I recall reading a post over at Hell in a Handbasket that discussed this disturbing video of a Mexican police Captain, his wife and two innocent bystanders being gunned down in a jewelry store by members of a drug gang. Apparently it was in retaliation for attempts by the police to clean up the drug problem in the area. The video is graphic and disturbing so be forewarned.
As is natural, such a visceral image causes a person to put themselves in the situation and think..”thank God it wasn’t me”…”thank God its in another country”….”thank God that doesn’t happen here”…various things that may or may not be true, but cross your mind anyway. I think its a natural attempt by a person to make themselves feel secure. A defense mechanism to reassure themselves that being gunned down by AK47 wielding drug gang members is unlikely. Which for the most part is true.
However it also set me to thinking that sometimes there is just nothing you can do once you pass a certain point. If you are standing in a public place with one available exit, trapped in between display cases and a group of men with automatic weapons and a plan are coming to get you, they will get you. The only way this man and his wife could have avoided this is if they knew that they were at risk (which it looks like they should have, another police leader had been gunned down previously) and took protective measures way beforehand. Bodyguards, secure locations, not going out…even then, if the opponent is determined enough and there is not an active counter effort against them, it would just be a matter of time.
When we train, we have to keep in mind what we can realistically accomplish. Being armed, trained and aware is often just “the best we can do”, its is never a guarantee. In some ways it’s simply a pacifier that holds the specter of helplessness at arms length. Any person who says they can train you to save yourself and your loved ones with a pistol and your martial arts moves in a situation like this should be avoided at all costs.
A 2009 repost…going back to the root concept of why I started blogging.
It would be a fairly accurate statement to say that when I created this blog it was with the intention of coalescing my thoughts about, and refining my definition of, “Warriorship”.
While “Warriorship” is closely associated with the word “Warrior”, I am starting to come to the conclusion that they may have become two separate but closely related issues; perhaps too closely related. While one can be quantifiable, the other has become so nebulous that people training in what I define as “Wariorship” have come to believe that doing so makes them “Warriors” which I don’t believe is the case.
I am currently of the opinion that the term “Warrior”, as in “I am a Warrior”, is currently overused and misapplied. In my worldview, a “warrior” is a person who fights for their country, lord or master, or is at least a dedicated professional in a field of arms. Professional military personnel fit my definition, with the special operators on one end of the continuum and more mundane MOS personnel at the other. I would also include Law Enforcement Officers as existing on the outside fringe of possible inclusion. Currently the term is being applied to a wide range of people; athletes, new ager’s, martial artists, gun enthusiasts and the terminally Ill to name a few. Not to disparage any of these people, but while they may behave with the virtues of a warrior, or be training in the skills of a “Warrior”, defining yourself as a Warrior impresses me a Walter Mitty-ish fantasy. Harmless in most cases, admittedly, but with some disturbing exceptions as in the case discussed elsewhere in this blog.
“Warriorship” is a concept that doesn’t even have one accepted definition. While the O.E.D. defines it as “1The craft or skill of military arts and science, see ‘warrior , most attempts to find a definition lead you to Carlos Castenada; Cogyam Trungpa and his Shambala philosophy, Joseph Campbell, Ninjutsu practitioners, New Age Druids, Native American culture and Bushido. While sharing some characteristics, there is no common definition between them.
So I guess Im going to add my definition to the mix. I define Warriorship as:
( War-ri-or-ship ) n. [OE. werreour, OF. werreour, guerreor, from guerre, werre, war. See War]
1. A state in which a person is training in the skills and traits possessed by those of the Warrior profession.
2. A philosophy based on the positive character and social traits of persons in the warrior profession.
At least thats my first hack at it. Any opinions or assistance in refining it will be appreciated.
I suppose that by my definition a person can be participating in “warriorship” if they are approaching training and life as more than a mere “hobbyist”. Someone going to a martial arts class two times a week isn’t participating. Someone who buys a handgun and wears 5.11 “operator clothes” and tactical boots isn’t participating. Just reading books and playing paintball isn’t enough.
Someone who looks at the entirety of life as “training in warriorship”, learning, mastering and incorporating into their personal lifestyle skills as varied as combat techniques; navigation, medicine, climbing/rappelling, driving, swimming, SCUBA, physical conditioning and countless others MAY be meeting my definition. However, my personal twist would include some sort of service to society, putting those skills to use.
