A Gun for the Morrígan: Offerings and Devotion

 When I first saw this topic, when I saw a link to Asa West’s Giving Bullets to the Morrigan, I thought, “Cool! Someone else doing it!”  “It” being a long held plan, which hasn’t happened yet for, uh, reasons, to create a “sacred shooting range.”  As soon as the guy and I decide on a location and get fill to the spot and create a berm we are going to have a shooting range on our property and there will be a shrine to the Morrígan over looking it.   I already dedicate my training to her, but this would be a formal spot to do so, much like my gym is a temple for that part of the training (and sometimes for trigger control practice with a laser “bullet” when I can’t get out for live fire….which I could more if I had a place on the property).

I’m sure there are other pics of me at this training,
I need to try to access them sometime.

But that’s not what it’s about but rather about giving bullets as offerings. So my first thought on that was, “huh, that would be a rather pathetic offering.”  You know, just a random bullet.  There’s not a lot that stands out between two bullets of the same make. Sure, I can see if I were to use my gun in defense of myself or another without firing a shot that the bullet in my chamber at the time might be a worthy offering.  But I wouldn’t give just any old bullet.

Of course, what this actually became about, the reason it was brought up, was whether it was okay for other people to do this. And it brought with it a lot of the standard anti- vs. pro-gun arguments, with some Pagan twists. The sort of things that make most leftist gun-owners, like myself, look at both sides and double face-palm as you watch each side feed the other.  This time with the added oddity of some claim that guns are just made for killing people but swords are not….except that that really is all swords were ever made for.  They do things like this and also this. But it is not uncommon to romanticize the violence of the past while vilifying the violence of the present, I am sure that as the Bronze Age gave way to the Iron Age there were those who spoke of the nobility of the bronze blade over the evils of the steel.  Even the guns of the past get this romantic treatment, as people wax nostalgic for the six-shooter of the Old West while expressing horror at a semi-automatic pistol.

 I could get into the whole primary focus on why anti-gun Pagans seem to be upset over bullets as offerings, which is a pet peeve of mine. That is “the Morrígan should not be reduced to a War Goddess, She is more than that” claim which always translates to “I want the Morrígan to not be a War Goddess at all, because I want Her to be what I want Her to be.”  Here’s the thing, to say that it reduces Her to be called, as she was in the text, a Goddess of Battle (bandee in catæ..in the Tochmarc Emire), is a bias based on you not understanding all that there was to such a Goddess in the context of early Irish culture. This is also true if you insist that her link with “battle” is about “internal conflict” or “fighting inner demons,” which may be your UPG (Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis), and that’s fine, but does not define Her as She was known in the early Irish culture (or for many of us who certainly do not share that UPG). In fact, my own findings and UPG is far more about waking up those “inner demons” and letting them take over and shift you (this is exactly what my work is all about…see especially Wolf-shapes and Chase). ( Or to claim that Her link to sovereignty, which West brings up, is about the modern concept of individual autonomy, rather than actual about kingship (open only to one who had proven themselves a warrior) of a territory (likely won and kept by war). Again, it may well be valid UPG, but don’t claim it’s anything else. But I already wrote a whole article detailing how all those “other things” come back to Her being a War Goddess, because they all relate to warfare as the culture knew it.

Okay, back to bullets as offerings. It never, ever occurred to me to give bullets in the way that apparently is being discussed here.  In part is the sheer, well, regularity and number of them with which to choose if you were just doing a random “bullet offering.” Certainly they are not cheap these days, however there’s a volume of them one might go through which creates the expense. One, individual bullet is simply not that individual. Again, I could see offering one that stands out….the one in the chamber you didn’t have to fire to save yourself or another, perhaps one left over from a big win if you’re a competitive shooter or one left over because your first shot was the clean kill you had hoped for when hunting for food. There may be many reasons a particular bullet does warrant it for the person involved. Maybe once we start reloading, I’ll start thinking of them as more individual than I do now and it will be something I feel drawn to do.  But, of course, ymmv and I’m not going to say it’s wrong if someone else does feel that a random bullet from a brick is a worthy offering.  I would be more likely to offer a really nicely clustered paper target. ~;p  (I need to invest in some paper targets when I finally have a range….)

Of course, there is my personal semantics around offerings. For me an offering is only something broken or totally destroyed and hidden from this world, so that it is taken into the Otherworld. At least in the end. Some offerings sit on my shrine for a period of time, but in the end they are destroyed in some way in this world. Usually by fire….please, tell me I do not need to explain not to do this with live rounds.

An item that sits on my shrine (or altar if you prefer) is not an offering, unless it is to be so destroyed eventually. Instead I would call them dedicated or devotional objects. A slight difference between the two although in a way both are things that you might say I share possession of with the Being the shrine is for.

