In my final installment of Self-Protection Prolegomena, I'd like to summarize nearly two decades of my life. No, seriously. Nearly two decades. By so doing I plan to not only finish up the opening thoughts for the study group but lay out a course of study for the following posts.
In the late 1990s/early 2000s three important events took place in my life. The first was my conversion to Christianity. I won't go into detail here because it's not the subject of our study group but if you want to email me I'd be delighted to discuss that further.
I bring it up to lead to the second thing, namely that I met the woman who would become my wife. There's as interesting a story there as with my conversion but again, I'm not going to discuss that here; email me and I'll share that, if you really want to hear it.
The third thing that happened in the that time period was that I distanced myself from the martial arts subculture. This is what I want to discuss today because it has much to do with why I have established this study group and why I reach out to people and teach the way I do.
I was newly married back then and was becoming far more aware of how the things I took for granted in my life were affecting me. I was still dealing with the emotional toll the past few years had taken on me and how I viewed myself in light of that. It was a period of time that, while it was helpful in many ways, was exceedingly difficult for me.
However, as is often the case, those difficulties generated some really amazing results in my life. I'm sure you've noticed the same thing with your own trials; eventually you get to a place where you can look at the lessons you've learned and perhaps you aren't as put off by having had to deal with those struggles as you were early on in the struggle.
Anyway, my point is that one of the things that I began to see in my own life, and in the lives of many of the people with whom I was spending time, was that there were traits and actions that weren't exactly healthy, from an emotional perspective.
We were immersed in the "fight culture." We ate, slept, and talked about fighting and martial arts. Almost all of what we watched were martial arts instructional videos or fights on VHS tape or pay per view (I just dated myself with the VHS tape reference!).
Along the way, shortly after my conversion and marriage, I began to notice things about myself with which I was uncomfortable. I realized that I didn't "fit in" with the non-martial arts world. I've written about some of that previously on my website so you can go check that out if you want.
But the problem was deeper than just not quite understanding why people didn't want to train as often as me or in the way I wanted to train. I started to see that I didn't have the ability to relate to non-martial arts folks the way I wanted and the way I should.
Here's what I mean: Those folks didn't watch fight footage all the time. They didn't see people as potential fights waiting to happen. They didn't rub their shins down with Icy-Hot to train muay Thai without pads, and then laugh and boast about it.
Now, I want to make the distinction clear here that when you're training to become competent in any skill, martial skills included, you will be separated from those who don't train. That's a fact of life and I'm not saying anything other than that.
What I AM saying is that during that process it's important to recognize and understand the reasons that you're training in the first place. Sure it's fun and there are great people that you'll cross paths with along the way. But it's also to become as competent and confident as you can be that you're able to protect people you love and yourself in very difficult circumstances.
That desire, to fight and protect, in and of itself, separates you from many. But it doesn't have to distance you from them. You ought not to become so immersed in your studies that you lose your sense of self and become something with which you aren't comfortable. You ought not morph into a martial arts junkie to the degree that you can't interact with a non-martial artist. You shouldn't crave the violence, even though you have to be prepared to embrace it, should the need arise.
That's what I saw in some of the people around whom I was hanging. I saw an unhealthy desire for violence and a bloodlust that put me off. I felt myself getting pulled into a world that I didn't think was logically consistent with my beliefs and desires for my wife and future children. So I respectfully distanced myself from the martial community and began a private course of study and training.
There's more to be written on that portion of my life but I'll save that for later. My point in noting this to you is that I've seen the worst elements of our subculture and have no desire to replicate it in your life or in my own. I do not wish to turn anyone else or myself into someone who craves the conflicts for which we train. I do not want to promote mentally and emotionally unbalanced people who cannot interact with the "outside world" because they're "all about the fighting."
These self-protection skills we're discussing and training are tools in a toolbox. Skilled craftsmen love their tools but I do not believe that they are defined by them.
I've expressed it this way: When I'm changing my oil I don't use a power saw (unless things have gotten way out of hand!). I use the proper tools. I know enough about the process and myself to know that the right tool for the job is available in my toolbox and I should use it.
I was imbalanced, in the past, in that I only had physical tools in my toolbox. And just like the old saying goes, "When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail," I had fighting as the lone tool in my toolbox, and when I was exposed to other people and other things, I saw the deficiency in that line of thinking.
Fast forward to the present. I've got years of education, training, teaching experience, and experience with human nature and how people think. There are more tools in my toolbox, so to speak. When I made the decision to start this study group and get back into teaching self-protection I brought those years of experience with me.
As I close the Prolegomena for the study group I want you to recognize that you will receive instruction and education in physical self-protection. And yes, it will involve dealing with the physical realities of biting, eye gouging, knife attacks, and even gun fights. I won't deny that because it is a fact of life that must be addressed.
But we will deal with this as craftsmen and not addicts. We will not become transformed by the darkness or give in to our bloodlust, should that be a problem for some. We will take a serious look at these things and deal with them accordingly because if we do not, if we simply allow ourselves do get sucked in to the darkness, then we will have lost the most important self-protection confrontation, namely the one we engage in on a daily basis.
In sum, we will be in the world of violence of thought and action, but not be of that world. The books we read, the articles we discuss, the instructional videos we watch, and the real-world events we analyze will be to the specific end of becoming better protectors and will not perpetuate the stereotype that defined my existence in the late 90s/early 2000s of the martial arts guy who can't see the value of anything other than the "fight game" in his life.
Until next time,