If you're anything like me, you've probably been hearing some pretty stupid sounding things coming from some of our politicians where rape victims are concerned and solutions to violence on both sides. There's been a lot of talk about gun laws and a lot of talk about what women in particular need to do or realistically could do in the face of rape or other potential violent acts to defend themselves. I don't want this article to become a political debate or anything like that, but before I get into the main point of this article, I want to just say a few things. First of all, its my personal opinion that more weapons on the street no matter who owns them is not necessarily a good thing. On the other side of the coin, as many have pointed out, criminals are going to have guns whether its ilegal or not. So, I guess a lot of people are taking the fight fire with fire aproach here. Its not for me to really say who's right or wrong. 

 What I will say is this. Owning a gun doesn't mean you can get to it and use it whenever you need to. And even if there's a conceiled carry law where you live which allows you to have it on your person, the only way to be sure you'll have it out to defend yourself before you can be assaulted is to carry it in your hand all day. That's not safe for anyone. I don't think that everyone who owns a gun is an idiot or anything like that. Don't get me wrong. However, I think that a lot of people fall into the category of something I'd call the "people with big trucks in the winter" mentality. People who've ever been driving down an interstate during a blizzard will know what I'm talking about. There are those who think that just because they have a big truck and/or four wheel drive, they can drive through anything and not have to worry or even slow down no matter how bad the weather gets. And those are the SUVs and pick up trucks you'll see right along side the smaller cars in the ditches. So, how does that apply to guns you ask... Well, in my experience there are those people who think that just because they own a gun, they are safe and can be as reckless and stupid as they want. There are people who don't train to be able to use their guns correctly too. A gun is like any weapon. You need to respect it and know how to use it properly or you have no business whatsoever owning one. That's a simple fact, because anything else is just plain stupid and dangerous. 

 Back to the feeling of false security that some gun owners have and again, just like with people who drive trucks, I'm not saying every gun owner is like this... just that there are enough out there in my experience for me to make this point. But I have one quick story about a friend of mine years ago who was very big into guns and liked to talk a lot about how tough he was since he had one. Then, I promise I'll get to the actual point of this article. Another friend and I were in the first friend's basement. We were playing pool and he was rambling on about something or other and started talking tough about how he could take either one of us since he had a gun in his house and we didn't. Well, after a while, we'd both had enough and I think it was me that said for him to go ahead and get it out then. Well, he didn't have it in the basement, but he went to get it and I should point out that this particular friend was your typical alpha male type and he just had to try and lord things over people whenever he could. So, anyway, his staircase was an older wooden model and there was a gap under it and it was dark enough to not be able to see if someone was down there. So, that's where I stood with my pool stick and waited for him. As he made his way down the stairs with his rifle, I flashed my pool stick across the front of his face. I pulled the strike and didn't hit him, but I could have and if I'd have wanted to, I could have knocked him off the stairs too. The point of all this was that having a gun didn't ensure you were going to win a conflict and having to go get it or sometimes even just having to reach for it can take too long when someone is already coming at you. 

 So, anyway, we can get to the actual point of this now already long article. I do apologize for taking this long to get to it. I just think it was important to make a point where weapons are concerned and guns in particular. Again, I'm not saying people shouldn't be allowed to own them. I'm just saying they won't solve all the problems and personally, I do believe there are certain people who should never own them, because they will use them improperly either by intention or by lack of knowledge and ability. One more thing that someone showed me recently is every bit as stupid as some of the things I mentioned concerning guns, maybe more stupid. Apparently, there's a report suggesting that potential rape victims urinate, vomit, or suggest to their attacker(s) that they are on their period and the thought process behind this is that the rapist will be grossed out I guess. Again, I don't want to get political in any of this. I just want to make some realistic points which I think both sides of these debates have been neglecting. And this is just plain stupid. My understanding is that from a psychological view point, rape is much more about the violence and dominance the attacker feels than anything sexual. And if that's the case, I doubt bodily fluids will make much difference. Plus, I hate to point it out, but what if the attacker doesn't just want to rape you? What if they want to kill you? They can do that no matter what time of the month it is. So, what CAN you do? Well, there's a lot of schools of thought on the subject, but I'm going to give you what I've learned over the years from martial arts and my own experiences.... to be fair, I've never been in a rape situation, but I have had to deal with violence in real life settings before. 

 So, the first thing I'll tell you is that there is absolutely no guarantee that you won't get attacked in any place at any time. Its a sad truth about life. Some times people just suck and bad things happen. However, there are things you can do to statistically help you to avoid these situations and certainly things you can do to prepare yourself if they do happen. People think that martial arts is all tournaments, high kicks, Karate chops, and fancy pajamas some times. That's not the case. Something martial arts has taught me is to be physically and mentally prepared for things which I wouldn't have been most likely had I not gotten into it. As a martial artist, I was taught to always be mindful of my surroundings. To be honest, I'm a clumsy and oblivious person a lot of the time when I'm not doing martial arts, but I am always aware of whether or not there is a threat near me. I can't give you a scientific explanation for this, but it is what it is. I have been trained to look for things that other people probably don't though. Being aware of your surroundings is a good thing to do no matter what though. If you notice someone following you before they can get reasonably close for example, that might give you the opportunity to get away or get to a more public area where you would have help if you needed it. 