Devotional objects are those which are, indeed, only to stay on the shrine as symbolic of devotion, such as statues and, well, I actually have a lot of things that I felt drawn to maintain on the shrines.  Some are used in ritual at times, such as candle holders or a stone “well” which might hold water. Some targets might end up being both, now that I am thinking of it…some sent and destroyed, some hung by a shrine (and one or two maybe by the door way).  Images and symbols are among these things, which includes a Sarah Connor figure…holding a gun with the other slung across her back….to represent the modern female warrior or, even, a modern image of the War Goddess). These things are mostly Theirs, but I do get to look at them unlike full offerings.

Dedicated objects are items which I might use personally, even “mundanely” but which I associate with my worship and which are blessed.  I keep some of my jewelry on my personal shrine to the Morrígan when I am not wearing it, but I wear it anytime I might go out. These things are more mine.

I could see, should the Revenant Cataclysm hit, putting bricks of bullets on the shrines to ask for blessings on a regular basis…whether they are for killing revenants or hunting for food or both.  So, on the shrine, but not an offering exactly (heads, meat, depending would be more appropriate).

Some things, including weapons may be seen as somewhat in between these items. I may not use my swords on a regular basis (practice, when I do it, is with single-sticks…I fear this has been a neglected art of late).  My guns, however, do not reside on my shrines, although they are formally blessed and if I have my gun when I go into the gym and remove it (usually when stretching after a run it sits between the figure of the Morrígan and the Sarah Connor figure, because it is dedicated to them (and it’s a safe location while I’m there).  Even my weights and and other fitness equipment, as all my training is a dedicated act and I see my gym as a temple of worship.might be seen as dedicated devotional objects, although not formally blessed (hmmmm).

Which brings me back to my first thought on this subject.  If training is a dedicated act, then that does include my firearms training so, I suppose it can be seen as giving bullets to Her. This is true where ever I might practice, however, I do want a range here on our property and a shrine overlooking it. Where it will go is still being negotiated and we need to budget in the fill for the berm which we need no matter where, due the layout of our land, which also requires it being somewhere we can get a truck to.  Perhaps this summer it will happen.

Training is always the basis of my offering, for to be the best I can be is my service to Her. It is also a gift, for being able to train is often a struggle for me due to health issues.  So reciprocation, She helps me to be able to train, I train to thank Her for that. Whether this is staying fit or being able to hit a target and respond properly to danger.

I may never really feel drawn to giving a bullet. It just doesn’t sit right unless something does happen to make a particular one that important to me. But since this has been brought up, it has occurred to me that I do need to make a weapons offering in the way done since the Bronze Age.

Someday, I shall properly offer a gun to the Morrígan. It will be a fine gun, expensive, far more than would even be possible for me to acquire now. It will be utterly “killed” in this world to send it to the Otherworld and sunk deeply in a marsh. This here is my promise to Her for this, in hopes that She also might help me be able to be in a position to do so…for if I am, it will be right that I reciprocate.

An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 4: Training

me doing chin ups

So, yeah, I had made some warning that there might be yet another installment on this theme and here it is.  Really, I’m using it mostly because this is somewhat a continuation of things touched upon in part 2 about how the Sarah Connor Charm School became an exercise in implementing some of my warrior path training ideas, with modifications. Since I’m finding my current focus on upping my own training and working on getting my business going again seems to be interfering with work on my second post about Cú Chulainn’s relationship with the Morrígan, I figured maybe writing about training on this path might help me get on track in several ways. I have to stay that thoughts about the Tara High Kings Festival competition may also be prompting this (and there may be a post in that after we see what takes place)

One thing that has been coming up for me is the idea that I “broke training” for much of this summer.  In June and July we were caring for a very sick dog. For much of that there was a heat wave here. Neither of us got much sleep for those weeks, although my mate as an EMT really seldom does, nor did we eat very well. Everything was constant stress. After our Cù died, I had started to get back with it, but became very sick myself…as often happens when getting through tremendous stress and poor self-care and then, well, the body realizes that it doesn’t have to get through anymore.

There is a lot of focus in the amateur fitness world that you work out through everything.  Illness, stress, business, what ever. As a fitness professional, I tell my clients to back off or take breaks when sick, because the body doesn’t need extra stress when trying to heal. To take breaks on a regular basis, actually, as the body needs rest and adapts to constant exercise in a negative way. I’m good about taking scheduled rest breaks, but still self-flagellate about taking breaks when it’s not “in the plan” so I get caught up in that thinking.

But, really, what are training for? For me it’s different from what many think about, even while the industry sometimes gives lip service to the idea of fitness for life, it’s largely about looks, usually about weight. So if your focus is on that, well, taking a break when things are going to shit might mean gaining weight (although this is largely a fallacy, weight isn’t as easily controlled as such ideas make it out to be, which is part of why I am a Health At Every Size™ trainer) or losing muscle (you do, but muscle rebuilds faster than it built in the first place).  That’s not what I’m training for. It’s not what those I train train for. The truth is, I’m training for being as healthy as possible. And, really, I’m raining for crisis. And when there is one I’m in it, training for it just can take away from what I need to put into the crisis at hand.

