On The Street

By John Davis
Published on Dec 13th, 2013

In his writings, Ed Parker Sr. made reference to the three types of weapons: Natural (such as empty hands and feet), Environmental (objects readily available in our everyday lives that may be adapted for use in self-defense) and Man- made (guns, knives, etc.). In my previous articles, I mentioned some of the drawbacks to man- made weapons. Drawbacks such as the practical consideration of their availability when needed, as well as, carrying the weight of moral, legal and ethical implications, when used. It is understood that this is less of a concern in the case of weapons used by military or law enforcement personnel. Personally, while I understand the necessity for training to use weapons, I don’t envision myself being in a situation where they would readily come into play. In everyday life, when I expect and may prepare for an attack, what are my alternatives?


Stemming from a practical mindset, I might first choose natural weapons for defense; after all, they are always available. Yet, circumstance may force other options. Given that those weapons are not sufficient, or perhaps too forceful* then environmental weapons would likely be my next choice.

*"I am reminded of a story involving a famous Kenpo instructor who, purportedly, hammered an antagonistic party go-er with a bag of Cheetos. While it may have furthered the embarrassment, the “weapon” choice was certainly less painful than being struck with a trained hand."

In both cases the “form to function” approach is the key (noted in my previous article), as we are taking objects intended for a particular use and turning them into weapons of defense. Whether or not our body parts were “created” for any use other than sustaining our existence is another discussion altogether; that they have become weapons honed by training and practice is an accepted fact. Since these natural weapons are most readily available, it stands to reason that they are my first line of defense.


Throughout my own training, I have been involved in a number of discussions about whether or not it is legal to use a trained natural weapon against a threat that may or may not be of deadly intent. I have had instructors who claimed that a judge would likely convict a trained martial artist on assault charges, should the use of force go beyond the nature of the attack. That certainly calls for some deep seated ethical deliberation, as well as, very quick thinking on one’s feet. Given this concern, apparently the level of response has to be below the level of threat. Unless the level of threat is clearly spelled out in advance, (my attacker screams, “I’m gonna kill you!” before his assault); I, for one, would not wish to be on the down side of that legal argument.

Recently, when questioned about how I might handle violent action against a good friend by her stalking ex-husband, our local police chief said to feel free to do whatever it takes. (Perhaps, I should get that in writing). Clearly this is contrary to the notion, expressed above, that one must be at or below the level of force used by the attacker. In any event, the best defense, on the street, is always going to be awareness and a desire to avoid trouble. Use one’s head first; the hands and feet will follow.


Regarding my discussions with martial arts instructors mentioned above, unlike the police chief, their prowess (or lack thereof) characteristically takes place in the studio.

In my earliest training, there was much time spent in a formal studio setting, in uniform. There is tremendous value in this training, although I’m skeptical about the practical aspects of much that is taught. There, the phrase “on the street” was often used to describe the imaginary application of technique models in self-defense situations. Considering that most of the people in the studio were average middle class practitioners, I doubt that there were many who had ever been in a knock down drag out fight, let alone lived “on the street” long enough to understand what the phrase implied.

Some time ago, I did a survey of 100 martial arts students and instructors regarding the use of their skills in an attack situation. Only two individuals replied that they had used their martial arts skills and knowledge to defend themselves. My point; while we may grow through training in our own art for many reasons, it is wise to keep one’s ego in check. The abilities and skills we possess are often structured around willing participants in what amounts to, more or less staged, cooperative scenarios in a studio or tournament setting.

Let’s forget those statistics (2 positive responses in my survey out of 100) for a moment and assume that you will be attacked. As I have read, here in the US, 1 in 3 individuals will experience violent assault in their lifetime. If this occurs, hopefully, you are innocent of any wrong doing or aggressive offense; and therefore, you are defending yourself within your rights. What choice will you make as to the weapon(s) you need to stop the attack? How will you choose to train for that possible encounter “on the street”? How might the knowledge and skills gained in your studio training be best put to use?

Filed under Philosophy and Opinion

Author Bio :: John Davis

John Davis is an Associate Instructor of Ed Parker's Kenpo, currently studying with coach, Dennis Lawson. Being a life long lover of sport and adventure, John began practicing the martial arts eleven years ago out of curiosity. Throughout that time, he has attended seminars and camps with several of Kenpo's regarded masters. A career highlight came in 2006 when he was part of a group that attended the Kenpo World Championships in Utrecht, Netherlands. While training in a large commercial setting, John taught daily classes for two years. Currently, Mr. Davis supplements his martial arts training with distance cycling, coming from a background of amateur racing in that sport. When not training regularly, John enjoys cooking for friends, travelling, fine art and a good comedy.

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