Friday, November 30, 2007

Startle Response

Startle Response: "BOO! Scared ya; hahahahahaha. . . ." You're most likely to hear that from bratty little folk who want to take control over other people by making them jump. No doubt you've had it done to you, and (admit it) you've probably done it to someone else at some time or other.

That little jump or start (as in, "You gave me a start,") is called the startle response. It causes the eyes to blink and the arm and leg muscles to contract convulsively. It happens very quickly (e.g., eyeblink response in 21-75 milliseconds).

Repeated exposure to startling stimuli can even train you to anticipate the startle response. On the shooting range, we call it flinch.

You can learn to consciously eliminate a flinch because the flinch itself is a learned response. And there are those who claim to have overcome the startle response, but there is some controversy over whether that is really possible, since it is a reflex, and also since a small percentage of the population have a very weak or even no startle response to begin with.

Until recently, researchers associated startle response only with loud noises or visual stimuli such as sudden movements toward the face. A 2001 study at the University of Toronto, however, demonstrated "that startle is best evoked when noises are combined with tactile stimuli . . . ." This led to the conclusion: ". . . that the primary role of the startle reflex is to defend the body against strong impact stimuli, not noises."

Therefore, the startle response has a key role to play in self defense. Rather than try to extinguish this response that's hardwired into us from before birth, we need to ask how we can understand it and cooperate with it in our defense training. Let's begin by taking a look at the startle response at its fullest expression.

When fully startled, you will go into a partial crouch (leg contractions), bring the head down (rounding the back & protecting the vital organs) and bring your hands up to the sides of your face (hands protect the head & elbows protect vital organs). This is your base for self protection, and it's automatic.

In self defense training, it is best to practice a ready stance very close to that of the startle response. With hands open, raise them -- palms facing away from you -- to chest level. Elbows should be against the ribs. This is a position someone might naturally assume when trying to calm an angry, aggressive person. I can hear him saying, "Okay, okay, can't we just talk about it?"

This position readies you to go into the defensive Startle Response Posture (SRP). Your body is almost there, but not quite. This will shorten your response time. (As an aside, some combat pistol trainers acknowledge the SRP and teach their students to fire from the "combat crouch" posititon.)

When you deem it necessary to assume a ready stance, we may conclude that you are in a situation of perceived danger. This means that you will already have some level of adrenaline coursing in your veins. That's good because, as one study found, ". . . threatening situations or fearful experiences have a powerful augmenting influence on the startle response." Your automatic response will not only be quicker, but the adrenaline will enable you to launch your counterattack directly from the SRP with ferocity.

Rather than try to resist or extinguish the startle response, I believe it will be much more productive to train yourself to launch palm heel strikes, judo chops, elbows and low kicks from the SRP. This is something that most martial arts and self defense programs do not teach. I do, however, own a 2-video set of a self defense system that actually begins every move from the startle response.

I might tweak the final product a little here or there, but overall, it's better than a lot of what passes for self defense training. It's called "Self Defense by the Numbers." It was produced by Century Martial Arts, but it's no longer available." It probably never caught on because it was based in real-world simplicity with no bells, whistles or flashy techniques. You may be able to find old VHS copies on eBay.

There are a couple of other systems that build on the startle reflex, and although they have good reputations, I have never really examined their products, so I won't mention them here.

Bottom line: train the basics & integrate them into the SRP.
I will continue this discussion in Startle Response, 2

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Sheep Threatened

I received an email from RC this morning about a sheep threatened. It's a matter for prayer, and I think it's appropriate for this venue, because the Christian Martialist does not ultimately wrestle against flesh and blood.

It concerns a sister in Christ from South Africa, "who was simply taking up an opportunity to make some extra money and live out her life as a Christian—teaching in a Muslim school—and that in the Sudan." She is Mrs. Het Smid, and here is her story:

Recently, Mrs. Smid took a job teaching at a school in the Sudan. While instructing the children in what to do after they finished their recess time, she inadvertently stepped on a prayer rug.

Now, the children are instructed to pray at this time also but forgot. So they hastily took their prayer rugs to a location where they were not normally located. Mrs. Smid did not realize this and when she looked for them to call them back to class; she stepped on one of the rugs.

At that moment, an Imam saw her standing on the rug. He was furious. He told her that there was already one teacher in prison and that she would be next to go to prison. (You may know that a teacher from England was recently sent to prison for allowing her class to vote on a name for a teddy bear. The name was Mohammad. This happened in a different school in the Sudan.)

In Mrs. Smid's case, the principal (who did not show much respect for her from the time she arrived), actually stood up for her and explained the matter to the Imam.

For the moment, the problem has passed and Mrs. Smid is in the clear. That is call for praise. But knowing the volatility of such situations, continued prayer is requested.

Mrs. Smid is planning on returning home to South Africa at Christmas. She is not planning on returning to the Sudan.

If you have a moment to pray for her, it would be appreciated.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rearing Faithful Warriors

I grew up with WWII (that's World War 2, not World War 11 as one elementary teacher was overheard saying to her class at a museum). Actually, I was a postwar baby, but my dad had been in the war, as had the fathers of many of my friends & classmates. Therefore, I grew up with WWII.

I saw Stalag 17 at the drive-in theater with my folks, and To Hell and Back at the movie theater. On Sunday afternoons, we watched Victory at Sea and documentaries using newsreel footage about the rise and fall of Hitler and Mussolini. We also watched the TV series Combat and every war movie that came on television.

There was a balance in it all, too. My dad never glorified war, because he had been in it. And the documentaries showed the horrors of bodies stacked like cordwood, of Japanese soldiers burying Chinese civilians alive, of Mussolini hanging dead by his feet in the public square. This helped to temper with reality the exhilarating sense of adventure boys feel when doing imaginary battle against evil forces.

But, battle we did. And military surplus items helped to fire our imaginations. One Christmas my brother and I found gas masks among our gifts. Then there were the army canteens & web belts. I could only gaze with covetous eyes upon the bayonets & dummy grenades owned by guys I knew. Yes, I grew up with WWII.

