Joined: 20 Nov 2003
Location: Atlantic Canada
Styles: Shotokan (Ryukyu Kobujutsu, Iaido)
|Posted: Wed May 02, 2007 8:45 am Post subject: Awareness
|When I was in elementary school, I was not a violent kid but I never backed down from a fight. I never thought twice of fighting to defend a close friend, either. For many years, it was never an issue. It was just fighting. Fighting was bad but if you weren't a violent person and you had to fight, well, then it was kind of OK. My father being a police officer was also helpful as he let me know the legalities of fighting in Canada and how you could legally defend yourself before any physical altercation began. (Well, try to anyway, in this increasingly litigious world.) By the time I was in grade 6, a fundamental shift in my thinking happened. I decided to just stop fighting because fighting in junior and high school was a much more serious matter. For one thing, the kids are stronger, taller and much more emotional due to the many physical and mental changes that age has along with it.
That was how I rationalized not fighting anymore. But, until recently, it is what I honestly believed. I wasn't fighting because fighting had become serious business now that you could genuinely, seriously injure someone. This could also have had a lot of other problems that I didn't want to get into, such as a violent reputation, arrests and lawsuits as well as friends and family possibly getting hurt as a result. Now, in retrospect, around grade 6 was when I had become more serious about my martial arts training. Back then it was Shin-Shin Toitsu for a while and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It was the mentality of a martial artist that was developing and I didn't even notice it.
It was all about non violence.
I would not call it pacifism per se but what I would call it is a growing awareness of a body's potential at breaking and injuring another person's body and spirit. Becoming proficient in a martial art such as boxing, Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Hung Gar, etc. means that you have the potential of being quite proficient in injuring or possibly killing. This innate (for lack of a better word) potential of hurting someone had somehow been developed into a proactive awareness. I would walk down the street and evaluate potential danger spots, situations and people. It wasn't bad, it didn't make me paranoid and I don't believe it impacted my academic studies. But, it did make me better understand fear and how useful a tool it is. Overnight, it seemed, I gleaned an in depth understanding of a kiai and some of the techniques a martial artist was using. (As an adult, now I know that was a rudimentary understanding of the proper use of technique to intimidate but that's not what I want to talk about in this article.)
So, here I am, a young kid entering junior high. I moved on to Karate and the lesser known martial arts of firearms and ballistics (dad is a gunsmith, as well) and my confidence was growing in leaps and bounds. At the same time I was constantly aware of what was happening in the world around me. Maybe not what was said or the subject matter, but I was aware of any potential threats to my body. So, it came to the forefront of my mind one evening while walking home from my girlfriend's house.
She lived 20 minutes away on foot, about five in my older brother's car and that night was one of many that I was walking. Crime isn't so much of a problem where I live, though. Hardly anyone locks their doors and even more won't bother to remove the keys from their ignitions when they're home from work. Nevertheless, a young fellow walking home at night, "far" from home, can get himself paranoid through his own means. That night, it turned out I didn't need it, as two kids began walking behind me seemingly from nowhere. In glancing behind myself as I crossed the street, to get to a well used shortcut, I noted that one was much taller than the other. He must have been about my age. The other was shorter and kept speaking to the taller one. He was focused entirely upon me. The first warning bell went off in my head and I heard them arguing back and forth but couldn't make them out.
Immediately, I began playing scenarios of them beating me up, me defending myself, me running away and, of course, me kicking some butt. All the while, fear was looming and it came to the fore when I had suddenly realized that both of them were now way too close for comfort. The taller one had not bothered picking up his feet and, as a result, he scuffed his shoes on the sidewalk. So, I was well aware of how close they were, then. Too far to jump and grab but close enough so that if they took a run at me, I'd have to turn and face them. I wouldn't have the time to run before being grabbed. It was at this point when the reality of the situation hit me and that made my system dump some adrenaline.
I immediately forgot everything and focused on what was probably going to happen. I remember getting angry and starting to psyche myself up, focusing on the scenarios where they grabbed and I beat them all up and down the block. That's when it happened: nothing. No fight, no scrap, no yelling and screaming, nothing. The kids had followed me for the express purpose of putting fear into me. To control me and get some stupid thrill of having power over someone.
I had been terrified, yes, who wouldn't be? They're two and I'm one. One is definitely able to fight me and the other old enough to hurt me if I was busy with his friend. As I finished the walk in relative relaxation, dealing with adrenaline shakes and some other furtive emotions, I realized that I didn't need to get angry and I sure as heck didn't have to worry. So, that's when it happened. Someone from out of nowhere came up to me and grabbed my shoulder. I screamed and thrust out with my leg and the guy went to the ground. Since I'd subconsciously decided to stay and fight those kids and was still hopped up on fear, anger and adrenaline, it was perhaps the worst moment that guy had selected to grab someone. He fell into a heap and made some kind of noise. I realized some things which were really very important. First: he dropped something. Second: he was HUGE. Me at 14, I was slightly larger than average... this guy was fully grown. Third: he was trying to get back up and he was angry.
I couldn't run - the legs weren't working, so I decided to stick it out. I settled into a fight in which I was definitely not the favorite. But, before either of us could hit the other, he yelled that I wasn't the guy he was looking for and to move on before his friends came over. It was then I realized that I had been walking by a house party and three more people were out on the house's steps, drinking beer. My legs suddenly worked and I made them move. As a kid at that age seeing fully grown adults sitting with beer on their step was a sign: stay away. I got out of there as fast as I could. I checked back at the top of that street and I wasn't being chased, but the guy I'd kicked was being helped to the house. I was suddenly filled with an intense shame with a curiously satisfying glee mixed in. I'd succeeded in taking care of myself, but I'd also stopped being aware of my surroundings. I would not have gone near a loud and active house party at that time of night under normal circumstances. Instead, I would have chosen another route to avoid any possible interaction with anyone at the party.
I learned several things. First: some situations can suck but fear and anger can be controlled so learn them and maintain awareness. Second: remove yourself from the situation as fast as possible. Third: that guy REALLY should not have grabbed someone that late at night, despite thinking he knew me or not.
As an adult, I think back on that from time to time when I talk to anyone about awareness and avoidance. These aren't tools of shy or scared people. These are actions of responsible individuals. In the rarest of cases it can mean a slim difference between nothing happening and getting caught up in a life threatening situation. I am still aware when I am walking or driving and I feel safer as a result even though the crime rate here is very, very low. It helps me to remain mentally disciplined as well and I find that this flows through to other aspects of my life and training.
So this, then, was my first introduction to the non physical martial arts and if you have never known this then I hope you will benefit from it as much as I have. A martial art doesn't have to be punching, kicking, strategy, calculations, et al. It is also very much a non phsyical discipline and if we can build upon these seeds, we will have a foundation to build from which will provide us with many rewards later on.
The best victory is when the opponent surrenders
of its own accord before there are any actual
hostilities...It is best to win without fighting.