The hazard lies in the ease by which a person practicing Warriorship as a lifestyle can fall into believing that they are the equivalent of a Warrior. I believe that many people who begin the pursuit in the first place are doing one hoping to become the other.
In light of some recent events, this post came to my mind so I decided to re-publish it.
If one would seek good companions, he will find them among those with whom he studies Learning and calligraphy. Harmful companions to avoid will be found among those who play go, chess and shakuhachi. There is no shame in not knowing these later amusements. Indeed, they are matters to be taken up only in the stead of wasting ones time completely.
A person’s good and evil are dependent on his companions. When three people are together there will always be an exemplary person among them, and one should choose the good person and follow his example. Looking at the bad person, one should correct his own mistakes.
-Hojo Nagauji (1432-1519 A.D.)
Hojo Nagauji was a “Fighting Samurai” and general of the late Muromachi Period. Some of his writings, namely The Twenty-One Precepts (of which this is a quote), are amongst the foundations of what we know as Bushido.
I find this passage interesting. In it he is advising his retainers to really consider who it is they associate with. He tells them to associate with people who are studious and avoid those who want to spend their time gambling, gaming and carousing. Furthermore he suggests looking for the “good example” in every crowd and avoid being like the bad example.
To apply this to our times does not take much re-contexing, as a matter of fact there are numerous sayings from various cultures that state the same:
Be honorable yourself if you wish to associate with honorable people.
Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation. It is better be alone than in bad company.
We (including myself) have all been in those situations where we have been out on the town with our friends and gotten a little too drunk, done something too stupid or just made too much of a spectacle of ourselves in public. I do not want to come off as a prude, but too much of that sort of thing leads to nothing but trouble and does nothing but lead one from “the way”. If you associate with people who lead you into those types of situations it is time to consider the value of those people and its time to consider your own reasons for associating with them. I’m not suggesting that one needs to swear off alcohol or “going out” entirely. Even Hojo Nagauji did not say that. But he did say that “playing” was only to be considered over completely wasting ones time. If one desires to be considered a “professional” or a “warrior” then there are numerous things you could be doing to improve your skills and your survivability (“screw golf”) other than idle drinking. If drinking and partying is occupying more of your heart and mind then “the way” is, then I believe that you are living in a fantasy world where you want to “say you are… rather than BE.”
In the end, what I am suggesting is being “mindful” in everything you do. If you want to go out and enjoy yourself every now and then by all means do so. But do so “intentionally”. Likewise consider the people you associate with; are they examples you wish to emulate? Do you want other people to think of you the way they think of them? Are they worthy of respect? Are you?
In my opinion, if you find yourself getting “wasted” as routine entertainment, if you like to associate with criminals and “loser’s”, or if you are consistently acting in an undignified manner in public, you are debasing yourself, asking for trouble, and are far from the path of a “warrior”.
A quote that I use as a signature on an internet martial arts forum goes as follows:
“Mental bearing (calmness), not skill, is the sign of a matured samurai. A Samurai therefore should neither be pompous nor arrogant.”
- Tsukahara Bokuden
I think that the author makes an interesting point. I interpret this passage as saying that all Samurai have the same “basic training”. One can expect that a Samurai has skill with the sword, the bow, a spear, horseback riding and so on. The mature Samurai though, he possesses the presence of mind and calm demeanor that allow him to apply those skills freely and at the opportune time.
I’ve often thought about how this applies to modern combatives. An average practitioner is expected to have some training in basic combative skill. The thing that will set that student apart from others will be that “switch” between the physical techniques and “mental incorporation” for lack of a better term. A black belt with an encyclopedic knowledge of technique that “tweaks out” under stress is worthless. An untrained person who can stay calm under stress, grab a ball point pen and stab an attacker “about the head and neck” with it is a successful survivor. Mental bearing, willingness to commit and a pre-thought “action plan” are key. I honestly believe that successful martial arts training has more to do with getting a person to ACT when the time comes to act, the technique or system is secondary to this. I think that the advantage being seen in MMA is due to their training program vs any “technical superiority”. They train to take and deliver blows. They train against resisting opponents. I think that almost any martial art can reap these benefits through a re-evaluation of their training protocols. However, not everybody studies martial arts for this purpose. Studios that depend on the children’s programs, the fitness pitches or the “hobbyist” martial arts students will not attract or retain as many people as they would like if they make the training too demanding. It comes down to the instructor and his goals.
