In This Hub:
Anger and Self-Defense
Assertive or Aggressive?
Are Martial Arts Self-Defense? Boundaries
Crime ISN'T a Fight
Finding Good SD Training
Five Stages of Crime
Legalities of SD
Nature of Violence
Personal Safety Pyramid
SD ISN'T Cut and Dried
Self-Esteem and SD
NNSD Home Page
People come to the martial
Why Do We Do It?
Having stated both my purpose (consumer awareness) and personal feelings toward the arts, I should tell you that much of the hate mail I receive for this section revolves around the belief that I am "disrespecting" the martial arts by what I am saying. I suspect, in some cases, these e-mails stem from the person's inability to separate the martial arts from the martial arts' world/business (or as I call it "culture"). Although closely related, the two are not synonymous.
It is important for communication purposes to differentiate between the martial arts themselves and the martial arts subculture. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: By subculture I not only mean the behaviors and customs of people who identify themselves as martial artists, but also the organizations and groups that claim to represent a martial art style and the businesses, publications, and manufacturers who supply and profit from the subculture.
As such critique of the associated organizations, behaviors or business practices involved in this subculture does not necessarily condemn the larger issue of the martial arts themselves. The school is not the style. Nor is the interpretation of the "martial arts" by a school, organization or individual the whole of the issue. I cannot stress this concept enough
If, in your mind the martial arts are one in the same with martial arts culture, it will appear that I am criticizing the martial arts. I'm not. I'm pointing out unacceptable behaviors of those associated with, and the culture that surrounds the martial arts. If despite this explanation you can't see this, the problem is with you, not me. I have stated my intention, I do not have a hidden agenda.
Some demonstrable examples of problems within the martial arts culture? Questionable business practices, that in some cases, cross into the illegal, are common. Even more widespread is dangerous misinformation and partial information being promoted as self-defense by people who have no experience with the subject other than dojo training. On the other extreme of this particular issue is not only advocating, but training for excessive and illegal Use of Force under the name of "self-defense" Also common are flawed movement patterns that stresses joints and ligaments leading to long-term tissue damage -- very few martial arts instructors are certified physical trainers. These are just a some of the more demonstrable problems that one can see by looking at the subject from professional perspectives of other fields.
In no other profession would this kind of neglect and lack of certified training be tolerated, but it is rampant in the business of "martial arts." In the preceding sentences we approached "the martial arts" from business, criminology, legal and kinesiology perspectives. (Any of which you can get degrees in from accredited four-year universities). And yet, not only do people believe that their martial arts instructor is well versed in these subjects, but the instructors themselves promote this idea.
On a less easily demonstrable, but never-the-less just as real level are issues related to social dynamics, group behavior and the psychology of those in the "martial arts." These include politics, behaviors, motivations, mental stability, self-esteem and personal agendas/beliefs of those involved. There is some serious dysfunction going on in the MA/SD/WSD/RBSD/DT/knife fighting world. The most easily recognized manifestation can be found in the politics, trauma-drama and in-fighting both within a school and between schools/systems.
What I find most disturbing, however, is how often these -- and even more questionable -- behaviors are blatantly justified as part of the martial arts and its traditions. These actions have no more to do with the martial arts or their traditions than a pedophile priest has to do with religion and faith. Yet, unacceptable behaviors are commonly promoted as unquestionable tenants of the system. Unacceptable behaviors you are expected to tolerate because they are part of "martial arts training" and wrapped in "tradition." It is at the very least, an abuse of trust, often something far worse. Unsuspecting customers end up paying through the nose for questionable and possibly damaging training while putting up with all kinds of unacceptable behaviors from instructors and fellow students.
All because they are told that is part of the "martial arts."
This brings us back to my "fan club" i.e. people objecting to what I am saying in these pages. Let's put these charges and my response to them up front and in the open.
There is a big difference between the claim that an item can do something and it actually working. Our attitude is that if you are expected to shell out big bucks for something, then what you are paying for better deliver on advertised promises ... especially if you are going to be betting your life on it working.
Unfortunately, there is a serious failure to deliver out there.
This is especially true in commercialized martial arts and sub-markets (like Reality Based Self-Defense, Mixed Martial Arts, Combatives and Women's Self-Defense). A lot of this Website is dedicated to educating consumers to these pitfalls.
That doesn't make us real popular with the profiteers -- or their followers. In fact, those who have drank the Kool-aid(1) tend to get down-right upset with us. They really don't like our exposes on the underbelly of the business practices of commercialized MA/SD/ RBSD/WSD/MMA/DT organizations and dysfunctional behavior in those cultures.
