Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Follow-Up to the Texas "Mass Stabbing"

More details have come to light about the "mass stabbing" on a Texas campus yesterday. Notable facts include:

• The attacker used what appears to be an X-acto knife or something similar. He was forced to stop when the blade broke off.

• The attacks all happened in the midst of a crowd. He apparently moved from victim to victim, stabbing or slashing each in the head or throat, before moving on to the next.

• When the blade broke, he fled and was tackled outside by two other students, one a football player. No further violence ensued, nor were any other weapons involved.

There are important lessons here for self-defense:

• Real violence isn't like in the movies, where the perpetrator is obvious because he's in the middle of the camera shot. There was confusion and chaos, and because the attacker wasn't otherwise calling attention to himself (the motion of attack was quick and largely noiseless), very few people realized what was going on.

• To the ongoing debate about guns and self-defense: contrary to my previous assertion, guns would have been terrible for self-defense in this situation. Not only was there a crowd, with attacks at close quarters, such that a would-be hero would risk hitting either the victim or others; but none of the victims would have had time to draw a weapon even if they saw the knife coming - which, apparently, most of them didn't.

• There are only two things that would have protected these victims (and, to be fair, some may have deployed them): situational awareness and honed reflexes to block an attack to the head.
Situational awareness is simple - who do I allow to get within arm's reach of me, and do I see them coming from outside that range? This is an easy skill to learn, but it must be practiced (which I've commented on before). Most martial artists I know do this as a matter of course - it's a habit.
Block reflexes are also not hard to learn - but they need to be taught, and they need to be practiced.

The wrong lesson to take from this is that we should all be paranoid and afraid. Had any one had the requisite skills, and seen the attack coming, they could have disarmed this fellow and rendered him harmless fairly quickly, saving quite a bit of bloodshed. Greater situational awareness alone would likely have saved many of these victims.

If we want to be safe, we should take greater responsibility for ourselves - not by buying guns, but by learning skills. The chances of running into one of these attacks is very low - but the cost of acquiring the skills is low as well. The resources are there, in every community - we just have to take advantage of them.


  1. It is unfortunate that so many young men seem to be falling into this crazy scenario. I think we need to find out what is causing this. We need to look at the state of mental health of high school & college age men. What the heck is going on. I am fine with guns but learn how to shoot a gun, how to maintain a gun and make sure you take all safety precautions. I do believe in better screening for the purchase of any firearm. I think everyone should take a martial arts course or self defense course. Attacks can be unprovoked and out of the blue. Attacks can happen anywhere at anytime; being aware and able to react is key. We are all human we all walk out of the store with too many packages in our arms, we walk the street with our faces in our cell phones unaware of the world around us, we walk to the car and forget to have our keys in hand. We do need to wake up however. The world is becoming more dangerous. We need to look,listen and be aware of what is happening around us.

  2. I think your observations about situational awareness and appropriate reflex are spot-on. Ditto with your comments about guns used in these sorts of scenarios. The NRA would disagree, but then again, we expect that. Keep up the good work!