Self defense, fitness, and badassness.
These are the three most common reasons people start martial arts training.
Martial Arts, whichever the style, can be a physically demanding practice so fitness applies without question. As far as badassness goes, I couldn’t think of another word that really encompasses the concept of power, freedom, connectedness, and raw awesomeness combined into one, but that’s pretty inherent also. Self defense . . . now this is where it gets sketchy . . .
Self defense meets the Law of Attraction.
The conventional understanding of self defense involves the concept of “scenario training.” This means that the student is given a theoretical scenario in which an aggressor is in some stage of attacking the defender (student) such as a surprise bear hug, a choke, a sucker punch, threat at knife point, etc. The student is then shown how to disable the attacker and escape.
Sounds practical right?
In theory, this is a solid approach to self defense training and in cases whereby an individual has a high percentage of encountering an aggressive situation such as military personnel and peace officers, scenario training is warranted and essential.
For the rest of us however, regular use of scenarios for Martial Arts practice and self defense will increase the likelihood of encountering a dangerous self defense situation.
This is obviously an observation rather than a proven statistic, but it’s an observation based on more than two decades of personal Martial Arts experience.
The concept at work here is simple and one that is well understood within the realm of personal development, it’s known as the Law of Attraction: the focus of one’s thoughts and attention will attract more of it.
In other words, if you go to a self defense class once per week and every session involves two hours of imagining a crazed and violent assailant in a dark alley, chances are that your thought patterns will be drawing that situation closer to reality outside of class.
It’s kind of like getting a new car and suddenly you see tons of people driving the same car. Your focus on the new car has increased your awareness of the same within your environment and has therefore increased its presence within your conscious reality.
On the one hand, awareness is key to self preservation and prosperity. Being aware of the shady group of hoodlums down the street will help you to avoid confrontation. This applies to all areas of life.
The key is not to focus on the danger, fear, and desire to avoid it so intently and regularly. Once the shady group of hoodlums is identified and one’s route and behavior adjusted, life goes on. The darker course of action being to identify the threat and develop paranoia and obsessive fearful behavior which in turn attracts attention and an increase in danger.
The art of fighting without fighting.
So if scenario training is out, what can we do?
Scenario self defense practices do have a place, but they should not be the focal point of one’s training.
Instead, Martial Arts training should develop key physical attributes such as speed, balance, strength, control, reflexes, and reality based self defense movements and techniques without the fear, rage, and drama of a scenario.
Mental and emotional attributes such as ferocity, focus, awareness, discipline, playfulness, and love within a combative yet positive context are also essential and very constructive in and outside of class. These skills and attributes, if properly trained, will have tremendous carry over into an individual’s life, not just for the purpose of self defense but in the realms of family, business, school, and others as well.
Scenario self defense training with stong negative imagery and emotions for specific, unlikely, and undesirable circumstances should be kept to a minimum and used intermittently at best.
Daily practices that enrich your life in positive and fulfilling ways while developing broadly applicable personal skills and abilities should make up the core of your martial arts training, effectively building the foundation necessary to overcome, excel, and flourish in body, mind and spirit, regardless of circumstance.