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Gary Chamberlain
Gary Chamberlain's picture
Walking away ...

It may just be me, but I wonder if anyone else feels this way?

I know that walking away from a potentially explosive situation always makes sense.  From a legal point of view and from a self-preservation point of view, controlling your emotions - whether they be fear or temper - apologising, even if you are not at all sure how offence has been caused, and removing yourself by the first available safe route is always the best option.

But why do I (we?) always feel bad about it afterwards?

The last situation I walked away from - which was a minor traffic dispute and certainly not worth prison for - I really felt afterwards I should have just smacked the guy in the face.

Strange isn't it?  I spend a lot of time drilling core skills and keeping them sharp and I know not striking someone is always the best option.  And yet I agonized afterwards over my decision to walk away.  I suppose inside this 55 year old (sensible) frame the combative young man (who took no s***) is still bursting to get out.


PS It did me a favour.  I've trained harder since.  (Goes back to sharpening his tools ...)

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Everyone (well especially young males I think) always has this deep desire to SHOW people when they are wrong, teach 'em a lesson.

The problem is, most people you feel this way about can't be taught the lessons you want to teach them, in the way you have the urge to. So, doing it is fruitless for you and for them, even if it feels like you should

It's just part of the human condition, nonetheless you did the right thing.

I feel that while showing restraint isn't always easy, it is almost always rewarding and beneficial in the long run, especially where violence is concerned.

shoshinkanuk's picture

I see what Gary did was appropiate, but is walking away really ALWAYS the right thing to do?

I'm guessing the perps will just find someone else, is that really right?

JWT's picture

It's the difference between what we as individuals perceive as justice and actual due process and what the law allows.  The law gives us many freedoms, but if were to take action every single time we felt aggrieved we would soon cross the line into a vigilante society.  While there are many perpetrators of criminal acts who might be felt by many to 'deserve' physical chastisement, could we guarrantee that in such a vigilante society we'd be safer?

I've noticed today that the gentleman who offered to throw an abusive teenager off a train and (I believe) did so with the  permission of the ticket collector has been charged with assault.  Let us hope that he can find a lawyer who can prove that it was necassary for him to do so.

If you think of the action movies you enjoy... how many of them are resolved through illegal acts of violence rather than due process?

miket's picture

I think its an 'ego' question, Gary.  i.e. the part of your psyche that 'feels bad' afterwards is an 'identity' piece of who you are.  You made the right choice, but you need to be 'comfortable' afterwards with the fact that doing the right thing is 'enough', and any discomfort you feel is (I would argue) rooted in your ego.

If you look at it, "ego" is the underlying fuel in an individual that fires most 'dominance based' (Miller) violence to begin with...."Hey, you can't talk to ME like that, buddy", "What're you looking at, ***hole", and the like, etc.  The motivator behind such challenges is ego.

Stupid as it sounds, I think this is 'why' its importnat to have an underlying ethical structure in martial training (Or in life generally, it doesn't need to COME from training, but the two go hand in hand).  Can you have martial arts without an ethical structure?  Sure.  It looks like RBSD or MMA.  But an ethical structure helps people 'process' or 'cope' with such events.  At leats, that's what I believe.

So, with these remarks I am not trying to insult you in any way or say you are an ego-maniac, just talk about these concepts generally.

Or, in a word, I am trying not to 'bruise your ego' by my remarks, see?)   The avoidance of violence and 'saving face' (in general) then becomes the deliberate choice to try to let the other guy escape with his ego intact... even if he is an ***hole in traffic.

From an ethical perspective, the point becomes for us to become people who operate (i.e. make choices) from our values, not our emotions.

Which you did, kudos.

Gary Chamberlain
Gary Chamberlain's picture

The worst thing for me is knowing that people only front up to you in that way because they don't see you as a threat. Now, while it's nice to blend in and not be one that invites trouble, it would still be nice to have that aura that makes people think twice then reconsider. Maybe I'll get over this when I grow up ...

;) Gary

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture


Possibly yes they will just 'do it again', but unless you are a LEO or member of the judiciary, you have neither the tools, nor the jurisdiction to mete out justice! So while we might convince ourselves that we are acting to prevent him from doing x y or x in the future, the answer is probably more ego based.

