Q&A: Motivation to Violence

I hope you don’t find this ask inappropriate. I wanted to ask this to someone who knows a form of martial art and I happened to see your blog, which even if it wasn’t for this question, would make me very happy. Why would someone learn how to fight if they don’t plan on using it on someone? Just for the atlethic aspect of it, maybe? Still, I have a bunch of characters training in a school and to think they’re pacifist doesn’t add up.

The fundamental misunderstanding is that people are training to fight. When you’re studying a martial art, you’re studying that martial art, in most cases, you are not learning to fight.

Relatively few martial artists train to use their skills in combat. They’ll train for fitness, they’ll train for spiritual reasons (and, no that’s not a stereotype), they’ll train to simply learn a new skill. It’s a hobby, and people engage in it for the same reasons they’d pick up any other hobby; to better themselves. A lot of kids are enrolled in martial arts classes by their parents as an extracurricular activity.

Martial arts can become a job. It can be your gateway to the entertainment industry. If you’re good enough (and lucky enough), there are places for martial artists in exhibition, competitive sports, stunt-performers, and fight choreography.

The only thing that would be, “training how to fight,” in that list is competitive sports. This is also not an exhaustive list, I took Shotokan in college for the PhysEd credits, as did most of my class. It sounded more appealing than some of the alternatives that fit my schedule, and I needed those credits to graduate.

I’ve mentioned this before, but if you’re training in martial arts for live combat, you don’t train to fight, you train to eliminate your foes. This is a very fine distinction, but if someone trains to fight, and you train to kill, when they try to fight you, you will kill them.

Let me explain this a little more extensively. Training to fight has an end goal of the fight itself. The fight will continue until one or both combatants are exhausted and cannot continue, or until one yields.

Training to kill has your foe’s death as its goal. This means, you can dispense with as much of the fight as possible. Just kill them. To be efficient, you need to work towards that goal with every action. Turns out, if you know what you’re doing, you can get there very quickly.

Self-defense is similar; it doesn’t take much to create a situation where your foe is in no condition to peruse you. You don’t need to fight them. You don’t want to fight them. You need to delay them long enough to escape. That’s easy, and (say it with me now) you can get there very quickly.

So, let’s step back and talk about something completely different, pacifism and self-confidence. There’s nothing wrong with being a pacifist. It’s not a binary state, most people will have a spectrum where they’ll eventually say, “okay, violence is now warranted.” This may be in response to violence. It may be to protect someone else. It may only be to protect themselves. It’s a rare case where someone will adhere to their convictions and refuse to use violence to defend their own life.

If you’re studying martial arts for spiritual enlightenment, it’s entirely possible, probable even, that you’ll start to develop a pacifistic streak. You’re looking at the world differently now, and you’ll probably see violence as less necessary.

If you’re studying martial arts for any other reason, you’ll probably start to develop a pacifistic streak. If you’re having trouble following that thought process, let’s talk about violence.

Nobody goes to violence as their first method for problem solving. However, for some people, violence is the first available method. Either, they don’t see how other methods could achieve their goals, or they don’t believe other methods would be effective. So, they resort to violence.

If you don’t believe in yourself, it’s difficult (or impossible) to believe you can defuse a situation. If you need to project raw confidence, that’s not an option.

If you lack self-confidence, even minor slights can be perceived as far more biting than intended.

Humans are territorial animals, and if you’re insecure, anyone invading your territory can be very threatening. (This can mean literal space, it can be social, or it can be intellectual.)

In any of these cases, a provocation can result in violence if one party does not see a non-violent option.

The irony is that martial arts training will boost your self-confidence. Meaning you’re more likely to see viable, non-violent options when antagonized.

For an example, take a kid, put them through rigorous training that gives some real self-confidence, and they will be better equipped to deal with the adversity the encounter in their life.

Now, martial arts is not a panacea, not everyone reacts the same way, but training can help you see non-violent options. It can help you differentiate between situations where violence is appropriate, and ones where it unwarranted. It can give you the confidence to defuse a dangerous situation.

In the strictest sense, this is not pacifism, however, from the outside, the difference is academic.

Now, to think that everyone in a martial arts class will have identical outlooks is a little unrealistic. You’ll always have outliers. You’ll always have differences of opinion. These are still people, not a hive mind. However, you are going to find that any long term students will have some degree of respect for violence. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have remained.


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