Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Moment of Truth

Bruce Lee once said (to paraphrase), "when faced with the enemy, don't look for an escape route. Be ready to lay down your life." As modern practitioners of the martial arts, are we really prepared for such an event? Is your dojo a crucible for the real world? More to the point, do we have what it takes to properly respond to a life-and-death situation?

The following is a story taken from a report by the Associated Press dated Friday, 2/23/07:

A party of senior citizen American tourists were sightseeing from a chartered van while vacationing in Costa Rica. When they arrived at their destination, they all began to off board the vehicle when gunshots were heard. Three men donning ski masks rushed the elderly group. The apparent leader of the trio held a gun to the head of a female tourist and announced a robbery, while his accomplices beckoned the rest with knives. One of the tourists, an ex-serviceman in his seventies and trained in self-defense, somehow managed to free the hostage with the help of the others and subdue the gunman with a devastating headlock/choke hold. The maneuver proved to be fatal as the robber was later pronounced dead upon arrival at a local hospital. Costa Rican authorities wouldn't charge the American and cited "self defense" as just cause for his actions. The slain robber, Warner Segura, 20, had a rap sheet which included a history of assault charges. His accomplices remain at large at the time of this writing.

Although the official statement of this good Samaritan may never become public, I can say with certainty that he did not ponder, reflect upon, or consider the possibilities of "what ifs" prior to his heroic deed.

This time, justice prevailed.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Colin Wee said...

"Is your dojo a crucible for the real world? More to the point, do we have what it takes to properly respond to a life-and-death situation? "

Speaking with my self defence instructor's hat on, the one thing I noticed was that participants would come to my course with a lot of expectations - some apparent, and some vague. However, one of the most important things I make sure to communicate is that the self defence course does not give the participant the commitment to engage in self defence. Any person coming to my course is told that they must ... aside from the course, make the decision to accept that they have to and can take physical action if approporiate to their needs.

Is the Dojo a crucible for real world or life-and-death situations? While I think I'm training my beginners right ... and they are effective for the rank-specific techniques I train them in, I will have to say it is not a crucible. To be a crucible, each and every lesson will have to apply much more pressure onto the student - and less time with technique and learning. This comes much later ... intermediate and senior students may start to taste such training.

But currently ... with a limited budget and limited time, such training is also ... limited.

It is wise to objectively consider different aspects of training. This blog has been valuable .

Colin

6:33 AM  
Blogger Gordon White said...

Hi John,

another great post. I am sorry I don't have much to add on this topic,as sometimes happens, but I do always read, and enjoy your posts!

thanks!
gw

4:40 PM  
Blogger John Vesia said...

Thanks, Colin:
While I think I'm training my beginners right ... and they are effective for the rank-specific techniques I train them in, I will have to say it is not a crucible. To be a crucible, each and every lesson will have to apply much more pressure onto the student - and less time with technique and learning. This comes much later ... intermediate and senior students may start to taste such training.

These things can't be rushed. And of course how much "pressure" a student can handle has to be approached with discretion. Most students don't realize that rank was originally implemented so the instructor could determine ahead of time what was appropriate for the trainee (as opposed to a goal-setting device).
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Thanks for the kind words, Gordon!

2:03 AM  
Anonymous Dave Shevitz said...

I'd like to echo Colin's sentiments a bit.

You can study technique, and you can study strategy, but nothing can give you the courage to act under fire when you need to most. I've heard from ex-servicemen who said that they were surprised to find that those they thought could handle a firefight would buckle, while those who they thought would be too terrified to act would act bravely. You just don't know when until the moment arrives.

What makes things worse, in my opinion, are schools that claim to be a "crucible for the real world" when in fact that are nowhere near it. This gives students a false sense of preparedness that could be quite dangerous.

3:55 PM  
Blogger Colin Wee said...

"These things can't be rushed."

After training for eight years in my first MA, I moved countries and joined another school as a black belt. Up until that instance, I had relatively few 'contact' sparring hours. When I got to the states, I was invited to a place where you only fought rounds. On average, it's 3 minute x 8 rounds. The first time there I almost lost it ... and was nearly reduced to a sobbing mess. It took me about 6 months to get used to it and a further year to start figuring out some new skills. You're so right ... this all takes time, and can't be rushed.

Colin

8:12 AM  
Anonymous blackbeltmama said...

Have you ever read "Living the Martial Way" by Forrest E Morgan, Maj USAF? One of my instructor's recently gave me a copy and I think you would enjoy it. He discussed exactly this in his book. He says that everyone who trains in the martial arts much learn to appreciate the fact and train based on the fact that each battle will have a winner and one who is defeated and defeat often means death. He also discusses how techniques must be learned and then the person you're working with must gradually build up to attacking with full force. Otherwise, you just might not be ready.

What a brave man you wrote about! Good for him! Maybe they'll think twice about trying that kind of thing again since one of their own is dead.

10:38 AM  
Blogger John Vesia said...

Dave:
I've heard from ex-servicemen who said that they were surprised to find that those they thought could handle a firefight would buckle, while those who they thought would be too terrified to act would act bravely. You just don't know when until the moment arrives.

Indeed. Jung had something to say about the role-reversal phenomena you mention - the persona or mask some people show on the outside is not necessarily revealing about who they really are, or what they're actually capable of doing given the right circumstances.
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Black Belt Mama:
Living The Martial Way. I've had it for years. It's one of my sources for my writing. My copy is falling apart from constant use. I can't recommend this book enough. Whether someone is just thinking about joining a club, or is a 10th dan with decades of experience, Morgan's book is a must have for the martial artist of any style. I especially enjoy his treatment of what he believes is screwed up and downright phony with some of the modern practitioners. He pulls no punches and tells it the way it is. Some of his anecdotes about his time spent in the military and how they relate to certain aspects of the martial arts make for excellent reading.

1:48 AM  

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