We know what a sling is - but what makes a good slinger a good slinger?
Well, em, attitude, that is. The "essential slinger" consists of more than of two arms and a stone. All the qualities you need are good old-fashioned conservative qualities, like for any thing you really want to get good at.
I found through practice that these are the qualities which were most required:
- Perseverance and Determination
The first time I took a rifle to my cheek I had no clue about how to shoot a gun. Still, with some patience and self control I managed to punch some nice, pretty centric holes into a target fifty meters (yards) away from me.
What a difference to the sling! From time to time, I hand my sling to some greenhorn who would like to have a try, just like that. I always insist they load a clump of wet clay, a potatoe or an onion, because, naturally, in our fast-fast time, they think they can learn it in a split second.
Huh! I'd be counting skulls by now if it wasn't for me insisting on harmless ammo. They regularly shoot themselves in the foot and spray the ammo anywhere in a 360-degree angle around themselves.
A weapon is a combination of Man and Tool. The two together will form a system - always. And in this system, complexity is located. Complexity is unavoidable; it is built into the anti-entropy needed to convert "a thing" into "a thing which kills". Or, in less martial terms: a thing that has direction, purpose, system and efficiency.
With primitive weapons, the weapon is "simple" and the complexity lies in Man's capability to "extract" efficiency through art; advanced weapons, on the other hand, will migrate complexity from Man to the Tool.
Thus, weapons can be located along a continuum where the relation between tool complexity and complexity of Man's handling of the tool invert along the slide rule.
On one side, you have simple weapons demanding a high complexity of handling; on the other, complex weapons which are very easily triggered.
The continuum reaches from boomerangs, knives, tomahawks and hondas on one end to guns and integrated one-push-button systems on the other, passing through intermediate systems such as atlatls, bows, catapults and primitive cannons. On one end, man, stone and a bit of string to kill a rabbit; on the other, two key turned to blow a million-souls town on the other hemisphere to nuclear ashes.
Turning a key is easy - turning an honda is not. Hondas are very simple weapons indeed!
Which means to get good at the honda, it is you who have to get good at it. Very good indeed - the honda is among the most "undirected" weapons in the world - more so than your own stone-throwing arm! Anything apart boomerang is easier to handle - bow, atlatl, rabbit stick, blowpipe you name it. With all of them it is all but impossible to shoot "backwards". With an honda, it's happening a lot - before you get good at it.
And what does it take to get good at the honda? Perseverance! Determination! Read my lips - it'll take you years to become good at it. You will have to train, experiment, pack a lot of frustration and still go on (how often did I throw the thing down and shouted "never again!" - only to be at it the next day again).
Not sexy? Indeed not. But becoming a good slinger - particularly if you start to sling after the age of 10 or 12 - will teach you perseverance and determination. Not to give up. To go on. Against odds. Against your frustration.
And that will serve you in any other enterprise of your life! In the end, there are no free lunches and for all things you want, you will have to labour. From maintaining the love in your family and relationships to the money you want to earn, the good bread you want to bake or meal you want to cook.
Perseverance and determination are the key currencies in this enterprise which is your life. Learn them, train them, hone them.
Training the sling for target shots is an excellent way to do that!
I don't think that needs much explanation. A stone sling is a weapon which - depending on its size - "outguns" many a bow. A 100 g lead bullet will not only travel up to 400/450 m/yards, but also accelerate significantly at descent - more and harder than an arrow (due to its weight and compact form). With a muzzle speed being typically 30 - 65 m/s, lead bullets are positively dangerous ammunition - more so due to the "fuzziness" of the honda. Roman surgical manuals specifically mention the extraction of lead bullet from bones and articulations, commenting that sometimes they must be loosened with a hammer when too encrusted. And bloodless death from lead bullet impact is both confirmed by antique sources and archaeological evidence from antique battle fields.
In my personal view, a short honda of around 80 cm / 31 inch is a serious defense tool when used on distances of up to 25 meters.
While using a handgun outside a shooting range is impossible for most Western citizen - because it is forbidden to carry, and if allowed to carry, use is reserved only for extreme situations - having an honda constitutes a temptation to use it. First, because somewhere you have to train. Second, because, well, shooting and throwing things is fun.It's a mindset like chess playing or maths; you just itch to do it. And third, because the honda is a silent, unseeming companion you can always have on you - so chances are you do. And once you have it with you, the world around you is simply an ammunition store - I mean, you can fire anything with an honda!
Responsibility is therefore key! If you get to my age, you have to think less about it, it's built in. But imagine to be 14, 19, 25 and having an honda. That's when you have to remind yourself all the time that any shot that leaves your pouch can theoretically kill someone - so remind yourself to never, ever endanger a living being without a crystal clear need justifying this action!
Handling a sling responsibly is the key to avoid accidents (and, consequently, imprisonment). I will never forget the day where I "lost" a stone which travelled at too high an arch and zilched away over a little tan tree plantation. I was fourteen and training in a forest in a densely populated area of Germany, making always sure to keep the stones going out flat and with only trees in sight. Well, this one didn't go out flat. I listened breathlessly for a cry. No cry! Then I had a cautious look if I could see a victim. No victim (ouf)! And then I went home and, for an entire week, perused all the local newspapers to see if someone had been hit by a stone "from the sky".
Pheew! That lesson I've never forgotten, and I never lost a stone again. Today, it's my kids jumping around me who impose me the most serious restrictions and top alertness in the use of the honda.