That war is pretty much confined to the history books and the minds of ill-informed public school teachers, now. (World War 11? Good Grief!) Therefore, you can imagine how it piqued my nostalgia when I found out that the home-education supplier Vision Forum has some neat military surplus items being marketed for boys to play with.

As a youngster, I would have prized one of the WWII style tin-pot helmets. I can picture a Christian Martialist stenciling a Celtic cross on one of these to remind his son whose soldier he is. The site also has ammo belts, canteens, dummy pineapple grenades, a DVD of Gary Cooper's Sergeant York, and more.

Thanks to Vision Forum for making these and other adventuresome items available to young Christian Martialists-in-the-making. May we rear faithful warriors in part by encouraging the kind of play that stirs their imaginations to engage the forces of evil in righteous battle.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Revolutionary War Vets?

I think I just discovered that Project Appleseed (see my post, "Rifle Shooting Techniques") exists under the broader umbrella of the Revolutionary War Veterans Association. The RWVA also has an arm called Liberty's Price. (Thanks to DLR for sending me the updated links.)

It seems that the organization has recently undergone growing pains and a crisis regarding its overall purpose. (The details may be buried in forum posts somewhere on the site[s].) Nevertheless, as far as I can gather from a short perusal, the RWVA looks back to the days of the minutemen, when virtually every American had the skills of a rifleman. Its purpose seems to be to encourage today's Americans to, once again, become riflemen.

The Project Appleseed arm pursues this mission by holding Appleseed shooting events in which aspiring riflemen seek to achieve an "expert" ranking. The course consists of firing at a man-size target at 500 yds. from the standing, sitting and prone positions.

The Liberty's Price branch of the movement describes its mission as follows:

Liberty's Price is a meeting ground that will focus on broader areas of rifle and pistol training and related skills, other areas of interest relating to preserving Liberty, and politcal [sic]activism. Liberty's Price is not associated with any specific group, but will strive to support and assist all who work to preserve Liberty.

I encourage the Christian Martialist to learn all he can from such organizations and to get the training he needs wherever he can lawfully and legitimately find it. Also, enjoy the fellowship of people who unapologetically pursue the mastery of firearms. But in doing so, remember that a non-Christian, inclusive organization will interpret our heritage as Christians and as Americans differently than we do. And, although our agenda may agree at many points with theirs,we will ultimately have to diverge in order to remain faithful to our calling.

In the RWVA you will find many good neighbors. Love thy neighbor (and let him know you serve Christ, the King). You will also find some brothers. Love the brotherhood (and share with him your vision and mission). Participate joyfully, but let your participation be an extension of your calling, rather than a distraction from it.

. . . oh, wait a minute. I never really spelled out the vision/mission/calling part, did I? Hmmmm. Could this be fodder for another post?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Adrenaline Stress

Adrenaline stress can be your most potent natural ally or your biggest hindrance in a crisis. Last night I was reminded of the significance of the adrenaline rush -- both of mine and that of the police officer who was prepared to gun me down.

I was on my way home from work. It was a little foggy, and I was holding my speed about 5mph under the limit. I saw the police car parked in the center lane and figured no problem, as my speed was reasonable for the conditions.

The cruiser pulled out behind me, though, and about 3/4 of a mile later, he turned on his blue & white lights. Mild adrenaline stress (for both of us?) I braked and pulled over, took out my driver's license and made sure my hands were on the wheel, in plain sight (this is both a courtesy to the officer and a self-preservation measure).

"Good evening, sir."
"Good evening, officer."
"South Carolina law requires that your license tag be illuminated and visible from 50 feet. Did you know your tag light is out?"
"No, I didn't."
"May I see your vehicle information?" My registration & insurance card were in the glove box.
"Officer, I want you to know that there is a firearm in my glove compartment."
"What kind . . . uh, do you have a concealed carry permit?"
"No, I do not." (South Carolina law allows any citizen -- other than convicted felons -- to carry a loaded firearm in the glove box of his/her vehicle.) He indicated that I should retrieve my registration & insurance card, and I did so slowly and deliberately.

"Please step out of the vehicle and go to the rear." Who dropped that cold icicle down my collar? I can feel it the length of my spine. Adrenaline stress! I'm about to be cuffed and hauled to the county lockup.
"Officer, has South Carolina law changed with regard to . . . ?"
"No sir. You are allowed to carry a weapon in your car. This is just for officer safety." Relief. Then, I realized that my registration was not with my insurance information. It must still be in the glove box. The deputy says it's okay; he'll just run my plate number.

I stand in the cruiser's headlights. The adrenaline has nowhere to go, other than to my nerves. Then I look up, and I see the deputy's backup. He's standing in the darkness on the passenger-side of the police car. His sidearm is drawn, and in the dark his posture reminds me of a cat ready to spring. Adrenaline stress (this time for both of us, I'm sure).

I want to look casual, so I slip my right hand in my pocket. Wrong move! Now I remove it slowly and let it hang, empty and open at my side. I'm in the headlights, so I know the backup deputy with the gun sees me looking at him. What's going through his mind? The other deputy returns with a written warning & suggests I see about getting the lights fixed. (I repaired the broken wires right after our walk, this morning.)

Surprisingly, I had no trouble getting to sleep after I got home. I evidently had had enough control to keep adrenaline dump small, and the subsequent stress minimal. As I reflected on it this morning, though, I realized that a tag light out could mean a stolen vehicle. Here's an officer who doesn't know me from Adam's off ox, and he radios for backup: "Possible stolen vehicle, firearm involved."

Put that together with the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in the upstate in recent years, and you've got an officer under adrenaline stress, with weapon drawn ready to shoot someone . . . to kill someone -- and that someone was me. The officers acted like the professionals they are, and I acted with due deference and an understanding of the potential violence that these men have chosen to live with day after day.

The ability to react with control under stress requires both technique and experience (practice). Adrenaline stress management is as important to the Christian Martialist as it is to any police officer or member of the armed forces. That's why, D.V., you'll see more about in posts to come.

I do wonder, though, if either officer was constipated this morning.

Combat Fitness

I have put off writing about combat fitness because I'm not a very good example, but this was not always so. Shortly after we moved to South Carolina, I was taking an evening stroll down a not-very-well-lit street in Easley, SC, when a black dude standing on a porch with some Latinos called out to me to wait up. I was hesitant and on my guard when he approached. As we walked, I kept a half step behind and to his right while he explained what was going on.