Okay, it might not be as romantic and exciting as the idea that I’m training for the Zombie Apocalypse, er, Revenant Cataclysm, but in reality training for any crisis is training for any other. It’s about making the body stronger so it better adapts to stress. What ever form that stress may take. So that the body doesn’t break down, at least not completely.  A bad summer cold is nothing compared to other possible stress related health problems, after all. And even a crisis which might not seem overly physically taxing does still mean physical work needs to be done, especially when homesteading. Keeping up with things that needed done here like caring for our other animals often took a toll just due to the exhaustion. I hadn’t been training before, I’d likely not have been able to do any of that at all.

It’s true that certain stressful periods can be aided by exercise, it can alleviate anxiety. I won’t say I didn’t exercise at all while taking care of Cù, there were times when my husband was there to watch after him that I’d escape to the gym or the trail for awhile. But the work out was light, exhaustion catching up with me. And not as frequent.  Therefore not within my usual training perimeters.

Of course, training on this path isn’t just about fitness. But I do believe that it is the base of all the rest of training. This is obvious for martial arts training but for some it may not be for the less obviously physical. However, I find warrior trance to be very physically challenging, it is often movement based and even when not puts a great deal of stress on the body. When it comes to research, I also find I am more focused when I am engaging in regular physical training. All these things fell behind too during that time. The only thing that didn’t, obviously, were the parts about connecting with my animals, especially my dogs, especially this one, and the Otherworld. Because those things were at the center of everything. And all these things are aspects of the path.

I have been playing with the outline for a training program, you know for this War Goddesss cult I’m not starting.  A look at what I feel is needed to serve Her/Them. As I noted before, I had started such an outline for organizations I was in but they never panned out. I was often told they were too much, yet I know someone doing the version I redid, changing out the cultural and mystical bits, for the Sarah Connor Charm School.  There’s also endless modification…so…

I am hoping to be posting a new outline on the website soon. It will take some thought. I see as a three fold path, after all, warrior-seer-poet. Some of us ares strong in one of these than the others and that may change. I am weakest in the poetry, but as I age I might increase my focus and learn more to strengthen it. Never know.  This combination is based on what we see among the warriors of the Fianna as well as the Scáthach’s training of Cú Chulainn and is coming up a lot in my writing.

But right at this moment, I’m focused on the fitness part of the physical training an starting to get back to the martial part, as well as working on Sight, research and writing. Well, this is somewhat a restart of the writing. LOL

As I am so focused, I thought I’d leave you with links for posts I did for the Sarah Connor Charm School Blog. As, really, this is one element of the training programs which wouldn’t change. We have no real concrete information on fitness training, other than there was lots of running, of the early Irish warriors, so we go with what we know works. Even if I had details, I’d modify it for reasons of science and, especially, safety.

EDIT: I have revised this specifically for the Shadow of the Hooded Crow Fitness Files

SCCS Fitness Training Intro: This Fitness Program will make you look just like Sarah Connor a Stronger You!
SCCS Fitness Training Part 1: The Activity Triad
SCCS Fitness Training Part 2: Flexibility
SCCS Fitness Training Part 3: Cardiovascular/Endurance/Aerobics
SCCS Fitness Training Part 4: Strength Training

Copyright © 2013 Saigh Kym Lambert

Stalking and killing unarmed kids is not self-defense

If you’ve been to the blog before, you know I’m a gun owner and a proponent of armed-self-defense. I feel that as such, I want to make it very clear what stance I take and I believe the defensive-shooting community must take as sane, responsible gun owners and compassionate people. I am horrified to see that some who I had respected are not taking a stand supporting the family of Trayvon Martin and are instead holding out any consideration that Zimmerman, who stalked the unarmed teenager, might have acted in legitimate self-defense. We do have enough information to know better.

I was very saddened today to see GEORGE ZIMMERMAN AND TRAYVON MARTIN: WHAT WE DON’T KNOW from Massad Ayoob, where he alternately says we must “not jump to conclusions” and jumps as high as anyone does. He tried so hard to paint Trayvon Martin in a bad light that he finds the Facebook page of another kid with the same name and plastered his photos up (which will keep showing up on feeds for a long time….even if these photos were the same Trayvon Martin, they show a kid being a kid and nothing more is directly evident from the poses or Rap lyrics). And tries to make out that a truancy suspension trumps Zimmerman having been arrested for violent crimes in the past.

It saddens me because I had respected Ayoob until today. I had been looking forward to him being a voice of responsible gun-ownership in this. But that is not what he offers. He’s looking for excuses to support Zimmerman. He jumps to the conclusion that because Zimmerman’s Kel-Tec PF-9 (this is not the first time a very public crime has been committed with precisely one of the guns I own, this isn’t even a particularly popular gun like Glocks are, but it is inexpensive and small) supposedly didn’t cycle through, that Martin must have attacked him and had his hand on it. Well, yes, an obvious explanation for the gun not cycling would be someones hand on it and we do know they had a physical contact before the shooting, although the witnesses differ in how that went down as opposed to what Zimmerman and the police have said. But, consider this, which is actually more likely, that Martin might have grabbed the gun in a desperate attempt to defend himself or that he decided to attack someone holding a gun at him by grabbing the gun? Either way, Zimmerman had the gun out against an unarmed child who he outweighed by 100 lbs.*

We do have a lot of facts
. Including that Zimmerman, against the advice of the 911 operator, stalked this child and left his vehicle to do so. Stalking is not self-defense. It is not Stand Your Ground. It is stalking. It is a crime in itself, but especially when it leads to you shooting down the unarmed child you are stalking.

