Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Chris from over at small flightless bird asked some interesting questions about my environmental considerations post. They seemed important enough that I am dragging them up level and addressing them here.

Chris asks,


Mushtaq,
You often seem to imply that you're more focused on studying martial arts not for artistic, historical, or competitive purposes but for actual real-world self-defense.

That is, I suppose, quite accurate. The “natural theatre” of martial arts is found in extreme physical conflict with another person or group. Martial arts are after all literally “The Arts of War”.

My question is, have you ever found yourself in a situation where these skills have saved your life, or prevented injury?

Many times over the years, mostly in a professional capacity, a few times in a private capacity.

I have worked, and sometimes still work, in what are called “high risk professions”. I have done all manner of bodyguard work and I have picked up money when needed by working as a bouncer in all manner of establishments (from high class strip joints to seedy biker bars. I knew I was very desperate for work one time when I took a job at a bar called “The Bearded Clam”, three fights a night was considered a quiet evening).

The reason I'm a bit confused is that although you seem to be a thoughtful, peaceful person, you often advocate being ready to defend yourself, which seems to me to be based on a high level of mistrust of those around you.

Well, (he said, slipping into “teacher” mode) I wonder if you could come up with some other reasons that a person might have for being ready and willing to effectively defend themselves?

I ask this because the assumption that one must have a high level of distrust is erroneous.

Let me offer you a thought. The level of real freedom you have is in direct proportion to your ability to prevent yourself from being physically coerced. In more civilized parts of the world, the coercion is most often implied rather than overt, the local government tells people how to behave in a very polite way, but has men with guns to come and take you away if you do not follow the rules. This is not a big problem as long as there are to things in place. One, the government needs to be controlled by its citizens, two, the citizens have to be willing to allow enough room for a difference of opinion on matters that do not have life or death consequences. (For instance, drinking and driving have life and death consequences for the society; your choice of religion does not).

The problem is that every government on the planet would like to have all its citizens be dependent, and most people, in my experience, are too lazy to pay much attention to what their government is doing.

Outside of the “first world” this sort of thing is a bit more in your face. In Tanzania, assaults and robberies happen on a daily basis. You as an Mzungu (person of European decent, including the descendants of African slaves) will be a prime target. I would bet good money that you could not walk by yourself from one end of Arusha (which is really quite a nice town) to the other without getting robbed.

Most of the world outside of North America and Western Europe is in fact quite dangerous.

So trust people.

Trust your friends to watch your back.

Trust strangers to act in their own self interest.

Trust people to only do what they think they can get away with.


I'm speaking, of course, from the point of view of a young Canadian whose life has probably been much different from yours (not to mention shorter, so far). But I'm sure I would rather not live in a perpetual state of readiness and fear; and I wouldn't like to live in a society where everyone around me is just waiting for me to jump them.

I would not want to live in a state of perpetual readiness and fear either. That is not the only choice.

I try to live in a state of awareness of the real. One of the things I have learned about people (including myself) is that the hardest thing for any of us to do is see what is really there. If you can see what is really there, then you will be afraid when appropriate, relaxed when appropriate, and you will not be blinded by the content of your own habits.


I'm sort of skipping around some of your earlier posts (e.g. on gun control, etc) but I still feel that this is a sort of fundamental question I always want to ask people who learn, one way or the other, more effective methods of hurting or killing other people.

Being more effective at killing other people is military martial arts. I am more interested in civilian martial arts, which is much more about the ability to prevent violence being done to you.

Let me suggest that you do a self assessment.

Are you able to stop someone from dominating you without recourse to police protection?

Are you able to provide for your basic needs (food, shelter, water, etc.) without recourse to an externally controlled infrastructure?

How effectively can you spot dangerous situations and avoid them?

The degree to which you can answer each of these questions is the degree that you have real freedom.

Or so it seems to me.



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