Safety Guidance For Weapons Training

By Dennis Lawson
Published on Oct 24th, 2017

I recently added some weapons training, learned from my years of weapons work in Aiki Budo, to my weekly training regimen. Training again with a jo (short staff) and bokken (wooden sword) reminded me of the importance of “respecting the weapon”. Much of the ritual associated with weapons training in traditional arts is placed there to help students internalize safety while training with man-made weapons. Here are some ideas to help you “Make Safety a Habit” as you train with weapons.

First, always treat any weapon as “live”. Assume any gun is loaded until you personally examine it. Never point any weapon at someone unless you intend to train or cause bodily injury. Even wooden weapons can cause injury or death. I will happily show you my scar from 40 years ago, if you have any doubts. Also, it is recorded that the famous Japanese swordsman, Musashi, killed many opponents in single combat with nothing more than a wooden sword.

Begin with slow movements. Beginning your training slowly will allow you to emphasize the required Principles of Motion – Posture, Balance, Proper Breathing, Relaxation, etc., necessary to develop the suitable skills whether with or without weapons. Speed should come later. As Mr. Parker stated often, “Slow to learn, slow to forget.” Allow yourself the necessary training time to minimize the possibility of injury.

Understand the Attitude of your chosen weapon. Sticks and staffs are offensive weapons. Even a “defensive” block can tear the skin or break a bone. Training weapons (wood, plastic, etc.) must be treated as live to build the necessary safety habits. Bladed weapons are always offensive. They will cut anything they touch – your opponent, your own body (think chopping onions in the kitchen), or even the environment. I had the honor of once training in Sifu Keith See’s backyard with an 18th century katana (samurai sword) only to have the edge of the blade slice through a small crepe myrtle branch as if it were butter.

Exaggerate your movements. The use of any weapon alters your critical distance and your control of the Dimensional Stages of Action. Later when condensing your moves, your use of contouring will need to vary with the type of weapon used. While you can use body contact methods with sticks or a staff, contouring with a bladed weapon could cause a self-inflicted cut. Likewise, firing a gun too close to your body can cause burns from exploded powder or ejected shells. Also, when training with destructive weapons (guns), wear the proper safety equipment.

Train your grip. An improper grip can cause you to lose your weapon. All weapons work will increase your grip strength and add some resistance training for both primary (hand and forearm) and supporting muscle groups. Remember to warm up before training and to stretch after the workout to minimize fatigue, limit potential injury, and maintain your flexibility.

Train with your weapon in an open area. This will allow the necessary space to exaggerate your movements while learning. Likewise, make sure the training surface is relatively flat and unobstructed. This permits you to develop proper footwork with your burgeoning weapon skills. Also, train “in the air” spending time paying attention to proper form before you begin striking objects with your weapon. Only after developing basic skills with your weapon, should you begin training with a partner.

Finally, and I consider this of primary importance, get proficient and knowledgeable instruction. The suggestions in this article (or some YouTube video) are no substitute for a talented and competent instructor.

Filed under Philosophy and Opinion

Author Bio :: Dennis Lawson

Dennis Lawson has trained for 4 decades in Ed Parker's Kenpo. During his varied career, Mr. Lawson has been an IKKA Regional Director for Region #3, has acted as Master of Ceremonies for the International Karate Championships, and has published numerous articles in publications for the International Kenpo Karate Association, The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC), and Kenpo 2000.

Mr. Lawson has had the opportunity to study other Martial Arts and holds advanced rank in Aikido and Takemusu Aiki Budo. Dennis taught, competed in, and promoted events in the New Orleans area for 20 years. Among his list of favorite achievements is choreographing and performing Kenpo for the Dance Council of New Orleans. His academic background in psychology and love of music allow Dennis to offer a unique and entertaining approach to tailoring "the Art" to the individual. Dennis has taught seminars in Ireland, Jersey Channel Islands, The Netherlands, Portugal, and throughout the United States.

Dennis holds a Sixth Degree Black Belt in Ed Parker's Kenpo and was awarded the title “Professor” under the auspices of The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC). Mr. Lawson was inducted into the International Black Belt Hall of Fame as Master Instructor of the Year for 2006.

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