By Bradley J. Steiner, American Combato
A martial art, if it is truly martial (that is, “of or pertaining to war”) encompasses unarmed combat and armed combat.
We see unarmed combat and physical readiness as the foundation upon which physical and technical skills are built. In fact, this is nothing new; it is exactly how the martial arts of the world originated. That is, not as sports or mere esthetically satisfying fitness builders, but as systems and methods of engaging enemies in battle—during war.
Later on, as the weaponry of nations became so advanced and sophisticated as to minimize hand-to-hand close-in combat and became much more technological, the unarmed combat of the classical arts became sports, and the personal weaponry part of the arts took a distant back seat to crew served machine guns, mortars, canons, etc.
The personal combat that once dominated warfare in ancient times has been surpassed by technological combat. Such infantry as exists today is normally utilized following bombardment by sea and air. And while hand-to-hand close combat is still taught to military personnel, unarmed, knife, stick, tomahawk, and so on, if and when taught, is allotted only a minimal amount of time.
We would, were we in charge of the American military, establish a very rigorous and complete close combat program. By becoming well versed in the art of combat much more than technical physical ability develops. That is, an all-important sense of what to use and when to use it naturally evolves as the combatant becomes truly expert.
Many who resort to violence at the first slight hint of what they think of as “disrespect”, or a challenge to their manhood, or as a need to quickly beat someone—before he beats them, do so because they are not skilled enough to feel the inner confidence that comes from being genuinely prepared.
A very unfortunate misconception that prevents some parents from enrolling their children in self-defense courses, and that also blocks a lot of adults from considering the study of serious close combat is the completely erroneous idea that training in how to deal with violence by using overwhelming violence automatically makes the individual aggressive, anti-social, and belligerent.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact it is the person who lacks skill and confidence in his abilities who is the most likely to become needlessly volatile, and get into avoidable encounters with others.
A serious lack of self-confidence accounts for why some bullies (not all, by any means) do what they do. They seek to bolster their own poor sense of personal strength, efficacy, and formidability by dominating those whom they feel certain cannot fight back. The obvious and clear solution to a youngster’s problem with a bully is to teach him or her how to defend himself. A powerful retaliatory action taken by surprise and leaving a bully injured, humiliated, scared, and aware that he has indeed picked the wrong person, will make further attempts to bully the one who defeated him very unlikely.
Concern over excessive force by law enforcement officers is everywhere being expressed today. In point of fact the overwhelming majority of police officers are not inclined to be excessively violent.
However, the very nature of their workplaces puts them daily in situations where some degree of force is necessary to control, arrest—sometimes even knock out or worse—an offender. It must be done.
The best if not the only way to ensure that force will be employed appropriately is to make certain that by the time a police recruit graduates basic academy he is thoroughly prepared to handle violence—with violence. When you know and feel that you can do whatever needs doing to a suspect if he resists or attacks, you have no problem using discretion and attempting all available alternatives to seriously injuring him.
Quality teachers of combat skills and self-defense will always emphasize the need to avoid trouble if at all possible. Only when it becomes clear that you are in danger do you drop all restraints and deal with your aggressor viciously and without mercy. Why? Because that is what violent predators do when they move on their victims.
Having sufficient and serious training in what to do and how to engage the situation mentally, a person is most likely to apply the right amount of force required by the immediate circumstance. Training—the more the better—is what goes most certainly to assure that appropriate and necessary force will be rendered.
The police officer has certain advantages since his department will always provide him with definite guidelines relevant to the use of force against suspects or/and assailants. Guidelines cover the officer’s use of his hands and feet, his sidearm, his baton, and any chemical agents he may be equipped with. In basic academy he is also taught verbal and interactive skills. For the police officer the rule is: follow the mandates as set forth by your department or agency.
The private citizen faces a different problem. He is not indemnified by a law enforcement agency and the city, state, or federal government for whom he works. His job is not to be prepared to look for and deal with troublemakers, but to avoid trouble and resort to force only when no alternative exists. Whether with bare hands or with a properly licensed weapon, the only time the private citizen should allow himself to employ force is when danger to his life or to the life of another innocent person is imminent. Otherwise…walk away, run away, apologize, do anything reasonable and feasible to NOT allow a situation to escalate.
Any instruction that advocates “fighting” (other than in a sporting context) is going to get the student in deep, serious trouble one day, and it may well result in his being imprisoned or/and heavily sued in a civil court. Quality instruction in close combat and self-defense for the private citizen should emphasize avoidance as the first and most desirable option as far as dealing with any troublemaker is concerned.
We stress this again and again and doubtless there will be morons who object to the advice, viewing it as not being “macho” enough. To hell with those idiots. But our concern is providing the best possible advice that we know of for those who are concerned about self-defense. And this is exactly what we are doing.
Only if, and when actually attacked—confronted by imminent danger—should your skills and combat attitude be summoned and directed. And when that happens, if God forbid it ever does, waste no time or energy on talk, reasoning, restraint, sympathy, compassion, ethics, decency, or concern. Just go get the assailant! Bring your mind, your spirit, your strength, your speed, your resolve, your skills, and every ounce of your determination to bear, and do not hesitate or pause, but keep on attacking until the assailant has been neutralized and you are safe.
Question: “What about people who are annoying but not dangerous, or what some have referred to as ‘mild attacks’; you don’t seem to offer an option here?”
Answer: Any attack by someone who you either do not know personally to actually be a mere pest, or by a stranger, is serious. You cannot afford to assume that what is initiated as a “mere” wrist grab, arm grab, clothing seizure, shove, etc. is in fact not serious. Murders have been initiated by smiling approaches! The fact that an adversary’s first move is not destructive or damaging may be only because he is a clod. He may follow-up that “merely annoying” move with a knife stab, a powerful punch to your face, or some other seriously damaging action.
Sorry…but without being able to read minds it behooves you to assume the worst when you have no solid reason to believe no real danger is in the offing. View self-defense skills as weapons. Not merely those skills that actually involve weaponry, per se, but unarmed skills, as well.
There is a very good reason why self-defense techniques need to be damaging, dangerous, simple, and doable for life: Real world violent attacks are extremely dangerous, and they are directed against persons of both genders and all ages. And this is also why you do not use self-defense techniques—which must be harmful and vicious in the extreme—until or unless you find yourself in real danger.
To knockout, maim, cripple, or kill a human being is a terrible thing. It must only be done when there is absolutely no other alternative, in order to prevent an innocent individual from being knocked-out, maimed, crippled, or killed. The purpose of martial arts training is to ensure a safer, better human society…not to give license to wild animals.

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