On another point, people who take this business seriously need to “pre-plan” for as many situations as they can dream up. Even if the solution is as simple as “I will never allow myself to be forced into a car and transported elsewhere. I’d rather fight and die quickly on the spot than be taken somewhere to die”. The survivor needs to have a basic “mental flowchart” already downloaded into the brain. This will foster this “mental bearing”.
I think that the pursuit of this state of mind is what attracts many martial artists to Zen and meditation; but while that can be a substantial aid I don’t see it as a “magic potion” unless it is made into a part of ones everyday life. Often it seems that westerners look at things like Zen as a “martial arts supplement”…take your daily dosage and watch the amazing results. I think that benefits like these are cumulative and the changes so slow and subtle that a person will rarely notice a change in themselves. Taking that route requires a life long commitment and a permanent shift in ones concept of reality.
The best way to learn to control your mind under stress is to “inoculate” yourself against it. Face the small battles everyday. Push yourself physically and mentally. Train to work through fatigue, fear and stress. Another thing I have often read about mindset is paraphrased as “you are how you choose to think”. In other words “act calm” under stress, even if you don’t think you are calm. For all intents and purposes, you will be controlling your mental state and if done long enough you will find that you really do start remaining calm under stress. Life rarely has “magical transformations”, most change comes from consistency. The formation of good habit is key.
-Do not turn your back on the various Ways of this world.
-Do not scheme for physical pleasure.
-Do not intend to rely on anything.
-Consider yourself lightly; consider the world deeply.
-Do not ever think in acquisitive terms.
-Do not regret things about your own personal life.
-Do not envy another’s good or evil.
-Do not lament parting on any road whatsoever.
-Do not complain or feel bitterly about yourself or others.
-Have no heart for approaching the path of love.
-Do not have preferences.
-Do not harbor hopes for your own personal home.
-Do not have a liking for delicious food for yourself.
-Do not carry antiques handed down from generation to generation.
-Do not fast so that it affects you physically.
-…do not be fond of material things.
-…do not begrudge death.
-Do not be intent on possessing valuables or a fief in old age.
-Respect the gods and Buddhas, but do not depend on them.
-Though you give up your life, do not give up your honor.
-Never depart from the Way of martial arts.
Second Day of the Fifth Month, Second Year of Shoho 
Shinmen (Miyamoto) Musashi
Ask my wife and she will tell you, I can get out of control when I am watching any television show or movie about the military or law enforcement. The constant, recurring mistakes and misinformation that these industries put out just get in my craw and I have to yell “BULLSHIT!!” It makes me wonder, don’t these shows have advisers? If they do, what the hell are they getting paid for? Or is it that the directors think that they have better knowledge on these topics? The following are at the top of my WTF?!?! list:
1. Give me that before you hurt yourself:Cops and soldiers are constantly “racking” their weapons. I mean come on! I carry with a round in the chamber all the time. If I had to constantly rack my weapon every time I drew it there would be brass flying everywhere and my co-workers would think I lost my mind. I know that directors love the “click clack” of weapons being cycled but use your goddamn head! SWAT teams don’t stack up on a door and THEN load their weapons. FBI agents don’t have to charge their pistols after they draw them and they definitely don’t have to do it two more times in the same incident! Racking your shotgun just before you kick down a door is f$#%ing STUPID!! Going into an apartment after a serial killer, knocking on the door, hearing him run out the back and THEN racking your pistol and giving chase…F#$%ING STUPID!!!
Addendum: Lets see what else have I seen…oh yeah.
FYI you director types, there is no “safety” on a Glock pistol so a character telling someone with a Glock “turn off your safety” makes no sense. And what is up with that “clickety clack” sound every time someone draws a pistol?? Is that supposed to be the safety disengaging (if it’s a Glock refer to my previous comment)? Is that supposed to be a hammer cocking? Cause it doesn’t sound like that and hell…nobody really thumb cocks an automatic that often.
