Do we ever stop fighting?

The more I teach people to fight, the more I wish nobody had to fight anymore.  

The world is so full of violence, and so much of that conflict is meaningless.  Why can't we move towards harmony? How would we?

I struggle with the idea that in 2016, with all the advances mankind has made, that war is still a thing.  Why must the innocent men of my country go kill and be killed by the innocent young men of another country?  It's senseless.

Even on a personal scale, I understand that violence is something that explodes unpredictably onto the scene.  People are attacked.  People are threatened.  People are made insecure and scared.  Why is this still a thing? 

I taught a self-defense workshop for a group of young women this week.  We had a heartfelt conversation about feeling safe.  They also told me that last year's instructor was a hard-ass, kill-or-be-killed, black-or-white thinker who preached full tilt destruction for anyone they came into conflict with, context be damned. They didn't gain much from that perspective, because it didn't take into account the reality of their situations. 

I believe that many in our industry do our clientele a disservice by making them feel MORE insecure.  Yes, they need to be aware of risks, and educated about options and best practices.  But they need not be tormented by the presence of risks.  If a client comes to me worried, I will not pretend that their fears are unfounded, but neither will I amplify them.  It strikes me as misguided that someone would do so with the intention of helping, and grotesque that someone might do so as a way of improving business.  

One of the participants told me afterwards that she just got her CC license, because she's been feeling paranoid.  She asked what I thought of it.  I told her that while I've trained with firearms and used to give a neutral "whatever feels appropriate" answer, I no longer advocate firearms to my clients.  And it's true: the probability of a gun owner "saving the day" with their CC sidearm is almost nil, while the likelihood of an accident (or suicide, or crime) with that weapon are so very much higher. And neither of these things takes into the account the emotional practice of putting a weapon on oneself as part of readiness to go out into the world -- of acknowledging, DAILY, that one might get into violent conflict and end a life.  For civilians, this is no longer something I can recommend.  


As teachers who want to encourage other people to achieve greater safety and well-being (physical, mental, and emotional), how can we equip our audience for both the dangers of today's world AND move us all towards a less violent world in the future?

And does anyone else feel this way, or am I the only hippie who is feeling like we don't have the resources to gain any traction towards harmony?


^^^ I'm more interested in a world where we all dance than a world where we all fight, that's for sure.

Great post.

The fact is many people feel as you do. The fact is violence, fear and insecurity is what we have be taught, how we have been programmed, how to live, starting at birth.

There is no instructor, guru, priest or president that can change thousands of years of this programming, in fact it's getting more sophisticated.

We don't know who we are or how we process information, so we have indecision and conflict within. When we understand who we are we then can change ourselves and be free of struggle andviolence.
This isn't my opinion this is how it is. I hope we can see this.

I have 3 brothers, and we all trained karate together in our youth.  One of them recently emailed me an article about "What to do in an Active Shooter" situation, and asked for my thoughts.  This is a portion of my response to him -- it feels appropriate here in this discussion.  (Had to cut it in half for post length)


