Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Martial Artists: A dangerous blow

This article is specifically for the martial artists whom read this blog as I received an email from someone (martial artist) who I think could really benefit from this.

A while ago a guy named Jase (not his real name) enquired about joining our group classes which we hold for the public. Everyone who requests to join us has an informal ‘interview’, really just a chat, so that we can evaluate their intentions and make sure that we can provide what they are looking for and also to ensure that they are a good fit for the class (we have a ‘no-egg’ policy). Because so many people believe ‘self defence’ is about fighting it’s important that we let them know that is not what we do, and if we can we’ll point them to a club or school that can help them.

Jase seemed like (and is) a nice guy but there was also some intuition that told me he was troubled and in a bad emotional place. To cut the story short after a chat it transpired that Jase, who is a black belt in karate and has also trained in Muay Thai and BJJ, had two months earlier been beaten up pretty bad. Physically he was not too injured (broken nose, broken ribs, so still a bad day) but psychologically he was beaten up very bad. His words to me were “It wasn’t supposed to happen like that”. I asked him how it was “supposed to happen” and he told me “Well, you know, like I was taught”.

His whole situation was avoidable at multiple different points before it escalated to violence. It was also (probably) fairly easily defused. That is if he had any training in either concept, which of course he did not. So being left with only a physical response as his go-to option he expected the physical aspect of the ‘fight’ to look like it did at his training. But that was obviously not the case and Jase had to learn the hard way about how real violence unfolds. Later on in the evening Jase was watching some of our team doing scenario training and I saw him look at me and shake his head as if in disbelief. I asked him what was wrong and he said that everything that was unfolding before his eyes in that scenario was just like his situation except our team were getting a very different result obviously. He said that if he had come here three months ago this would not have happened to him. Sadly that is true but too late to change. Jase had formed a new, disempowering identity for himself. I explained that although past performance is a good indicator of future performance, if changes are made history does not have to repeat itself. The past does not need to equal the future, but changes need to be made.

The two months of beating himself up over the event had done as much damage as the event itself due to his lack of understanding of how real violence happens. Prior to the event he had a perception of how thing “should” happen based on his experience with martial arts and sport fighting, but this is very rarely ever the case (almost never in fact). So for two months he had been blaming himself, attributing the outcome to his own inadequacies, which is just so wrong and unfair to him.

After a debriefing session, where we anatomised the event and helped it make sense for him in real terms he was able to see that it was not his own inadequacies (mostly), it was an issue with his training. He thought (because he had been told) that he was learning ‘self defence’, whereas in actual fact he had been learning an art on one side, and a sport on the other. Both of which have very little to do with dealing with real aggression or violence. This debriefing also helped him to understand that he needed to talk with a councellor about the event (he was showing signs of PTSD so a professional was required to help him work through this). So often, for males, society has an expectation that they can be exposed to serious violence and just ‘carry on’ and ‘deal with it’. Often this is possible especially if the person has some degree of understanding or experience with real violence, but just as often, it is not. There are things that normal citizens are just not supposed to experience or have to ‘deal with’ and getting through these things often takes a bit of help. There is nothing ‘soft’ or unmanly about getting help but that is unfortunately often a stereotype that men must face. The fact is that violence affects everyone who is exposed to it. It affects different people to different degrees, but even the toughest among us (I have trained some elite units and even they often require support after certain incidents) can still be affected, that is part of being human.

What I have found is that people who consider themselves to be ‘fighters’ or proficient martial artists often suffer enormous damage to their self esteem and confidence after they suffer a beating, even more so than the average person. Often their training is their absolute passion, one of the main focuses in their life and much of their identity is linked to their perceived proficiency (or rank, or position, or titles etc) in that art or sport. So when they are attacked and in their mind “lose” the fight or fail to protect someone else it can be very tough to deal with.

By understanding how things really happen though, and then being able to make a very clear distinction about whether their training is in actual fact sports oriented, art oriented, or self defence oriented, they can make sense of things and make the necessary adjustments. If the sole reason they joined their martial art was for self defence, they may realise they need to change or add something else to it. If they joined because they love the art or the sports side of things, then that is great, they will see that it is a sport which is fun, enjoyable, challenging, demanding etc but not a self defence system so their expectations of its street proficiency will change and be more realistic.

Side note: As part of the interview with “Jase” I intuitively determined that his motivations were not as clear cut as he had made out. A few direct questions revealed that another part of his motivation for wanting to learn from us was (sub consciously) to have another chance to ‘prove himself’ and recover his damaged self esteem. He didn’t even realise he was doing it but I have seen this several times before. It is quite common to fall into a retaliation mode after taking a beating and want to (either consciously or sub-consciously) put yourself into another situation to prove yourself. Once he was aware that process was present, it was relatively easy to dissipate and give him a new focus which would actually serve him and be helpful rather than destructive.

I hope this article stirs something in you and may help you ask yourself and/or your instructor some relevant and important questions about your training. If nothing more, just knowing which “box” your training falls into can help you reduce the chances of going through a situation like Jase, and thousands of others have gone through.

If you are a martial artist/sport fighter and you want to see how your training relates to real life encounters (as well as learn some cool new skills) check out the Combat Coalition Boot Camp in Auckland in November. If you are out of town...Travel. It will be worth it!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What were the signs?

Excellent short article by Darcy:

What were the signs?

Recently I had a young business woman in her mid-twenties ask me for advice so she would not again find herself in the situation she recently found herself in.

Rachel shared her story with me: I was at a party, and he must saw me there, but I didn’t meet him. When I arrived home that evening, he’d left three messages on my phone asking me out. I wasn’t so sure but decided to go out with him – he sounded nice, but I didn’t know what he looked like. Our first date was ok, but he did joke about getting married and having kids. On our second date, he mentioned getting married and having kids again and sounded almost serious. On the third date he gave me an iPhone!! I loved it. He did flip out one day when he found out that I had an ex-boyfriends number in it and he made me delete it out in front of him. He then “suggested” who I should have in the phone. He would call me all the time too, asking me what I was doing – and if he wasn’t phoning me, he’d just turn up announced at my apartment. He talked about us being together forever, soul mates. I wanted to dump him and I tried, but he’d cry and talk about killing himself. That I’d find no one better. He’s met someone else now, but while we were together, for months I just couldn’t breathe. I lost friends and I cried so often. I doubted myself. Darcy, I need to know what the signs are so I don’t meet someone like him again.

Rachel, those are the signs.