OH! And another thing, when a Glock (or any striker fired pistol) runs empty, and if by some chance the slide fails to lock back (why do so few television pistols reach lock back?), it will only “click” once. These shows where an empty Glock runs out of ammo and goes “click…click…click..” well…whoever made that creative decision…YOU ARE AN IDIOT!!!
2. Oh what the hell why not?:Every Tom, Dick and Harry stacking up with the SWAT team, I think not. If my blood pressure went up one mmHg every time I saw some “CSI”, “FBI Investigator” or “Detective” stacking up with the tactical team to go in and get the bad guy my head would F’n explode!
News Flash. If I saw some “CSI” getting in my stack on a high risk entry he would get a boot up his ass. No SWAT team leader worth is salt is going say…”OK you FBI Profiler with no tactical training I am aware of, or experience with MY team, go right ahead and get in the stack.”
The only thing that gets me more pissed off is when the SWAT team rams the door and Horatio Crane in his shades is the first guy through the door! Hello numbnuts director, the way it works is the SWAT team goes in ALONE!! and when its secure they call the eggheads and Detectives in.
3. Uniformed Cops as props:Every Detective/Profiler/CSI show or movie out there has uniformed cops as “background”. They walk aimlessly here there and everywhere with clipboards or magically appear to conveniently slap the cuffs on the bad guy that the dweeb from the “crime lab” ran down in a raging gunfight…please.
Or its the “dumbass uniform” who screws up the investigation that the star detective has to deal with.
Then…like in #2, when some “hot call” goes out I don’t know why TV cops bother to even show up. You know its the hot detective from the crime lab that is going to go in first and fight mano y mano with the serial killer. Where the hell the uniform cops went nobody knows, they just show up to haul off the bad guy to the station. They must have stopped in the kitchen for some coffee while the hero did all the work.
4. Hello I’m with the Gvt and I’m here to help:CSI and Criminal Minds…you always hear “were just here to help with your investigation, not take it over…” yet somehow its always some profiler that takes over the investigation and gets involved in the shooting or the apprehension. I know it wouldn’t be exciting if the agents sat in the office all day and the local cops were the ones making the arrests, but that’s how it is. By and large FBI agents are investigators, accountants, lawyers and lab techs.
And these CSI teams..it always impresses me how CSI works local, county, state, federal and hell even international cases. Who the hell do these guys work for anyways?
5. Kill em and Leave em:The “profilers” arrive like the cavalry…light up some scumbag and then hop back on their jet and fly off into the sunset. Yeah when an on-duty shooting happens that’s pretty much how it goes..no investigations, lawsuits or court appearances necessary. If you are “with the crime lab” or a “profiler” you can just holster up and walk away.
6. Nuclear Grenades: Some Delta Operator tosses a fragmentation grenade into a window and the whole floor erupts into a raging inferno of a fireball like a suitcase nuke just went off….uhhhhh…no. A loud BOOM! a puff of smoke and a lot of little bits of metal flying about is about it.
7. Crappy Salutes: Need I elaborate? Some of these actors salutes would make a Drill Sergeant break out in hives.
8. Weird Science:No we don’t have computer databases of every matchbook from every club in the tri-state area. No we cant piece a broken bottle together and get a fingerprint that comes back instantly to a known felon (that gets picked up in 20 seconds). NO DNA TESTING IS NOT A “WHILE YOU WAIT” PROCESS!
These shows have gotten so out of hand with their “stretching” of real forensic science that juries have been clearing criminals of their charges because the proof wasn’t “as conclusive as they see on CSI”. Prosecutors even have a name for this phenomenon. “The CSI effect”.
9. Tuck that thing in: Military movies where everybody is walking around with their “dog tags” outside their shirts. Or dress uniforms with improper ribbons or improper wear of a uniform. Come on guys there are books on this stuff. Read one! Then there are the hot women detectives in clothes so tight I can count the change in their pockets. Not that there are no attractive women in law enforcement, but if one of my subordinates came in with her cleavage and belly button showing she would be going home for a wardrobe change.
10. Cover me I’m going in:Nobody ever waits for back-up, sets up a perimeter or gets on the radio. It sucks to share the glory with some dumbass “uniform”. I’ll just go down into that basement with the serial killer in the “woman suit”, only pussy’s would back out and call for back-up.
I know, I know, its just entertainment, but it pisses me off… deal with it! Keep reading for my next installment. This is just me warming up.