There's an inherent struggle in self-defense between being aspirational and being practical.  JKD sets the stage, with the central idea that:
With low awareness levels, we are limited to responding at the end of the equation in any crisis. 
With training we can improve our awareness levels, and then respond earlier.
Earlier responses, ones that "intercept" the threat instead of reacting to it after it has developed, are safer and more effective interventions.  
Taken further, as most self-defense / personal safety peeps do, this moves next towards preventative safety measures like alarm systems, carrying weapons, extensive training, and walking around constantly tweaking out every time something moves in the shadows.  And this, obviously, is where I think we, as a community, have messed up. 
These are huge topics, but here are my basic talking points:
1)  We disproportionately think about events that are very unlikely.  We worry about active shooters instead of car accidents or high cholesterol.
2)  We also get much more upset about other people harming us vs our own choices harming us.  If someone came into our house and injured us to the extent that our own diet or other choices did, we'd be outraged. 
This all gets woven into the current climate of fear and outrage, which the news channels are happy to feed into because it gets them ratings (FOX is the obvious king, but they all do it).  It amplifies our biases about other people harming us and wanting to "fight back".
And then we also have (3) a strange sort of ethos in which we all expect to play the hero.  I had a dream, in 5th grade, that someone came and held us hostage at school, but I used my karate to defeat him and save the day.  Anytime I start imagining using my self-defense training in real life, I like to remind myself that this isn't 5th grade and I need to grow up.  
(4)  On some level, this is how all firearm owners...and self-defense people...see themselves.   
Which leads to (5) how ought we properly see ourselves if we're going to train (and teach) this stuff?  What's the responsible approach that doesn't include irrational fear-mongering as a commercially successful (but ethically dubious) approach?  
Let me cut to the chase and say that I think most of the violence we encounter seems to be a mental health issue, and as a nation, a society, and as a culture we fail across the board in addressing that in any kind of useful way. And I don't just mean "the shooter" - the rest of us are all going about it the wrong way too.  Because we're thinking "yes, I should go take classes and learn to be the hero when the shooter shows up."  I mean, think about that for a second and ask yourself who the most f*cked up person in that scenario is.  It may not be the shooter.  
We all need our heads examined.  For real. 
Cut to the end:  We all need to pursue lifestyles that foster better mental and social health.  And in a surprise twist, martial arts training can be a great part of that, if it's done with a sensible mentality.  I like to think of my training like swimming - you could practice it alone or in groups, it can be social, it's athletic, it gets you off the couch, it develops coping skills, and the odds of you drowning are unlikely to begin with, but if you ever found yourself in that unlikely situation it'd be a possible lifesaving skill for yourself and others, so it doesn't hurt as long as you approach it that way.  The minute we start fantasizing about saving the day when an "active pusher" starts pushing non-swimmers into the pool, and we start wearing our swimsuit under our clothes every day...well, you get the idea.  
Note: this also assumes the idea that the style of swimming you learn is actually effective for stopping you from drowning.  I've lost all patience for anything wearing the guise of "effective" that really isn't. And while I've just said a whole lot about the other redeeming qualities a social, athletic activity could have, I think it's a horrible thing to tell people you've taught them to swim if you haven't.  
What if they think they're a hero and they jump in the pool?

This is one of the best post's I have seen out here in a very long time. This line especially pin points it as a great starting point.

"I think most of the violence we encounter seems to be a mental health issue, and as a nation, a society, and as a culture we fail across the board in addressing that in any kind of useful way "

I left being a teacher a long time ago. We teach ourselves. With that said ask yourself, do I take responsibility for my own mental health, my own thoughts, my own opinions? Do I question myself, my thoughts, my opinions? Who runs your life you or your ego? What is the ego?

Growing as a culture, a society, starts within our mind, our thought, don't trust it.. There is where our issue is.

Nice post.

Joe - I love it.  It sounds like you're suggesting that some mindful self-reflection is where we ought to begin. I can get down with that, for sure.

Lloyd, thanks.


Open question:  Do you think that firearm ownership is an example of the ol' "tragedy of the commons" scenario?

For the unfamiliar -- a "tragedy of the commons" is a scenario in which individuals act in their own self-interest, directly undermining the common good.  Usually it works like this:

There are only so many fish in the bay, so they town caps the number of fish a fisherman can catch, so that the fish population does not dwindle down to unsustainable levels.  A few fishermen decide to overfish, expecting that everyone else will do the same, and thus the fish population is wiped out and now nobody can fish.

Is firearm ownership / carry a similar situation?  Why or why not?

Hi Lloyd . What I am suggesting is really not self reflection for that is self centered, rather the idea of responsibility for all people on our planet. No division

Now, when you examine your thoughts, beliefs, conditioning, question yourself. Is this the best for my neighbor, the people in another state or countr? Are my thoughts my own? Or the programming of my parents, teachers , friends and upbringing?

What is thought? Where is it's root? these are questions not many will take the time to ask, or for that matter even understand.

People want to fight, argue, criticize, and they themselves don't even know who they are. The world and the people running it are a mess!

This is kind of an older thread, but I've been working on this idea.

Take two females, reasonably athletic, both carry firearms and both go to the range together. They both understand how to stay alert, how to work as a team, where danger happens.

Then know from firearms training and reading about the 'Three S' rule, about how to first seek distance and time and then cover and concealment. They know not to 'insert yourself' into a stranger's problem.

Then know how not to road rage, they know to anticipate trouble and go the other way as soon as possible.

