s the best in the world and all the rest of the self defence systems are shite, then wow the flock with some fancy magic tricks with guns and knifes, chuck them a t-shirt with a cool logo on, and that flock will do and believe anything you say, because they crave identity, validation and someone to do their thinking for them.

Not to mention the Bourne movies, a little gift for the flock to get all wet over, the same as Roadhouse was a gift for the martial arts flock back in the eighties, and the Bruce Lee films before that. The flock can’t distinguish between what is real and what is Hollywood entertainment. They are both the same to the flock so they go in their droves to learn to fight like Jason Bourne, believing that such unlikely skill is attainable if they just take a few classes down the gym with that guy, the guy who did a three day instructor course and now he is a self defence/fighting “expert” who knows how to charge a fortune for his “expertise”!

I’ve no doubt that there are some good instructors within some of these organisations. I’m just saying I wouldn’t feel comfortable being subsumed by any large organisation like that. It’s just too cultish for me. I prefer to stand on my own two feet.

Anyway, rant over.  Any sane person can see that this whole disarming craze is just that, a craze, started by people who know better, but don’t care, because all they want is money and fame. Lucky for them there are masses of sheeple out there for them to hoodwink.

Personally, I won’t be wasting hours of training time perfecting these magic tricks.

Will you be?

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9 Responses to “Knifes, Guns And The Bourne Sheeple”

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  1. Zara says:

    It’s certainly true anti-weapon techniques are among the most difficult and it’s a given the chances are against you and you’ll likely get seriously injured or even killed. It’s equally true alot of what is taught these days is no good and profit is a big reason for it, yet there are approaches and techniques that are better than others (i.e simple, relying on gross motor skills, trained in a realistic fashion) so it’d still practice them. Of course I’ll give a mugger my wallet if I’m being threatened with a weapon but in case that’s just not an option (he really wants you dead or wants to take you somewhere to do god knows what) it’d rather give it my all and use my techniques rather than just submit and die. There are no garantees and I really don’t claim to know the answers but I do know if the shit really hits the fan (extremely unlikely, luckily) then I’d rather have certain reflexes and simple techniques ingrained in my body which might give me a slightly better chance of surviving unharmed than I would have if I hadn’t trained at all. To answer your question: yes I do practice anti-weapon defences, if for no other reason than that kind of training (especially free attacks with a knife) will hone your reflexes and make you better at other areas. We do practice disarms from kali and krav-maga (stuff that has been used for real and has been proven effective, or at least as effective as possible given the extreme danger involved in a real confrontation) but I’m well aware of their limitations so I take them with a big grain of salt, knowing it’s unlikely I’ll ever (have to) use them for real. It’s like Dan Inosanto says: disarms are incidental, if not accidental. Hit first of all (hard and often) and keep hitting untill an opening presents itself.

    That being said I would never recommed trying a disarm if you can help it: first run, if that’s not possible do what he wants (within reason), then search for an equalizer, lastly fight unarmed. Even unarmed a disarm shouldn’t be your prime objective: first of all make sure the guy can’t use his weapon properly so hurt him as badly as you possibly can. Control his weapon arm (avoid getting stabbed or shot) and attack his most vulnerable targets: hopefully this’ll distract him enough to make a run for it and if not maybe he’ll actually drop it. I’d only disarm him if he can’t react properly anymore (you really don’t want to grapple for control) and if you actually use two hands on his weapon arm you might aswell turn the weapon into him and shoot, hit or stab him with it. If you do disarm him and he’s still able to attack retreat and shoot, hit or stab him. I really wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about paperwork or possible jailtime when my life’s in danger and aslong as he’s capable of fighting there’s a chance he’ll recover his weapon (or pull another one) and that’ll likely mean your death.

    About the Bourn-movies: of course it’s made to look really, really easy (it’s an action movie not a snuff film) and no-one gets halfway good unless they put in years and years of training but the stuff he uses (kali-escrima) actually is realistic seeing kali is a pragmatic art that hasn’t been dilluted (mostly) by fluff or weighed down by tradition. As in every art there are good and bad teachers but from what I’ve seen and been taught I know it’s among the best systems and much better than the stuff we used to practice in classical jujutsu. If I come across better instructors or techniques then that’s the way I’ll go but for now I really don’t see why I should change my training.

  2. Neal Martin says:

    I’ve had no experience with Kali/Escrima, but I’ve no doubt they both have some good stuff, although from what I’ve seen of them, they are still just martial arts. But that is besides the point. I have no interest in learning any new style, however “realistic”. I find them constraining and they come with a lot of baggage. It’s doubtful I’ll ever practice traditional martial arts again. Never say never I suppose, but I have no desire at this time. I prefer to come from a purely functional and practical perspective and do what is most likely to work under the circumstances (under circumstances that I’m most likely to face).