NEW!!! 11. Tin Cans and Strings: The woeful lack of realism with movie/television communications devices is reaching WTF?? proportions. First off there are these things known as frequencies and channels. Not all radios can communicate with each other simply because they are radios. So when you crawl into a tank to escape the zombie horde (Yes “Walking Dead” I’m talking to you), the dude on the roof top with a police portable radio isn’t going to be able to communicate with you. Convenient to move the story along, but flat out never gonna happen…even in a world where flesh eating zombies walk the earth.
And then there is the good ole “watch me talk to my wrist” scene. This is where all of our heroes simply have to talk to their watchbands and they magically can communicate with each other. Now…I have actually used one of those wrist mikes operationally. It is a microphone and switch that is run through your sleeve and pinned to your cuff. The switch dangles in your palm AND there is an earpiece that runs up your neck to your ear so you can hear any reply. Most importantly, the whole affair is ATTACHED TO A FRIGGIN RADIO!!!
What exactly is Mr. CIA transmitting with when he talks to his Rolex? Am I to believe that our FBI agents now have wristwatches that are full fledged radios that can transmit and receive? I’m pretty up on current tech…they don’t exist. Some sort of bluetooth device that connects to a radio/cellular system? Maybe, but how exactly is he hearing any reply? I never seem to see any of these “secret agents” wearing an earpiece…hell even a bluetooth earbud would give the scene at a scintilla of possibility.
One of the first posts on this blog and still one that gets some of the most frequent “hits”. It’s interesting how in the comments some readers translate this advice into “living a life of no fun or adventure”. If you think that boozing and visiting high crime areas is what makes a life worth living you need to expand your horizons IMO. I still stand by this advice.
As a LEO I believe I can give you the “magic formula” to avoid 99% of “street attacks”:
Don’t participate in illegal activity. Don’t hang out with people who attract trouble (need I clarify that?). Don’t hang out in places that attract trouble. Don’t get drunk or high. Don’t tolerate domestic violence, call the police and/or leave the abuser. Be alert to your surroundings and if something “feels” wrong…leave. Many people stick around thinking that they are being needlessly paranoid.
For that remaining 1% of instances where you are attacked while just “minding your own business”…study an art that exposes you to striking/grappling/fighting with a resisting opponent and exposes you to getting hit and working through exhaustion and stress. Be aware of your states self defenselaws, and have a plan for “post-incident” already thought out.
And throughout it all, everyday, practice your skill sets.
Written by Taira Shigesuke around 1700 AD. The Bushido Shoshinshu was intended to instruct the novice Samurai of the peaceful Edo Era, who had not known the rigors of battle, with the practical philosophies of previous eras.
Bushido Shoshinshu is roughly translated as “Bushido for Beginners.”
My favorite part is from a section called “Officials,” which centers on one bit of imagery: a white jacket.
A white jacket, it says, can come clean with detergent and a good wash. Likewise:
“…there are various practices that are like detergents for cleaning the heart of warriors. What are these practices? These are loyalty, duty, and courage. There is dirt that is removed by the detergent of loyalty and fidelity, and there is dirt that is removed by the detergent of faithfulness to duty. When the stain remains stubborn even after washing with loyalty and rinsing with duty, then use the detergent of courage, and make a determined effort to scrub it clean. This is the warrior’s ultimate secret of cleaning the heart.”
It’s a beautiful message, full of hope.
Which brings up an interesting point about the reading of ancient Warrior codes. That passage IS an inspiring concept, however if one reads the final passage of this book…
Now were he to grab the aforementioned evil man and finish the matter by carving out his entrails and cutting off his head just as he pleased, and then quickly committing seppuku, the affair would be ended with him seeming to have lost his wits. Thus, there would be no problems or public hearings at the time, the lord’s position would not be threatened, the retainers would all feel at ease, and the domain would be at peace. This would be an act one hundred times greater than junshi, would combine the three virtues of loyalty, righteousness and courage, and would be a model of great loyalty to the warriors of this corrupt age.
…we see that you cant take everything you read in these warrior codes “at face value”.
This passage, on it’s face, is saying that a loyal Samurai would kill one his lords political enemies then kill himself and make it look like he did it while appearing out of his mind. This would be done as a selfless action done out of loyalty to, and for the good of, his lord and his clan; eliminating his lord’s enemy and giving his lord “plausible deniability”.
