Self-defence experts

Written by Graham Kuerschner

Don’t believe everything we tell you…

Does your own experience of violence reflect the words of experts?

I was intending to write on another subject, but just before making a start I decided to clear up a few emails. One in the inbox was an email article from a US-based ‘self-defence expert’. I not only took issue with the content of his article, but also its tone. In this and several other articles he invited readers to email in their views on a question he posed and then in the next article he would elaborate on why the replies he received were all off the mark as though only he knew. The word arrogant springs to mind. This type of instructor doesn’t have students, he has followers. I’ll get to the detail of his article shortly.

As I was mulling over his comments, a disturbing thought went through my mind: Am I any different? How do I come across, and why should people believe me? What does my X-number of instructor certifications and Y-decades of so-called experience mean anyway?

Well, my position is that you should never blindly accept what anyone tells you and, in particular, don’t believe everything we so-called self-defence experts say. Our experience of this subject called violence is limited because the subject area is just so large, spanning nuisance attacks to schoolyard fights to rape, robbery and attempted murder, across so many settings, from domestic and workplace violence situations, to on-the-job incidents in security, law-enforcement and the military.

Not one of us so-called experts are likely to have had hands-on experience in all these areas, nor have we actually used even a fraction of the physical techniques we know in real application — that is, actual person-to-person combat. So we speak from limited experience and we speak through the filters and limitations of our personality and intellect.

What we so-called experts generally espouse in articles like this, and my compatriot’s email articles, are not truths but beliefs. Beliefs are assumed truths; things we assume, based on our current evidence and experience to date. If you have different evidence or experience, then your beliefs will likely be different.

As I have said in previous articles, if something I or others say rings true for you, then hold it as a truth, but hold it lightly for now and discard it when it doesn’t serve you anymore. And remember, your truth is not necessarily somebody else’s.

Now, back to the article that started this. My compatriot’s article was about why, in his opinion, you can’t learn to take a punch. It seems he was on a rant about those martial arts demonstrations where a guy bends a spear, the tip of which is placed against his body, or is punched simultaneously by a number of students positioned around him, etc. This sparked some debate in his student community about the value of this sort of training and whether one could in fact train to take a punch.

He made some bold statements: “I can almost guarantee that the area of your body you chose to ‘condition’ will NOT be the area attacked in a real situation.” Wow, that’s a good one. Then there was: “You can’t condition the body for real violence.”

These are beliefs — his beliefs, his opinions. They are not facts or truths, just beliefs. He presented no solid evidence for these assertions and only a weak line of logic (my opinion, of course). I agree with him that the demonstrations he refers to are just simply that. And second, yes, there are areas of the body that are difficult if not impossible to toughen. The simplest evidence of that is the accidental eye-pokes and groin-kicks that cause time-outs in the UFC to be given to guys you would have to classify as tough.

But my experience and my evidence, both in respect of myself and of my students, contradict this guy’s assertions. My experience has shown me that you can most definitely make the body (or should that be the mind?) tougher and better able to take punishment with less adverse affects. That’s been my experience with Muay Thai, grappling and full-contact eskrima. I have had this experience with a sufficient number of students to believe it holds true for all. That’s my belief.

My evidence contradicts the assertions of this so-called expert. And equally there may be direct experience or evidence that you believe contradicts something I say in these articles. Fine. Truth is not an absolute. Above all, don’t believe everything we supposed experts tell you and certainly don’t take it as absolute truth.

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