The Will To Survive

This past week I was reading in the book Meditations on Violence, by Sgt. Rory Miller.  Some folks feel you have to be in lethal encounters in order to have anything intelligent to say about violence.  I hear this from time to time.  I understand the whole notion that leagues of martial arts and self-defense instructors possess no touchstone to reality.  Maybe some really do hide deep inside their art, which is comprised of a set of movements and strategies developed in another century for an entirely different set of fears and circumstances.  But I guess the problem is this alternative: does one have to go out and pick a fight, or specifically drop oneself into the lion’s den in order to gain valuable insight?  Experience is a powerful teacher, indeed.  But, as the author admits, every situation carries with it its own set of variables.  No two encounters are alike.  What happens in one scenario may or may not inform another.  The interesting thing to me is that people without training or personal experience in the so-called “reality” of violence successfully defend themselves in a trial by fire.  How is this possible?  For instance, what gives a teenage girl the ability to improvise and stab her would-be abductor with a ballpoint pen and get away?  My best guess is that she possesses a strong will to live, conscious or not, and at that moment of reckoning, she decided in a heartbeat that she would not be a victim.  Regardless of an instructor’s art or personal experience in the ways of violence, if he or she develops the ability to instill a sensibility in people that their lives truly matter, then much has been accomplished!  Be wary of any instructor that tells you he or she has THE way and THE solutions, and spends a lot of time trashing other ways and other instructors.  I really lose my patience with people who waste time doing this.  Use critical thinking, yes, and as the JKD philosophy states, “absorb what is useful” for your mind, your body and your environment.

There is an interesting anecdote in the book about the author trying to convince a young woman that she has the ability to defend herself.  She believes she cannot do this because she has unsuccessfully defended herself against previous boyfriends in play fighting.  Rightly so, the author says this activity has no reflection on reality, since she possesses no real intention of harming the other individual.  He asks her to imagine a 200 pound man holding an 8 pound cat.  Then he asks her to imagine someone throwing water on this cat.  What happens?  She replies that the cat goes “berserk” and is impossible to control.  So, what are the implications of this that we can apply to the woman?  She believes the cat has an advantage because it uses its claws and teeth.  He leaves her with something to chew on: AND YOU DON’T?  A great analogy.

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