More and more, as time goes on, I realize that the reason I´ve gotten to this current point-in-time in life, is far more self than system. Arrogant, I know. But the things I´ve learned, generally on-the-fly, have been hard-earned and, to my own detriment, generally self-inflicted. I know that all you martialists out there will likely want to hear something totally different, like all the FMA, esgrima criolla, shootwrestling, boxing, ad infinitum skillsets I´ve explored throughout the years have been worth the investment. And, to an extent, they have been.
They got me out of a drug and drinking crowd that many, well, didn´t. They kept me out of jail. They greatly improved my focus, cognition, coordination, and a host of other mental, physical, and spiritual elements. I can never take that away from them and they absolutely were not a waste of time. I made many lifelong friends through these outlets, people whose friendship and brotherhood I greatly value and continue to do so. If you´re participating for fun, exercise, social-clubbing, cognition, this article may not include you nor be relevant in any way outside of a thought-provoking one.
That being said, self-defence, counter-violence, real-world survival…another story. Most of the skills taught in martial arts simply aren´t applicable to real-world scenarios. And I don´t mean via this perpetually stupid argument martial artists always have about style- or system-superiority. They all inevitably fall in that same boat…fighting for crumbs on a loaf of stale bread. The self-defence community itself has now started to become a caricature of itself, promoting new gimmicks, quick fixes, 10-step propositions, and solutions to problems that don´t exist. We had the “reality-based” self-defence phase that was supposed to be EVEN MORE relevant to modern three-dimensional conundrums of all things violent. Combatives, which is somehow, some way supposed to be different in that it is something you do TO a person, not like those trivial martial art systems that are something you do WITH a person. Personal protection. “Women´s” self-defence (that´s supposedly more vicious than anything because it needs to be (then why aren´t we all learning it)) Everything now seemingly has a shtick and the volume with which they´re promoted is deafening. In your face. And, through all the noise, I´ve almost completely tuned-out. Everything is different, yet exactly the same. I admit I´ve become bored of the industry with the lack of creativity and holistic understanding.
I can honestly tell you that living the life I have – bad choices and all – and learning how a criminal actually thinks by spending quality time with many of them has helped understand a little. It is not for everybody, granted, and certainly not a credibility pole to hang my hat from. It doesn´t make me an industry-leader. Living in the 3rd-World has also helped greatly – and also not a legitimacy foundation. Many do. Studying (non-academically, to be clear) psychology, anthropology, sociology, neuroscience. (not a professional) People-watching. Behavior analysis. Studying the abundance of modern avenues of video-violence. Making “training” as realistic as possible. And ALLLLLL that, I can also tell you, isn´t enough to understand what´s needed to be understood. Know why? I´m going to tell you.
Because the vast (v-a-s-t) majority of violence I´ve had done to me and mine has been by people I know. People in my circles. Satellites. Acquaintances. Friends. Family members. Co-workers. Remember violence comes in many shapes and forms, it is not just the physical from a stranger. It comes in the form of emotional abuse. Psychological torment. Control. Sexual violence. Financial control. Gaslighting. Social engineering. Domestic violence. Mentally restraining a person from fulfilling their potential through manipulation. But we NEVER study these things. EVER. Outside of lightly in passing, if that if the majority of us are being honest. And it´s hard to bounce back when your business model is based on a erroneous target. Sure, stranger violence exists and we see cases of it on the news all the time. But these things above happen far, far more often and without the media “hype” that goes along with the often higher-profile “stranger danger” aspect that the media pushes so hard to create fear within the public. (And the way I´ve seen these events covered in the news – serial-killers, mass-murderers, etc. – the mass media absolutely does their ultimate best to fuel the fire of fear.
So, as the saying goes, you can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. Clearly the next question asked is, if I´m generally, seemingly “brushing-off” fight training, what do I propose for the industry that could make some grandiose alteration? Well, being one person with a rather small voice in a big self-important pond lodged in a corner of a rather big ocean of life that often doesn´t give a shit about the pond, likely very little. But what I can say is that avenues like top-of-the-industry heads-of-state talking, building consensus, listening to victims, studying real-world situations, case studies, taking a more holistic approach to training to expand horizons, talk to experts in other pertinent fields are just some of the areas of focus that could be explored. Many, MANY of us in the martial arts/self-defence/combatives/personal protection fields joined these very fields because there was a time we felt utterly helpless and took a step to not feel that way again. Many I see – whether they want or choose to admit it or not – have suffered through a number of the forms of violence explained above. We´ve suffered and been hurt yet we so often repeat the same steps that were done to us down to our students without even being minutely aware of it. Show the insecurities and fears of our youth that have gone unaddressed all these years. Project. I see it in Internet challenge-matches. Ad hominem attacks. Peacocking skillsets. Showcasing violence credentials. Social-media is rife with what I see not solely machismo, but damaged people that have never ever gotten help for what ails them.
In spite of that – or maybe because of it – know that NOBODY has the market cornered on real-world violence and NOBODY is the final authority, don´t let anyone tell you otherwise. Just because someone is from law enforcement, the military, a career martial artist, hell, spent time in jail, it only gives you a partial-perspective from an isolated arena. A voice at a very diverse table. And potentially an absolute irrelevance to the average person´s daily life – which should be acknowledged. BUT, that experience can be very tangible if delivered from a neutral, information-delivering capacity. It´s hard to sift through what I equate to a group of 3rd-World taxi-drivers all heckling a tired tourist at the airport for a ride and why they´re the one you should choose. I find a rather huge burden even teaching these days because even with all my experience, I don´t feel qualified to be someone´s “final authority” and try and dissuade it actively. This is a very sensitive field in that we´re often – most often – dealing with trauma-survivors. People who´ve ALREADY experienced violence being done to them. Kid gloves should be the norm, not the exception. And questioning one´s own credentials and capability of making a positive difference in these people´s lives is healthy. It should be done with regularity. People, counter to what most say on the Interweb, aren´t stupid. Note that every time some well-known martial artist screams how the majority of the human race is just simply stupid, many NORMAL, WELL-ADJUSTED people quietly vote with their feet and walk the other way. Not SO stupid after all considering the behavior of so many industry leaders online. They´ve seen that animal before and didn´t like the first interaction. (I tend to think that very often one´s very martial arts or self-defence coach either creates new trauma or reminds someone of a past trauma they´d like to forget.)
As it´s my first article in some time, I realize it´s likely a little thought-scattered, apologies in advance.