 That brings me to another lesson one of my teachers taught me a long time ago. He would tell me that the best way to not get hit was to not be there. I know that'll sound very familiar to anyone who's seen the original Karate Kid series too, but I promise that's not where I got it from. No matter where it comes from, its good advise though. So, if you want to avoid violence, it makes sense to avoid bad areas which you know violence is more likely to occur. Also, avoiding poorly lit areas and not walking alone at certain times of day would be good. I realize though that many of us may not have a choice where those things are concerned. So, what do you do if you have to be in a bad area at a bad time of day by yourself?

 You come prepared. A long standing defense to violence on the streets for women in particular has been pepper spray. Its nonlethal, can be carried on your person, and in many cases can be small enough to even carry on a key chain. I whole heartedly support this idea. Another good thing to have on you is a whistle. Make sure its a really loud whistle and can be carried on a string, chain, etc. around your neck. You won't have to pull it out of a pocket or anything and it should draw attention to the situation if anyone is nearby. you may think you could just scream, but people do panic some times and it may be easier to blow a whistle and the whistle may be louder than what you can be with just your voice. Another thing available on the market now is the taser gun. Just like a normal gun though, you have to be able to get to it and with a taser you need to get close too. so, keep those things in mind. Of course, as I mentioned before, a lot of people would probably suggest you carry a gun. Now, you're on your own on this one. I would just make a few suggestions. First and foremost, make sure you know how to use it if you're going to carry one. Second, make sure you don't shoot anyone who doesn't deserve it. If you spray someone with pepper spray and later find out they were just coming after you to give you the wallet you dropped two blocks back, they'll live. Shoot them and they may not. And if the pepper spray accidently goes off in your hand, you may spray your leg or the ground, but other than a little wetness, you'll be fine. If the gun goes off on accident in your hand, well you can guess all the possibilities I'm sure. Again, its up to you. Last thing if you do carry a gun, make sure you can get to it before your attacker gets to you. No weapon will help you if you can't use it before your attacker has gotten hold of you..... unless....

 This brings me to my number one suggestion for anyone worried about defense against any kind of violence in the real world. And I know they're pushing that whole stop bullying thing in schools and teaching our kids you should never resort to violence yourself. Yea. Well, sorry, but that's just bull. There will always be people out there who want to bully you whether its in school, at work, or in the line at Starbucks. Some people just suck. And violence isn't going away any time soon either. So, to be realistic about the world around us, we have to know how to defend ourselves. The one weapon you'll never have to worry about having with you or reloading is your own body. Learn a martial art or at the very least take some self defense classes. It won't ensure you'll never be attacked or even that you'll come out on top if you are, but it WILL give you a fighting chance. I'll end this article with just a few personal suggestions on martial arts I've trained in or know of which I feel would be particularly good for self defense and which would be good for people of any size or fitness level. Don't think that because i don't mention a particular art you may have heard of that it means that one isn't good for defense though. Any art or defense system would be better than nothing. And if you want to dig a little deeper into my own viewpoint on the martial arts, you're more than welcome to take a look at a little video segment I've started doing on my website here

 Now the arts I said I'd mention.... First, is one of my personal favorites: the art that Bruce Lee developed, Jeet Kune Do. The only problem with JKD is that there are a lot of people out there claiming to teach it who aren't really adhering to what the art should be and what Lee most likely intended. The best way to know for sure if its what you're looking for is to sit in on a few classes before signing up for anything. It should be a simple and direct art which gives you quick and efficient ways to defend against a wide range of types of attacks and attackers of any size. Another art which has been used by military forces in the middle east for a long time now is Krav Maga. There are actually a decent amount of similarities between Krav Maga and JKD. The differences shouldn't make either any less efficient for self defense. The one problem with Krav Maga is probably that it isn't as wide spread as JKD. So, you may have trouble finding an instructor near where you live. Another good art is Kali. Its a Filipino martial art which a lot of times these days is taught alongside JKD. It doesn't have to be though. Its very good at dealing with weapons such as knives and helping to teach students to improvise with different types of potential weapons. Aikido is also an excellent art for self defense. The problem with Aikido is that it usually takes a very long time for a student to reach the level of skill in it to apply it's techniques in a real fight. And as I mentioned before, you can always look into a self defense class. 

 I know that this article has been a long one and if you bothered to read through the whole thing, I just hope that I at least gave you some helpful things to think about. No matter what any politician or anyone else for that matter tells you, try to take a realistic view of these things and it should help you to be safer.