It seems that he & the Latinos had a disagreement about his interest in a certain Mexican female. He said they were about to carve him up, when he saw me coming and told them, "He's my bodyguard." Well, that was nine years ago, and I don't think my physique would impress (let alone intimidate) anyone, today. But I've been working on it by slowly building a combat fitness program that will get me back in shape.

For over a year I've been doing an exercise that not only firms the obliques, but also provides a cardio boost, not unlike that from a short sprint. Then, about three months ago, I started doing some exercises from the book Pushing Yourself to Power by John E. Peterson. The workouts require no equipment, and they really do build muscle.

In addition, when I began working the afternoon shift, Laura & I started walking each morning before breakfast. We are gradually adding to the distance. Finally, I've added a couple of isometric exercises that I do twice a week.

One isometric I do is a half-squat braced against the wall. Perhaps I'll give a more detailed description at another time. I also do an isometric pull-up routine that has helped me with upper body strength. There's a video by John E. Peterson on youtube that demonstrates how they are done (Don't tell anyone, but I don't hold the positions for a full minute -- not yet, anyway). I don't have a pull-up bar, but I do have an extension ladder, and if I lean it against the side of our porch, I can move the base farther out or closer in to adjust the rungs to the proper height.

Each time I've added another phase to my combat fitness regimen, I've felt the difference physically. The strategy I've found most helpful is to take "baby steps". That is, to add one small element at a time -- something I feel comfortable about doing for the rest of my life.

But, in the final analysis, we all need to recognize that combat fitness comprises just one aspect of the Christian Martialist's preparation. For bodily exercise profiteth [a] little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. (I Timothy 4:8)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Psalm 144

Psalm 144 is one of my favorites. I picture David looking across the field the night before a great battle. In 24 hours, the battlefield will be littered with corpses, will smell of blood and will echo with the moans of the dying.

First, he blesses the God who has equipped him as a warrior. Then, he muses over the disgust God must have with those whose sinful hearts create the horror of war. What is man that thou art mindful of him? Then he calls upon God to come and miraculously defeat the enemy, to deliver David from the carnage and death of just this one battle.

Then, finally, he remembers why he fights. It is to preserve and protect the sons and daughters of the covenant, that they may live and flourish and prosper in the land given to them by the covenant Lord. And, finally, David ends, as he began, with a word of blessing.

Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD.

This song is for all the sheepdogs out there who follow Christ. I like to sing it to Azmon (usually, the C.M tune setting for "O, for a Thousand Tongues")
   1  Blest be the Lord my strength, that doth
instruct my hands to fight;
The Lord that doth my fingers frame
to battle by his might.
   2  He is my hope, my fort, and tow'r,
deliverer and shield;
In him I trust, my people he
subdues to me to yield.
   3  O Lord, what thing is man, that him
thou dost so highly prize!
Or son of man, that upon him
thou thinkest in such wise!
   4  Man is but like to vanity,
so pass his days to end,
As fleeting shade. Bow down, O Lord,
the heav'ns, and thence descend;
   5  The mountains touch, and they shall smoke,
cast forth thy lightning's flame,
And scatter them; thy arrows shoot,
consume them with the same.
   6  Send down thy hand from heav'n above,
O Lord, deliver me;
Take me from waters great, from hand
of strangers set me free;
   7  Whose subtle mouth of vanity
with flatt'ring words doth treat,
And their right-hand is a right-hand
of falsehood and deceit.
   8  A new song will I sing to thee,
O God the Lord most high,
And on a ten-stringed lute also
praise thee most joyfully.
   9  E'en he it is that only gives
deliverance to kings;
Unto his servant David help
from hurtful sword he brings;
  10  From strangers' hand me save and shield,
whose mouth talks vanity,
And their right-hand is a right-hand
of guile and subtlety.
  11  That so our sons may be as plants
which growing youth doth rear,
Our daughters as carved corner-stones,
like to a palace fair;
  12  Our garners full and plenty may
of sundry sorts be found;
Our sheep bring thousands, in our streets
ten thousand may abound:
   13  Our oxen be to labor strong,
that none may us invade;
No goings out there be, nor cries
within our streets be made.
  14  The people happy are that with
such blessings great are storm;
Yea, blessed all the people are,
whose God is God the Lord.

Rifle Shooting Techniques

My first interest in firearms involves rifles and rifle shooting techniques. Handguns are much more practical for personal defense in terms of both portability and concealability. Still, I have this love affair with shoulder-fired weapons -- not in any way close to the love I have for my wife, mind you (although on some occasions when she spent the night away, I have slept with my M-1 Garand in the bed beside me).

My barber (who reads this 'blog) is devoted to handguns. His devotion as a pistolero far outstrips my puny affection for rifle shooting techniques. He practices constantly. In fact, he is the only person I've known (or even HEARD of) who actually sprained his trigger finger through excessive dry-firing of a handgun. Then, in the weeks the trigger finger of his strong hand was immobilized, he used it as an opportunity to perfect his weak-hand technique. Now, that's devotion.

Shoulder-fired weapons have their place, though, and who knows what turmoil may lie ahead? That's why I was pleased when "DLR" (a reader of Warskyl) sent me links to a couple of forum sites that major in rifle shooting techniques. One site seems to be down now (temporarily, I hope). The other is called Project Appleseed.

Here is a description of Project Appleseed from the site itself:

[T]he Appleseed program is designed to introduce basic skills to the not ready for prime time shooter who aspires to be a rifleman. These basic skills are well know to many of you. The six steps to firing the shot, correct positions, NPOA, windage calulations to name a few. The Appleseed is a great way for the would be shooter to get started on the right foot. The folks who had the vision and the energy to put the Appleseed together hoped that Appleseed would be the first step in the development of a competent field shooter. Appleseed is the begining [sic] not the end of this process.

If you're at all interested in becoming proficient at rifle shooting techniques, I recommend you browse Project Appleseed.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Point Shooting

Point shooting (firing a long or short arm without use of sights) is controversial. One-handed point shooting of a handgun is even more so. Some people think that their way is the only way.

