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After hearing about the horrible tragedy in Connecticut this past weekend I got to thinking about what could have been done to minimize the loss of life. While I do not know what the answer is, I do know that there are some skills that I am sure most of us as martial art practitioners are aware of for disarming and subduing an armed attacker if we are close enough to surprise and engage the attacker. My question to my martial art brothers is what if at all is should be our responsibility as trained martial artist to pass on these skills to not only our law enforcement and or military but to our teachers who are tasked with caring for life’s most precious commodity, our children?

We typically host seminars and workshops for individuals who have some previous training in the combative arts as part of their job, but how often do we take the time to train academic faculty and administrators who may not have a martial art background, we have an opportunity to arm these individuals with some tools that may be used in a life or death situation, at least as a last resort. My last question is, what advantages do you think we have, as martial artist that the non practitioner does not have that may have helped save at least a few lives at the elementary school were this horrific tragedy occurred.  Is it being able to react under duress, situational awareness, our speed, or using whatever is available as a weapon that gives us an edge?

I know this is all hypothetical but I can’t stop thinking about what I would have done in this situation or what my martial art colleagues would have done. I am typically armed at all times with two folders, and a small wooden kombatan, with this in mind I wonder if I was able to get close enough would I go for control of the weapon, or would I stab the attacker, etc…. Thanks for listening as this is the only forum I can pose questions such as these.


Best regards, Merry Christmas, and be safe,

Guro Mike Cardenas

VEA Martial Arts Academy

Views: 80

Comment by Guro Lawrence Motta on December 20, 2012 at 11:44am

Guro Mike,

I think every one of us is asking the very same question.  I know I have.  If those teachers had a little training, could they have done something more?  We can never know the answer to that question but we can say for a fact that the absence of training will certainly offer no chance at all.  I suspect that by the time everyone realized what was happening, it was over; much like the shooting in Aurora.  I doubt even the best of us would have the ability to comprehend what was happening, assess the threat, deploy a weapon and subdue the attacker while trying not to get shot in a rapid fire situation like that.  The only people I know who train in near live fire scenarios like that are first responders or military personel.  However, I would like to think that our training does offer some ability to respond to a threat quickly and instinctively.  I think training for our teachers should be mandatory, not just for the practical techniques but mostly for the awareness and ability to think under pressure.  Maybe we should offer free seminars and training to our local school districts; possibly through the PTA?  Maybe we should put training into the curriculum for public schools?  I do know that all of us, if we were in the situation, would certainly use our training to take the guy down by whatever means we could.  There is no doubt in my mind that I would, without hesitation.  Knowing that makes the event even more frustrating and sad.

There is one other side to this story that needs to be put forth here and it is touchy.  Throughout my career in this field, I have known a lot of angry young men looking for a means to express that anger.  As teachers in these arts, we have a moral responsibility to identify problem kids and take steps to help them get the attention they require to prevent them from going off the deep end.  I think this community needs to have a frank discussion about what that means and how we can contribute in a meaningful way, not just by giving these kids something to hit.  Mentoring, encouraging communication, participating in education, learning the warning signs and knowing who to contact if you suspect there is a problem are all skills we need to learn as instructors of deadly arts.  Reinforcing and perpetuating violent stereotypes and teaching our students that violence is a legitimate solution to their social problems is pattently irresponsible and dangerous.  We train so we don't have to fight.  But, we will if some lunatic decides to start gunning down the innocent and defenseless.  Understanding and teaching our young students that distiction is our moral obligation.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to every one of those affected by this horrible act of violent stupidity.  Let's do our part to help prevent this in the future.

Comment by Michael Cardenas on December 20, 2012 at 12:13pm

Thanks for the reply Guro Motta,

I whole heartedly agree with your comments and have made offers to several academic leaders at least in my community to offer some free training for them, a couple of teachers have shown interest and only time will tell how many of them will commit several hours for this training. Your following comment is exactly my point, “we can say for a fact that the absence of training will certainly offer no chance at all” ,I also agree that now is the time for “frank” discussions  regarding how to better identify and treat our mentally troubled youth. Merry Christmas and be safe Sir.

Comment by Black Swan Tactical on December 20, 2012 at 9:26pm

Given the fact that you were on staff at the school, with two folders, I do not think it would be wise to try and take on an attacker with an AR-15 / Bushmaster whose talents you do not know.  The person could have been very well trained.  In that case, the only way to bring that person down is with equipment of a similar nature.  i.e. you need a long rifle at least.

If anything I would try to get the kids OUT of the school and away from the campus to a home across the street...if the school were laid out in that manner, and then maybe, if I had enough guts to go back in to the school again and again to get additional groups out of the school thus depriving the shooter of targets.  Nobody knows if they would truly willingly go back in that school, because without any weapons, you are nothing more than another target, and there is no way to determine how many shooters there are!

