There was once a very famous Aikido player in Japan who spent his whole life studying Usheba's legendary art. Although he had dedicated his whole existence to this beautiful art he had never actually had occasion to test it in a real life situation against a determined attacker, someone intent on hurting him. Being a moralistic kind of person he realised that it would be very bad karma to actually go out and pick a fight just to test his art so he was forced to wait until a suitable occasion presented itself. Naively, he longed for the day when he was attacked so that he could prove to himself that Aikido was powerful outside of the controlled walls of the dojo.
The more he trained, the more his obsession for validation grew until one day, travelling home from work on a local commuter train, a potential situation did present itself -an overtly drunk and aggressive man boarded his train and almost immediately started verbally abusing the other passengers.
'This is it,' the Aikido man thought to himself, 'this is my chance to test my art.'
He sat waiting for the abusive passenger to reach him. It was inevitable that he would: he was making his way down the carriage abusing everyone in his path. The drunk got closer and closer to the Aikido man, and the closer he got the louder and more aggressive he became. Most of the other passengers recoiled in fear of being attacked by the drunk. However, the Aikido man couldn't wait for his turn, so that he could prove to himself and everyone else, the effectiveness of his art. The drunk got closer and louder. The Aikido man made ready for the seemingly inevitable assault -he readied himself for a bloody encounter.
As the drunk was almost upon him he prepared to demonstrate his art in the ultimate arena, but before he could rise from his seat the passenger in front of him stood up and engaged the drunk jovially. 'Hey man, what's up with you? I bet you've been drinking in the bar all day, haven't you? You look like a man with problems. Here, come and sit down with me, there's no need to be abusive. No one on this train wants to fight with you.'
The Aikido man watched in awe as the passenger skillfully talked the drunken man down from his rage. Within minutes the drunk was pouring his heart out to the passenger about how his life had taken a downward turn and how he had fallen on hard times. It wasn't long before the drunk had tears streaming down his face. The Aikido man, somewhat ashamed thought to himself 'That's Aikido!'. He realised in that instant that the passenger with a comforting arm around the sobbing drunk was demonstrating Aikido, and all martial art, in it highest form.
Why have I written this book? Why have I written a book about the art of fighting without fighting when my claim to fame is probably the fact that I have been in over 300 street fights, where I used a physical response to neutralise my enemy. Why write a book about avoidance when it is obviously so simple to finish a fight with the use of a physical attack? Indeed why write it when my whole reputation as a realist, as a martial arts cross trainer, as a blood and snot mat man may be risked by the endeavor? The reason is simple: violence is not the answer! It may solve some of the problems in the short term but it will create a lot more in the long term. I know -I've been there. I was, as they say, 'that soldier'.
It took me nine years of constant violence and many more of soul-searching to realise this truth and because so much has happened to me in my post-'door' years, my attitude and opinion has changed. At my most brutal I justified violence, to myself, to those I taught and to those I spoke to. I was even prepared to use verbal violence to substantiate my views. That was how lost I was. But I'm not at all ashamed of that, my views may have been distorted then but I did genuinely believe them. I was never a bad person, it's just that my beliefs were governed by my limited knowledge, which left me somewhat Neanderthal.
As my knowledge has grown so has my intellect and confidence, this has allowed me a new belief -a belief that will keep changing as long I grow. I can see it all now. I can see where I fit into the scheme of things. I can see the futility of violence and the pain of violent people. I can see that fighting on the pavement arena is war in microcosm and that wars destroy worlds. I know now that violence is not the answer, in the short term or the long
term. There has to be another solution. At this moment in time I cannot tell you what that solution is, only that knocking a guy unconscious and doing a 56 move kata on his head is not it. Not if we are ever going to survive as a species and learn to live in peace with one another. I spend my time now trying to avoid violence and trying to develop alternatives to taking an opponent off the planet with a practiced right cross. Some of the stuff is good too, it works, it will at least help keep some of the antagonists at bay until we can find a better alternative.
But, I hear you cry, what about those who won't let you avoid, escape, dissuade, loophole, posture, the ones that not only take you to the doorway of violence but want to kick it open and enter the arena and no amount of talk or negotiation is going to stop them. What are we to do with or to them? Well, this is where my 'non-violence' theorem becomes a little contradictory, because if we are forced into a physical response and if we do not fight back, our species is as good as dead.
