I wanted to write this for some time, but it was Marcus’s recent post that prompted me to finally do so. It will probably be a bit rambly, I am not Shakespeare after all.
As is not unexpected for someone who was really badly bullied in my childhood and even in high school, I have dabbled in martial arts a bit in an attempt to learn how to defend myself from bullies. It started with a bit of karate, then a bit of aikido, and then I gave it a pass because I have come to the conclusion that it is mostly useless and way too much effort for way too little gain. I still have some interest in them, purely theoretical, so I do occasionally watch youtube videos about martial arts and self-defense. And they have more or less confirmed this belief.
You see, in order for any martial art to be any practical use whatsoever against a dedicated – even untrained – attacker, one has to spend an inordinate amount training them and keep oneself in good physical shape. And even then, in an actual confrontation, there still would always be a huge luck factor that can completely do you in and that is a fuckt. Especially when weapons get involved. Any weapons.
I am glad to live in a civilized country that regulates weapons sensibly, not too little like the US, but also not to a ridiculous degree like UK or Japan, or AUS, so I have never encountered the level of threat that Marcus is describing. I have also successfully avoided the military draft, thus I have never had the dubious pleasure of encountering a loaded weapon of war by having to handle one, let alone to be in the presence of a maniac handling one. The closest I got to a firearm was when I was a kid and could shoot a varmint rifle for one day and that was it. I never needed a gun, never was threatened with one either. The only violence that I was threatened with was a physical altercation that would, at its worst, probably result in a black eye and perhaps a concussion. Not that those are pleasant, but this level of risk does actually allow one to employ the best self-defense there is – running away.
Occasionally when I mention this in comments on YouTube, someone answers that that is a great way to get shot or stabbed in the back, which always makes me LOL. Being shot is not a great risk around here. It is not zero, but it is not on anyone’s radar. Even a mugging is most likely to involve at worst knives. And getting stabbed in the back while one runs away is just ridiculous, try to sprint and stab a target that moves at the same speed away from you if you do not believe me.
One of the self-defense and martial arts YouTube channels that I occasionally have watched in the past, hard2hurt, has made a whole video criticizing the strategy “run away whenever you can” which I have considered completely ridiculous. AFAIR, his main argument was that it is not easy for an untrained person to outrun an assailant. Well, duh? However, the untrained person still has better chances to outrun him than to subdue him in a fight, since there are fewer variables involved. And if you train martial arts, you are most likely fit enough for running faster than Joe Schmo too.
If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, do your best to de-escalate and/or comply (hand over the valuables). If that fails, do your best to get away. If, and only if, that fails, is the time to fight – and at that point, you have probably lost anyway because you were caught unawares and were harmed before you could actually do any of the previous steps anyway.
That’s not to say martial arts are completely useless. They can be a great exercise if you have a body that benefits from one (I don’t). Visiting a martial arts club can also be a great opportunity to meet with people and make friends. Some people do enjoy competitions and that is fine too. Some people like all of those things and some more and that is just dandy. But any student of martial arts should not kid themselves that what they are doing is learning how to be invincible in a confrontation. And any responsible sensei should and would drill into their students that avoidance of confrontation is far superior to martial arts mastery.
All that said, I have used my minuscule martial arts skill a few times in my life, from that twice to get out of an assailants’ grasp and get away from the confrontation. If I were trying to “stand my ground and teach them a lesson” I might have won, but I also might lose. I would definitively suffer some damage. By running away I may not have “won” in the macho sense of the word, but I also suffered no damage, which is a win for me. But a bit of knowledge of martial arts did allow me to run away in the first place.
Last I would like to say that MMA is in this context just a useless as all the other “traditional” martial arts. In my opinion, in most cases, the useful parts of all martial arts are not the subjugation levers, armbars, chokeholds, kicks, and punches. Outside of the controlled and rules-governed ring, those are useful to the assailant, not to the defendant. To the defendant are useful other things – the dodges, pressure points, evasions, safe falls, and, above all, being in good enough shape to run for it. And getting those is possible even in martial arts that are not well suited for competitive fighting.