As responsible gun-owners we can not defend that. To do so seriously insults Trayvon Martin, his family and all victims of such crimes. On a purely selfish level, it makes us and the laws that protect us as gun owners targets and if we lose the rights we have it is our fucking fault for defending those who, in fact, are not protected by those laws but now you’re making out that they are.

Let me give you my very personal take on this, which is shaped by my defensive-shooting training which was from trainers traiend by, yes, Massad Ayoob:

NH has “Castle Law.” If I were to be attacked in my home and reasonably fear for my life, I can shoot in self-defense. But the fact is that what I expect from the police when they show is to have my weapon taken from me, to be taken in, to be questioned extensively, to feel I need a lawyer and, before today, I would have tried to get a message to Ayoob through my own trainer who trained with him. That would be even if the person lying on my floor, was armed to the teeth and a convicted murderer. I expect to be questioned and have all evidence looked into about whether or not I did have reasonable fear. I expect that if there is doubt about my reasonable fear that I might go to trial, I would hope that a jury would not convict.

I also expect to be vomiting, sobbing and freaking out over having taken someones life. I may believe in self-defense, I may choose to have firearms for self-defense but I pray I never need to use it. It’s for the worst of the worst possibilities. I never want to have to take a life. On the other hand, I never want to stand by and let someone take other lives if I can do something about it. I don’t want someone to get away with taking mine if I can stop it. I hope I never have to, I hope that if I do have to I do so only because I truly do have to. I accept what I might have to live with both in trauma and legal issues after. But I do expect there to be issues.

On the other hand, if someone came to my door and then left or where just walking by and “looked suspicious” and I followed them with my gun and shot them I would fully expect to be charged with murder. I’d expect to be convicted should a jury of my peers be sane. Or, as I have already noted, be committed for life as obviously given the above I would have gone insane to be able to do that. Again, that would be even if the person were an armed convicted murderer. Because I have no fucking right to stalk and kill someone. Ever. Not even a known criminal. And certainly not an unarmed child.

In fact, if I did this because I thought the person looked “suspicious” and the person in fact attacked me, I do not have a defensible leg to stand on. Because I followed them. I knowingly put myself in unreasonable danger. If I thought they were dangerous my duty would be to call the police and stay in my fucking house and perhaps to call my neighbor that they might be heading towards and warn them of my concern. It is not my job and it is illegal for me to chase after the person. I am not a cop. I am not Batman.

The self-defense community must condemn such vigilantism, especially in light of a unarmed child having been killed. Zimmerman had a long standing history of this sort of behavior, he was not a member of a registered Neighborhood Watch and if he had been he’d have violated the rules by carrying a gun and by stalking individuals. He followed this child, first in his vehicle then got out. If he were attacked, which I do not believe is reasonable to believe but if, then he put himself in harms way by taking the law in his own hands. That take it out of self-defense territory. He was not a cop, he did not have any rights to go after another citizen who was simply walking home.

The fact that the police claimed that they couldn’t arrest him because it was “clearly self-defense” is actually bizarre. There is something seriously wrong there. And it must be fixed.

There was no self-defense here, even the Republican lawmakers who brought recent changes to the laws have said that. Even if Martin had been dangerous, there was no excuse for Zimmerman to stalk him. He should have been arrested, if he were not guilty that would be for a trial. He is a danger. Martin never was.

I say again, responsible gun owners and self-defense advocates must stand by Trayvon Martin’s family and cry that justice be done. Not just because by defending his killer actually puts our legal right to defend ourselves in jeopardy, and it does, but because it’s the right and decent and caring thing to do.

*ETA: There are, of course, other reasons why the gun might not have cycled through another round. One would be if it were in or got interfered with by clothing. One thing I have not seen is what actual shooting experience Zimmerman had. The PF-9 is a tiny gun, he may have jammed it up with a bad hold, while other injuries got mentioned later, I don’t know if his hands were injured. He may also have limp-wristed it, which with a Kel-Tec can take away the energy causing the slide not to come back properly. That, of course, could also explain the broken nose. If we’re going to jump to one conclusion on this, we might as well visit all of the possibilities.