Above all, you only live once, and folders are not the weapon to go up against the AR-15 / Bushmaster.  If anything give me a 2 ft long machete, and even then I think it would be hard to think about challenging a guy with an AR 15 / Bushmaster.  You are at most going to get one shot at taking them out and they are going to gut you.

After this situation, I am of the mind that all schools should be equipped with safes for 2 handguns and 2 long rifles, and principals and vice principals nationwide should be trained and then armed with a minimum of a .40 cal handgun and a .308 long rifle(bolt action is probably enough), and receive 120 hours on the weapons, so that they develop some level of marksmanship, then 40 hours of retraining every year.  We can beat this problem and make sure that everyone stays as safe as possible.

Merry Christmas!



Comment by terry joven on December 21, 2012 at 10:49am


very interesting reply..

merry christmas to you too!


Comment by Guro Lawrence Motta on December 21, 2012 at 11:44am


I just had this discussion with one of my coworkers.  He is a self proclaimed "life long liberal" who firmly believes we should simply ban all guns.  I told him one of the first principles I teach my students.  If you turn your back to the threat and refuse to face it, you will certainly get hit.  He asked for my solution to the problem and I said first, it's a cultural problem, not a gun problem.  We need to address what causes people (moslty young men) to turn to such levels of violence.  Second, we need to train everyone.  Bring back PE and do a module on self defense not only for the technical training but also for the sake of exposing young people to the fact that they are not as indestructible as they think.  Third, every teacher and administrator should undergo mandatory Martial Arts training so they have at least a slightly better chance of surviving than if they simply stick their heads in the dirt and hope the problem goes away.  I don't know about placing fire arms in the schools, even in locked safes.  But, I do know that with a little training and a plan of action that is regularly practiced and reviewed, a few lives can be saved.  The simple fact is that with media hype as it is, more and more lunatics like this kid see this kind of action as a legitimate option for working out their mysanthropy.  Perhaps getting them on the mat with a trained instructor might help identify the problem early, provide mentorship and guidance; perhaps even psychological intervention.  Barring that, teachers and administrators need to train for this kind of event like they train fire drills.  I do not believe this particular kind of threat is going away any time soon so we had better prepare to deal with it WHEN it happens, not IF it happens.  I like your ideas, though; face the threat with training and planning, don't turn away and hope it abates.


Comment by Michael Cardenas on December 21, 2012 at 1:12pm

Thanks for the response Thomas,

I think we can all surmise that the odds are definitely against the unarmed versus the armed, I am certain in this scenario and the attacker being armed as he was the only way to take him down without the use of a firearm would be with the element of surprise. I agree having a few armed staff members fully trained and qualified regularly may be one approach to combating a problem if something like this were to reoccur. I agree with Guro Motta that this single approach doesn’t address the root cause of the problem which is identifying and dealing with mentally unstable individuals who may have a propensity towards committing a violent act.  Thanks for the thought provoking comments.


Comment by Black Swan Tactical on December 21, 2012 at 6:42pm

Just to follow up, in case anyone is thinking about getting involved with their school board, I present the following information to get you started.

I think what I stated regarding weaponizing the schools for the sake of security is already common in some jurisdictions, and the weapon holder is not a school official, but a sworn police officer within the entire jurisdiction of the City of Chicago or private police in the case of University police.  All universities within the City of Chicago have armed police and the number of police is that of a taskforce on foot and mobile in cars and they are sworn police officers doing all duties from ticketing illegally parked cars to making arrests for all areas of the jurisdiction that they serve under.  Jurisdictions are beyond the school zones!  Examples that I know of are IIT, Loyola University, the University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Northwestern University.

According to the following article at the Huffington Post at least 122 City of Chicago public schools have Chicago Police (CPD) protection while classes are ongoing.  The actual number of officers in the program is > 144.  According to my brother (a ret CPD) means that one or more CPD officers are at the school and are ready to perform investigations, do strip searches, make arrests and transfer students to transport wagons, full time.  I find that that number to be pretty low, and think that they are only counting CPD that are detailed inside the schools, because at any hour of the day during the "call" and "release" of students(0900–1730 hours), I've always seen CPD outside public high schools schools.  Also according to the article, only 4 schools were willing to give up the full time CPD protection for a one time $25,000 cash offer to hire other security or employ technologies, such as metal detectors to do the same task.

The name of the program is Operation Protect Youth according to this document.

All children in the City of Chicago public schools already use clear backpacks to transport books and lunch to and from school.

Metra Police with and without K9, which are nothing more than temporarily reassigned CPD also follow many of the public school buses to and from school in case any shootings or fights occur.

The City of Chicago Police Department also has at least 108 cameras near schools and they are erecting speed cameras around more than 100 schools.

There is a ton of information on this subject, and for research I suggest that if you are interested in this area of law enforcement that you study what has been done in large metropolitan areas.

Thanks for reading!


Comment by Michael Cardenas on December 24, 2012 at 5:42pm

good info!


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