Recently I was delighted to spend time (sadly too little time) with the man who first introduced me to martial arts, Graham Butcher, going over some basics in Stav. I like Graham’s teaching, he works through techniques in a way which just make sense to me. He also has the ability to spot the unset of a puzzled face and knows when to jump in and change tack slightly.
I digress, this is not about singing his praises. The central issue of this post is something he mentioned halfway through class, and it runs along these lines.
Most of us will never encounter a fight. We don’t enter situations where people are brandishing knives, or come kicking and punching their way towards us. Threats are more likely to be outwardly innocent, but may well be as equally damaging on the psyche as a kick to the knee is on the nerves. Nice Uncle John who always leaves his hand resting that bit too close to areas you wish he wouldn’t. That drunk lady you spoke to earlier who seems determined to wrap her arms around your neck and cover you in kisses, probably at the moment your partner enters the room. The boss who grabs your arm because he really wants you to do something, but this is a gross invasion of your private space.
My point is this, you don’t want to throw that drunk lady to the floor and put an arm bar on her. And while finally getting revenge on Uncle John by performing a star ude garame on him possesses a degree of merit, perhaps for family peace a less showy response is required.
Martial arts are not about going in, weapons blazing at every level because someone has dared laid hands on you. Instead it’s about extracting yourself from a situation in a suitable way so that a repeat of the situation does not occur. This can go from a firm, “no,” with a physical arm in front of the drunk lady’s face, with no contact required. It can be working on the assumption that Uncle John’s motives may not be pure and gently removing his hand. It could be turning your arm out of the boss’s, and side stepping to prevent him from doing it.
Respond violently, such as shouting at the boss and wrenching your arm out, is likely to trigger an equally violent response, in part because they may be embarrassed by what they have done. Suddenly the situation escalates, when really it could have been handled with minimal affront to either side. Not good martial arts practice at all.
At the ultimate level, it’s about projection. Look around any large group of people and you can spot the ones who do not display their confidence. If you are capable of using body language to say, “hey, I’m willing to engage with other humans, but don’t try any stupid shit,” then you are on to a winner. I hate to say this, but a significant amount of people are terrible at being able to communicate the limit of behaviour they are willing to tolerate. I was once like that, but experience taught me better. Martial arts training has helped enhance that. By holding the knowledge of what to do should things become bad, then it helps deal or prevent the smaller situations. It gives us the confidence to say no, or to remove a stray hand.
So really, I don’t beat people up, I just refuse to engage with idiots.