  3. Zara says:

    It seems something went wrong when I tried posting and I’m not going to retype the whole thing (the exams are drawing near) but the gist of it was that a) kali-escrima is a very practical art (it’s not because something has ancient roots so to speak it’s no longer functional, plus I believe you can’t really judge something if you haven’t at least tried it first) and b) the so called ‘reality based systems’ are essentially made up of martial arts techniques (they invented nothing new) so I don’t see why they should be inherently better than traditional martial arts (easier and quicker to learn yes but not necessarily better). Even sports martial arts are valuable in street self-defence, especially if they’re of the full-contact variety. It’s the individual that makes the difference, not the style and I for one absorb what is useful to me without getting hung up on style or origin.

    • Neal Martin says:

      Completely agree, it is the individual who makes the style. Although I talk a lot about Combatives, it is just a catch-all term used to describe a bunch of techniques. I use it so people will know what I’m referring to when I talk about a particular type of self defence training. I have no real affiliations with any system, style or instructor. My goal is to work on how to put someone down in the most efficient way possible, and to work on the movements and techniques that will allow me to do that. It’s really not complicated at all, although many instructors and styles make it so. It’s a matter of taking simple techniques, like a palm strike, and working on bettering every detail of that technique, looking at ways to generate more power etc. It’s a completely practical process.

      I wasn’t being arrogant when I said no style of martial art holds any interest for me. I just don’t need all the baggage that comes along with most of them, however good some of the techniques may be. I agree when you say you can take what is useful from them. I often do. I also enjoy working things out for myself, breaking stuff down to see how it works, trying to be more efficient in the execution of my techniques etc.

      Bottom line is, I am on my own path at present and I go where that path leads me. It just isn’t in the direction that most people are going in…thankfully!

      • Zara says:

        I try to follow the same path, as does my teacher: by now it should be obvious to anyone with the least bit of interest in the martial arts or SD no single style is inherently superior, that is why we mix and match to try to adress as many situations and variables as possible and negate the weaknesses inherent in one-sided approaches and tactics. I don’t think it’s necessary to invent the wheel again so to speak: pick a few styles you think are good and combine the various elements into a workable whole that is suited to you as an individual. What strikes me when i witness and train under various instructors is how similar they are: maybe not necessarily in techniques but in the way they use their whole body to generate power and speed and the practicality of what they do. The hallmark of excellence is the ability to put someone down quickly and efficiently (i.e without too much effort): anyone who can do this is worthy of being a teacher and you’d do well to listen to what they have to say and show, at least when they can do so in a reasonably effective manner. To me the personality and skill of the teacher is of prime importance, not the style itself.

        Happy new year btw: I hope things will go well for you in 2013.

        • Neal Martin says:

          Yeah, it’s all about putting someone down quickly and efficiently. I gravitate towards instructors who do that. Invariably they are not afraid to concentrate on the basics and they put much emphasis on things like power generation, correct body mechanics etc. One such instructor is Mick Coup. I’ve been learning a lot from him recently. I suggest you check out his forum, it’s a great resource and you will learn a lot from it. Take the time to register.

          Have a great new year yourself!

  4. Tony Tapper says:

    Hi Neal & Zara

    Thank you for an excellent article and an engaging discussion

    I have almost no experience of martial arts but I do have some experience of being attacked and I have to argue with you both on your premise – if I’ve understood correctly – that you should give the criminal what he wants unless it’s something bad in which case you should fight.

    I think you will have no idea what he wants until it’s all over
    If complying with his demands doesn’t worsen your position then I guess its worth a try
    Surely, though, if he is after more than your wallet he will do or say anything to prevent you from realising that until it’s too late

    You may not even know how many attackers you really face as I found out while considering pursuing a ‘hugger mugger’ who’d relieved me of the burden of carrying my heavy wallet.
    I asked a guy fishing nearby if he’d seen which way the thief went.
    He said “Yes, they went that way – into town”
    I said “No, there was only one man”
    The fisherman said “There were four of them. The other three were standing behind you about 10 metres away. Afterwards they all left together”
    Guess what? I didn’t pursue him :o)

    A friend and I have also been attacked by a gang of about a dozen knife wielding turkish gangsters. Obvious what they wanted, at least.
    If it wasn’t for the generosity of a bouncer who delayed them at the door long enough for us to get out of the window then no amount of weapon disarming techniques would have saved us
    What did save us was getting on our toes and showing them how they too could benefit from three years of strenous Army training

    I think the average person would be better off going for a run every morning and wearing ‘sensible shoes’ than trying to learn how to disarm a man with a machete

    Cheers, Tony

  5. gw says:

    And then Neal, the writer of this rant…..was fatally beaten in a New York subway on a visit to America, while trying to disarm two robbers with billy clubs:(( They were off duty policemen who wanted to take revenge on the media for bad press lately.
    Too bad Neal didn’t pay closer attention during screening of the Bourne Identity.)

    We raise our pints of Guinness to you mate:((

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