Two of my most very favorite things in Martial Arts are Kata and Traditional Weapons.
Kata clearly has a substantial amount of value as far as practicality goes. It is not just a set pattern of moves that look good together and is not a dance. Check out Way of Kata for more information about just how totally bad ass kata really is.
This leads me to my other favorite thing, weapons. Now, obviously we don't go around carrying katanas and sai daggers and tonfa in today's world. For a long time I thought weapons were something was really fun to learn and know how to do, but probably not something that would be incredibly practical.
However, last night, during my private lesson in Kempo, (I'm going to keep attending my current dojo up until the last minute when I head out for Oklahoma to join Guinn Martial Arts as an uchideshi.) my instructor said, "You know, I don't feel like going over anything specific today, lets just learn some bo staff! Everybody cool with that?" Which we all were.
So, in giving us a bit of a brief run down on the history of the bo staff and such, he went on to explain how it is his favorite weapon because it can be both classical and practical. He said many of the weapons forms are (at least in their school) more for performance than application. Especially in today's society. The chances of someone pulling out a Chinese board sword and attacking you are very slim. Or the chances that you have a katana, sai, tonfa, or kama on you to be able to defend yourself should you get attacked are also very slim. But a bo staff.... doesn't have to be a bo staff per say. Could be a broom, or a shovel, or something similar.
Oooooh... how interesting. I'd never thought of that before.
This makes me want to look around my house and figure out all the objects I could use in lieu of a weapon. Which is perhaps a little silly of me, but if your life depends on it, you may have to improvise, so why not? If you know how to hurt someone with a shinai, the same technique may also work with... say... my umbrella. Which is a large sturdy umbrella with a solid supporting rod that doesn't slide down/compress into a smaller size. So when its closed its a similar size and shape to a shinai... Hmmm.
Am I a little crazy? Maybe so. But. I prefer to live by the boy scout motto which is "Be Prepared!" I refuse to be a victim. I am always alert and ready when in public. Not necessarily in fight or flight mode, but just... aware. I try to be taking in my surroundings, noticing the people that are in the area, etc. I have a kubaton on my keys. What happens if some dude abducts me and locks me in the shed and I lose my keys? But perhaps there is a shovel near by? WHO KNOWS! You can never get hung up on the 'what ifs' because you will be at it for forever and never get anywhere. I'd rather try to have a small set of fault-tolerant techniques and be able to improvise in any situation. (This is what Mr. Miller refers to as 'having a decision stick')
Back to the point. Obviously this doesn't even begin to cover topics like knife fighting/knife defense, or what if someone pulls a gun on you, etc. That'll have to be another post for another day. Even so, I don't think weapon training is, by any means, useless. Even in today's society. Learn everything you can. You never know when it will come in handy.
Have a great weekend all. You can bet I'll be spending some time in the park this weekend working on what I picked up in class with my new, handy, home made bo staff. (Home Depot, Dowel rod, $10, FTW)