There is a common conception in the martial arts world. It goes something like this.
“Never misuse your knowledge. Always avoid a confrontation when possible. The best fight is the one that never happened”.
Back in the 5th century BC Sun Tzu, a Chinese military general and strategist, summarized this in his classical work “The Art of War” as follows: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
I totally agree that a strong and confident person will never show off his skills. Moreover, strong people are kind people (but not the other way around). But here is a puzzle I am facing after having practiced martial arts for five years now.
If I assume MA make a student stronger, faster, more technical and agile, and so on, isn’t a fight the best prove of this? In other words, is a fight situation not best for testing your knowledge?
Many will respond this is what competitions are for – testing you fight skills and spirit with an unknown opponent. This is true to a certain degree. However, all competitions are very far from real street conflicts.
First, the competition rooms normally have enough space, light, good surface, protection gear and cheer up teams.
What would you do though in a one-to-one confrontation in a dark small street? Would you perform worse, better, or the same? With no one around, shoes and clothes making it more difficult to move, possibility of a weapon coming up, and adrenaline boiling in your veins?
Second, even though competitions have an element of surprise (you don’t know your opponent), this is a way far from a real life-threatening encounter outside the training room.
Last but not least, some martial arts, like aikido for instance, do not have have competitions at all.
Does this all mean a martial arts student try to turn any potential conflict situation into a fight?
Certainly not, Besides, the more your train, the lest conflict situations you encounter, either in personal or professional life.
I have had to use my taekwon-do knowledge only once, defending against an adult drunkard on an evening tram in Budapest. That experience brought me lots of inspiration and confidence. At the same time, I think, that’s when the seeds of the Dilemma started to grow in my mind.
At the moment I don’t know how to resolve this puzzle. I only hope that with further training I will have a better vision how to match the desire to have a life physical encounter experience and the need to control yourself and stay out of trouble.
I guess my position at this stage is this. Try to avoid any potential fight as hard as possible. Don’t take unsafe routes. Try to talk it down if a conflict starts heating up. Give away your money if your are threatened with a gun. Yet when the need comes, when your life is under thereat and may finish off stupidly, when there a family behind your back, or your girlfriend, or anyone you love and care about, you must not hesitate and give a decent answer to an aggressor.