I've been node surfing and read the write ups on fighting, self defense, etc... I thought about the stuff written, and from an intellectual point of view, it was pretty good. I could tell one or two of them had done a little research into actual techniques taught through martial arts (I saw some judo, karate, eastern kickboxing influences) or basic anti-rape classes. I would argue the practicality of everything I've read, though. It seems that the nodes I read were written with the idea that we're all very brave and calm when a situation involving bodily harm comes into play. I disagree. I think that writing about self-defense is very much different that actually having to defend yourself. I didn't really see anything that talked much about managing things like fear and nervousness. Because in the end, those two emotions really do throw everything you might have read about self defense out the window. And with that said, let's have a quick look at where I'm coming from with this write up:

I'm a short, nerdy wuss who got mugged in high school by three kids who were older and taller than me. They surrounded me, made fun of the way I looked, and told me to empty my pockets or they'd beat the shit out of me. I was never so scared in my life. I gave them all my money and shook in a bathroom stall crying for an hour after it was over. Looking back on it now, I wasn't even close to being hurt for real. Probably at most was an immeasurable amount of damage done to my ego. I got over the whole thing in a week or two, and went about my life. It wasn't until freshman year of college that I got pushed into another confrontation. I dormed in a four person suite with two guys who didn't appreciate my presence in their room. Put simply, they were popular and I wasn't. They went to bars, fucked girls, and threw parties; they ran the gamut of all social possibilities available to the tall and handsome university student. I kept to myself, read books, and took walks at night. One night around 4 A.M. they came home from a bar and walked into my portion of the dorm. For an hour they called me racial slurs, threw my textbooks on the floor, talked shit about my girlfriend, and told me that I didn't belong in this college or in this country. It was when one of them shoved me into a wall hard enough to make my nose bleed that my body felt the exact same paralyzing fear that sped through me when I got mugged as a kid. I slept on a floor of a friend's room for the rest of the night and moved out the next day.

I tried to get over it. For two months I tried counseling, the comfort of my friends, and God (I'm Catholic). But I couldn't come to grips this time. So one weekend in November I started taking martial arts classes. I didn't bother with karate, aikido, or judo. Those styles taught students with a mindset to never attack, always defend. Talk your way out. Physical aggression as a last resort. At that point in my life, such concepts were alien to me and fell on deaf ears.

I was fed up. To the heart and mind of a picked on eighteen year old male, a self defensive attitude towards learning how to fight was the last thing I wanted. I wanted to beat the shit out of those guys. I wanted to learn how to put them down and keep them hospitalized for weeks. It was the angry thought that put me to sleep at night and woke me up in the morning. It wasn't enough to just learn countering moves and defensive postures. I was full of hate, indifference, and revenge. There's a difference to protecting yourself intelligently and learning how to fight. I wanted to fight.

So for two years I did just that. A strong fundamental education in western boxing taught me basic hand skills, punch combination, stance, movement, and how to protect my head and upper body area. Then Muy Thai kickboxing, to strengthen lower body muscles and legs. As far as kicking goes, there is no other fighting style more brutal. To round myself out I studied Jeet Kun Do, where I learned techniques from a trapping(also referred to as in-fighting) and grappling(ground fighting) range. American wrestling technique was also somewhat covered. JKD concepts gave practitioners a good mentality of the proper 'flow' from hand to foot moves, and vice versa. Most importantly was the emphasis my teachers put on free-sparring and AGGRESSION. Free-sparring within a controlled environment is the best way to learn reality combat (I don't believe in the gi wearing, kata-based repetition of karate and similar styles). The aggressive 'don't just stand there blocking but take the fight to THEM and put them down so that they stay down' attitude enthused by my instructors greatly helped too. Studying combat with that kind of pretense of thought was just what my body and mind craved. It took me two years of sparring, lifting weights, body conditioning , and growing taller another two inches to fully relieve my mind and spirit of all the pent up anger, hatred, and shame those two guys had filled me with. By the time I was twenty, my heart was finally quiet. I started reading Slashdot again. I went comic book shopping again. In short, I was able to fall back into the lifestyle I was so fond of.

So that's where I'm coming from when I talk about my gist on the reality of human confrontation. I'm not the spokesman for kicking ass and fucking shit up by any means, but I can say that I've had experience with confrontation and fighting on a level more than just reading and theory.

After everything I've experienced, there's one main idea I've come to understand as the only truth to fighting:

Either you're going to fight to the point of really hurting another human being or you're not.

There isn't really any grey area with the whole debate. I don't think its possible to protect yourself competently without first accepting the idea that once things start to get physical, you won't stop until he's passed out bleeding to death on the floor. You just can't learn how to defend. Ever see a boxing match? Aggression and attack are what wins the match. Same thing goes with fighting. Don't stop till one of you is on the floor unconscious. In your head, you should be punching harder than you want too. You should kick harder than you need too. With fighting, more is always better.

The thing is, I don't think that kind of stuff is really imparted on an individual by just reading things on the Internet or learning out of fighting manuals. To really condition your body and mind to the rigors of combat you have to physically spar another human being. The contact of sparring develops a fighting awareness that you don't learn in books. You've got to know how it really feels to take a punch in the gut or get floored by a kick to the jaw. Only then can you ever really know what you'd really do after being hurt in that way. Like, there's a difference to theory as supposed to actual follow through, you know? How much programming would you REALLY know if you didn't actually hack every day? How good a driver would you be if you just read the manual and didn't actually drive?

