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Fighting Isn't A Failure

True or false: “If you have to fight, you’ve already done something wrong.”

If you’re male, or female but educated in self-defense primarily by males, you will say True. If you’re female, aware of the dynamics that most commonly lead to real self-defense situations, you will say False. If you teach self-defense, and want your students to understand those dynamics, you will say, It’s a pile of crap, and believing it could get you killed.

The whole, “If you have to fight” notion has its place. When you’re teaching and training aggressive young men who believe physical strength is the measure of their worth—and are itching for the chance to prove themselves worthy—getting them to control their impulse to fight is necessary. It’s also valuable for teaching the basic principle of self-defense: avoiding a confrontation, by reading the situation and/or removing oneself from it, is an excellent protection technique.

But in the real world, it’s of little practical use, and believing its absolute truth can indeed get you killed.

I imagine the originator of the quote assumed most fights would be between two men—likely an escalation of a disagreement, or perhaps an interruption of a criminal act, or even a war undertaken when negotiations went sour. So sure, your first step should be to deescalate the situation and avoid violence. Maybe the quote is meant to imply folks who don’t want to be attacked should avoid attack-rich environments–the clichéd dark alleys and isolated parking garages. Okay, fine.

But it ignores the fact the majority of “fights” women will face in life don’t happen in dark alleys and scary places. A woman is most likely to be attacked in her own home, without warning, by someone she knows.

And if you teach self-defense or martial arts, and you don’t know that fact, you are putting your female students in danger.

By telling a woman she should always avoid a fight, you encourage her to let dangerous situations escalate beyond what she might be able to counter. By telling a woman the fight is an indication of failure, you insult the woman who decides to fight when attacked in her own room, in her own bed, by a man who has deliberately earned her trust.

And if you believe having to fight means you’ve done something wrong, I don’t want you on my side should a fight ever come around. I want the partner who knows it takes both parties to resolve a conflict, but only one to decide violence is a better idea. I want a partner who knows from experience that life and people are unpredictable, the bad guys don’t let you choose when an attack happens, and you don’t always get a heads-up before someone takes a swing.

Fighting back is a choice, not a failure.

Coming next: We Already Knew That on the odd habit men have of discovering sparring techniques aren’t effective in a real fight, and the assumption they should tell the women-folk (as if women weren’t already acutely aware of it).

Crossposted at Blair MacGregor Books.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 25th, 2013 07:00 pm (UTC)
is meant to infer folks

I think you mean 'imply'. Sorry.
Nov. 25th, 2013 07:18 pm (UTC)
Oh, don't be sorry! I appreciate you pointing out the error.

You're absolutely right, and that's what I get for editing and chopping up sentences in a hurry. :) I shall correct it now.
Nov. 25th, 2013 11:23 pm (UTC)
"...If you’re male... you will say True...."

No I bloody won't.
Nov. 26th, 2013 01:47 am (UTC)
You know, you're absolutely right--and your rightness exposes my own too-narrow view. I sometimes get so focused on addressing what I see and hear as harmful assumptions, that I fail to see the numbskull assumptions I'm making in the process.

So I do apologize for making a sweeping statement that would certainly, were it directed at me, raise my hackles, and I thank you for pointing it out.

I'm tempted to edit the post to correct my error, but feel that would be at some level dishonest. So I'll let it stand, and hope others who share your reaction will read this in comments.
Nov. 26th, 2013 05:34 am (UTC)
Thank you. That was considerably more gracious than my comment, and I have to say I find it admirable.

Some people attack for no reason. Not a bad reason, no reason. I have a scar corresponding to just about every time somebody has said to me, "What did you do to cause so much anger?"

These people are complicit.
Nov. 27th, 2013 06:17 am (UTC)
Well said! When a woman has to fight, usually it's because someone else is doing something wrong.

My Kung fu master would train us women separately from the men sometimes, focusing on 'Disable and Flee'; including some very nasty techniques for damaging important parts really fast. Because most of the time when a woman fights, it's for her life, against a considerably larger and stronger assailant, and what matters is survival.

Sparring techniques? Haha, no. Break something and get out of there; the longer the fight goes on, the more likely one will lose it, because "the bigger they are, the harder they hit", and pain only makes them stronger. Guys may be able to do the stand-up Fight Club thing, trading blows, but a woman can't fight a man that way, because he can afford to take the blows, and she can't.

Ideally, of course, one would flee before the attack, but that's not always an option.
Nov. 27th, 2013 02:55 pm (UTC)
Well said! When a woman has to fight, usually it's because someone else is doing something wrong.

It's often *without warning,* and that's the key piece some folks who teach self-defense don't like to acknowledge. Those teachers would much rather reassure students there will always be an opportunity to walk away, run away, or avoid altogether if proper situational awareness is practiced. It's a nice, comforting fiction.

Because most of the time when a woman fights, it's for her life, against a considerably larger and stronger assailant, and what matters is survival.

Or when she fights, it's against a family member or someone she considered a trusted friend, and that person will take anything less than serious pain infliction as consent and encouragement.

... but a woman can't fight a man that way, because he can afford to take the blows, and she can't.

The woman from whom I learned much of my self-defense taught me to think of self-defense in terms of my strength against the attacker's weakness. What is stronger than an attacker's windpipe? My knuckles. What is stronger than an attacker's eyeball? My thumb. And so forth.

Fighting determines who is the best fighter. Self-defense determines who will survive.

In one of Mary Gentle's Ash novels, the female lead tells the man she doesn't have to be stronger than he is. She just needs to be strong enough to kill him. That's understanding the different between sparring and survival. :)
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


Blair MacGregor

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