I am not going to get into a discussion with individual Americans, or the nation as a whole, about views concerning gun control. For me, I will just leave the image of Gabrielle Giffords announcing this week her resignation from Congress. Lethal weapons can do lethal things: guns are lethal weapons.
However, it’s interesting to think about what people regard as lethal weapons and reasonable means of self-defence. I am bewildered by some of the discussions I hear about the rights to have lethal weapons in the hands of ordinary citizens. I know about the mayhem that has already wreaked on my native country, Jamaica, where Kingston skyrocketed to become the murder capital of the world. Give me other accolades, please. Then, I got to thinking that we all possess already potentially lethal weapons–at arm’s length.
My little daughter started karate classes this past week, with Kicks Karate, which prides itself on being a ‘family martial arts center’. In keeping with the wider philosophy of Asian martial arts, the classes are geared to teaching the specific techniques of the codes, but also building self-confidence, discipline, orderliness, team work, respect for others, and a range of other aspects that would seem personally and socially good. She wanted to try kicks and blocks, thinking they were ‘amazing’, but she was also attracted to the uniforms, which are a fiery red. So, she is now on journey with a motto of “Never give up!”, or as she chants in class, “Yes, I can!”
However, when my wife and I were signing our daughter up for the programme, I had the idea that I would like to give it a try. I used to be a decent athlete in several sports, and started to play tennis in my mid-40s. Since retiring, and returning to the US, tennis has fallen away, and my main activity is a vigorous daily two-mile walk and yoga each morning. But, I feel the need for something that is more active, but with limited impact as old joints also looked forward to their retirement. Karate does not quite fit the bill, but it has a lot going for it. My body will need to find some elasticity again, and more stretches are a good complement to yoga. I can also do my practice whenever I like during the day, at home. I have time and space, so just need to add inclination. After two classes, my joints and some big muscles have been heard complaining about how they were looking forward to their time off and just flopping around. Rumblings of discontent within the body politic have stayed away from any violent flare-ups. But, warnings of rebellion are clear–I cramped slightly after my first night’s training session. Warning heeded!
Mental control is part of the discipline and I know that should help with the mind-part of trading. The Zen proverb ‘Be master of mind rather than mastered by mind’ will get some help.
So, a new beginning, for me and my kid. We are both white belts–bottom of the ladder: the lowest ranked student even has a designated place on the mat. But, my teacher says that a black belt is possible within six years, with hard work. I’m inspired. I see that she is too: a few practice sessions have been going on in various parts of the house. If you think about it, the purest definition of a black belt is this: a black belt is just a white belt who never gave up.
In a whimsical moment this morning, I started thinking about how I now have to focus on controlling my arms as I learn some basic blocking and punching moves. They are not lethal weapons yet, but they are on their way.
We hear about the ‘right to bear arms’–not to be confused with the right to bare arms, which has been well-exercised by FLOTUS. For Americans, this may mean simply the right to carry a gun. For a student of karate, the arms are the arms (along with the legs, feet, hands and head).
What is it ‘to be well armed’? I have two very good limbs coming from my shoulder: that should do the job nicely, rather than packing a pistol in my jacket.
Maybe, I have left over Shakespearian recollections from last week, but I had to think of Hamlet’s soliloquy, which begins “To be, or not to be…”. The poor, restless Dane wondered if he had “To take up arms against a sea of troubles…” Take them up, Hammie–you should not drop your defence–and use them to deal with the troubles.
My religious leanings often lead me to confuse that passage from Hamlet with the notion of taking up alms. Some people see alms as mere hand-outs. So, we are back to arms, again–hands are an extension of the arms.
Arm yourself! But, I have perfectly good arms. Why would I need to get more? Why would I need to purchase something that needs to be locked and loaded, and when loaded might just go off and load me accidentally, or someone else deliberately, with lead?
So long as I have arms, I will not be harmless. If my arms become feeble, then I may become harmless.