And having all that, they just go a bout life normally.

I would postulate that just continuing with their normal athletic pursuits, even if it includes some grappling and striking, or just cardio, and having a dual-carry team, that they would be hard to beat in nearly any self-defense situation. Two pairs of eyes, a couple dozen rounds between them and good awarness and mastery of their anger.

Finally, they learn how not to 'cling' to a goal and be prepared to abandon plan 1 (like parking in a questionable dark lot even though carrying) and chose a safer alternative. How to listen to their fear and when they have an event, do a lessons learned analysis and debrief.


oh man, I just typed a long response and then my browser freaked and deleted it.  

WP, thanks for reviving this.  I'll post tomorrow and keep it going. 

Glad I subbed to this thread.

Great point about cholesterol. I always say the chances of heart disease getting you are astronomically higher than most things we worry about.

^^^ It's true!  But that's not what keeps us anxious.  It's *other people* and what they might do...instead of our own lousy choices.  And don't even get me started on the way people drive...


WP - My immediate question, in response to your post, was "why do they need to carry? Why do these two people need to learn to shoot?  What is it about their context that suggests the need for this skill is high probability?"  

I have 2 angles of consideration that make me question it.  The first has to do with their own health:

1)  Is it better for them to invest the time, money, energy, and anxiety in developing this skill and then staying prepared (practicing, arming oneself daily, etc), or to skip it and focus on something more likely to be needed?  

This question is a question about context.  How likely is it that they will find themselves in a situation that is helped by them carrying?  Where do they live?  What kinds of situations do they place themselves into?  What kinds of situations or locations can they avoid or not avoid?  

And furthermore, what OTHER risks should be evaluated as a comparison?  Are they better served improving their diet, exercise, social skills, stress level, employment level, family harmony, or driving habits?  

All of this will be influenced by context: in what country do they live? What state? What city or town? What PART of town?  And why?  

The underlying question here is this:  to pursue this approach is going to COST them something - in time, energy, money, attention.  Is this the best investment of those resources?  Or would they have a better life investing it elsewhere?


2)  This is a question about everyone else.  Is it better for the community at large that these two people carry weapons?

The first dimension is the easiest - will they help someone, by virtue of carrying weapons?  Will they harm someone?  Will someone (including themselves) come to harm by accident?

The second dimension is more subtle.  Is it better for everyone - in a broad way - that more of its members are carrying weapons? 

For starters, some will posit a "good guys with guns" argument.  But these arguments do not bear out in statistics.  Parts of the world with more armed citizens have more violent crime...consistently. (And not just "places with more firearms have more crime involving a firearm" - that's a silly nonstarter.)  Places where "you can assume your fellow citizens are carrying firearms" still have the highest rates of ALL violent crime.  It doesn't make the community safer.

Moreover, I worry (as I posted above) about a Tragedy of the Commons type situation.  What I see, in many armed communities, is a willingness to engage in violence that would be lesser without the presence of weapons.  To put it bluntly - it's not just that having a gun makes you brave, but that having a gun makes you consider violence as a possible tactic that you might not have otherwise.  I don't mean to extrapolate my own anecdotes to the world, but I've seen far too many situations like this in my own backyard (and I live in the suburbs, surrounded by other boring suburbs). 

So when everyday citizens are going through the daily exercise of strapping deadly weapons to their body (and acknowledging, each day, that today might be the day they exercise their willingness to kill somebody), I worry that this is a part of our mental health issue. 

Some people respond to this argument by saying "well, it may not be beneficial to the community, and it may not even be rational, but *I* like to have it because it makes ME feel safer."  And that is the Tragedy of the Commons - you can all be a little less safer but I will get mine.  And when large numbers participate in this thinking, we all suffer for it.   (You could rephrase the same thing as "I know it's bad for my kids, but smoking in the house and car all day makes ME feel better" and you'd get the same creepy feeling.)


So to come full circle, this is my struggle:  One the one hand -- there are contexts in which I think it IS the rational (and sometimes even responsible) choice to own, train with, and carry firearms or other weapons, even as a civilian.  And on the other hand, I have a hard time imagining how we move towards a more peaceful and harmonious future.  How do we stay safe now, but reduce violence overall?