ETA2: Just adding some more links that may be of interest: What Everyone Needs To Know About The Smear Campaign Against Trayvon Martin (1995-2012)
Dishonoring Trayvon Martin

ETA3: I also realized I was remiss in not including the petition calling for the arrest of Zimmerman in this shooting. Prosecute the killer of our son, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin

 copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert

Year of the Gun: Third Step, Self-Protection with Handguns (SPwH)

It seems to take me at least a month to write these up, which probably seems a long delay. This time is even longer and I have the excuse of not having much online access, but that wasn’t so in the first two. The real problem is that I just feel overwhelmed to find the words to do these classes justice. It just seems impossible to convey either the fun, especially of a shooting focused class like this and Basic Handgun, or the sense of empowerment they and Responsible Use of Lethal Force, give…albeit a very grave empowerment. Given the reality that is the focus of that second class, it also gives me a bit of trepidation into even trying to express how much damn fun the Instructor Lyn Bates with student shooting classes are. It seems odd that preparing for something you hope never to use should be such a rush. But they are. It’s fun to learn, it’s empowering to take on the knowledge to protect ones own life and that of others, it’s beyond intense to consider the responsibility of it.

Of course, all these things are true of non-firearms self-defense training and martial arts as well. But with the guns you have, excuse the pun, the bang!

In early June, we returned to the Harvard Sportsman’s Club to do the next step with AWARE (Arming Women Against Rape and Endangerment) Self-Protection with Handguns. AWARE VP Lyn Bates again led this class, assisted by Barbara Clorite, Jim Roberts and Roger Lanny, with Lanny joining the class later in the day when Roberts had to leave early. There were six students, giving us an excellent 1 to 2 student to instructor ratio, allowing for a great deal of input and answers to questions through the whole class.

The class started in the club house, with introductions. This time my mate was the token only male student, the other students ranging from the MA coordinator of Second Amendment Sisters, Inc. who has been shooting for awhile to a woman who grew up with guns but wanted formal training knock off some rust to those of us who were new to shooting including one woman who was still unsure if carrying for self-defense was really an option she wanted to take. We then had an overview of basic safety and issues, before heading down to one of the outdoor ranges.Instructors demonstrating why you need a solid stance

This is when the real fun began?

After all but two of us, who had their own weapons, found our loaner guns, we started with a demonstration of the basic Isosceles stance, with both arms out in a triangle, which Lyn demonstrated with Jim helping her show the importance of putting weight forward to maintain balance, something some of us *ahem* could have done better at. After all, as Jim noted in an aside discussion at one point, this is the basic stance in nearly any self-defense or combat Martial Art system. I plead nerves as a beginner shooter for still standing too far back, according to the photos (which you will never see) and am glad I have those photos to remind me. We began our shooting in this stance.

Lyn then went over tInstructors working with students on stancehe Chapman or Modified Weaver stance, where the shooting arm stays out “like a rifle stock” while the other bends down to secure the hold. The class was fairly evenly divided in which each of us found most comfortable or felt was a better stance for us. I found that while the Chapman was a bit less “natural” to me, it seemed a more secure hold and will likely be the one I practice most to make it more “natural” in the long run. This is despite the fact, that after shooting mostly left-handed in the Basic Class, I exclusively shot right-handed this time making me cross-dominant. This does give some disadvantage, it seems in sighting. We’ll see how things go with practice.Student shooting around "cover"

We moved onto how to move, both to remove ourselves from another’s line of sight and to evaluate the over all situation. This exercise was probably a bit easier for those who know right from left, which I have a huge problem with as I’ll note in a moment. However, the couple of bumps that we took, with us all at a safely lined up, also gave us who had them a sense of the importance of keeping our fingers off the triggers when not shooting…and a reminder that if we manage that, the gun won’t just go off by itself because of a slight bump.Another student shooting around "cover"

We then shot from concealment, relating to the cover exercise that was part of RULF. Figuring out a bit, with guns away, did and didn’t work to hide us from our targets. We then shot from behind targets, from both the right and left sides, which gave some of us some clues that one might be less advantageous for us than the other was…something to keep working on.

To add another level of reality, the time factor, we got to shoot metal targets, so we could hear when the shots hit, with a timer. Then that was upped by having two of us compete. This gave each of us some sense of how pressure and adrenaline might affect our speed and aim, with some doing better and some worse. Again, information for future training. And a good example of why defensive shooting competition can be an important element of preparedness. One student also learned that soStudents practicing including Aaronme makes of electronic ear protection seem to decide to block the buzzer too.

We also were reintroduced to the phone and lock-box scenario, now getting to act it out with a live gun. We were giving options on how to go about the exercise, based on our knowledge of local response systems and with the knowledge we’d received. Mostly it came down to get gun out, make call, pick up gun, but anyone who could juggle it all would probably have an advantage. I felt rather proud of myself for I was “on the line with 911” with the gun in my other hand when informed the intruder was breaking through, I just started shooting, one-handed, while dropping the phone and bringing my other hand up. Lyn noted that I got at least two good chest shots while still one-handed. I admit, I paid for it a bit with a bruise under my thumbnail where got hit by the moving slide but I didn’t feel it until the next morning and certainly better than what might happen in such a scenario if I hesitated.

