Observations from the realm of self-defense handgun nomenclature.

In the realm of armed (meaning hand gun) self-defense, the most frequent categorization of the population is among sheep, wolves and sheepdogs.  [Reminds me of Bloch’s segmentation of Feudal society].  A sheep is a productive member of society – sheep are the ‘normal’ people who would only hurt one another by accident.  Violence has little or no part in the decent lives of sheep, most of whom live in denial that violence is possible.  Sheep do not believe in the existence in a class of individuals who actively use violence to fulfill their needs.  Those who predate on sheep are designated ‘wolves’ – those criminals who are the repeat offenders that live on sheep.  Fortunately, these criminals are statistically infrequent but violence is their primary tool.  They may be rare, but they undeniably exist.  Now I loathe the ‘wolf’ label as a pejorative since I am quite fond of wolves and respect their social structure, but the label serves to distinguish the groups.

The final group is a relatively uncommon group – ‘sheepdogs’ * who know that wolves are real threats and have taken an active role to acquire training to defend themselves and protect the sheep.  Law enforcement and military personnel are the most obvious members of the class, but there are trained ‘civilian’ who has the ‘gift of aggression’ (as LTC Grossman calls it).**  The existence and presence of a sheepdog can often make sheep uncomfortable because their mere presence is a reminder that wolves are real.

I remember when my father first lectured me that a gin and tonic is a gin and tonic because the gin is the most important part of the drink – I would suggest the same emphasis should be on our art: we are training in a Martial art, not a martial Art.  Chiba sensei would evoke (promote/create?) an atmosphere of fear in his classes because he was one of the few who emphasized the seriousness of the stakes.  That ability to present the seriousness of training is a regrettably rare skill.  I would further suggest to anyone who starts training in a martial art that you have stepped off the comfortable grazing pasture and are becoming a sheepdog.

Sheepdogs are protectors – of themselves and their flock.  Sheepdogs understand that they have the moral imperative to survive.


Peter van Uhm is the Netherlands’ chief of defense, but that does not mean he is pro-war. At TEDxAmsterdam he explains how his career is one shaped by a love of peace, not a desire for bloodshed — and why we need armies if we want peace.



*Sheepdog.  Rob Pincus makes a fine distinction on what it means to be a sheepdog.

**The Gift of Aggression can be an acquired or taught skill.  Consider military training:

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