Since they can't exactly defend the behavior we're exposing, they often settle for the next best thing, ad hominem attacks on the source. That means they come after us. A personal favorite of these folks -- without the benefit of meeting us, training with us or even speaking with us -- is telling everyone who will listen what our dirty, little, underlying motives are for saying the things we do.
Rather than you relying on these psychically well endowed individuals for information, we'll tell you. Here are the reasons why we do it:
If not yours, someone else's.
Remember, when it comes to surviving crime and violence, our approach isn't "If it happens" we're here to prepare you for when it happens. Unfortunately, a lot of what is being sold as self-defense training does not prepare you for 'when' it happens. The difference between 'if it happens' and when it happens is that there are known consequences in the later. And that often includes a dead body laying on the ground.
We often joke -- and we really wish it were a joke --
that you will only encounter two basic problems with
your 'self-defense' training.
Either one brings us back to that corpse on the floor. Whether it is yours or someone else's dead bodies are a problem.
Much of what is being taught as self-defense is based on fighting. This makes it either insufficient (especially for handling criminal violence) or too much (e.g. you go ballistic on someone over a minor fender bender). Great, now you're either going to try to fight a criminal who has come prepared for a different kind of violence (and get your brains blown into a fine pink mist), OR you're going to whip out your knife and kill someone for sticking his hand out at you. If the latter, you'd better like taking showers with tattooed guys, cause you've just legally screwed the pooch.
Don't think we're exaggerating either of these scenarios ... we do expert witness work in court over this very thing. Add to that we've seen too many dead bodies and people in hospitals who thought their fantasy training prepared them for the real thing.
Despite the -- in some circles -- obsessive fixation on preparing for a "REAL fight" these people have no idea the realities and complexities involved in the subject of violence. That is because although much of the violence that occurs are, indeed, fights, fighting is only a particular type of violence!
That's to say not every type of violence is going to be a fight. Therefore, the strategies that work in a fight, will not be effective in other types of violence. They will either fail or get you arrested.
Violence isn't what you think it is
So with all these variables, how likely is it that a one-size-fits-all approach is really going to work?
Plan for Success
Let's go back to the prison showers for a second. If you want to stay out of them, you'd not only better start accepting that there are rules, but also you'd better take a hint from the shooting world and plan for success.
By this we mean that with a gun, when you pull that trigger that bullet is heading out that barrel. There will be consequences and you will have to live with them. Same thing with using a knife or some kind of 'tactical whatever" or your killer commando super-sekret exotic combative system.
But let's stick with guns because it's much easier to
understand that they are very effective at putting holes
inside of another person. If you were not justified in
pulling that trigger, the consequences will be
legal. Even if you were justified
Oh yeah, although internet warriors claim Marc has never been there, he knows from personal experience that if you don't kill him, you'd better have something else going for you. In order to prevent the dirtbag you had to bust up from suing you, you had better have some serious street credibility. That is to say you'd better be so well known in those circles that he knows to suffer amnesia when the cops ask him what happened.
If you don't have that kind of reputation in the criminal's circles, after he's done everything in his power to get you arrested on criminal charges, he's going to sue you because you, not he, is the civilian with something to lose. All he needs is an attorney who is willing to work for part of the settlement. By the way, this is really common among the surviving family members in case you do punch the dirtbag's ticket. Unfortunately, despite all the stories that people in the RBSD/MMA/knife fighting world tell themselves about how dangerous they are, they don't have that kind of street credibility.
Another reality is surviving those who will be seeking revenge for you killing one of theirs. This is VERY much a factor after killing a gangsta or member of a criminal organization. They tend to frown on such activities and you'd better be prepared to spend the next few years looking over your shoulders. And this is over and above being sued by his family for wrongful death.
So you may think the biggest problem is being able to valiantly battle the hordes of bad guys using your deadly fighting system, but we speak from experience when we say that if you don't plan for success, your problems are just starting.
What You're Doing AIN'T Self-Defense
Well we'd like you to join us in a little reality break, by using your imagination.
Take your average MMA bout and instead of the ring/ octagon/cage or whatever, try this ... superimpose the action on the background of the last bar you were in. (Actually this isn't too hard to do since most bars have security cameras both inside and outside these days. So you will get to see yourself on camera if you use your MMA training.)
Now taken out of the ring and put into that environment, ask yourself about the winner of that match ... does that look like self-defense?
Even if you did the mental gymnastics to come up with a 'yes' answer. It ain't going to look like self-defense to the cops, the witnesses, the cameras, the prosecuting attorney, the judge or the jury. At best it is going to look like a fight. At worst it is going to look like aggravated/felonious assault.
We say that last because since that fight isn't done on the pliable covering of the ring the injuries will be more severe. As such there's a good chance you're going to be prosecuted as attempted murder because he cracked his head open when he fell into a table or hit it on the floor.