Thus, from the Bushido Shoshinshu you CAN distill the concept of “loyalty and selfless service” as an inspirational one but you cannot go around cutting the guts out of your bosses enemies. The Samurai lived in a different age, in a different culture and under a vastly different set of rules than our own. I think this illustrates the differences between the wise person who looks for the message behind the words as compared to the “wanna be” Ghost Dog Samurai who believes that these codes can be lived verbatim in our modern times.
Rick Rescorla was an interesting man. Rick was a retired United States Army officer of British birth. He served with distinction in Rhodesia as a British soldier and in the Vietnam War as an American officer. For those who read the book or saw the movie, “We were soldiers once, and young”…he was there (as a matter of fact the cover of the book is a photo of him). The author called him “the best platoon leader I ever saw”. There are mentions of him and his bravery in numerous books about that battle and the war in general. He became a US citizen AFTER Vietnam.
Rick was employed as the security chief of Morgan Stanley in the World Trade Center. Being the warrior that he was, Rick anticipated attacks on the towers and had implemented evacuation procedures and drilled employees on them. This served him well on 9/11
As he was evacuating people from the towers he reminded them “…be proud to be an American …everyone will be talking about you tomorrow”, and sang God Bless Americaand other military and Cornish songs over his bullhorn to help evacuees stay calm as they left the building, including an adaptation of the song Men of Harlech:
“Men of Cornwall stop your dreaming;
Can’t you see their spearpoints gleaming?
See their warriors’ pennants streaming
To this battlefield.
Men of Cornwall stand ye steady;
It cannot be ever said ye
for the battle were not ready;
Stand and never yield!”
After he evacuated most of Morgan Stanley’s 2700 employees he went back in to save others. When somebody told him to get out and save himself he said:
“As soon as I make sure everyone else is out”
Rick was killed when tower 2 collapsed. Reports state he was observed as high as the 72nd floor assisting in the evacuation of other people. As a result of Rescorla’s actions, all but 6 of Morgan Stanley’s 2700 WTC employees survived. Four of the six included Rick and three of his deputies who followed him back into the building – Wesley Mercer, Jorge Velazquez, and Godwin Forde. Who are heroes in their own right.
Im not ashamed to say that I get misty eyed when I think about that man on that day. It makes me sad, angry and proud all at the same time. The man was a Warrior, an American and a Hero. There are many not worthy to carry his boots. We should be reminded everyday about 9/11 lest we forget…and frankly its why I get so pissed off at the apologists, the “understand them’s” and the conspiracists. Rick Rescorla is probably one of the best Americans whom you have never heard of..as shameful as that is. Where was the media coverage on him?
An article in The New Yorkerwas published about Rick and his life. It concludes with a statement from his second wife, whom he met late in life, and a reply to that statement from a long time friend of Rick’s who fought and survived in the Ia Drang with him.
“What’s really difficult for me is that I know he had a choice,” Susan says. “He chose to go back in there. I know he would never have left until everyone was safe, until his mission was accomplished. That was his nature. That was the man I loved. So I can understand why he went back. What I can’t understand is why I was left behind.”
Dan Hill says that Susan will understand someday, as he does. “What she doesn’t understand is that she knew him for four or five years. She knew a sixty-two-year-old man with cancer. I knew him as a hundred-and-eighty-pound, six-foot-one piece of human machinery that would not quit, that did not know defeat, that would not back off one inch. In the middle of the greatest battle of Vietnam, he was singing to the troops, saying we’re going to rip them a new asshole, when everyone else was worrying about dying. If he had come out of that building and someone died who he hadn’t tried to save, he would have had to commit suicide.
“I’ve tried to tell Susan this, in a way, but she’s not ready yet for the truth. In the next weeks or months, I’ll get her down here, and we’ll take a walk along the ocean, and I’ll explain these things. You see, for Rick Rescorla, this was a natural death. People like Rick, they don’t die old men. They aren’t destined for that and it isn’t right for them to do so. It just isn’t right, by God, for them to become feeble, old, and helpless sons of bitches. There are certain men born in this world, and they’re supposed to die setting an example for the rest of the weak bastards we’re surrounded with.”
God speed Rick. May the mead never run dry in Valhalla.