An Elmore-onic Editorial
The martial arts are full of many self-proclaimed self defense instructors. In some styles, self-defense training is a sideline aspect. Many other schools specialize in teaching students to protect themselves in modern day confrontations. There is certainly nothing wrong with wanting to protect yourself or your property.
Most of the popular martial arts magazines are full of advertisements using emotionally charged scare tactics to attract students. These commercials often show an ordinary person being assaulted by one or more hoodlums. The bad guys are often armed with knives or chains. In some cases, the person attacked is depicted as successfully fighting back, while others imply dire circumstances for the untrained individual.
Such rhetoric is not limited to the print media, either. For example, the following is is an actual quote from an Internet website devoted to self-defense:
The attitude of martialism [sic] is predicated on the idea that society is full of predators. These predators can and will injure and violate you to take from you that which they have not earned.
Some of society’s predators covet your property. Some desire your body. Some simply hate you for being you. All will use violence against you (or they would not be predators).
In a world of 'martial' artists who support gun control, consultants who preach the Gospel of Victimization, and complex or even silly fighting systems with no relevance to today's world, many individuals come to the conclusion that to fight fairly is to be more vulnerable to defeat. All self-defense involves risk. The martialist [sic] understands that to take every advantage possible is to hedge his or her bets -- to better the odds of success in the face of an attack.
Such unsubtle appeals are reminiscent of the old bodybuilder advertisements, where the stereotypical bully kicks sand in the face of the 90-pound weakling before walking off with his beautiful girlfriend. After purchasing the program, of course, the former 90-pound weakling is almost instantly transformed into a bodybuilder and later seeks revenge against his tormentor to win back the girl.
Such emotionally charged tactics appeal to our innermost fears and insecurities. We all want to believe that if we just use a certain brand, we'll be more attractive or more successful. Marketing specialists understand this and use it to promote their products all the time. It works for everything from cologne, deodorants, even to breakfast cereals.
People sign up for martial arts classes for many very different reasons. It might be for sports and competition. It might be an interest in the historical aspects or the opportunity to learn oriental traditions. Some simply want a good physical workout. Many are seeking a practical form of unarmed self-defense, often based on such. When examining the facts, though, the premise that predators lurk everywhere and we are all subject to constant dangers really has no basis in reality.
"Society is full of predators..." On what facts does the author base this assumption? Most would point to media reports, stories related by other victims, or even personal experiences. Yet, this is anecdotal evidence at best and has no scientific or logical validity.
The media is full of such horror stories because they sell. People apparently like to hear about such incidents. Whenever words with strong connotations like "murder," "rape," or "sex" are in the headlines, newspaper street sales increase dramatically.
The more bizarre the news, the more popular it appears to be. Readership surveys repeatedly show legitimate news magazines like Time or Newsweek are the most popular. Yet, emotionally charged magazines such as The National Enquirer and World Globe [ 1 ] I couldn't find a source for a "World Globe" magazine. actually have higher readership based on subscription rates.
Of course there really are predators within our society. Certainly they exist. One should be prudent and take reasonable precautions. The point, though, is what is prudent and reasonable? How much should one be concerned?
Whenever an airplane crashes, the news is full how many passengers were injured or killed. A few people might take such news accounts to heart and refuse to ever fly on any airline. Yet, the news would be pretty boring if it was just about how many thousands of flights arrived safely at their destinations. It’s not reasonable to completely avoid traveling by airline just because some tragic incidents do occur and dominate the headlines.
To be constantly concerned that you might be a victim at any moment based on anecdotal evidence or such flagrant emotionally charged scare tactics is just as unreasonable as refusing to fly because you heard about a plane crash. Most of us actually have a much greater chance of being maimed or killed by a drunk driver than becoming the victim of a violent assault. Becoming paranoid is not a reasonable response.
Even more frightening than the use of such scare tactics to create hysteria are the responses many of these so-called self-defense experts recommend. Most students assume their martial arts instructor is experienced and will provide them with good solid information. Yet, following their advice may easily result in their followers sitting on the wrong side of a courtroom. Many so-called self-defense experts are actually encouraging illegal actions, often without realizing the full ramifications of their ill advice.
Some rationalize their responses with a false moral imperative, even recommending their students take the initiative if necessary to prevent a potential assault. In other words, "a good attack is the best possible defense" or "you have the moral right to respond violently to any perceived threat."
For example, the following recommendation about how to defuse a verbal confrontation was recently posted in an online forum by an author and expert on self-defense tactics:
One way that I have used with success is to say, 'Listen, I don't want to fight you. If we fight, best case scenario we both go to jail. I don't want to go to jail, do you?'"
If he says he doesn't care or anything other than a negative, hit him. He has just verbally signaled his intentions to fight. If he says no, move on."
Say, 'Listen, I have apologized (been civil, didn't do anything wrong, offered you the chair, whatever) and as far as I am concerned it's over. Is that cool?'"
If he answers anything other than 'Yes, its cool,' hit him. You have made every effort to verbally de-escalate and he has shown every indication to become physical."
Although the attempt to come to some mutual agreement is valid and worthy of merit in such situations, the response of striking your opponent just because they disagree is likely to result in a free ride to jail. No one has the legal right to strike another person in anticipation of an assault. Witnesses are likely to report who struck first, and in most cases, that can result in both criminal and civil liability.
As social creatures, we create and maintain intricate networks consisting of family, friends, peers, and even strangers. To maintain such complex relationships, basic unwritten rules of conduct are generally accepted. Although these social contracts are not legally binding, people act in accordance to these guidelines for the most part and usually behave in an acceptable and expected manner.
The real problem arises when someone violates our expectations and behaves abnormally. Our unwritten rules of conduct are often inadequate. They do not offer clear direction for responding, especially if the behavior is aggressive and we feel threatened or are even actually injured as a result of such unexpected actions.
In such cases, most rely on our written codes, the laws enacted to define acceptable and expected behavior within our respective societies. If assaulted or threatened with imminent attack, most states allow the use of "reasonable force," that is, a response which is not excessive and is appropriate to protect oneself or one's property. Any person is justified to respond with reasonable force and is not criminally liable, according to most legal statutes.
On the other hand, a person, even if defending themselves or their property, may be held accountable for using "excessive force," that is, any response considered beyond the need and circumstances of the particular event or which is not justified in the light of all the circumstances.
To suggest any individual has the moral authority to defy society’s unwritten rules of conduct or written codes is irresponsible. Who determines what moral authority is in this case?
|^ 1||I couldn't find a source for a "World Globe" magazine.|