A few years ago, after a church service, I mentioned one-handed point shooting to a couple that was thinking of getting their concealed weapons permits (CWP). A college student jumped into the conversation, immediately established himself as THE expert on the scene, and proceeded to lecture me about how a two-handed grip is the ONLY right way to fire a handgun. After a couple of attempts to broaden his tunnel vision, I just gave up on the principle that often ignorance is its own punishment, and let him go on.

Sure, a two-handed grip can give you a steadier base, especially if you have your weapon raised for an extended period of time. And, with practice, using sights will give you much tighter groups at the range. But are there ANY scenarios where one-handed point shooting might be advisable or even superior?

How about this one: An armed courier is carrying something vital to national security when he is ambushed. Does he just drop his attache case in order to assume an isosceles firing position? Or, do you think a young mother facing an intruder in her home will just immediately fling down her baby to get into a Weaver stance? Is there anything you might be carrying that you would hesitate to just throw on the ground, in spite of the fact that you were being attacked? Or, what would happen if you were injured or wounded in one arm and couldn't use two hands to fire the weapon?

W.E. Fairbairn developed a one-handed point shooting method as a captain of the Hong Kong police in the 1920's. He taught it to British commandoes, the OSS and elite US troops during WWII. Fairbairn's book, Shooting to Live is still considered an authoritative classic on the subject.

Rex Applegate brought Fairbairn's methods back home to the US, and the army produced a WWII era training film on the subject. That film has been declassified and forms the core of the VHS video, Point Shooting: Battle-Proven Methods of Combat Handgunning.

I recommend that the Christian Martialist acquaint himself with the basics of point shooting by reading the Wiki-Pedia article I linked to above. Then, if he wishes to pursue proficiency, the two resources I mentioned would prove to be excellent self-training tools.

Disclaimer: Firearms are dangerous and deadly weapons. This article is for information purposes only. If anyone decides to pursue firearms training, he should learn and observe all safety rules and seek out a qualified instructor.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Hymn

In the late 16th Century, the Dutch fought for independence from Philip II, Romanist monarch of Spain. The Dutch won the decisive Battle of Turnhout in 1597. They lost about 100 men, while the Spanish suffered a loss of about 3000. The victory assured freedom for the Protestant population of the Netherlands.

Adrianus Valerius wrote the hymn "We Gather Together" to celebrate that victory. We often sing it at Thanksgiving without any thought to its place in our rich Christan heritage. Here are the words translated into English by Theodore Baker:

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

To that I add a deliberate and solemn "AMEN!"

A Holiday Warskyl Warm Fuzzy

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and right after that comes Advent and then Nativity Day. It is, ideally, a time when Christian families gather before the face of their covenant Lord and celebrate His blessings, His goodness and especially His redeeming grace. Warm, fuzzy memories of holidays (i.e., holy days) past are often a part of the mix. I'd like to share with you one of mine.

When my older girls were in their teens, we made the trek from Pennsylvania to Riverview, Florida for a visit to my folks. I don't remember if it was actually a holiday or not (but it should have been). My brother & his family were also there, so bedtime was marked by sleeping figures of various sizes curled up all over the tiny house.

Sometime around 2 or 3 AM, I was awakened by a voice outside the house saying, "We have the house surrounded. Come out with your hands up." I wasn't sure what to think, and my first instinct was to grab my Model 1911 from under my pillow and step out of the bedroom door to see if anyone else had heard this demand. They had.

We all met in the center of the house. My brother had his .45, my dad came out of his room with his Remington .380, and ONE OF MY DAUGHTERS had her Helwan 9mm. I can't think of a family get-together where I've felt more warm and gooshy (This is probably the ONLY time you'll see the phrase "warm and gooshy" in this blog). It would have marked an intruder with poor timing indeed to come through the door at that moment.

It makes me proud that all had the same reaction, all (who were able) came armed, and (not least) all were exercising muzzle awareness -- no one inadvertently pointed a weapon at any other family member.

The menacing voice with the threatening message, it turned out, was a recording that belonged to a burglar alarm at a construction site nearby. The air must have been just right to carry the sound to my parents' house so clearly.

A man does what he can, and occasionally Providence gives him a glimpse of the progress he has made. Those moments can provide encouragement . . . but they can also provide warm, fuzzy holiday memories.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Christian Martialist as Sheepdog, 3

Sheepdogs tend to gravitate toward military and law enforcement careers. It seems a natural choice for someone who, by nature, seeks to serve and protect. Not all military & law enforcement personnel are sheepdogs, of course, nor do all sheepdogs serve as soldiers or police.

What I want to address is the advisability of you, as a Christian Martialist, choosing either of those career fields. You need to make your choices deliberately, with eyes wide open. High ideals and purity of intentions will not insulate you from the effects of a poor choice.

Not every military action is defensive. Not every military action is taken for the reasons told to the public. I don't want to go into specifics, here, because my purpose is not to inflame. Even in a "just war", there are ethical considerations. What is or may be considered ethical conduct by the US military may or may not conform to the rules of war laid down in God's Law.

Here's a domestic example that may be lesss inflammatory than a foreign one: In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the National Guard was called in to maintain order. Part of "maintaining order" consisted of confiscating privately owned firearms. The net effect was to leave law-abiding citizens defenseless against roaming bands of thugs. If you wear the uniform, you may be ordered to act against the rights of innocent people. Of course you might refuse to obey, but do you really want to be in that position?

Law enforcement presents similar challenges. I think of a homeschool family from a little rural
church I pastored in Pennsylvania. Out of Biblical conviction, they could not comply with the state's homeschool laws. One day, while the husband was at work, a squad of law enforcement officers pulled into their yard and swarmed out of the vehicles with shotguns and drawn handguns. The family's six-year-old happened to be looking out the window at the time. The boy went into total panic, yelling, "They've come to kill us. They've come to kill us." Would you want to be part of that law enforcement team?

Furthermore, legislatures increasingly pass laws aimed at committed Christians. Who enforces these laws? On many occasions social workers have taken police escorts with them to remove children from Christian homes on the grounds that a Biblical spanking is child abuse. Do you want to be part of the system that persecutes the Lord's sheep?