I, like most, have a family to protect and I will protect by whatever means fair or foul. Because I am trying to become a better person, and because I am desperately trying to lose violence from my life, I have been struggling with the fact that, occasionally when it is unavoidable, I may still have to employ violence, if only to keep the peace. I am constantly struggling with the fact that this still feels wrong to me, but my, our, survival is at stake. When I was in America last year (1997) I was teaching with Benny 'the jet' Urquidiz and I asked him whether he thought, given the fact that we were both trying to be Christian people, you could ever justify the use of violence. He told me that he believed violence was wrong, but If someone left you no other option other than to hit him, then it was their karma, it was meant to be. He said that he felt they were sent by God to be taught a lesson and he would give that lesson as gently as possible.
Some people need a poke in the eye to show them the right direction, others simply need pointing in the right direction. It is a question of having the wisdom to know when to point and when to poke. To some in society violence is a language, a way of communication - a very primitive language -but a means of discourse nonetheless. If you don't speak to them in their own tongue, then they will not understand you. This is where the contention begins.
So, we have a contradiction in play here: violence is wrong but sometimes we have to employ it. I know that the uninitiated are already up in arms, probably scribbling away discontent to the letters page as we speak. I truly understand how they feel, because I feel the same way, but I fear that they will never be convinced by words, and their experience of life is often not broad enough to give them another perspective. Their truth for a completely violence-free world is as limited by their finite perspective, as mine was as a nightclub doorman. I needed to experience the hope of nonviolence to appreciate its potential. They probably need to experience violence to appreciate its necessity as an antidote in a world where the species is lowly evolved.
I have a varied background in these matters. I have experienced violence, pre-bouncer, as a scared young man who could only suffer in silence. I have also experienced violence as man who could confidently counter it with greater violence and I now experience a violent world as man who can confidently employ violence but who chooses not to because I feel it is not the answer. Most people's opinions are born from experiencing only one of these perspectives.
As a nightclub doorman I was often faced by violence that terrified me, woundings that revolted me and conduct that chilled me to the bone. However, what really sickened me -even more than the congealed blood and smashed teeth of an adversary -was the absolute hypocrisy of this fickle society. Facing adversity did show me the beauty of amity but it took time, many savage confrontations and much self-education, before I could drag myself kicking and screaming into a better existence. Unfortunately, even then I could not find a preferable solution to the threat of immediate attack than that of counter-attack. I am aware that the state might call my actions criminal, but how do they rationalise their own acts of violence? Perhaps by calling them law? I teach many strategies to evade attack; avoidance, escape, verbal dissuasion, loopholing and posturing. But what do you do when all of these techniques have been exhausted and you are still facing an adversary that wants to step outside the law and attack you? You are left with a choice, either become the hammer or the anvil -hurt or be hurt, kill or be killed. Does that sound brutal? Are these the words of an uneducated nightclub thug? How would you deal with the situation? How would your peers deal with it? Those in government? Those with power?
Without wishing to go into politics and the rights and wrongs of what is going on in the world, I will offer an example of how they, the leaders of the free world, the highbrow of humanity, deal with potentially violent situations that will not go away. The world recently found itself in a very threatening situation with a foreign leader, a threat that could potentially destroy the world and effect many other planets in our solar system. The United Nations, the immune system of the world, tried to avoid a violent confrontation by mediation. The UN tried to escape a violent situation with compromise, they 'loopholed' by trying to offer 'the threat' honourable alternatives to war, they 'postured' by threatening war, (even flying bomber planes over his country in a threatening manner). They absolutely exhausted mediation. When it all failed, what did the United Nation do, what did they consider justifiable, though unfortunate, what did they greatest minds in the free world agree upon when all their avoidance techniques did not work? WAR! War was what they agreed upon! War: the greatest expression of violence known to man, where thousands of men, women and children are killed and maimed. The UN told this leader in no uncertain terms that they were prepared to talk to him, that they wanted to avoid war, that they wanted to find an alternative to bloodshed but the bottom line was, if he did not comply, they would kill him and his people!'
The immune system recognises cancerous cells, it knows that one cancerous cell can destroy the whole body if it is not killed, so it sends out killer T-cells to assassinate the threatening cell. Ugly, but necessary if you want the body, and the species to survive.
As for me working with violence? Physically the toll was bearable, if not a little hideous. My nose, broken in three places (I'll never go to those places again!) stab scars in my head, broken knuckles and fingers and a cauliflower ear that could win a horticultural ribbon. But some of my friends were not so lucky: three lost their lives, a couple their marbles and yet another lost the sight in one eye to a glass-wielding psychopath.
Psychologically however my wounds were less superfluous.
