Why do you train in the Martial Arts?
The most common answers are either self-defense or fitness. Frankly, fitness is just self-defense. Get stronger so you can kick-ass. There are other answers. I had one student who trained in a martial art because he wanted to be in the movies.
The answer that applies to me is inner peace – centering and spiritual balance. I suppose this falls into the self-defense category as well, defense of the inner self.
I infuse the inner peace and centering in my instruction. Wing Chun is a counter-fighting system. The threat has to be real to call on Wing Chun’s tools. The other person has to start the problem. The Wing Chun practitioner should not start confrontations, though they should finish them. Often this means having the strength to ignore the blowhard and walk away. I tell my students, “The beer is the same price in the bar across the street. Just leave.”
When we train, especially in arts considering the street, we often use techniques with the assumption the attacker is grossly untrained; the huge right hand haymaker, the knife brandished out in the open. However, this is rarely the case in real attacks.
Most attacks are planned, even practiced. Surprise is the major weapon of the attacker. There is an excellent article, “Self-defense Against Knife Attacks“, by Patrice Bonnafoux in the blog “Urban Fit & Fearless” discussing this, using security camera footage in order to generate statistics, considerations, and draw some conclusions.
Even if the attack is not planned, if it is a random moment of passion, there is a high probability there will be some trained quality in it. It seems many people have at least a little experience in a physical confrontation.
The question becomes, why do so many people have some martial experience? I think it is in our DNA. Because of a generally unfounded fear, the average person assumes there is a fight waiting around every corner. From an evolutionary point of view, I suppose it is a smart way to think – better safe than sorry. Our DNA is invested in noticing threats and ignoring sweetness.
The UFC, security camera footage, news reports, terrorism, and propaganda flood our minds. There is an increase in the good-guy with a gun against the bad guy businesses. If you have looked for a job recently, you probably noticed there is no shortage of jobs in the security industries; NSA, security guards, officers, soldiers, you name it. It seems we have ramped up as a whole. All this puts people on edge, and sends them to the mat or at least the backyard trainer. The number of people who train professionally and unprofessionally rises.
With that given, your training needs to lean toward attackers or spur of the moment drunks with some experience as opposed to the individual who swings wildly. You are more likely to experience someone who is willing to take the fight to the ground, or willing to do a mid-level kick, because everyone is gearing up.
The contradiction is statistics say violent crime is decreasing. Here is a simple table by the Disaster Center collated from FBI UCS Annual Crime Reports, and a chart gathered from the same reports. There was a general increase of violent crime until a peak in 1994, in which there was a reported 1,113,180 instances of aggravated assaults, for example. In 2015, it was only 764,449. Okay, over seven-hundred-thousand is a lot, but it is a lot less than over one-million.
You are less likely to find yourself in a physical confrontation today than you would have been in the 1990s. Of course, that could change. We do seem to be in turbulent times. However, we are also in a time of greater awareness, greater empathy.
While everyone is gearing up, your training needs to gear up too. This does not mean to get harder. It means proposing the attacker has some experience. However, given the reality of decreasing violence, I suggest you also consider ramping up your internal training as well. Seek the inner peace and centering your training provides, which you are more likely to use than the physical skills. The odds are you will encounter the yeller, the screamer, the vexation to the spirit. While everyone is in overdrive, the inner calm from training will be the most commonly used, and is greatly needed.