It’s very important we remember that our training is meant to handle difficult and dangerous people and situations. By training with integrity and learning effective techniques to deal with fully resistant attackers, we give ourselves the edge in a real confrontation.
Real confrontation and real fights are not clean cut, and give rise to emotions like fear, anger, uncertainty, and others. If a student of the arts does not spend at least some time under real duress, dealing with the real fear-based emotions that arise in a fight, they will find their capability to defend themselves to be highly reduced. Check out the following video, and see if you can really predict what is going to happen:
Not so easy to do, is it? Uncertainty is an important factor that contributes to how well we handle ourselves in conflict. The cameraman put it perfectly at the end: “You never know what you’re gonna get.”
I can think of stories we have heard from our students who have dealt with real confrontations. One of our high school students for example was out late in Portland with a young, female friend at a late-open restaurant. There was, unfortunately, a group of men who decided that hitting on a teenage girl was acceptable behavior. I may struggle to imagine what it’s like to be a teenage girl in this situation, but I can imagine that it would be scary to have to deal with that! After hearing this going on, our student made a decision to tell the men (there was one particular offender) to knock it off.
This unfortunately led the group of men to target him verbally, threatening to fight him, inviting him out to “settle the issue.” When he was telling us this story, he admitted at this point to being very nervous and unsure of what to do. Put yourself in the shoes of a young man being physically threatened by a group of men… that’s a terrifying scenario, even if you have self defense and martial arts training!
Eventually our student and his friend made the decision to leave, which was the right decision. They got home safely as a result. He is a very skilled martial artist, and a competent fighter as well. What he hadn’t had the chance to deal with yet was the high degree of uncertainty and discomfort of a real self defense situation. I greatly admire his actions in the moment and am proud of him for sticking up for a scared young woman in the face of a group of hostile men, especially when others wouldn’t. I also respect his honesty with us and with himself afterwards, which created a terrific learning opportunity for him and his fellow students. I am proud he was able to keep him and his friend safe and avoid conflict in a situation that had a high probability of leading to violence.
We have to remember the context that we apply our art in. By practicing dealing with stress and anxiety in self defense, one does grow more capable of handling it in real life. The beauty of self defense is that it aims to get us home safe; ninjitsu was an art for survival, after all. We encourage handling conflict nonviolently whenever possible, and are not obligated to fight to prove anything. The student I mentioned showed wise decision making in this situation at a young age, and reminds us of the importance of making sure we train with reality in mind!