Remember that your motivation in looking at these career fields was to PROTECT the sheep.

There may be other ways of looking at the situation, and I would never show disrespect to anyone who dons a uniform to serve his country and/or his community. Indeed, I pray for God to instill Christian soldiers with wisdom and character. But if YOU are considering law enforcement or military service, you need to think hard on these matters and make an informed decision. Otherwise, you may find yourself facing some very unpleasant decisions down the road.

Click on the link if you'd like to know which Psalm I think of as the Sheepdog's Psalm.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Fighting for Your Life

If you are an average American, unless our social fabric disintegrates (or you frequent places where violence happens), you will probably never find yourself in a situation where you are fighting for your life. I've been in some potentially life-threatening situations, but I've never really had to fight for my life. I have been in a number of situations, however, wherein I could have been injured by someone out of control.

My point is that the two different kinds of situations require different kinds of responses, hence different kinds of training. If it's kill or be killed, root hog or die, then your reactions must be immediate, simple, direct and brutally effective. It's a question of what you are willing to do to protect your life or the lives of your family, neighbors, etc.

Some people think that in fighting for your life, if something is simple, it won't work. But it's the complex, fancy moves that usually fail in real-life confrontations. Stopping a deadly attack might be as simple as jamming a finger in the attacker's eye -- simple & effective, BUT . . . . messy & psychologically repugnant. Could you do it?

Perhaps it's a gift of Providence that, for those defending themselves, the most lethal methods are the easiest to learn. Now, I'm not about to discuss methods of killing in close combat in a public forum. The information is out there, but I'm pretty selective about who gets it from me.

Nevertheless, killing or crippling an opponent "ain't rocket science." On the other hand, gaining control of someone who is not an imminent threat to life and limb requires practice and mastery of technique. No matter how irritating it is that your drunk cousin is draping himself all over your wife at the family reunion, you really must not handle him the same way you would the mugger/rapist in the parking garage.

In this respect, most martial arts are taught backwards. First they teach the techniques which require years of mastery. Then, after you have your first or second degree black belt, they teach the "secret killing techniques." They may do this to make sure only people of character learn the really dangerous stuff.

Here's the priority I would recommend to the Christian Martialist for learning the different kinds of technique:
  1. First priority are the simple, brutal, fighting-for-your-life methods (the chances that you'll need them are slimmer, but IF you need them your life depends on knowing them);
  2. Second priority are the joint-locking techniques for control of people who are either a nuisance or a potential danger, but who pose no immediate threat to life or limb;
  3. Third priority would be "fighting techniques." Here you practice striking and kicking that results in a level of injury somewhere in the gap between #1 & #2. Most martial arts spend 95% of their time and effort in this area.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Psalm 25

Unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in thee:
Let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me. (Psalm 25:1-2)

The Presbyterian Scots were some of the most fearsome warriors ever to unsheath the sword. And they nourished their souls on the Word of God, particularly the singing of Psalms. The Christian Martialist could not do better than to saturate his heart with these "war chants of the Shepherd King of Israel."

Psalm 25 (C. M., or Common Meter) from The Scottish Psalter of 1650 can be sung to any C. M. hymn tune like Amazing Grace, for example. For my own part, I like to sing this one to the tune Dundee.

   1  To thee I lift my soul, O Lord:
2 My God, I trust in thee:
Let me not be ashamed; let not
my foes triumph o'er me.
   3  Yea, let thou none asham├Ęd be
that do on thee attend:
Ashamed let them be, O Lord,
who without cause offend.
   4  Thy ways, Lord, show; teach me thy paths:
5 Lead me in truth, teach me:
For of my safety thou art God;
all day I wait on thee.
   6  Thy mercies, that most tender are,
do thou, O Lord, remember,
And loving-kindnesses; for they
have been of old for ever.
   7  Let not the errors of my youth,
nor sins, remembered be:
In mercy, for thy goodness' sake,
O Lord, remember me.
   8  The Lord is good and gracious,
he upright is also:
He therefore sinners will instruct
in ways that they should go.
   9  The meek and lowly he will guide
in judgment just alway:
To meek and poor afflicted ones
he'll clearly teach his way.
  10  The whole paths of the Lord our God
are truth and mercy sure,
To such as keep his covenant,
and testimonies pure.
  11  Now, for thine own name's sake, O Lord,
I humbly thee entreat
To pardon mine iniquity;
for it is very great.
  12  What man fears God? him shall he teach
the way that he shall choose.
13 His soul shall dwell at ease; his seed
the earth, as heirs, shall use.
  14  The secret of the Lord is with
such as do fear his name;
And he his holy covenant
will manifest to them.
  15  Towards the Lord my waiting eyes
continually are set;
For he it is that shall bring forth
my feet out of the net.
  16  O turn thee unto me, O God,
have mercy me upon;
Because I solitary am,
and in affliction.
  17  Enlarged the griefs are of mine heart;
me from distress relieve.
18 See mine affliction and my pain,
and all my sins forgive.
  19  Consider thou mine enemies,
because they many are;
And it a cruel hatred is
which they against me bear.
  20  O do thou keep my soul; O God,
do thou deliver me:
Let me not be ashamed; for I
do put my trust in thee.
  21  O let integrity and truth
keep me, who thee attend.
22 Redemption, Lord, to Israel
from all his troubles send.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


The term paladin comes from the Latin, palatinus (palace guard). The word entered Twentieth Century popular American culture via the TV western, "Have Gun Will Travel", in which the main character was known simply as Paladin. Few realized that this "knight without armor in a savage land" was named after a legendary group of Christian knights in the early Medieval period.

Charles the Great (Carolus Magnus or Charlemagne) was king of the Franks and grandson of Charles Martel (Charles the Hammer). The Hammer stopped a group of Islamic terrorists at the battle of Tours in A.D. 732. (Of course, as the media & our government tell us, it is only a tiny minority of Muslims who comprise the body of Islamic terrorists because they do not understand that Islam is a religion of peace. Mohammed died in A.D. 632 after gaining control of Arabia by force of arms. Then a tiny minority of his followers, who misunderstood his peaceful religion thundered across Christian North Africa, demanding conversions at the point of the sword. Within a century this comparative handful of terrorists had conquered Spain and were on the verge of overtaking Western Europe, except -- in God's providence -- for Charles the Hammer.)