The last shooting was “the decision” with photo targets, each of us turned away while they put them up, and then we were to turn around and figure out if firing was appropriate. Many were absolutely clear, and no one shot grandma, but a couple were just a tad ambiguous without more information making those of us who got them, I was one, hesitate for a moment. I still contemplate if it was too long, but I also consider that in the case of my bad guys, it was probably prudent to be sure and they did not have an advantage on speed in the situation. But, I still mull it over.

Each step of this has left me feeling more prepared, more ready, although I know I still have so far to go. This is not to say this is an incomplete class, it was a totally filled 8 hours, with a lot of knowledge shared as well as practice. Our lunch period included instruction and time before and after shooting involved a great deal of sharing and discussion. This included the showing of various concealment holsters and bags and discussion of their various merits and demerits. But there is always more. Some of which we feel now can be easily extrapolated from what we’ve learned so far…including things like going over the concealment in our own homes and then mimicking things as much as possible at the range.

Of course, there are other AWARE classes, we’re still hoping to get shotgun ones if anyone is interested (the more who ask for them, the greater the chance they can do them) and Lyn also offers personal instruction and can be contacted through the website. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of her in the future. And we’re both considering the possibility, if we can manage out time, of perhaps getting involved in some competition to work on our stress responses. As I said before, this may be the Year of the Gun because the journey is new and we’re giving it a particular focus, but this is a life-time journey we’ve started.

And, just in case anyone does want to see me as well as my classmates:

Me shooting around "cover"I’d like to thank my classmates for agreeing to appear in this blog and all four of our teachers for their wonderful instruction.

Copyright © 2009 Kym Lambert 

Year of the Gun: Second Step, Responsible Use of Lethal Force (RULF)

In the end of March, we continued our firearms training, following NRA Basic Pistol, this time turning to Arming Women Against Rape and Endangerment (AWARE), a teaching group run by women that I’ve heard good things about and have wanted to check out for a long time. In short, the good things I heard were verified by this class, which was not only informative but also very well presented by AWARE founding member and vice-president Lyn Bates, who herself has extensive training since 1983 including with Massad Ayoob (“I wanted to learn from the best” she noted), competes in defensive firearms, is a member of the International Law Enforcement Education and Trainer’s Association, American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers, American Women’s Self Defense Association, is a contributing editor of Women & Guns and has written the book Safety for Stalking Victims: How to Save Your Privacy, Your Sanity and Your Life (she is also mentioned several times in McCaughey’s Real Knockouts and in Quigley’s Not an Easy Target).

The small class was equally men and women, with one man joining us at the last minute, having been a long time shooter and member of the Harvard Sportsman’s Club who saw the information. While started, as Lyn explained, as a “women teaching women” school, they soon began teaching men as well. This, of course, could bring up a common problem seen when women have positions of power in what is considered a “man’s world” where some men feel compelled to “take over” …this was not going to happen with Lyn, that was clear (any more than any of the men who were, in fact, helping with Evelyn Logan’s class we took previously would have had a chance). (This subject will probably end up being a future post here)

This class, is a vital step in preparing to defend oneself with a firearm, although it might not be the funnest step as it’s a non-shooting course and deals with the hard, sobering facts that must be faced. It is, of course, a prerequisite for AWARE’s Self-Protection with Handguns and Defensive Shotgun courses.

This is not to say it’s all lecture and sitting, there were several exercises, such as the Tueller Drill and Using Cover and Concealment, to break up the talk and video tapes. The class starts with Introduction to Self-Defense, going over, among much else, the reasons for it, when it’s required, what deadly force is and when it’s justified and when it’s not, not breaking the basic safety rules and what determines who wins.

The class then goes over what happens before and during a violent attack. This includes what the signs of aggression and imminent attack, what fear and trauma are, how the body and mind react to danger and how to harness that reaction and gives a guideline for interaction with an attacker.

After a lunch that included the video Home Defense, we moved into what happens if you have to shoot. As well as explaining the duty to retreat if possible under most circumstances (especially in states without “Castle Laws” like MA), shooting to stop (as opposed to even thinking “kill or wound”), not being focused on it went over the physical and cognitive after affects and what might happen to you with the law. Yes, you are probably going to be arrested. “The police will treat the person with a gun as a suspect.” Do not have gun in hand when they arrive, give clear, calm information that you are the one attacked and that you want time to calm down before you give a statement. The importance of knowing who to contact if this happens, before it happens, was noted, this includes that those of us who train with AWARE can contact them, or have our lawyer contact them, for help with resources for your defense.

The last segment was on gun storage, including lock boxes and other devices and what to do should your home be invaded, including the cover and concealment exercise and how to determine if someone is in your home. The class finished up with a video of Massad Ayoob discussing Post Shooting Trauma.

