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To study a combative art is often a paradox; we hope that our training will never be needed. This is akin to the saying that “soldiers pray for peace, but hope for war.” And while we hope that we will be able to rise to the challenge of a self defense situation, we often hope we never will. Unfortunately, the world can offer many opportunities for us to rise to the challenge of defending ourselves.
As a teacher, I also feel this paradox – I pray all our students will be safe, but hope that the training will be proven useful, as well as my ability to teach people to protect themselves. In the end, however, it is ultimately up to the student – there is only so much a teacher can do.
I received a text message from one of our students, Edgar Gonzalez, describing an encounter he had over 4th of July. Apparently, Edgar was with his father-in-law, a 70 year old man, when four drunk guys decided to instigate a confrontation. When the first individual got on top of the father in law, Edgar sprang into action:
“He had him pinned [against a car], and I applied a choke on him to pull him off. I made sure not to put it on too tight – but I was ready to if he decided to try and [resist].”
Apparently, one of the three other friends thought this was a good idea, and also attempted to apply the choke on Edgar:
“I sank my hips, so he didn’t get it into my throat. Instead, his arm went across my forehead. I grabbed his index finger and began pulling it back. He started yelling ‘he’s breaking my finger!’ The other two tried to attack, but I was using this guy as a shield: they didn’t have an opening to attack.”
Finally, some neighbors broke the fight up, and the results were an exchange of heated words before the parties went their separate ways.
This is quite possibly the perfect demonstration of what we train for, and how we should respond.
While most of the techniques we study can cause grave injury, we are also learning how to control that power – to only do enough necessary to diffuse the situation. Rather than breaking limbs and causing terrible injury, this student was able to use restraint so that while the attack was defeated, the opponents were not gravely injured. There was no ambulance, no arrest – only the safety of the parties involved.
This is the idea of the Bujin – a Warrior God: to be so in control that you can defeat any opponent without necessarily hurting them. Rather, the opponent chooses how much pain is necessary. Granted, if the individuals were not just some drunk guys suffering from machismo, but were actually intent on causing severe harm or death, things could (and would) have played out much differently; but it was ultimately up to them to escalate the situation, and solicit the response from our student. And I am confident he would have been able to rise to the occasion.
When I asked what he was feeling, he said:
“Even though this was all happening, I was still calm. I was sure I would get the adrenaline kick, but I stayed in control.”
I always am full of doubt; I am always questioning myself as a teacher and what we teach – it keeps me from getting complacent and keeps me training. However, moments like these are a huge validation for me in regards to what we teach and how we learn. It’s one thing to talk in theory in the safety of a dojo, but it’s another to see theory translate into reality. But again, it comes down to the student, and Edgar did nothing short of perfect.
…it comes down to the student, and this student did nothing short of perfect.
To illustrate how this situation connects to our training, and all the different elements that this student utilized, here is a short list:
- Calm Mind, Calm Body – A phrase we say in training; student was able to keep a clear head, which allowed them to control their response
- Multiple Attackers – Understanding how to prioritize attackers, and remain safe when attacked from multiple angles.
- Sankaku Jime – “Triangle Choke” taught in Takagi Yoshin Ryu, Eri Shime Waza
- Ketsu Miyaku – “Tightening Vein”; choke counter taught in Gyokko Ryu Koshijutsu, Ju Ryaku no Maki
- Taihenjutsu – “Body Changing”; using positioning to remain safe from attacks within a technique
- Randori – “Chaos Capture”; applying technique in uncontrolled, non scripted scenario.
- Bujin – “Warrior God” Concept of being in total control, allowing the attacker to choose how the fight will end.
So while I truly pray that each of you never have to use your training for self defense, I do hope you will use what you’ve learned to rise to the occasion. Glad you’re safe Edgar, and thanks for letting me share your story.