Innocent Civilian Syndrome: The Sword of Damocles

© Copyright 2019, Avi Nardia & Tim Boehlert

As in most wars fought throughout history, each side tries to destroy the other’s Army and in the most critical ways. From the old days to modern days, as during the second world war with the United States pitted against Japan and Germany, seemingly not caring much about “innocent civilians.” The U.S. took thousands of innocent civilian lives at Nagasaki and Hiroshima in an instant, and it seems without much compassion. They used nuclear weapons to force a Japanese surrender and to save American soldiers’ lives. ‘Collateral damage’ is seemingly viewed the same today as a result of the attacks of 9/11in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan.

Professor Asa Kasher in 2005 wrote about justifying civilian casualties as the result of military actions against terrorists in a draft of the Israeli code of conduct. And, in 2009 Kasher revised his thoughts to say that soldiers’ lives should take priority over injuries to enemy civilians in any areas that are not controlled effectively by the IDF.

All militaries find it hard to conduct a war without civilian casualties, and yet most cross the line, and forget the ethics code of the Bushido. Since the gun was developed the value of the sword has declined. When the Japanese Imperial soldiers went into Nanjing, China, they forgot the Bushido code and murdered and raped women and children. Civilian casualties were well documented and the incident is one of the most well known war crimes ever written about – the Nanjing massacre. 

As a self-defense teacher, I teach the art of blades or swordsmanship with compassion, values and morals that are different than what many other knife teachers do — those that promote evil, possess huge egos and teach only how knives can kill. I see the sword as the most important tool to teach self-defense with the proper mindset of self-defense. Many students ask me how it helps in the street without the sword.

The art of sword teaches us first: movement and perfect relative position.

“Don’t give a sword to a man that can’t dance.”  — Confucius

The sword teaches us about angles of attack, proper body movement and later on much that we can incorporate into self-defense from the use of various blades — knives, swords, machetes, and even sticks or hand-to-hand techniques. We say, “Any weapon, one mind.”

Swordsmanship also teaches us moral values and ethics that start with respect of the blade. As a teacher I see many so-called “martial artists” that act more like hooligans. But, too many of these immoral teachers bully others and then want to teach their “Anti-Bully” programs to others!

I’ve taught a lot of students that couldn’t pass a belt test that then become new teachers that create their own ‘masters’ certificates. I’ve had to eliminate so many students that were yellow belts one day and the next day became ‘Masters of Israeli Martial Arts!’ They’ve all misunderstood the concept of being a martial artist by calling themselves “warriors”, dressing up like soldiers, and using slogans like We are the Real Deal!” or “We are not a martial art, we are combat.” and yet on the mat not one can spar. This new era of martial arts has denigrated and devolved because of all of these new ‘masters.’

Swordsmanship teaches us responsibility. Too many martial artists miss this point. Teachers send their students to fights and they get injured. Students and teachers forget their responsibility to pay class fees — the fees that ensure that the classes continue, the same fees that support the teachers’ ability to conduct the classes.

Each day I receive letters asking me, “Please let me be your student” and then after only a few classes, they depart and begin to sell themselves using their ‘master’ title.

Twenty years ago, when I started Kapap Krav Maga, there were many that claimed that my art was nothing, and yet today they are the ‘new founders of KAPAP.’ This is why I chose to use my name — it’s the only thing that no one else can take and use. As Avi Nardia Academy, I still find schools all over the Internet and throughout the world using my face to promote their schools! Most I’ve never met, and some I’ve dropped as they were not a good fit to my ethics, morals, school values and skills. I can teach almost anyone, but all need to come prepared with a proper moral code and good values. They need to come to me possessing a good education, and if it that’s missing, they can’t be fixed.

The sword school that I come from is one of two in Japan. Mine is the school of ‘the sword of giving life’, which is very different from the school of the sword of taking life. These two schools have been in opposition in Japan as long as they have existed. During the Second World War the latter led the sword classes for the Army, and that’s why the code of Bushido was missing.

The ‘giving life sword school’ teaches respect, honor, humility, integrity, morals and good values such as life saving. Civilian casualties are not allowed, and you can’t hurt innocents while seeking justice.

We teach our students responsibility, but when he fails to uphold that, honor dictates that he perform Seppuku (Japanese: 切腹, “cutting the belly”), sometimes referred to as hara-kiri (腹切.

In this new era, the foundations pillars have been lost, and that leads me to the Greek tale, “The Sword of Damocles”

According to the story, Damocles was pandering to Dionysius, his king, and exclaimed to him that Dionysius was truly fortunate as a great man of power and authority, surrounded by magnificence. In response, Dionysius offered to switch places with Damocles for one day so that Damocles could taste that very fortune firsthand. Damocles quickly and eagerly accepted the king’s proposal. Damocles sat down in the king’s throne surrounded by every luxury, but Dionysius, who had made many enemies during his reign, arranged that a huge sword should hang above the throne, held at the pommel only by a single hair of a horse’s tail to evoke the sense of what it is like to be king: though having much fortune, always having to watch in fear and anxiety against dangers that might try to overtake him. Damocles finally begged the king that he is allowed to depart because he no longer wanted to be so fortunate, realizing that with great fortune and power comes also great danger.— Traditional

When you have a sword hanging over your neck you understand responsibility and that with one mistake this same sword may take your life. This is why sword people don’t run to fight but embrace peace and do everything to avoid drawing their own sword. They understand, like the lion that each fight can end in one death and with the other surviving the fight but not always uninjured. This is why we study animals — to try to avoid the fight. The sword is such a great tool to teach mindset in self-defense but also to add into it some skills and values. The use of the sword in teaching self-defense is the best that you can get. 

© Copyright 2019, Avi Nardia & Tim Boehlert