Thursday 12/03/15

Recently on my social media account, I posted the comment "Never rely on a weapon you don't know how to use". This post was made in a community that enjoys books and movies about the zombie apocalypse. I made this statement with the intention of getting people to think beyond the mindset of "zombie apocalypse = guns, samurai swords and chainsaws". I base my writing on real life experiences and training, so this advice has real world relevance.

Many years ago (not long after finishing high school), a school friend purchased a shiny new katana from a martial arts supplies store (back when sports stores were still allowed to sell such things in Australia). Instead of going to a martial arts school and learning how to use his new toy from a qualified instructor; he decided to teach himself. There are some things in this world that you can teach yourself through trial and error; but this isn't one of them.

Realistically, he should have been relatively safe with the sword the way it was when he purchased it (a dull, round edge). Unfortunately, he sharpened the edge, then decided to practice with it. After sustaining a very deep, six inch long cut to his right lower leg, he paused momentarily and thought this might not have been his best idea. Instead of immediately seeking medical assistance, he decided to give it another go. Within moments, he speared the tip of his blood stained sword into his leg, near the shin bone. After a trip to the hospital for stitches, he got rid of his shiny new sword. Thanks to him, I have an excellent example for my own students, showing them what can happen if they play with swords.

I can look back at the incident now and smile, but at the time he was quite embarrassed about how foolish he had been, and I was angry at him for being so irresponsible. He was lucky to only receive the injuries he did. His injuries could easily have been a lot more serious.

It's unlikely you'll ever have to learn to use a sword, but don't be so quick to disregard my advice. In a scenario that you will be more familiar with, camping and hiking, "Never rely on a weapon you don't know how to use" becomes "Don't carry equipment you don't know how to use".

When you go camping or hiking, conventional wisdom gives us a list of things you shouldn't leave home without. These lists are usually reliable, but don't just pack these items in your backpack and forget about them. Make sure each item is in perfect working order and make sure you can use each item for its designated purpose before you leave home. Packing equipment you can't use, or equipment that is defective, just means you will be carrying dead weight (the batteries in your radio and torch are a great example).

I have been on a few camping trips with cashed-up campers who went out and splurged on expensive new toys, just prior to the trip. Unfortunately for them, the salesman recognised them as inexperienced and conned into buying a whole bunch of stuff they didn't need, or would ever use. In some cases, the equipment was usable, but way overpriced; like buying a gold-plated walking stick. Yes, the walking stick is useful, but does being gold-plated make it any more useful?