So, if, like me, you have had and handled a sling for years, have resisted the temptation to "switch off" that street light (or speed camera) over there, and have never smashed a window accidentally, I guess you can rightly say to have learned a thing or two about responsibility.
Mind you, "getting it" has helped me to calm down at the wheel, too, and take personal confrontations with much more calm. One forgets sometimes that a car is as dangerous as any hurling weapon. Handling such a weapon on a regular basis and "in the wild", i.e. not in a shooting range keeps you awake to the dangers a weapon (and the wilder "underground" in your soul) can pose.
It's so easy to hurt, get hurt or die, to lose limb and life. Reserve such action for when it's unavoidable, never because you lost control, didn't think, just happen to be in a religious-frenzy-life-phase or any of the thousand other idiotic negligencies life is full of. Don't dash for death. There are enough occasions anyway where you have to gamble your life and where it's worth doing so, even without accepting, say, a promised paradise-afterlife without proof. Don't look for the day where you have to risk your life for something it's really worth doing it. It'll come to you. Your honour, conscience, wisdom and pride will tell you when "the count's up".
That's the upshot of the responsibility side - once you're engaged in battle, it's serious. And if it's serious, you're going to fight on an entirely different, existential, 100% dedicated plane. If you train the honda in THIS spirit, your shots will be better. Simply because it's not meant for kidding.
That is the responsibility side of the honda
- Intuition and "Zen"
That's not something you are going to hear often, at least not in shooting disciplines (and, astonishingly, not in martial arts either, even when they are Eastern). They are all about eliminating variables, stabilising, control etc. pp. Years of Karate training nearly made me unfit for the eventuality of a REAL self-defense situation - just pulled out in time. And now I hear that troops in Iraq are trained in "from the hip" shooting - life's after all messier than the shooting range.
I can imagine what this is about - shooting a rifle is taught so minimalistic a discipline that it sometimes simply bores me. And I say this as someone who has a warrior soul.
Weapons, as we said, are a combination of Man and Tool. Weapons are placed on a continuum; they range from very simple tools of highly complex use to very complex tools of simple use. On one extreme, the button-pushed ICBM nuclear war head, on the other, boomerang and honda. The first has a "Zen power" of less than zero; the latters have one in excess of 100 % - more, in any case, than bow or sword.
Give therefore glory to the honda for its "Zen power" - intuition is not only in-built, it is the precondition to get anywhere with the weapon. It is in one class with anything needing full, 100% attention and "empty mind", anything where you need to "lean back" into the action, to "let go" before you stabilise and get somewhere. Such as surfing, arcade shooters, artistic skateboarding and so on. I guess that's also true of Brasilian footballers just fiddling their ball past four or five adversaries as if they were just some hapless sticks.
Naturally, you will go through the motions first - I did, everybody did, and every Zen master did and does so, too. You will learn the basics, experiment, correct your hand, find "your" finger for the loop (not evident!), find your preferred release technique and so on. Then you try to find out where your mistakes lie - why the stone hits the tree behind you or buries itself in front of you foot. You will first shoot with very slow motion and so on. You will work, you will despair, you wil miss, miss, and miss again, and then, suddenly, dim in the beginning, the light will begin to shine.
And the challenge never ends - once you have mastered the basics, you will want to go for speed, accuracy and distance - and that's when the "empty mind, empty hand" comes more and more to the fore. You cannot "deconstruct" an honda shot like you can, say, a ju-jutsu throw. Instead, you have to rely - by force of repetition - on your mind to learn the minutia of a successful, precise shot.
Every potatoe, onion, pebble, stone, bullet, battery, spark plug has a different weight and form. Every projectile leaves the honda in a different way - faster and slower, depending how much contact it had with the mechanism. Every rotation you do will be a bit more or less inclined, from vertical-at-rour-side to horizontal-above-your-head. Your arm will respond and react differently to rotation speed, weight, your state of mind, tiredness and so on.
In short: every shot will be vastly different from the preceding one, much MUCH more so than ANY gunshot, bowshot, dartshot will ever be from the preceding.
Some guys standardise their ammo, too - I don't like that, it takes flexibility away - but I'm sure that even then, intuition is KEY to get from "better" to "good".
Me, I have only recently begun to "feel" the shot. But my oh my, it begins to be an ENTIRELY new world!
That's it. Originally, I wanted to add honesty and pride here, but then I have to be sincere - no weapon in the world will either need them or teach them. The Way of a weapon might teach you this - the sword, for example, with its Bushi-Do and Hidalguía. The weapon itself will not. Will NEVER.
Being proud and sincere will make hell of a difference in how you handle a weapon - in fact, how you handle anything in life, starting with your own feelings -, but you cannot learn it from a weapon.
This said, the honda is one of the most honest shooting weapon I know of. There is a difference between standing up and free and hurling a rope above your head and camouflaging yourself in order to kill a guy two-hundred or even two-thousand yards away with a precision gun and laser pointers. Let's balance this: or to blow up innocent bystanders with a mobile call-triggered backpack bomb.
So, in that sense, you could take the honda "philosophically": Without honesty and sincerity, your mind will be a snake pit, your life a heap of lies, your family a torture chamber and your death sad. Not exactly what you dreamt of when you were five - bet?
You cannot learn being proud and free and sharp from the honda, but indeed, it can remind you of it and help you along the path - be sincere, be honest, fight gallantly, love openly, die with courage!
Not bad for a coil of string, hey?