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JAGUAR (Panthera Onca)


I wanted to find a unique symbol to express my vision of modern self-defense training. Self-defense styles have become much more eclectic in the past few decades and there has been a good deal of borrowing and merging from many of the traditional styles. After all, the western hemisphere is a melting pot, not only of people and culture, but of martial techniques as well. So, with that in mind, I chose a symbol that can only be identified with the western hemisphere -- the Jaguar. The jaguar is the largest cat in the western hemisphere and unique to that part of the world. Jaguar distribution ranges from the southwestern portion of the United States to southcentral Argentina. Cattle ranchers, in southern Arizona, have reported sighting jaguars as recently as 1996. These rare sightings are not belived to be part of a resident population in Arizona, but transients from established groups in northern Mexico.

The jaguar is similar to the leopard, but generally larger and much stockier, with a broad heavy head, and shorter legs and tail. It's been said that a good visual description might be a "leopard on steroids". One can tell the difference between a leopard and a jaguar by comparing the rosettes on the sides and flank. The rosettes of the leopard and the jaguar are almost identical with the exception of the jaguar having one to four dark spots "inside" the rosettes where the leopard has none. Both cat species can have members that appear almost black as in the black panther (leopard), with the rosette pattern visible only in strong light.

I think that many of the modern "combat" martial systems would like to be compared to a "leopard on steroids". Ever since Bruce Lee hit the big screen in the U.S., there has been an effort in many areas to improve methods of self-protection and to overcome perceived weaknesses remaining in traditional martial styles. While there is a lot of controversy about the new "combat" styles versus the old "tradional" styles, there is a lot to be said of benefits of being able to train individuals to protect themselves in most situations in a short period of time. Just as the jaguar's robust stature and legendary strength have given it the reputation of being a "large" cat, (when in reality males average 175 to 225 pounds and rarely exceed 300 pounds and the females are much smaller and average 70 to 90 pounds as adults) many of the newer combat or "reality" martial styles are showing to be quite robust and strong in their approach. This is not to say that there is no value in traditional styles, because there is, a point often refuted by some "realists", but it can often take a great deal of time to become proficient in a traditional style and, sadly, some will never get to the level of proficiency required for the "mean streets" of America.

Another interesting point is that unlike most felids which kill their prey with a throat or neck bite, jaguars often bite through the temporal bones of the skull which results in instant death. Their name, yaguara, as coined by South American Indians, means "a beast that kills its prey with one bound." This is how one must often approach the modern self-protection situation. One won't have time to "set-up" on the street. When an attack occurs and a physical response is required, it may have to be swift and deadly (no legal advice is being presented here, so at this point it behooves the reader to become familiar with the laws in his/her area of residence or travel).

Finally, I would like to point out that the jaguar's habitats include dense tropical rain forests and swampy grasslands. They have been found at altitudes above 8000 feet. Jaguars roam close to rivers, streams and lakes (they are strong swimmers) and also frequent open country. This demonstrates quite a range of flexibility, a definite requirement in a self-protection situation.

So, be flexible, robust, and strong and overcome your small size (i.e. any limitations whether physical, mental or emotional) in your quest for self-protection .

     -- Will Lamkin --

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