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Commentary :: Human Rights
Self-defense is a right and responsibility
21 May 2004
Below are two articles I feel are an important contribution to the current situation in this country. I am a firm believer, due to real-deal, living personal experience with the agents of repression, in the right to defend oneself from harm.
Don’t get it twisted: I’m NOT down with political adventurism, random attacks on people I disagree with politically, or public posturing with loaded weapons. But I also see that the progressive community is woefully unprepared for the increasing repression coming from the government and its right-wing allies; mostly due to its general unwillingness to face the issue realistically, practice good strategy, and promote self-preservation; especially amongst the youth. Remember, “freedom” is only a concern of the living!
The Jacksonville Anarchist Black Cross teaches and advocates armed self-defense. I personally teach and advocate unarmed self-defense. Feel free to contact Jacksonville ABC (jaxabcf (at) or myself (gregoryclewis (at) for more info.
Jacksonville ABC has been working on a book dealing with the tactical use of firearms. Due to rising questions ad criticism about our focus on this type of political activity, we felt it would be a good idea to print a draft of what will be the first chapter of the book.
This is basically a statement about our views on the subject of tactical training and self defense as a legitimate form of political struggle. The key points being dealt with in this statement are the reality of right wing groups and their growing sufficiency in this area of study; and a look at the relationship between firearms and revolution, as well as the general principles of self defense.

The Revolutionary Politics of Self Defense
Right wing militia and other racist organizations are growing more and more proficient in the knowledge and use of tactical combat techniques, while the modern revolutionary movements remain defenseless. The hypothetical question needs to be raised that if a conflict broke out next week, would we be ready to defend ourselves? One thing is certain, those right wing racist organizations who are presently offering tactical training classes legally throughout America would be a great many steps ahead of us all.
The reality of the situation is that tactical combat and self defense training is not something that can be mastered in a week or even a year. Our training needs to be consistent to the point where the drills become as neuromuscular reactions (or hence, that we are able to use technique without even thinking about it). This is when proficiency begins and it can take a great period of time to even reach this point. The point is that these right wing militia and other racist organizations have been in serious training for a long period of time while many of us still see the concept as being premature.
Another point is that there is a definite and obvious relationship that exists between firearms and revolution. As George Jackson put it, "Our history teaches us that the successful liberation struggle requires as armed people, a whole people, actively participating in the struggle for their liberty!" The fact that there has never been a successful revolution without at least some show of force makes, for the serious revolutionary, firearms training a definite and living reality.
Firearms training in present day revolutionary movements has often been perceived as being premature or as an invitation for police repression. Examples are often sighted of MOVE and the Black Panther Party. The focus of these organizations was to make a political statement by a show of arms. Patrolling neighborhoods and acting as a revolutionary police force differs greatly from carrying concealed weapons for personal protection. Not to criticize these organizations for their actions, for under the right political climate they could serve a valuable purpose; however this is not what is meant by our advocation of self defense.
Private ownership of firearms in America for anything but hunting or sport (even throughout many revolutionary circles) has been stigmatized and made to appear illegitimate and illegal. The reality is that in every state it is legal to own and use a firearm lethally in defense of a life. For obvious reasons this has been portrayed as something that is socially unacceptable and illegal. For that and many other reasons people have become almost completely dependent on government agencies for protection. This is no accident, for as crime and violence are being exploited throughout the media, we have let the government step in. They have been more than happy to provide us with their solutions because a dependent, defenseless people is an enslaved people.
Crime is the number one fear in America today. It's growth and hype is being consistently trumped up by the news media in an effective effort to gratify the fears of the general population. this fear has pervaded the lifestyles of all social classes and like clockwork has resulted in the call for more police on the streets. The anarchist and other revolutionary arguments towards the abolition of police and prison has only served to confirm the possibility of the majority of Americans worst nightmares because the police and prison systems have been presented as their only alternative to crime.
Personal protection and tactical self defense training as viable alternatives to crime should be taught within the community on all levels. Firearms training is only one aspect of the whole. People need to understand the concepts of armed and unarmed defense, rape prevention, securing a home, as well as dealing with the legal system. People need to know when to use the appropriate level of force, the characteristics of a stress situation, dealing with the aftermath and so on.
A moral and social standard should be set in which the hows and whens of self defense are understood throughout the community. The act itself, of teaching self defense within the community should be looked at as a revolutionary means of empowerment. Through self defense, people will be given their own means of self determination as well as a way to stand up and fight back. This in turn weakens our dependence on government agencies for protection and brings us one step closer to the realization of our dreams.

Introduction to Karate means “empty hand”.

This is the introduction to the companion manual to the instructional video “Karate means ‘empty hand’: Practical Self-Defense for the 21st Century”. It should be used as a supplement to the video, as well as to actual ‘floor time’ at one of my seminars, which I strongly recommend you attend prior to utilizing the video or this book (contact me for more information).

What separates this video and manual from others on the market today is the fact that, besides affordability, it is specifically aimed at those like myself who seek true freedom, justice, and equality in their lifetime.