During breaks Lyn kept herself approachable for questions and informal discussion, as well as having put out over a hundred handouts related to the subject, from serious articles to cartoons (this is in addition to several books that come with the class, two of Ayoob’s In the Gravest Extreme and The Truth About Self-Protection, Bo Hardy’s Defensive Living and Gila Hayes’ Effective Defense). I found Lyn’s teaching style approachable and open, while she also kept the class moving along and cleanly organized. The information was often grim, but the importance of getting the reality of the consequences was always obvious. This class is an absolute necessity for anyone considering using a gun for self-defense as much as learning the actual techniques, which will be the next step.

So I feel totally vindicated already in having promoted AWARE since hearing what others said, even though it took me awhile to get there. Especially if a non-shooting class was this interesting and strengthening. I can’t say enough about how important I feel this class is, these are things we always have to consider. We will be taking Self-Protection with Handguns next month and I’m hoping they eventually offer a Defensive Shotgun class (interest will likely make it happen *hinthint*). AWARE isn’t limited to firearms training, either, they also offer Pepper Gas and Persuader/Kubotan training, as well as an Assault Prevention class they offer free for groups of ten or more.

I highly recommend AWARE for both women and men for any of these purposes. And, always remember, you cannot take too many classes, even the “same class” because it will never be the same. I note this as I will be doing defensive training at Major Wadron’s at some point too. And, yes, I’m still hoping to train with Ayoob myself one day.

(for the Third Step: Self-Protection with Handguns click this link)
Copyright © 2009 Kym Lambert

Year of the Gun: First Step, Basic Pistol

I have written in the past that one should train with any weapon she intends to use for self-defense. In believing this, the only guns I have ever previously owned for self-defense or otherwise has been shotguns, having had some training, mostly informal, in using them. I have shot rifles, but not since my youth. I had never shot a pistol before last weekend other than an Air Soft. Last year I decided that 2009 would be the year I truly trained in guns, got better with shotguns but also got trained in others. Handguns were first, not only because they were the least familiar but because I want to train at AWARE and this year that is all they are offering.

I chose, however, to take an NRA Basic Pistol class in NH first, rather than AWARE’s Basic Pistol, simply because I wanted to do so with my mate. I do not want to have a gun in the house that he does not know, he may well need it to defend himself for while this blog might focus on women’s self-defense, men are crime-victims, even rape victims too, and he is interested in shooting. I could find no available classes near us, so I looked close to where my sister and his mother live so that we could combine trips with family visits and found courses offered at Major Waldron Sportsmen’s Association and signed us up.

This class was led by Evelyn Logan, a sharp outspoken woman with a strong sense of humor and an even stronger belief in self-defense. Or, as she put it, the right to survive, “If someone attacks me, he’s infringing on my right to survive.” Evelyn was very open about being a rape survivor and an attempted rape survivor, “Anyone want to guess why the second was an attempt?” (there are some factual mistakes, like her husband’s last name and I think she’s younger than this indicates). It turns out that Evelyn has taught at AWARE and she was thrilled to hear that I was going to be training there as well.

As there were many instructors working with her, we also got a taste of various reasons people where enthusiastic about shooting handguns. Along with self-defense and tactical some of the instructors did Bullseye and at least one does Cowboy shooting. We also were able to glean information about why some preferred certain guns over others and how that varied, sometimes picking up things that we might not have expected (for instance, because I am most comfortable shooting left-handed despite being right-handed, probably due both to shooting shotgun and a touch of arthritis developing in my right hand, I noted one instructor mention that being left-handed Glock magazine releases pinched his finger…I might not have noticed this as we only got three shots at the end of class in trying different models, but yes, even with three shots I noted a mark which would likely mean much more discomfort after far more shooting so perhaps no Glock for me).

There were moments of sadness for me. Several women actually noted that they were there to “humor” their husband, boyfriend or father. My mate and I joked that if we were not among the first to introduce ourselves he should have said he was there to humor me (although not actually true, and even less so by the end, he really got into it). Some of these same women also began hanging back when we were able to try out different guns and were quick to say they enjoyed shooting the .22s we trained with but the higher calibers were just too much. I am hoping that as they shoot more this might be something they get past. Hearing it made me, tired as I was from switching my hours and many other reasons for having had little sleep that weekend, head back to try out another .45.

I thought the class we well organized and feel I’m well on my way to becoming knowledgeable enough that handguns will be a part of my self-protection arsenal. But, yes, this is a first step and training will be ongoing. I was thrilled to have a teacher such as Evelyn who has such a passion for women’s self-defense and who has actually stopped a rape using a gun. I will undoubtedly train with her more in the future, as I intend to take more classes at MWSA and she has said she’d try to volunteer when I do. Along with the AWARE classes, the first of which I hope will be next month, I intend to do Persona Protection in the Home, Basic Shotgun (because you never can learn too much) and Basic Rifle at MWSA. I hope, too, to eventually be able to get down to some of their monthly Tactical shoots. It’s good to see a range such as this one with such a great focus on defensive shooting, when most I found closer to me seem focused almost exclusively on shooting sports.

If you are in the region and looking for training in guns for self-defense and/or sport, I do recommend MWSA. Hopefully, if you’re looking for self-defense inspiration, you’ll get to meet Evelyn as one of your instructors.

