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bo ken - a practice sword

When I was asked by Oleg Volk to write this article, I found myself forced to examine the relationship between two very important components of my life - the martial arts and the right to own a firearm. Let me begin with a little history.

I began my training in the martial arts over 25 years ago and I have been practicing Bujinkan Ninpo Taijutsu for over 16 years. I hold a Godan or Fifth Degree black belt in this art. The particular art that I practice has a direct lineage spanning over 900 years from the current Soke, Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi to its founding in ancient Japan. The creators of this art were inhabitants of the Iga region of Japan and the families that founded the art did so as a means to protect the members of their family, their friends, and their village from the oppression of the ruling Samurai class. The art includes components of unarmed fighting, called Taijutsu, as well as work with a variety of weapons. The sword normally associated with this tradition, the ninja-to, is a crude version of the katana used by the Samurai class since the Samurai class forbade the ownership of swords by anyone outside of their class. This seems to be the common, yet very effective, tactic of every ruling elite in the world. I find that the experiences of my "Ninpo" ancestors mirror the experiences of many people around the world today.


I certainly do not fit the stereotype of the gun owner that is held by Sarah Brady and others who wish to take gun ownership away from law-abiding Americans. I hold a Ph.D. in Human and Organizational Systems. I am a Human Resources manager for a major pharmaceutical company. I am a Shidoshi or teacher of the ways of Ninpo. I am a Buddhist. When I was in my late teens and early twenties I was an anti-war activist protesting America's involvement in Viet Nam. I am a Golden Eagle member of the NRA and a supporter of the Second Amendment Sisters. I don't hunt and I loathe the idea of killing any living thing. I am an avid target shooter and a believer in self-defense. I am able to hold many of these seemingly contradictory ideas and concepts together because I find that they arise from a common core of ideals and beliefs. This is the core of personal responsibility and caring that is embodied in the enlightened warrior.

Dr. Hatsumi was once asked to describe the essence of Ninpo and he replied that it was sitting on the porch of one's home and watching one's grandchildren play in the yard. That statement certainly doesn't seem to describe an art that is commonly portrayed as an assassin's art or at minimum a warrior tradition. Yet, it is the perfect statement to embody this and most martial arts. It is also the essence of why I am an owner of firearms. In Ninpo, as in Buddhism, one begins to change the world by first changing oneself. When I recognize the cause of suffering in my life and I follow the way to eliminate that suffering, I have taken the first step. However, I quickly discover that in order for me to be happy, I must help create a safe and happy environment for my wife and family. Then, I discover that in order for my family to be safe and happy I must work to ensure that my neighborhood is safe and happy. But in order to ensure that my neighborhood is safe and happy, I must work to ensure that my town is safe. This process of reasoning continues until I realize that the entire universe is connected and that my safety and happiness is inextricably intertwined with that of the other residents of the universe. Therefore, if I want to be able to peacefully sit on my porch and watch my grandchildren play I must ensure a safe world in which that may occur.

2 million life saved

Many of my pacifist friends would argue at this point that I have made an excellent case for the total ban of weapons since that must surely be the best way to ensure the safety of the world. This is not the case. I recognize that when an individual decides to perpetrate a violent act upon others, he or she stops for only three reasons:

1. The person unilaterally decides to stop the violence.

2. The person becomes too tired or is otherwise unable to continue the violence.

3. Something or someone more powerful than that person intervenes to stop the violence.

As we have seen from Hitler to Stalin to Pol Pot to the minor league maniacs of Columbine, waiting for the person to decide to stop the violence comes at a very high price in human life. I train in the martial arts to know how to intervene to stop the violence of others. I have trained for a quarter of a century in various martial arts, yet I would trade all of that training for the appropriate firearm if my family were threatened. This is because the ability to accurately and effectively use a firearm is a force multiplier that far exceeds any amount of training in the martial arts. It is the means by which my 115-pound wife can stop the violence of a 250-pound criminal who is bent on committing mayhem. This is why the martial art that I practice trains in the use of weapons including training in the use of firearms.

Hapkido practice

A clear warning

The Japanese Samurai were quick to adopt the use of firearms after they were introduced by the Portuguese in feudal Japan. Though the Samurai never abandoned the use of the sword, they saw the value that the firearm presented. More importantly for self-defense, the firearm, unlike the sword or my martial arts training, may be used to subdue an aggressor without the need to harm him or her in any way. This fact is well documented by Dr. Lott in his research that emphasizes the numerous cases of the defensive use of a firearm without a shot being fired. The most gentle martial arts technique would still entail touching the aggressor and applying some degree of pain to subdue him. I think that when Colt named their original six-shooter the "Peacemaker," they were right on target. A gun can bring peace to a situation without the need for actual violence.

In defense of human life

I train in the martial arts for the same reasons that I shoot targets. I find the techniques that I learn enable me to better ensure the safety of my loved ones while also developing an internal discipline that allows me to better focus my intention when needed. I know and respect the power of the firearm as I know and respect the abilities of a well-trained martial artist. I believe that my knowledge of both firearms and the martial arts enable me to be a more peaceful and loving human being. I am no longer plagued by the fear of what harm others might do since I believe that I have the knowledge and tools to handle most situations. Consequently, I have no need to present an aggressive front to the world in an attempt to scare others away. Instead, I have the freedom to seek to understand the other's viewpoint in a loving and accepting manner. I believe that every martial artist should be familiar and comfortable with a firearm and I also believe that every firearm owner would find tremendous benefit in the discipline and pursuit of a complete martial art. It is fine and admirable to turn the other cheek when one is struck, but it is a betrayal of the universal community to stand-by and watch someone strike the cheek of an innocent. As members of this community, we must be willing to step forward and stop the hand of violence when it is raised. For some, the ability to take this action occurs as the result of years of dedicated training in a martial art, while for others it can occur because of a few days practice at the firing line. In either case, we must be prepared to be the enlightened warriors that the universe demands.

As Robert L. Humphrey said in his Warrior's Creed:

Wherever I go, everyone is a little bit safer because I am there.
Wherever I am, anyone in need has a friend.
Whenever I return home, everyone is happy I am there.
'It's a better life!'


Julia Cochrane has added an important observation about utility of martial arts:

Personal defense weapons save over 2 million lives every year

Never again a victim

Graphic by Betty Wendt

I'm 5'2" and after taking martial arts for 3 years (after being raped, as a way of preventing it happening again) I learned that a 5'2" female martial artist is no match for a 6'2" male martial artist, and other assorted real limitations of martial arts. So I got a gun and learned to shoot and got my concealed carry permit. And was damned glad to have that gun when a thug tried to follow me up the stairs into my apartment one afternoon when, due to a holiday, I was home early and the place was otherwise deserted. I didn't have to actually draw on him, confronting him verbally got him to go away, but I was 7 months pregnant and it was a very near thing and as a result of my "delicate condition" martial arts wouldn't have done me a damned bit of good.

I have no idea if I'd have been less confident in confronting him if I hadn't known I had a gun concealed but in easy reach for a fast draw if needed.

Gun control laws make rapists safer
Feminine protection

I'm "attracted to guns" because for a little tiny woman like me, my having a gun can mean the difference between my being raped and murdered, or my surviving an attack unscathed to go home to my family that night.

Living through a rape was bad enough the first time. I don't intend to let it happen again.

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