Overexposure to the brutality of people left me temporarily paranoid, cynical and often very violent. I could see only physical solutions to life's many disputes. Punching an adversary unconscious after an argument was, to me, as perfunctory as a mint after dinner. It was never gratuitous, I hated fighting, it was survival, and that was all.
In my world violence was a plumber's wrench -no more than that. This behaviour was acceptable, even expectable but in civvy street, me and my kind were brandished Neanderthal.
So when I finally transcended the door' there was a time of readjustment, of trying to locate my place in a capricious society where doormen were seen as vogue in times of trouble and vague in times of peace.
I was frequently informed by those who had not met violence down a dark alley (and it's too easy to say when you haven't 'been there'), that violence was not the answer -a view voiced so often these days that it has almost become a fashion accessory. Not an easy standard to apply though when faced by a savage adversary intent on flattening the world with your head. How many would not employ even the vilest instrument to protect a loved one? For instance the young lady who nearly burst my ear drum out side a Coventry nightclub would never have believed herself capable of violent assault, yet when her beloved was attacked her principles disappeared quicker than a gambler's rent money. 'Violence is not the answer!' She yelled at me indignantly. Granted I had just 'sparked' her irate boyfriend with a practiced right cross. He had tried to marry my face with the speared edges of a broken beer glass -I felt compelled to stop him the only way I knew how.
'No?' I replied with mock surprise. 'Well, tell your boyfriend that when he wakes up.'
My reply angered her so much that her face contorted into a domino of hate. She proceeded to remove a stiletto heel from her elegant foot, hoist the makeshift weapon above her head like an executioner's axe and attempt to separate me from my mortality. She was about to employ violence to accentuate her point that it was 'not the answer'.
It would seem that hypocrisy in our society knows no bounds. Ironically my own life as a bouncer began due to my own innate fear of violence. I donned the required 'tux' in the hope that confronting my fears might nurture a greater understanding of my own sympathetic nervous system, one that seemed in a permanent state of alert, maybe even descry a little desensitization. It was to be an eventful, if not bloody journey that lasted nine years. En route I discovered that truths that can only usually be found in the middle of stormy oceans or at the top of craggy mountains. Nothing comes free of course, and there is a consequence to every action that we take; if you pick up one end of the stick you also pick up the other. Enlightenment came at great expense. My innocence was clubbed like a beached seal, my marriage ended in bitter divorce and my faith in human nature took a near near-fatal slash to the jugular.
So, I realise that until the species we call humankind evolves, there will always be a need for violence (unfortunately, I have no doubt about this in my mind) to protect the good majority and the world, from the bad minority and the indifferent from themselves. This doesn't make violence right, rather it is a necessary evil -sometimes you have to lose a finger to save a hand. This does not mean that everyone has to partake in violence, or even agree on its necessity, on a large scale to protect this world from those who would inadvertently destroy it. Many people make the mistake of thinking that a solution must be palatable to be correct -this couldn't be farther from the truth. Violence to prevent greater violence will never be more than a hideous expression of physical domination, but it may save mankind until its metamorphosis into a spiritual domain.
Therefore, not everyone has to 'get their hands dirty'. There will always be a select few, like the killer T -cells in the body, that roam the bloodstream protecting the body from the intrusion of viral cells, who are chosen to do the dirty work in the name of those who won't or can't. The immune system protects the body this way, and even God in his infinite wisdom had warring angels in Heaven to fight evil. Returning to my original questions: why did I write this book, why do I teach avoidance techniques? Because violence is wrong and one of the best remedies is to attack proactively so that we can avoid, escape, dissuade, loophole or posture to avoid physical confrontation and prevent violence from becoming manifest. I believe that a part of the evolution of our species is to rid the world of violence, so I would like to explore as many ways of avoiding fighting as I can. If all we know is 'a punch on the nose', then, when the shit hits the fan and contention is on the menu, we will have no other choice but to employ a punch on the nose. If, however, we have several other alternatives to choose from, and we can become expert in using these alternatives, then we can strategically evade the use of force, and still ensure victory most of the time.
As with all my concepts, this book is pieced together from empirical study in the field. None of it is theory, I have made it all work on many occasions against fearsome opponents who wanted to part me from my mortality, or from my good looks at the very least!
When I started in the martial arts my 'ippon', my knock out, my tap-out was to beat my opponents with the use of physical force. My objectives have now changed. Now if I have to hit some one to win the day I feel that no one has won. So my ippon now is to beat someone using guile as opposed to force. My hope is that this book will encourage the same in you.
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