(For the Second Step: Responsible Use of Lethal Force and Third Step: Self-Protection with Handguns clink on these links)

Copyright © 2009 Kym Lambert

Thoughts on Weapons

A recent post on one of the SCCS fora about women and guns got me thinking about weapons and self-defense over all. Okay, I usually think about this a lot, but the past few days I’ve been thinking more about alternative energy and preparing for this coming winter instead.

When it comes to self-defense the first weapon is the brain. Train it. It really all comes down to knowing what you need to do and not letting your brain get in the way when the shit hits the fan. You need to be aware of what is happening, what dangers exist, what escapes exist, what methods will work and, very importantly, you have to not let your brain freeze you trying to sort it out. Which means you need to know how to get your brain to do this automatically, so it doesn’t seem like a list of things to follow and instead all happens at once. And, if it comes down to it, your brain does have to get out of the way of the body when it has to do it’s thing.

As it doesn’t always have to “come down to it” remember that talking your way out is a good strategy when ever possible. So you must train your brain to read people not only to recognize threats but to find ways to dissipate threats that are happening. Conversational skills may not get you out of every situation, but they’re not something to be dismissed as old fashion. If nothing else, they can buy you time, they can help you find weaknesses and it doesn’t hurt in court if you say you tried to talk your way out first but were left with no choice but to do physical damage.

I’m not going to say “use your brain to avoid all dangerous situations.” I actually hate that most “self-defense” advice tends to still start with this, even in an age where we have finally acknowledged that one of the most dangerous places for a woman can be her own home. And we do have a right to choose to do things and go places that might not be deemed safe, especially when we consider no place 100% is. Instead, I think it’s important to always realize what dangers you face in any situation, in any location. If you choose to go to a isolated parking garage do it with your brain in gear, know what/who is around you, see everything you can, know where your best bets for safety are and know that you may well have to fight if the wrong person is in that van over there. And know how to.

Your second weapon is your own body. Train it. I think that full-impact self-defense training is vital for everyone, especially women and children. We need to know how it feels to hit full force, both so that we know that we are when we are but also to see what it can do. Martial arts training is great for long term conditioning of both body and mind for fighting, but it often involves NOT hitting other people full-force. I believe the best course is to combine full-impact self-defense, with refresher courses, and combat focused martial arts, but if you choose to only do one do the full-impact self-defense course. And practice it at home…preferably with a bag and not an unprotected friend. Think through the scenarios you are taught, get the body comfortable with the moves, practice them. Practice, practice, practice. And get the brain to stay out of the way!

Like any weapon, you should also keep your brain and your body in the best condition you can if you are going to depend on them. Yes, this means avoiding overindulgence in mind altering, which also affects the body, substances if you feel you may need that brain to protect yourself. It also means staying in shape. Getting and staying strong and fast enough to use what you learn, whether it’s striking or running.

Now we come to other weapons. I’m all for carrying and keeping in the home legal weapons for self-defense. No matter how smart and strong we are, we’re not always dealing with bare-handed assaults and being armed ourselves is a right we must practice and fight for. Whether you choose guns, knives, pepper gas, blunt weapons or a combination, the first rule is know the damn weapon! Like the brain and body, it takes practice and more so because it’s not been a part of you before. Keep it/them in good condition.

Weapons are all around you, I refer to them as weapons-of-expedience, just let your brain find them and your body use them. Anything you can pick up, or even shove, can be used to defend yourself. Anything. I once used shampoo (having years of sensitization to the idea of being attacked in the shower.thanks to watching Psycho at a young age …it turned out to be a prank by someone who was particularly stupid). A regular mental exercise for me is to walk into a room, identify all exits, inventory all people there if any and inventory the weapons-of-expedience all around. What can I throw, what can I hit with, what can I pin someone down it, what can I drive through someone. How fast can I get to each object before others in the room, what would be the best way to weld it, how much strength will it likely take, what might it do to the human body. And, of course, at home and when otherwise able, I practice with various objects so I actually have some idea of the answers to these things imprinted on my body.

If you do have a third weapon, do not forget the first two weapons. You need to be very sure that the brain can handle the weapon you choose. No matter how good a shot you are are, a gun is not going to save your life if you realize you can’t shoot someone when the shit hits the fan. Deal with this possibility, the reality of what it would mean, think it through, BEFORE you get the gun. Just because you feel you can’t, however, doesn’t mean that you can’t change that. If you want to have a gun for self-defense but feel you might hesitate to shoot someone attacking you, find ways to train your brain to over come this issue. Or find a different weapon.

Also remember that you will not have any other weapons but your brain and body with you at all times. Therefore continuing your physical training so that you can use just your body or weapons-of-expedience if your weapon(s) is/are not with you or if you have to fight to get to them. Also be prepared that in tight quarters the advantage of some weapons may be loss unless you are able to fight to maintain control and possession of them.

What ever you choose, it is the brain and the body that will always be with you. Treat them well, keep them sharp.

Copyright © 2008 Kym Lambert