Charlemagne's select knights were known as the paladins. As much or more than tales of Arthur's Knights of the Round Table, stories of the paladins, shaped the mindset of the Age of Chivalry. The most notable was The Song of Roland. Over time, mythic embellishments wove themselves into the story and took over altogether.

Of course, troubadours read the religion of the High Middle Ages back into this story set in the context of the era of the Old Catholic Church. Still, it makes good inspirational reading for the Christian Martialist. There is even child's edition called Stories of Roland. It's the kind of thing I wouldn't mind reading to my grandsons (with appropriate explanations of the fact that some pre-reformation Christians were untaught and did things they shouldn't).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Palm Heel Strikes Video

I found an online video that illustrates how to execute the palm heel strike. The video isn't perfect, but it will give you an idea of the power you can generate with this blow. After watching it through once, I noticed just two matters to caution you about (I might see more if I watched it again).
  1. The woman demonstrating the strike falls into a rhythm and gives little telegraphs. Be careful not to do this, even in practice. Telegraphing lets your opponent know what's coming, and so does striking in a predictable rhythm.
  2. At the end of the video, I noticed she was hitting with the whole flat of her hand rather than just the heel of the palm. This disperses force over a broader area and is less effective. Make contact with just the heel of the palm.
Click on the link to go to my post entitled "Speed Training: Palm Heel Jab"

The Gift of Fear

Today I want to recommend that you read The Gift of Fear, a book by Gavin DeBecker. A couple of days ago, I mentioned that we have a Distant Early Warning (DEW) system that is inborn, and which automatically warns us of potential harm. DeBecker's book is the definitive work on this topic.

His early life experiences led him to make the prevention of violence his life work, and The Gift of Fear tells that tale. His anecdotal illustrations are so compelling that, if you're an empathetic person, you might weep at more than one point in the book, as I did. Emotion aside, Gavin DeBecker has an impressive resume. For example, he has developed threat assessments used by the CIA, the US Supreme Court police and the US Marshals Service.

The Christian Maritalist trains himself not just to engage violent people. He should become an expert at recognizing, avoiding and preventing violence. Think of The Gift of Fear as your textbook for the course"Dealing with Violence 101. "Here are some things you will learn from the book:
  • Random, unpredictable violence isn't random, and it's usually predictable;
  • Why & how that nagging, undefinable sense that something is wrong can be your best guide in avoiding violence;
  • How to evaluate the dangers posed by strangers;
  • How to deal with someone who won't let go;
  • Why a restraining order often precipitates the violence it's intended to prevent;
  • How to help your loved ones be safer;
  • How to tell whether the employee you fire may react violently
Just running through those points impressed me with the fact that I need to read The Gift of Fear again. I originally found the book in my public library, and you may do the same. I found it valuable enough to want a copy of my own. If you want to buy it from amazon, click on one of the links for a paperback copy, or this link if you prefer an audiobook.

One caveat: The Gift of Fear is not written from a Christian perspective. It explains intuitive warnings in terms of evolution rather than of God's design. A Christian should read this (or any) book critically and from a Biblical perspective. Also, the vivid descriptions of violent events may be upsetting to some. Even after all the warnings, I recommend The Gift of Fear. After reading the book, my daughter Theresa responded to an unusual situation in a way that may have saved her and her children. Perhaps I'll share that story another time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Palm Heel Strike

I have tried to wean myself away from punching in favor of the palm heel strike. In my book 12 US Military Combat Techniques That Could Save Your Life, I make my case against striking with a closed fist. The major point is that punching hurts -- the puncher.

Boxing used to be done without gloves. (I don't know why they punched instead of using the palm heel strike). The transition from bare knuckles to gloves changed the "sweet science" forever. Padded gloves protected the contestants' hands, and they, consequently, could punch harder without damaging their hands. They could also hit the head harder and more often.

Boxing gloves protect the puncher, not the punchee. Conversely, punching with bare knuckles hurts the puncher. That became obvious from my years in hospital security . . . . EMTs bring two drunks into the emergency room. One had punched the other out, and both are sent to radiology for x-rays. Invariably, the one who got punched in the head is either okay or suffers from a mild concussion. In 24 hours he'll be pretty much over the ordeal. The puncher, however, has broken a bone in his hand and will wear a cast for weeks.

When you see the foregoing scenario played out over and over, you begin to get the idea that punching may not be a good idea. That's why I favor the palm heel strike. The palm is naturally padded, and bone injuries are a lot less likely if you strike with it. Also, hitting with a fist requires proper alignment to avoid wrist injury, whereas if you strike with the heel of your palm, proper alignment is automatic.

Some instructors will say, "Punch to the soft areas and palm heel strike to the hard ones." That's good advice, as long as your target doesn't shift. But if your opponent bobs or weaves, your punch to his (soft) nose may land on his (hard) cheek bone or forehead.

During my karate training, my sensei talked about making a fist properly to avoid injury. Nevertheless, when we sparred, we wore gloves. All the striking arts wear them for sparring. The purpose is to protect the fist from injury. If you use a palm heel strike, you will be much less likely to hurt yourself and much more likely to hurt your opponent.

It's the very effectiveness of the palm heel strike that requires you to use caution in your training. Practice in slow motion (using follow-through) with your training partner. Practice full speed strikes on focus mitts or body shields.

The palm heel strike is not the only effective way to hit an attacker, but it is one you should definitely know and practice.

Click the link to go to my post entitled "Palm Heel Strikes Video"

Monday, November 12, 2007

Violent Attack

Quite a while ago, I started writing an article about the nature of conflict, especially violent attack. Here is first part of that article, slightly revised:

The Nature of a Violent Attack

You crave, and don't have, so you kill.
You covet, and can't obtain, so you fight and make war.
(James 4:2)

What is the essence of violence? It is moral and psychological as much as it is phys­ical. Here is an operational definition of violence:

Inflicting physical harm to achieve a desired end.

Note that when someone decides to use violent force on you, he believes it will gain him something he wants. Thus, the source of the violence lies not in his fists or weapons. It lies within his heart.

