Under: Self-defense
27 Mar 2008


If you are like me and have scuba dived before, you have probably thought about what you would do if a shark attacked! I remember reading about this very issue in scuba classes when I was 16 years old. The instructor told us to go to the bottom and take your tank off to use as a barrier. We were taught to find a crevasse on the bottom to wedge ourselves in until the shark swam away. I don’t know about you but I think the shark has gills (unlimited air supply under water) so my best hope would be for the shark to lose interest. :(


I used to read Jacques Cousteau books so I could learn about the underwater environment. One method he employed was to make shark billy sticks. I duplicated the shark billy stick by pounding small nails into a small wooden bat, snipping off the edges close to the wood so the shark’s skin would not slip off the end of the bat. I also drilled a hole into the handle of the shark billy stick so I could attach a strap. My plan was to put the shark billy stick between any shark and myself so he would not eat me (If I happened to notice him).






I’ve just reviewed a Youtube video of a abalone diver from Australia that had an altercation with a great white shark! He was hooked up to an air hose from a boat, walking along the bottom in his wetsuit and weight vest, looking for abalone. A great white shark, unnoticed by him, hit him, bit his face, shoulder, and arm; and then started thrashing him – side to side! Eric Nerhus (the diver) recovered from the initial shock to discover he was being eaten alive! He mentions meditation, martial arts training, and his knowledge of shark’s weak points when he talks about his plan. This video is kind of long but David Letterman does a good job of drawing out the details of this life and death – struggle for survival.


[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/rJocWGx8HA0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]


The thing I like about Eric is he knew that he could not hold his breath for long and he knew he had to do something. He knew that the shark's eyes and gills were the shark's only real weak points so he started feeling around for the shark's eye. He finds and squeezes the tennis ball sized eye and caused the shark to let go! If not for fighting back, he surly would have been another great white casualty.


I never faced a great white shark in my diving adventures. I spent a week in Hawaii diving in my youth and go a chance to play with a bang stick! The bang stick was Hawaiian sling with a shot gun shell (with a powder load) instead of a spear head. We went looking for sharks but ended up blowing up rocks instead. It was kind of funny to see how much water slows explosions underwater. The other shark weapon of the times was a spear gun with a co2 cartridge that would blow the shark up like a balloon on impact! I did not get a chance to try that one so I mostly stuck with my shark billy stick.


I used to go night diving through schools of giant squid (about three feet long) off Scripps Canyon (San Diego). That was kind of scary because I remembered how sharks would swim through these squid (who schooled during breeding season) just munching away at the free squid meal. We could not see five feet ahead of ourselves for all of the squid (so we stopped doing that when we came to our senses).


I have the greatest respect for Eric Nerhus as he has done what so few people have ever done - fought a great white and won! I know many of you have thought I was jesting when I was speaking of fighting wild animals but in reality you just might find yourself in that situation some day! If you do - you will truly find out what you are made of, and more importantly if you can truly use your martial arts training and adapt some of the techniques to fit YOUR self-defense situation!



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3 Responses to “Great White Shark Self-Defense? Karate Can Work!!!”

  1. Keoneu Says:

    You know, years ago I saw a documentary with a diver that had a spring loaded stick like a small pogo stick. A shark got too aggressive so he pushed the button on the stick and it jabbed the shark in the snout, knocking it silly. Apparently the device had the impact of a 22 caliber. Has anyone ever heard of this device ?

  2. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Keoneu,
    I’ve not heard of that but I know there have been lots of attempts to discover ways of discouraging shark attacks. I remember one that was touted to work… a CO2 spear that would blow up the shark… I’ve never seen in action but it is supposed to work.

  3. Thor Securitys Says:

    Lol on the CO2 Spear idea. I think i might actually work, I think saw something like that in a movie once. Well i think any Martial Arts would work against most animal attacks it all depends on your accuracy and timing which wont be so good when you see a 1000 pound fish or 10ft bear rushing you :( sad but true.