Rifle shooting is similar to martial arts. We work to acquire a skill that gives us a certain power. In the context we usually associate the skill with, it is pleasant, fun, rewarding, and innocuous. Most of us do it because it’s fun, and continues to be challenging.
In the context of martial arts, the power is acknowledged explicitly. Generally a lot of humility and restraint is built into the learning process as tradition. In shooting, the power is not generally addressed explicitly, but the same type of humility and restraint is generally modeled and cultivated in the process of learning. Shooters and martial artists have a lot in common.
The ability to use a rifle effectively expands a person’s ability to use force, to exert power, significantly. That’s a bit of an understatement. With that tool on the belt, we need to ask ourselves, “What do I stand for? How do I responsibly use this power?” If we don’t do some reflection on those things, it’s possible that we won’t be grounded in principle if circumstances cause us to be emotionally aroused (think fight or flight response).
Hopefully, no one who reads this will say, “I stand for evil!” If you happen to fall into that category, please don’t visit my blog anymore, and I can’t be your friend anymore either. Sorry.
So what do we stand for?
Do we stand for intimidation? Do we stand for protecting the weak and innocent among us? Do we stand for bullying people to make a political statement? Do we stand for the idea that sacrifice for a cause greater than ourselves can still be noble? Do we stand for disproportionate force applied just because we can? Or do we stand for force as a last resort?
Chotuku Kyan was a major karate player in Okinawa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was physically a tiny man, but well regarded as being able to handle himself. He had a saying I think is pretty cool: “This fist is like a treasure that should be hidden in the sleeve.” I think I understand what he was saying, so bear with me.
Kyan was a man who put a lot of time (a lifetime), sweat, blood (literally), pain, etc… to learn how to throw a devastating punch. The young karate guys used to go pick fights to test their skill, so he’d “been there, done that.” All that work resulted in the ability to punch that he was probably pretty pleased with. As he got older, though, he realized what he really had in his hands. People can end up dying when punched in real life, especially in late 19th century Okinawa. Most sane humans (our number are dwindling people!) suffer mentally after harming another human. He’s not going to squander his punch on some punk. He’s guarding it jealously, hoping to never dispense it unless its really necessary. It’s not just that he doesn’t want to use it. When you have a treasure, you want to conceal it.
This is a good illustration of the concept of “force as a last resort”. If we’re paying any attention, we should be able to see a bad situation coming. That gives us the option of not being there if we don’t need to be. What if we do need to be there? What are the other options? Diffusing a tense situation with conversation? Maybe taking a momentary loss of face to let the other party feel like they won really makes us the better person.
There’s another illustration in martial arts that gets at it in another angle. The story is that a brand new black belt, after receiving his belt, will climb onto his roof, and shout out his accomplishment for all to hear. The master will simply go quietly about his business. This is known as “good work done in secret”.
One thing I have noticed about the really tough people I have met is that they have all been exceedingly police, humble, willing to help, and unassuming. They are also capable of great restraint and show real character. They’d rather help someone else shine and get the limelight than to be in it. It’s unusual for them to get visibly angry. When it happens, it’s subtle, but it really causes you to wonder what’s going to come of it.
People that attempt to exude “badassness” might be physically capable in some instances, but when it comes down to it they still have a complex. Most of them that I have encountered in a shooting context really couldn’t shoot. It takes too much energy trying to be the “Big Alpha Dog”.
So my point is, know what principles you stand for. Really spend some time thinking it out. Embody the ethical code of the warrior, whether it be chivalry, bushido, or whatever. They’re all very similar.
Understand what the real consequences of the use of a firearm are. Also understand that if you talk tough, and your bluff is called, you may reap those consequences, whether as the giver or the receiver. Having a lot of horsepower under the hood can be a good thing, but without a driver who has good judgment (your moral code), and good brakes (your restraint), there is nothing to stop all that horsepower from mowing down pedestrians.