Violent attack is merely his chosen means to impose his will on you. And if you choose to resist him, you are not, ultimately, resisting his fists. You are resisting his will.

In that sense, a fight is like any other contest. In the final analysis, it is a contest of wills. Take a football game – or any other sport – for example.

Sometimes, an underdog will defeat a highly favored team. Afterwards, coaches and commentators will say that the lesser team won because they were hungrier or they wanted it more. The favored team lost, not in terms of strength or skill, but because the other team overmatched them in the will to win.

This principle is highly significant for your self defense training. You can train long hours over months and years to build your strength, speed and endurance. You can develop your martial skills to the point of excellence.

But in the final analysis, if you do not have a heart for the fight, you will lose a violent confrontation.

On the other side of the coin, though, this is good news for most of us. That’s because the average orc doesn’t really have the heart for a fight, either. He targets victims that he believes he can overpower easily, without a fight.

Because the violent predator wants a victim, not a fight, your willingness to fight back gives you an edge. For this reason, self defense experts rate mental attitude over skill. Tony Blauer says that fights are 70% mental and only 30% ability.

Similarly, karate champion Joe Lewis has said, “Fighting is 10% technique and 90% spirit.” And women’s self-defense instructor Meghan Gardner maintains, “100% attitude and 5 techniques will beat 100 techniques and 5% attitude every time.

In at least two of his movies, John Wayne made the point that the battle often goes to the one whose will is stronger. In Cahill, US Marshal, the title character faces down a lynch mob with the following words (to the best of my recollection):

“I’m willing to die to keep these prisoners, if you’re willing to die to take them.”

And in The Shootist, he counsels young Ron Howard that it takes more than skill with a gun to make a successful gunman. (Again, I quote by fallible memory.)

“Some men aren’t willing. You can see it in their eyes. . . . I’ve always been willing.”

Orcs, by and large do not want to risk a fair fight. In most cases, they don’t even want to risk injury in a fight tilted in their favor. They want easy victims.

This does not mean that it isn’t dangerous to resist a violent attack. It is danger­ous. And you should only do it when the alternative is morally unacceptable.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Alertness Mindset

Today's post is about the alertness mindset. But first, I want to give credit to my source.

A couple of years ago, I downloaded a neat little free e-book from Rob LaPointe called Automatic Self Defense. He gave free redistribution rights, which was smart, because the booklet promoted his self defense course. I never purchased the course, so I can't vouch for it in any way. However, since the e-book is no longer available, and I'm quoting from it, I thought it only fair that I include a link to his product.

God has put within each of us a Distant Early Warning (DEW) system. It scans our environment like RADAR all the time -- even when (strange as it may sound) we aren't aware of it. Thus, the assignment for many of us is not how to develop alertness, but to learn to heed the warnings from our inner DEW system. Automatic Self Defense calls it, "Rule #1." Here it is:

What is the #1 thing that gets us in trouble every time, whether it be in business or
personal relationships, or on the street?

Not doing what we know is right.

Rule #1 is trust your instincts. If you follow this rule, the other 4 will probably be
unnecessary. So, if it's such a simple rule, why don't people follow it? Usually because of social conditioning, that is, no one wants to be rude. We're approached in a place, at a time, in a certain way, by a person who makes us immediately uncomfortable, yet we don't simply walk away. Why not?

Ask someone who's been the victim of a crime and
they'll likely tell you they were ill at ease from the start - even before it was clear what was going on. They'll tell you something didn't feel right. Maybe it was the person, the setting, the time of day, all of that. They just didn't like the vibe.

And they still went along with it.
And they got in trouble.

Ask them why they didn't just turn around and leave and they'll almost always say it was
because they didn't want to be rude or appear to overreact. They should have paid better attention - and respect - to that gut feeling, because predators don't wear signs around their necks. Also, if you ever are the victim of a crime, Justice Department statistics suggest there's a high likelihood you're dealing with a recidivist. That means he's experienced, hardened, and has done jail time. The last thing you want to do is give a person like that control of the situation by "being polite." He knows you're trying to be polite. He's counting on it so he can manipulate you.

Most of us deal with many people in the course of a day, but somehow manage not to
make any of them fearful or anxious. If someone else makes you feel that way there's an excellent chance it's not you . . . it's them.

So trust your instincts.

If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:18) You are not at peace with a violent predator if you allow him to make prey of you. Your best fight will always be the one that you avoid, and you will avoid it by developing an alertness mindset. So, listen to the DEW God designed into your consciousness.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Christian Martialist as Sheepdog, 2

In my earlier post I quoted from Lt. Col. Grossman's On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. It's a book I recommend to anyone with a friend or relative in military service. Every pastor who may have to counsel someone with post-traumatic-stress-disorder should also have a copy on his shelf. (Although Grossman gives every indication of being a humanist, on pp. 337-339 he gives passages from the Old and New Testaments to help those who struggle with having killed in war.)

As I pointed out earlier, Dave Grossman uses an apt analogy to refer to those suited by temperament and character to protect the innocent. In world filled with sheep and threatened by wolves, the sheepdog stands as an appointed guardian of the sheep. Here is a further quote from pp. 183-184:

I have met these men, these "sheepdogs," over and over again as I interviewed veterans. They are men like one U.S. Army liutenant colonel, a Vietnam veteran, who told me, "I learned early on in life that there are people out there who will hurt you if given the chance, and I have devoted my life to being prepared to face them." These men are quite often armed and always vigilant. They would not misuse or misdirect their aggression any more than a sheepdog would turn on his flock, but in their hearts many of them yearn for a righteous battle, a wolf upon whom to legitimately and lawfully turn their skills.

As you read those words, you will either recognize yourself, or you won't. Some may try to project the words onto themselves, but the message doesn't really resonate within. If you do recognize yourself as one of the sheepdogs, take my advice and don't go talking about it to anyone and everyone. They wouldn't understand, and they'd think you're a crackpot. Besides, it's only the wannabes who have something to prove. The real sheepdog prepares himself mentally and physically, and then just keeps watch.