Of course the situation is important here, we might need to intervene for someone's safety etc. and that is a different thing, though I assumed that was not what Gary is talking about.

michael rosenbaum
michael rosenbaum's picture


I understand completely. I'm a big advocate of walking away, but afterwards feel that I should have done things differently. Where I have the most problems is with younger guys.  For some reason it seems they don't take you seriously as you near 50. A couple of years ago a teenager said to me "old man I'll kick your butt." The only word that registered with me was "old" and without thinking I reached out, grabbed the young man by his ear and drug him to the ground. He immediately began screaming blood murder, telling me that I was hurting him, etc, etc. I thought to myself "Oh, and just a minute ago you were a real bad guy, someone who was going to teach me a lesson."  Like a friend of mine always says, "An old Tiger, is still a Tiger." I'm 50 and you can call me anything you want, except old.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

I had an issue a few  years ago where a teenager (seventeen or so...so legally a minor) came up to me with three of his friends and did his damnedest to get me to hit him, which would have likely resulted in me going to jail..or him and his friends jumping me together.

I wanted to hit him so badly I can't even describe it, my wife was there and later she said a big part of her even wished I had beat the snot out of him,. However, luckily a cop showed up and dispersed the )(*&-talking session, and it's best that I didn't do anything, it would have had a bad result either way.

PS: Michael, that is an awesome story, I can fondly imagine my Dad doing the same thing (seriously), Ha! I'm too far away for you to get my ear.

Gary Chamberlain
Gary Chamberlain's picture

I agree.  The only good result is walking away without court or hospital visits.  That's the logic.

But unfortunately adrenaline doesn't come in logical doses.


shoshinkanuk's picture

Zach your point about stepping in is very true, it does change things when others are suffering - I have done this several times with no negative effect.

In fact one of the chaps I dealt with does seem to have changed as a result, he talks to me fairly frequently and says he has changed his ways in relation to crime. This is a rare thing of course but in a small local town a difference can be made with right action, sometimes.......................

Grasshopper Jeff
Grasshopper Jeff's picture

I have to agree....walking away is best.  For those on this group not in LE, it is a pain even when you have the tools the the 'right' and you still have to walk away (not tune him in (on or off duty)) for the greater public good.

I imagine it is more difficult as a citizen (civilian non LE). Especially if you have the training those on this group do. To be confronted, be able to clear his sinuses with a well place mae-geri, but not doing so.....that has to suck!  But when it is right it is right.

Remember is easier to not shoot then have to explain why you shot afterwards. 

shoshinkanuk's picture

Theres also a case for less serious situations, you don't have to kill the bad guys all of the time!

Shoto's picture

great topic gary, i do feel the same way afterwards. but thats what MA is about, right? controlling ones emotion in serious situations...

diadicic's picture

It is my belif that this is what the real deep breathing if for.  To clear your head to get a handle on things.  It does work at least for me.  For those who live in the states and do security work some have to carry  fire arms and this is where control is a must.   Also with Tasers, Peper spray, billy clubs, black jack  or whatever non leathel weapon your state and organization allows.


karatemonkey's picture

your not alone in wondering why you walk away,even though we know its the right thing to do,even the clever thing to do.the last time i had to walk away i was fuming with myself,still was weeks later.

then i tried to go through what happened and to my amazement i realised that the young testosterone pumped young buck was never really a threat to me.

he was loud and brash,maybe brave but never a threat.he got close enough to get a broken nose but he never was a threat,he shouted every obsenity he knew but was never a threat,he said he would kill me and he knew where i lived,blah blah blah.

but what i realised is that all time during our little chat i could have taken him anytime quite easily but i didnt.now thats not the type of thing smokers say when the talk about quitting"i can stop anytime,just dont wanna"it was true,i saw my targets and knew if he had overstepped the mark i would strike,but he didnt.sure he was loud as i said and he spoke about me as a twat but he didnt actually do anything.now i know that if it had escalated and i had hurt the guy i would have been in the wrong and if the police had got involved i would have been arrested.

so my training helped,it helped me stay calm when the other guy got out of control,helped me see the situation was not as bad as it might seem and unlike in my younger day when i would have gone in all guns blazing,i didnt spend the night in cells.

lcpljones_dontpanic's picture

Hi all

This thread reminds me of an incident about 2 years back which really did get to me after. My wife and I were in Switzerland visiting and staying with her cousin and her husband. We had gone out for the evening and were having a drink at a bar. The cousin's husband (lets call him Olivier - as thats his namewink) starts talking to two guys and woman on a table behind where me and Olivier are sitting. Now my French is basic but from the tone I picked up that they were not exchanging pleasantries.

As I was about to suggest we leave and go elsewhere, Olivier turns to me and in front of our wives informs me that the two blokes have asked him to fight with them down a side street and would I come with him, to which I duly tell him not to be so bloody stupid and that no I would not. The four of us then get up and leave without further incident but with me bloody fumingangry that this excuse for a male genital appendage has tried to get me involved in a pointless street fight, in a foreign country, over who knows what, while i am on holiday with my wife.