You won’t hear me telling students to rely the police or to even contact them. Indeed, the police will contact you; they will be a part of the process of successful self-defense on the street whether you like it or not. What I will give you are some tools and jewels for dealing with that when (not if) it happens.

Another thing I will say is that if you are an activist in the so-called “movement” in the United States (in particular; but anywhere really), the days of peaceful, legal protest are rapidly coming to an end. The militarization of the police (as seen in the war of drugs and in large demonstrations such as the WTO in Seattle and the FTAA in Miami), the passage of the Patriot Act, and the general “terrorist under every rock” paranoia promoted by the government and the corporate media, along with the actual terrorist threat from right-wing/fundamentalist Islam, the fascist movement (both secular and Christian) in Europe and America, the criminal element in the ‘hood, and the state itself (and those who support it; regardless of whatever regime is currently in power), makes training and proficiency in hand to hand combat, blunt/bladed weapons, and firearms mandatory for any serious community organizer.

As Dr. Huey P. Newton pointed out correctly “politics is war without bloodshed; war is politics with bloodshed”, meaning concretely that as contradictions between the classes and amongst the people within each class sharpen, dialogue and debate are replaced with assaults, bombings, and gunfire. This does not mean you have to abandon your commitment to the peaceful resolution of conflict and non-violent methods of civil disobedience and social change (where applicable), but it does mean that you need a full arsenal of concepts and strategies that allow you to live to fight another day and make your opponents think twice before challenging you physically.

Self-defense has been extremely important in my life, especially as a person of color. My journey in the martial arts began due in large part to being regularly attacked because of how I look, how I speak, how I used to dress, how I was a klutz and had asthma, the fact that my dad was not around, and my mother was white. To this day, there are people who hate on me for some of the same reasons.

What I teach is more rooted in my understanding of the real living struggles of the oppressed generally, rather than any ideological posturing. Historically, traditional Okinawan karate was refined in the struggle of peasants against Japanese invaders and the sell out king who disarmed them in the 1600’s. Later, Japanese-adapted karate was used by some elements of the population against American soldiers during the U.S. occupation of Japan after World War 2.
In this country you have the legacy of the Deacons for Defense, the BPP (as well as the Brown Berets, Puerto Rican Independence Movement, AIM, etc) and the Black Liberation Army. Most of them, probably all of them, advocated and/or taught some form of unarmed (and armed) self-defense to anyone willing to learn.

And then there’s the reality of domestic violence; this is something Franz Fanon (author of “The Wretched of the Earth”) actually touched on indirectly when he wrote about how the oppressed will attack each other if they are unable to attack their enemies. This goes on amongst men and women daily in this country, regardless of sexual preference. People of color are the targets and victims of violence more often than white people are; often at the hands of other persons of color; people who look like us and speak our language(s). Sad, but true.

The reactionaries are light years ahead of the forces of progress on this subject. Groups like the KKK, American Front skinheads, and the National Alliance train in both hand to hand and in firearms. There is an entire industry devoted to teaching middle class white America, both civilians and cops, how to fight back against terrorists, car-jackers, street gangs, serial rapists, etc.
Thankfully, there are small groups of progressive folks like Home Alive in Seattle and Girl Army in Oakland who teach self-defense in a way that is not about patriotism, racism, xenophobia, or personality cults around a fighting style or teacher.

Many of those who are progressive, anarchists in particular, often fail to deal with “what is” and try to leap directly to “what they wish to be”. Some progressives grew up bourgeois and sheltered, and never have been placed in a situation where their lives were truly in immediate peril (until they got involved in radical politics). Or they got their first education in the concept of self-defense from someone who used the words and the overall concept to justify targeting them for abuse.

There are still those out there who subscribe to the ideology of “redemptive suffering”, a pacifist politico-religious doctrine advocated by Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi; that somehow those who do evil to the most defenseless segments of the population will finally ‘come to their senses’ or ‘repent’ for their sins against humanity because of the willingness of a few nonviolent martyrs to be brutalized.
Those who advocate nonviolent resistance have been jailed and killed in numbers equal to or greater than those who, as Malcolm X put it, “stop singing and come out swinging”. Proclaiming yourself to have sole ownership of the ‘moral high ground’ or ‘the truth’ in a situation only leads to alienation from those around you and execution at the hands of your enemies, with help from those around you who you alienated. Jesus is a prime example.

I believe in self-defense by any means necessary, but what I specialize in is unarmed self-defense and the use of improvised weapons. In an age of tighter control on handguns, knives, and specialty blunt force weapons (sap gloves, brass knuckles, etc) and longer prison sentences for their use (even if its justified), it makes more sense in my opinion. At the same time, it is good to be well rounded in the use of tools other than your bare hands and I study in that direction.

Philosophically, I believe as Gichin Funakoshi (the founder of the Shotokan style of Karate) did, that “karate is for the development of character”.

If you can control yourself, then no one else can control you. If you cannot control yourself, then someone else will control you.
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