Sunday, October 03, 2004

"And remember, bring back something illegal!"

This is something I have been known to say whenever I know someone is travelling to a foreign country. As local customs vary from place to place, so does the idea of contraband. This is partly due to traditions held by each culture and ignorance held by others.

My mom is going to Hong Kong next month to visit relatives for about a week. Like the last time she went, I'm asking her to bring over a pair of authentic nunchaku. I'm not talking about those foam padded Nerf ® ones that you coudln't so much as kill a fly with. I'm talkin' those ones that are hard-wood, joined with a swivel chain, and could really be used to put a dent in a person's skull. And they require significant skill and practice to use effectively.

For some odd reason, Canadian customs has seen fit to confiscate melee weaponry such as this. As a martial artist that lacks carpetry skills, I don't know how to make my own from raw materials so I have been trying to find a way to get a pair of my own. But, given the hard line stance on exotic weaponry, it's not going to be easy.

This has always confused me, because martial arts weaponry requires an amount skill to use, as improper use will inevitably result in injury of the user (how many clips from America's Funniest Home Videos show a guy smacking himself in the groin with a pair of nunchuks?). It would be far easier to use any number of every day objects to seriously lay the smackdown on someone if you're so inclined. All you need is a little imagination.

-Fire extinguisher. You can pull one of these off the wall and put a dent in someone's head if you convert it into a makeshift bat.

-Ballpoint pen. Jammed into someone's nose, it can cause excruciating pain. Forced up even further, it can penetrate the sinus cavity and enter the victim's brain. It could also be used as a stabbing weapon, especially through sensitve areas such as a person's eyeball.

-Soda can. When torn in half, the aluminum is very sharp and could easily break skin.

As it is, nunchaku were supposedly intended for use by the people of feudal Japan to crush rice (the most prevalent theory) and to reign in horses (based on how the word is derived from the Okinawan words for horse, nun and briddle, chiyaku). Given the fact that all the bladed weapons were banned by the feudal lords, the martial artists turned to farming implements.

While there were regulations against the importing of such weapons prior to the 9/11 attacks, they are even more stringent now. The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority has a list detailing items that are restricted for carry-on luggage. While their list does not include martial arts weapons, it makes some particularly odd allowances and restrictions. Some of them make sense, such as a fire extinguisher. This is not due to its potential use as a weapon, but because of the pressurized gas contained inside. But others?

Sporting implements like hockey sticks are restricted. In a very tight environment, this would make for a highly impractical weapon, as would golf clubs and lacrosse sticks (which are also restricted). Yet they allow umbrellas (which are potential stabbing weapons) and wooden canes (which are potential bludgeoning weapons).

Oddly enough, they allow whips. I'm wondering if that's an error.

It never fails to amuse me, how any number of everyday objects could be used to much more deadly effect than martial arts weapons in the wrong hands, yet even an otherwise legitimate, law-abiding martial artist would be considered breaking the law by posessing them.

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