When we eventually get back to their house he starts being an even bigger and more annoying sphincter by saying stuf like he was disapointed that I would not back him up and that with my professional and martial arts background I should not have been afraid to fight. Now this was where I was begining to start feeling justified in letting the genie out of the bottle but knew that it would not go down so well with the boss with us being family and all.

So me and the good lady wife retire to bed where I get next to bugger all sleep because I am seething. I knew I had done the right thing in not getting into his little spat at the bar and knew I had also done the right thing in not physically educating the oxygen theif in his wrongful attitude and behaviour, but that does'nt help with the little voice in the back of your mind taunting you. The following day we made our excuses and left for home early and I have managed to avoid having anything more to do with the specimen since, thankfully.

It just goes to show though that we can practice our threat awareness and avoidance so far only to almost be scupppered by those we should be able to trust. 

Gary Chamberlain
Gary Chamberlain's picture

Some great posts here - thank you.

As a youngster I had a pretty combative attitude and often got involved in silly stuff rather than 'lose face' with my friends.  But looking back I was just being a pratt.

These days I try and channel that into a competitive attitude, which finds release through training etc. Not through needless confrontation.  Doesn't always work but we can but try.

I like part of the RKC (kettlebell) instructors code:  Exhibit restraint, the hallmark of a professional.


Andy Shipton
Andy Shipton's picture

Great post Gary, and thanks for highlighting something I'm sure we've all felt at sometime. I'm always fascinated by this kind of interspective post, as I think these posts really highlight the mental aspects of conflict whether its physical, verbal, or mental, and really are worth contemplating. Basically how do we get over our own internal "enemy", and no I don't have the answer, just thought I'd let you know your not alone. 

On a seperate but similar note regarding the internal/mental aspect of conflict and how the internal " enemy" messes with us. I remember being out in a club in my younger days when three "silverbacks" were giving somebody a really hammering. I stepped in pulled one off, pushed one back, and punched the third. All three backed off and after some posturing left the club. I remember feeling really calm and unaffected by it and totally in control (this doesn't happen often).

The very next day, I was in a multi-storey and getting more frustrated trying to find a parking place, which resulted in me pipping my horn at woman and her kids to hurry up. It was at this point that she came over and verbally "tore me a new backside" about being paitent and how she had her kids with her, and what a dick I was being.  The adrenaline dump that hit me was huge, and stayed with me for about four hours.

Now what's that all about?  

Gary Chamberlain
Gary Chamberlain's picture

I can understand that completely Andy.  In the first scenario the adrenaline did it's job, while in the second no release meant it was churning around hours later.

Maybe after any drama a hard bag session is the very best remedy, getting that adrenaline used up and clearing the decks of any lingering feelings of "I should've ..."

Pictures on the bag are optional smiley


Andy Shipton
Andy Shipton's picture

Agreed mate,......LOL

Stuart's picture

As a young lad I'd never walk away, now as a middle aged father with a good job and a nice family life I have way too much to lose by not walking away.  I also now I'm older and my ego softened by 22 years of marriage I rarely feel bad about walking away either, as someone mentioned previously I'm not interested in teaching an idiot a lesson. That's not to say I've reached a Zen state of mind as I can still kick off if my wife or daughter's threatened in any way.

I guess there will always be situations you cannot walk away from for various reasons. It could be that you may have not been paying attention and the situation has gone past the point where you can just walk off. Or where walking away allows the continuation of the threat.

For example my 16 year old daughter had a problem recently with a bully at her school. This girl, bigger than my daughter - not hard my girl's tiny, had been bullying my daughter and her best mate for a few weeks. Initially low key stuff but gradually increasing in nastiness and frequency - my daughter walked away. Any way it all came to a head when this bully hit my daughters mate across the back of the legs with a lump of wood, knocking her to the ground and then stamping on her. Then when my daughter got in the way to help her mate and this girl stamped on my daughter's feet.  My daughter helped her mate up and they walked away but my daughter had begun to realise that walking away was actually escalating the issue with this girl.

Now as adults we say they should have gone to the teachers, and they should, but she's not a toddler and remember what it was like when you were at school - did you run to the teacher as a teenager? So a little later in the day my daughter's waiting for her mate in a school hallway when this bully walks up to her and says aggressively "What do you want?" My girl thinks she's going to get hit so floors this bully with a punch to the face.

End result, the bully gets a rather swollen and bruised face and told by the schools welfare officer that they hope she has learned that there are consequences to her bullying - she has history. Her dad was apparently, and I quote, "given a few home truths" about his daughter and my girl gets a cake and told next time to let the school deal with it -sorted. Oh and the school don't seem to think 'anyone' will be bothering my girl again LOL.

Personally I think the real lesson is don't pick on the little ones, especially if they also happen to have trained in karate for 8 years and hold a black belt . :-)