On this forum we’ve had numerous discussions about various combative contexts and how what works very well in one context can be disastrous in another. There is no universal “one size fits all” solution to all the various forms of fighting, conflict and violence. To my mind, asking if a given method, technique or tactic “works” without defining “works for what?” (i.e. the context) is fundamentally flawed. Even in the world of “real violence” there are many differing contexts i.e. working as a bouncer is different to working as a prison officer is different to civilian self-protection is different to body-guarding is different to domestic violence and so on. We need to accurately understand the nature of the environment(s) we are preparing for and to clearly define our objective within that environment in order to know what will work best. It’s only when we understand and have carefully defined the problem that we can propose the best solution.
All that seems pretty obvious, but that’s not how it tends to play out. Within the martial arts / self-defence world we often see “solution defining problem” as opposed to “problem defining solution”. What I mean by this is that people will take any given skill set (normally one they are personally invested in) and then work backward to reinvent violence in the hope of convincing others (and themselves?) that the solution they already have / want (even if it is the answer to a different question) is the ideal way to approach all contexts. This is particularly prevalent when it comes to self-protection.
As an example, I’ve came across many karateka who will try to make the case for one-step sparring (of the “single lunging punch from 10 feet away, stand there and let the defender win” variety) and it’s relevance to self-protection. To do this they need to reinvent violence as the “one step methodology” does not work outside of one step practise. Some will take a step back and say that such practise is really about “principles”, timing, distancing etc. However, this is also flawed as it is logically impossible for non-applicable techniques (as we see in one-step practise) to be based on applicable principles; in the same way you don’t get an apple tree growing from an acorn. When principles become manifest in technique, those techniques always reflect the nature of the underlying principles. One-step “principles” are therefore not the same as self-protection principles. The timing and distancing of one step training is also different to the timing and distancing of violence in a self-protection situation. Violence needs to be reinvented in order to get the pre-existing “solution” to fit.
It’s not just traditional martial artists who do this either. For example, we can also see MMA people making the case that deliberately taking a situation to the floor is fine in a real fight. The good MMA people I know, who also have an interest in self-protection, fully understand context and will state that submissions and staying on the ground are for use in the competitive environment only. However, there are others who, like their traditional counterparts, will reinvent violence to fit their favoured “solution” i.e. “most fights end up on the floor anyway” (even if that was true it does not mean you should actively seek it), “you can’t fight more than one person at a time so training one on one all the time is fine” (escaping is generally the best option and constantly seeking to engage and fight to the finish runs counter to that), “in a group situations people tend to fight on a one on one basis” (no they don’t and career criminals are not looking for a fight but to get what they want without a fight), and so on. The point is that “square goes” are not the same as the violence faced in self-protection and they have differing objectives too. To make competitive MMA the ultimate self-protection solution we again see a need to reinvent the problem so the “solution” can fit.
Factions within the RBSD world are also guilty of reinventing violence. An example is the kill or be killed, better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6, street fighting stuff. “Street fighting” is a term that I’ve never seen accurately defined by those that use it. The problem with this is that “fighting” is not the best solution to civilian violence; therefore “street fighting” is not the same as self-protection. Vital skills like threat awareness, escape, de-escalation, knowledge of law, etc are not parts of “fighting”. Further, protecting yourself from potential violence / violence is legal. Fighting in the street (as good a definition of “street fighting” as any) is illegal. Revelling in the brutality of violence and the many ways in which maximum harm can be inflicted without ever touching upon how that violence can be avoided is again reinventing the problem in order to have extreme levels of violence as the only solution. This approach promotes engaging in avoidable violence which could lead to unnecessary injury, legal problems and even death. There is also something very unhealthy about it. Despite the claims to the contrary, “street fighting” is not a practical solution to the reality of civilian self-protection. Violence within a civilian context is again reinvented to remove all legal consequences and to ignore the non-violent solutions to violence (awareness, avoidance, escape, de-escalation, etc). Solution is once again defining problem.
Within my study and practise there are many things which have no or little relevance to self-protection. I enjoy a degree of “art for art’s sake”. Aside from the application / bunkai of kata, I like the way solo kata practise makes my body feel. I have enjoyed the physical chess of sporting ground-work. I enjoy exploring the combative methods of antiquity. I like the “play fighting” of the dojo. They are all fascinating to me and they are fun and rewarding. I don’t need to reinvent violence in order to justify my practise of them. They bring their own justification. If we want to practise things just because we want to practise them what is wrong with that? Why the need to manufacture a link to self-protection?
If we truly want to address the reality of self-protection we first need to understand the problem and then ensure our solution flows on from that understanding. We also need guard against the propensity for “solution defining problem”. Finally, we need to move away from the desire to always justify all aspects of our training and practise by reinventing violence in order to generate links to self-protection for everything we do.
This is a topic I feel will be interesting to explore and I’m interested in everyone’s thoughts on the reinvention of violence and “solution defining problem”. As part of that, I’m also interested in why people feel there is often this need to make the link to self-protection for all areas of training? What is wrong with doing something because it is interesting or fun? What is wrong with training for fighting within a given context (sport / set of rules) and openly and honestly not caring about its relevance to self-protection? What other common examples of reinventing violence have people had experience of? Why is “solution defining problem” so common? I hope this will be an interesting and useful thread for both members and visitors.
All the best,