Thursday, 17 July 2008

Knife crime

It’s difficult to avoid the knife-crime frenzy. It’s literally close to home – the four killings in a single day last week were within a five mile radius of where we live.

Knives scare me. I’ve been doing martial arts for just over 20 years and I can say in all honesty that I have very little to help me deal with a skinny fifteen year old armed with a kitchen knife. Some self-defence experts will demonstrate swift and neat disarms when faced with an armed attacker. This is pure bullshit – try it with an unco-operative opponent with the added bonus of surprise and concealment on their side. I’ve talked about this before - we did it once - in controlled circumstances. It was pretty sobering and it demonstrated to me that you don’t tackle a knife unless your life depends on it, and then be prepared to be hurt.

So what is to be done ? Stiffer sentencing ?

Maybe deterrents can work with pre-meditated street robberies. But these much publicised killings aren’t muggings gone wrong. They’re about a fucked-up culture of ‘respect’ and machismo. I doubt deterrents come into it much – in fact they might even add to the kudos of being a bad boy .

You don’t have to be a sociologist or psychologist to see that the less you have going for you – materially or educationally – the more important things like ‘face’ and status are. I doubt anyone has been stabbed because they ‘dissed’ a homeboy in Henley Upon Thames. Gangsta culture doesn’t help when the Ali G factor spreads it from the inner city to the suburbs but to hold hip-hop or dodgy computer games responsible is to mistake the effect for the cause. Nobody can seriously argue that the root cause isn't poverty or lack of opportunity.

I don’t have any simple answers to knife crime, but there is one thought which might seem a bit old-fashioned: Young males will always fight – it’s a side effect of testosterone – so why not teach martial arts, including boxing in every school? I’ve always found that the more you study the mechanics of violence the less likely you are to resort to it.

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