You may continue reading on this topic at: "The Christian Martialist as Sheepdog, 3"

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Principles of Personal Defense

Principles of Personal Defense by Jeff Cooper is all about mindset, and mindset is the essence of successful self protection. Some people make the mistake of thinking that defense of self or others is all about technique. "If I could just learn that secret oriental technique to paralyze any aggressor, I'd be okay." Well, you wouldn't be okay. Not without the proper mindset. Writing about firearms in combat, Cooper once said, "It's not the rifle; it's the spirit of the man behind it."

Someone has said that combat is 95% attitude and 5% technique. I remember fondly our jujitsu club in Pennsylvania where one lady had a tough time remembering techniques. I think the instructor promoted her from yellow belt to orange belt largely on her mindset. When practicing individual techniques, she was stiff and wooden, but then the instructor jumped her, and she went into Rambo mode like a kitten that's all sharp teeth & claws when it wants to get away. That's just one example of why Principles of Personal Defense is all about mindset.

Principles of Personal Defense is a short book, but it's a brilliant distillation of what you need to survive a violent encounter. In it, Cooper covers alertness, decisiveness, aggressiveness, speed, coolness, ruthlessness and surprise.

Don't get me wrong. Technique is important; the better your technique, the better prepared you'll be for all situations. But technique without mindset is a recipe for disaster. For that reason alone, if I could have only one book on self defense, it wouldn't be a book on strategy, tactics or techniques. It would be Jeff Cooper's Principles of Personal Defense.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Christian Martialist as Sheepdog

In a 1997 speech to the US Naval Academy, William Bennett said that the majority of society resemble sheep, and that their protectors are like sheepdogs. A letter credited to Charles Grennel (which has made the email-forward rounds) uses the sheepdog analogy and quotes Bennett at length. Actually, there is an earlier use of the sheepdog analogy in a book by an Army Ranger, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman.

In 1995, Grossman published On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society as a serious study of the residual effects on combatants of taking human life. I found out about the book from a friend of mine who said, "You have to read this. We're in here." I knew what he meant when I reached page 183, where Grossman says,

One veteran I interviewed told me that he thought of most of the world as sheep; gentle, decent, kindly creatures who are essentially incapable of true aggression. In this veteran's mind there is another human subspecies (of which he is a member) that is a kind of dog: faithful, vigilant creatures who are very much capable of aggression when circumstances require. But, according to his model, there are wolves (sociopaths) and packs of wild dogs (gangs and aggressive armies) abroad in the land, and the sheepdogs (the policemen and the soldiers of the world) are environmentally and biologically predisposed to be the ones who confront the predators.

This analogy is even more apt for the Christian Martialist, for God refers to His people as "the sheep of His pasture." Further, Jesus is the Great Shepherd, and He calls certain men as pastors (which means "shepherds") to tend his flock. In this context, the sheepdog must be faithful to the Great Shepherd, loyal to the earthly shepherd (pastor) and watchful for the spiritual and physical well-being of the the sheep. You don't find the sheepdog mentioned in Scripture, but you do find examples of his kind. More on this in "The Christian Martialist as Sheepdog, 2"

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Gravelbelly Confesses

I confess! Ever since I was little, I was taught to close my eyes during prayer. I guess it's to aid in concentrating on the prayer. Little ones don't always do it, though, like one of my grandchildren who tattled on another during family altar time. "[name] was looking around while we were praying."

The proper adult response, of course is, "How would you know unless you were looking around?" That's all kid stuff, but I have to confess that sometimes, during prayer at church, I peek. I try to stay with the prayer (really!). But I still open my eyes briefly and scan the parking area through the windows. Sometimes I take a quick look behind to see if anyone has entered the sanctuary.

I suppose I should sit in the very back to keep a watch on the flock as they worship. But that would just be paranoid, wouldn't it? ;-)

Free Martial Arts Instruction

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While this free martial arts instruction will help both the beginner and the seasoned veteran, Keith gears his articles more toward practical self defense than toward the classical martial arts.

A lot of writers fill their free newsletters with fluff or with obvious items that everyone already knows. Martial Arts Mastery is one of those exceptions that will come to you every Tuesday with creative, original and thought-provoking articles calculated to raise your personal protection competence levels.

Friday, November 2, 2007

What Does the Bible Say about Self Defense?

We find the most basic statement about self defense in Exodus 22:2. If a thief be found breaking up [i.e. breaking in], and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him. In other words, a man defending his home is not held guilty of murder if the perpetrator dies. That's God's standard for self defense.

Some people complicate the matter by trying to set the Bible against itself. For example, "Thou shalt not kill." (Exodus 20:13) does not mean no killing under any circumstance whatsoever (as some pacifists assert). If this were the case, then we should not swat flies, slap mosquitoes or even use antiseptics, which kill bacteria. An investigation of the greater context as well as the Hebrew word used, reveals that the meaning is "Thou shalt not murder."

Similarly, Jesus' admonition to turn the other cheek (Luke 6:29) is often used to promote pacifism. It would take too much space to go into an explanation of this passage's context & its relation to the lex talionis of Biblical Law, so for now suffice it to say there is a big difference between someone's slapping your cheek and someone else's trying to cave your head in with a baseball bat.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Best Wristlocks Book I've Found

Some desperate life-and-death situations require that you pound a dangerous attacker into submission. Unless you're just looking for trouble, however, such occasions are rare. For all other self-defense scenarios, you will need to control your adversary. That's where joint locks come in.

There are many books that claim to teach you some aspect of martial arts, like joint-locking. One of the aims of "The Christian Martialist is to point you to resources that really deliver. Keith Pascal's Wristlocks: From Protecting Yourself to Becoming an Expert is one of those rare books that really delivers. It's not just a catalogue of how to do techniques, but also a manual of drills and problem-solving exercises that will actually take you to a new level in your ability to apply joint locks in real situations.

That brings me to another point. The book is mis-named, because it deals with more than wrist locks. In it you'll find arm bars and shoulder locks in addition to the wrist locks mentioned in the title.

To really get the full benefit from Wristlocks: From Protecting Yourself to Becoming an Expert
you will need a practice partner. That's the one drawback to the book. If you cannot persuade someone to let you practice on him, you won't derive as much from it. Of course, one of the selling points for becoming your partner is that he will also get to learn by practicing on you.