Another thing people haven't noded much about is the fear factor of when stuff like this happens. It's SCARY as fuck to have to get into something like this with someone. All at once you're suddenly put into this predicament where you might have to do horrible things you've never done to a person before. Maybe these things conflict with the very ideas that make you who you are. That shit is pretty harsh. I'm in no position to generalize everyone, but I think I can assume this of most people when confronted with a very real chance of it leading to physical combat. Every muscle in you will fail. You'll get freezing shivers and have trouble standing. I learned that when I'm afraid for real, I don't shake. I just freeze up and get reaalll slow. It's only after the fact that I start to tremble.

Honestly, learning how to fight isn't kicks to the groin and eye gouging. It's being able to function while being very afraid. I can learn every which way to hurt someone, but it doesn't mean squat till someone teaches me how to effectively deal with being scared shitless at the same fucking time. And that's something you can't teach your body by reading stuff. Not at all.

So here's my point. Don't give yourself false assumptions on personal safety, ever. If you want to learn how to fight (which in turn will teach you how to defend yourself under the real stresses of combat), take a class emphasizing sport kickboxing (read: THIS IS NOT TAI BO). Go to it weekly. Practice daily. If you don't have the option of sparring with another person, work out at a gym equipped with a speed bag and heavy bag. An hour a day of just going through the motions of fighting is better than nothing.

And finally, don't be an asshole. A great percentage of future confrontations can be avoided if you just lead life with a quiet soul and enlightened mentality. I really think the only fights worth fighting over are instances where theft, racism, or implied physical harm are involved. If people are just running their mouths off to get a rise out of you, let them. Karma is a full circle thing, and they'll get what's coming to them in bigger amounts than you could ever dish out with your two fists.

First of all, kudos to codic for his determination and will to protect himself against those thugs. Most of what he's written is excellent advice for the picked-on geek, and I think everyone who was ever the victim of bullying can relate to his story in some way.

That said, there is just one point I'd like to expound on a bit:

"Either you're going to fight to the point of really hurting another human being or you're not. There isn't really any gray area with the whole debate. I don't think it's possible to protect yourself competently without first accepting the idea that once things start to get physical, you won't stop until he's passed out bleeding to death on the floor."

Really? I know a black belt (1st Dan, karate) whose dumb frat brothers, knowing he was a skilled martial artist, would viciously attack him while demanding that he "demonstrate some moves". Unwilling to use his lethal skills against them and unable to stop the assaults by talking or walking, he was repeatedly beaten up. I met him at my dojo, where he had come to learn something he could do to protect himself without harming his buddies.

Or, to borrow my aikido teacher's favorite example, what about the uncle who's had a few too many at a family reunion and is spoiling for a fight? Should he be beaten to the point where he requires medical attention?*

What about the parent of a violent and aggressive child, when discipline, counseling, and reason have all failed? I know a woman whose hulking 12-year-old stepson blamed her for his parents divorce and took out his aggression with slaps, kicks, and punches. Had she beat him into a bloody pulp, she would most certainly have been arrested for child abuse.**

These are all situations which the reader may or may not encounter. This is not important. I merely use them to illustrate types of fight where savage violence of the sort codic describes is not viable.

Also, the police and judiciary take a dim view of those who pound others into carpet stains over "theft, racism, or implied physical harm". There is such a thing as a proportional response, even in cases of self-defense; not every fight need be to the death. Punches, racial slurs, or attempts to swipe a wallet do not constitute legal grounds for tearing someone to small pieces; using more violence than necessary to protect oneself and end the fight could mean charges of aggravated assault or worse.

I think, in the end, the issue is one of morals; is it superior to win a fight by badly injuring or killing another human being, or to stop the violence without harm coming to anyone? My opinion is that one should by all means learn how to fight and kick ass, but one should also learn how to win a fight without harming the attacker, since there are violent situations where kicking ass is not an option.




* My brother faced a very similar situation, where a drunken party guest (larger and stronger than he) repeatedly tried to pick a fight over an unimportant argument. Instead of using a lethal throat strike, applying a crippling bone-breaker hold, or flinging the man through a nearby upper-story window, all of which he was quite capable of doing, he applied a simple elbow lock and pinned the fellow to the floor until they had both calmed down.

** After some aikido instruction, she was able to defend herself against the beatings without hurting or harming the boy in any way.

In addition to the excellent writeups from both codic and mirv, I'd like to point out a couple of things.

It's a great start to undertake some martial arts training, be it karate, boxing, aikido or muay thai. The form of training you start will vary entirely on the you and your needs. While blending ideas from various different styles is a great way to move towards being a "complete" fighter, there are a couple of important points to note:

First: You can't learn any system in a couple of months. If you're doing karate don't expect to be able to throw anything close to a decent roundhouse kick unles you're prepared to practice a lot.

Codic writes that he studied for two years. I would contend that after two years in only one style you might be starting to approach something resembling proficency. This will of course depend on what you are training in.

In short, be prepared to train a lot, for a long time before you can consider yourself even close to proficient. After six years of karate and muay thai training, there are still plenty of guys in the dojo who are more than capable of giving me a resounding ass-kicking.

Second: Sparring is not the same as a real-life street confrontation. As Codic's writeup notes, getting into a 'fight' with another individual is a definite start. It's only a start though, because although you may feel confronted, scared and very aware of your limitations as a fighter, it is not even close to the real thing.

It varies again from individual to individual. Your sparring partner is not going to beat you to a bloody pulp for the simple reason that most sparring sessions are in a controlled environment. That's the key. Real life street fights are not controlled environments. They're not a bully trying to steal your lunch money.

Finally: Don't give yourself a "false assumption of personal safety". As codic wrote - this is vital. Don't think you know it all no matter how hard and how long you've been training.

The longer I train the more I realise how much more I have to learn when it comes to confrontation, and the more I see the importance of seeking to avoid it at all costs.

Despite all you learn, all the years of training and all the skills you possess there will always be someone who has trained longer, knows more and has less to lose than you. Keep that in mind at all times. It might just save your life.

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