Contrary to what these nutjob internet warriors will tell you and contrary to what these superstud combat masters will tell you, self-defense stops when the other guy stops attacking.
If you keep going after he is no longer attacking, YOU have become the aggressor! You have to be reacting to what IS happening, not what might happen. If the guy turns to run, you can't chase after him and keep beating on him because he might turn around. If you knock him down, you cannot proceed to kick him because he might get up. And while we are on the subject, if you are attempting to beat him into submission, you are fighting. That also applies to jumping down to the ground to grapple him.
But a lot of what is being taught out there is designed to pander to those folks who want to go berserk on someone. People who want to give into their emotional hijackings and hurt someone. Well contrary to what a whole lot of dojo darlings and internet studs will tell you, most violence doesn't require you go ballistic on someone.
Yet, that is what is commonly being taught, encouraged and believed!
The raw truth is that any preconception you have about violence is probably wrong. Violence is a complicated, multi-layered and varied subject -- in fact, most people don't even know what it really is. Despite their claim of teaching reality based self-defense, most instructors fall into that category. How can someone teach 'reality' when they don't have the faintest clue?
And how are you going to know that what you're being taught will get you either killed or raped in a prison cell if all you ever listen to is the guys peddling their fantasies?
Martial arts are also a great means to help children -- especially those with ADD -- develop the sort of skills that will serve them for a life time. The martial arts really are about self-growth and character development. It is discovering these initially unseen benefits that are why people stay in the martial arts.
Having said all this, the martial arts do not 'give' these traits to you. All these vague and hazy attributes don't come in a nice, neat pre-packaged bundle just from studying the martial arts. You have to willfully cultivate them within yourself.
Can the martial arts assist you in developing them? You betcha. But it's not the martial arts that is doing it ... you are. The martial arts are just a tool you can use to achieve these ends.
Unfortunately, many commecialized schools sell the idea that by signing up to their courses all this psychological, moral and ethical work will be done for you. According to their sales pitch, the martial arts are a computer program that you install in your psyche; one that by just 'knowing' the martial arts you have these traits.
And while we are on the subject, martial arts training is not a replacement for psychotherapy. Can it be done in conjunction with therapy to enhance the results? Absolutely! But all too many people try to 'self-medicate' through MA/ SD/RBSD/WSD/Combatives/street fighting/Knife fighting instead of seeking the professional counseling they desperately need.
Often what you will find is that both the school owners and those in desperate need of therapy are the ones who are promoting the idea that the martial arts are some kind of "Dr-Bonner's-Cure-All- Elixir!" It is not unusual to encounter schools that promise all kinds of guaranteed self-help wonders to those who sign up. The simple truth is that the martial arts cannot guarantee personal growth.
The problem is that way too many people have decided to 'self-medicate' using the martial arts. Hey, why work on the real problem when martial arts will fix it for you? Feeling bad about yourself? Anxious? Insecure? Can't concentrate? Hyper-vigilant? Afraid of being attacked? Memories of past trauma constantly intruding on your daily life? Naaaah, it isn't PTSD, what you really need is to study a killer combat fighting style under Maha-ha-ha grand guru Dr. Death ... he'll be able to cure you of all those problems by teaching you how to be a deadly martial artist.
So there you have it... Wow, keeping people alive, keeping people out of prison, keeping people from getting ripped off and maybe, just maybe helping people who have suffered trauma from making it even worse by self-medicating with fantasies about violence ... yep, what a bunch of selfish, money grubbing, deceitful and arrogant assholes we are for saying the things we do. Because we're obviously only saying this stuff to get you to leave the guru of combat you're currently giving your money to and to come and study with us (and give us your money instead).
The simple fact is the whack jobs, the kool-aid drinkers, the martial arts pirates, the 23rd dans in 12 different systems from three countries, those profiteering from the martial arts, the internet warriors, the gym rats and the authoritarian personality types (and their followers) are never going to like us.
The simple fact is there is nothing I could say to those people to change their minds. They've found their little toxic niche and they're happy there. But that's not who I'm here for. We're here for folks, who because they don't know any better can, get sucked into these people's dysfunction. And not only dysfunction but ... and how this line is so thrown around by cyber warriors and dojo darlings ... "if they ever had to use it" they'd either murder someone because they over reacted, or were themselves killed because they under-reacted. And both of those could be laid at the feet of bad instruction.
So let them bad mouth me and say how I don't know anything, that I haven't been there or how I'm just trying to sell my unbeatable fighting style.
I'll keep on saying the things we do for people who are ready to think about self-defense -- not fantasize about it.