Murray Williams says that those who prey on vulnerable people, like the Kalk Bay hiker, will be less effective if we arm ourselves.
Cape Town - Sometime around 1980, a fight broke out. Two young men were attacking each other savagely. Then they noticed a third man had joined them. The friend of mine had walked up to them quietly, and removed two short pieces of wood from his back pocket.
He said to the two men: “I think you should stop now.” So they did.
My friend had been holding a set of traditional Okinawan nunchaku.
But even if he’d not been armed with the ancient Japanese weapon, the two men would still have obeyed smartly. Because the man in front of them was a martial arts expert, you see. They knew exactly what he was capable of.
About 30 years later, I tracked him down.
I explained I now had a son, who was starting to become independent – cycling off to visit friends, to the park, the nature reserve and the beach with mates.
Could he give my son and his friends a course in self-defence?
Sure, he said.
“But I’m afraid most parents won’t like what I’ll teach.
“Let me explain: I’ll teach them that in many situations, the best option is to get away, fast.
“But in many circumstances, that’s not possible. If your son knew he was going to be attacked, and was cornered, his best chance of successfully defending himself will often be to attack first.
“If someone has a knife, for example – by the time he’s used it just once, it could be too late.
“And most parents find that unpalatable – for their children to be trained to attack.”
I remembered this conversation this week, at the site of Henri la Cour’s murder, on the hiking trail above Kalk Bay, where he had been walking with a woman friend.
Sources told me the man who killed him had passed them a while earlier – and must have then either trailed them, or waited in ambush for their return.
One source said La Cour had tried to prevent the knifeman from hurting the woman – but it’s still not entirely clear what transpired.
What is clear is this: those who prey upon us – on the hiking paths, the mountain bike trails, the beaches – will be less effective if we are prepared for them. And not just prepared to run away, or to “defend” ourselves when they attack, but to attack pre-emptively if necessary.
That may sound outrageous. Maybe it is. But here’s the thing: if attacks continue to escalate, then what choice do we have? Will we be bullied off our mountains and beaches?
Will we rely upon the authorities to protect us?
Maybe we have to become more careful, like walking in groups only.
And maybe the state’s various agencies will do more.
But neither of those are mutually exclusive to being trained to personally defend our physical integrity.
To be aware of potential dangers. To react to physical assault. And, yes, to protect by attack, if the threat is so dire it’s the only way to survive.
It will be tough, ugly, as a parent, to have to train my son and daughters to attack with skill and purpose.
But I now will. Because their lives are too precious not to.
Because a man like Henri la Cour, who had given so very much, was killed by a coward, with probably only crude abilities with a knife.
Many will want a philosophical debate about the morality of pre-emptive violence. They’re welcome to it.
In the meantime, a good man lies dead.
Yes, Henri la Cour was a man of God. And, yes, Jesus turned the other cheek.
But there’s nothing ungodly about defending oneself, one’s loved ones, even forcefully.
I’ll be calling my old friend.
* Murray Williams’ weekly column Shooting from the Lip appears in the Cape Argus every Friday.