Underneath my yellow skin

Theory and practice

My brother was over yesterday, and we were talking about my weapons. I had mentioned that I wanted a nice new weapon because most of my weapons are practice ones. That means either wooden or dull steel. I love my sword, but the steel is dull. It’s better for practicing, of course. My brother said that was the weapon he grabbed when he was checking out my house the night after my medical crisis.

He said that he could have ran an intruder through with the sword. I said he could not have because it’s dull. He said the point is sharp and that was all that mattered because it was just physics. I disagreed vehemently, and I emailed my Taiji teacher to ask her about it. Obviously, we could not test the hypothesis because that would mean one of us being seriously hurt (my brother or me, I mean), but we had a voluminous debate.

My teacher emailed back saying it was possible at the soft bits–the throat, the eye, the abdomen. That made sense, but I was still dissatisfied with what my brother had said, though I couldn’t quite figure out why. Then, as I was practciting this morning, I realized why. I tested the point with my finger, and yes, it’s sharp. But I automatically pulled my finger back as the point dug into it, and I had no desire to push it into my finger any further.

I understand that it’s different to do it to yourself than it is to do it to someone else. The body is very protective of itself, so it’s really hard to self-harm. Not impossible, obviously, and I did it regularrly when I was in tmy twenties. But it takes a lot to override the stop button in the back of your mind when you deliberately try to hurt yourself.

It’s not the same with someone else, I’m assuming–hurting someone else, I mean. But there are a lot of social mores against hurting someone else, especially if you’re middle class. Tearing someone to shreds verbally? Not great, but the most you would get is probably a stern warning. Lay one single finger on someone else? Crime! I’m not even arguing this isn’t the right way to handle things because we really can’t have people hitting each other.

As a result, though, in the unlikely possibility that you actually need to fight someone off, the chances that you can immediately flip the switch in your brain from ‘do no harm’ to kill, especially with a sword, are small.

If you’re trained to do it, say, as a soldier, that’s different. Or even as a cop who is trained to shoot to kill. I think, though, and I have absolutely no data backing me up on this, that it is much harder to shove a sword through someone than shoot them with a gun. The selling point for a gun is that it’s quick and easy. You do it from a distance and you don’t have to put any effort into it. In other words, anyone can do it.

With a sword, though, it still takes some effort. Even if it’s not as much as I think it is.I was pressing the sword against my finger or thumb (don’t remember whit)’ and it wasn’t as if it would have only takes a little more effort to push it all the way through–even avoiding the bone.

It’s one reason that self-defense classes counsel students to practice in simulated situations–because you can’t really know what you’re going to do until you’re in the situation. It’s difficult, though, because you can’t completely simulate a situation for ethical reasons. I told my brother that when my teacher taught us how to do chi na (joint lock) techniques, there was one that had you put your finger in the hollow in someone’s throat, and then press straight down on the thyroid. It feels weird as hell and no one can harden their thyroid (to not feel it). I don’t have a thyroid, and it still felt weird.

Here’s the thing with joint lock techniques. They cause an intense flash of pain, but then it disappears. It’s more just to startle someone and get them off their stride. With certain ones, you can move them around with the grip, and it’s almost effortless. That’s the thing I love the most about it–it’s so easy.

Anyway, I tried it on Ian once (the throat one), and he was not pleased with me. Idon’t blame him because I did not warn him how it would feel, which was not fair of me. When I told my teacher about it, she immediately forebade me from doing it again. She made it quite clear that i was not allowed to practice on people who weren’t in the class.

When we were practicing in class, I had to only practice with her for quite some time because I did not feel pain. I had trained myself not to for grim reasons, and it was not easy to let go of that protection. My classmates were freaked out because I didn’t even flinch when they did the joint locks on me. My teacher taught us to tap out if the pain was too excruciating, which was dangerous for me because I could not feel the pain. She told me to tap out when I estimated that it should hurt. Again, I was only practicing with her at this point, so she was very careful to make sure she didn’t permanently damage me.

After hearing the problem, her teacher demonstrated on me. He told me to stand on my tiptoes and then he did the joint lock. I did it, and then he did the joint lock. My knees immediately buckled, and I could actually feel the pain. He explained that with my legs tensed from standing on my tiptoes, I could not consciously tense up my other muscles. That was fascinating to hear, and it really worked.

My point with all this meandering is that even with all the training I’ve done, I don’t know if I would automatically shove my sword through someone if they were threatening me. That’s assuming I had my sword anywhere near me when I needed it. That’s the other thing. I love my sword, but I am not going to be carrying it around on the daily. Not only because I would get weird stares by the normies, but because the police probably wouldn’t take too knidly to it–especially as I’m a minority.

I want to learn self-defense techniques. That’s why I started Taiji in the first place. Now,  ifeel like I actually have enough skills in order to use what I know in self-defense. I’ll have to see what my teacher has to say about that.

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