People need to get punched in the face more often.

This article has been going the rounds lately. Before you read the rest of my post, check it out.

Frankly, the author has a point, a pretty damn good one.

In many modern societies, violence is not only frowned upon, it’s is considered inherently wrong. And as a result anybody involved with anything that comes close to violence is regarded with suspicion and incomprehension at best. More often than not, they’re seen as a brute or a barbarian. Given that martial arts are a big part of my life, I’ve run into this mindset now and then, to put it mildly…

The funny part is how this post captures the essence of several conversations I’ve had this last week. Here goes.

The one with a former teacher.

We talked about how before, you wrote the student a note when he misbehaved in class and that was the end of it. Now she has to write four different notes: for the parents, for the principal, for the administration and for a monitoring committee. Then the parent writes a note back or calls her up to complain and the whole process starts over. Writing two notes during a given hour in school means she has more work than it’s worth. So teachers don’t do it unless absolutely necessary and little Johnny learns squat because he gets away with everything in class.

Later on, the parents complain because their kid gets bad grades or fails every class. And then they blame the teacher…

They fail to see the problem, which is: it’s not the teacher’s job to raise your kid, it’s yours. If he acts like a total prat and you refuse to have him punished, regardless of whatever crap he pulls, then you have no right complaining when he doesn’t pass. None.

My mother was a school teacher so I know a wee bit of what I speak: it didn’t use to be like this. Kids were supposed to go to school and if they got bad grades, they got punished by their parents. People didn’t shift responsibility for the upbringing of their children to the school system and its teachers instead of doing it themselves. The took care of their own, they handled the responsibility. Today, this is less and less the case.


The insane gunman.

Last week, an insane gunman went to a Christmas Market here in Belgium and killed five people. He threw grenades into the crowd and opened up with automatic gunfire before killing himself. 5 people are dead (amongst which an elderly lady, an infant and teenagers) and over 120 injured.

Politicians are making sure they show up in the media to explain how they’re on top of things and will act decisively. Their plan so far: make it harder to get a license for firearms…

The absurdity is that the gunman didn’t own a legal weapon. All his firearms and other weapons (including a grenade launcher…)  were illegally owned. So how does making licenses harder to get help any of this? Exactly…

People are noticing the total disconnect between the solution proposed by these politicians and any sort of logic or common sense. As a result, they’re increasingly vocal in claiming that the government is not doing it’s job in keeping the public safe and the cry for being allowed to carry weapons is getting louder (Please remember that in Belgium, we don’t have a constitutional right to bear arms.)

This then brings out the media spinners and “peace movements” who are claiming the biggest nonsense I’ve ever heard about firearms and violence. Which brings it back to the original article: their idea is a society in which all weapons are banned and therefor there is no violence. I’ve had people telling my that right to my face and actually believe it is a realistic option.

The only factor I can attribute that to is a total lack of experience with violence. If you’ve experienced but a small bit of violence in your life, then you know this argument is a pile of bovine fecal matter. The bad guys, assholes and criminals don’t care about your Utopian society. In fact, they’d love it if you strive to implement one. Because that ensures them absolutely free reign and no repercussions for their actions.

It didn’t used to be like this. People didn’t always surrender the right to defend themselves over to their government. But nowadays, they increasingly do so. Which I don’t really blame them for because if you’ve never faced violence, then it isn’t real. It doesn’t exist in your world. When something like that crazy gunman happens, it literally blows your world to pieces. Then it’s only natural to want some comforting news and have somebody feed you sweet lies so you can go on pretending all that yucky violence isn’t real.

I understand why this seems like a good path to take. But it’s bullshit. Violence doesn’t go away because you don’t believe in it. And like it or not, it’s one of the few constants in human history: people always end up hurting and killing other people. It’s only a matter of time.

Mind you, I’m not saying we should all buy guns and shoot at anything that moves and vaguely looks like a threat. But as things are now, becoming a nation of neutered adults, I don’t think that’s the solution either.

Nature is cruel.

There’s a mindset I’ve seen cropping up more and more in the last few years. Last week’s conversation with somebody illustrated it well.

She remarked that it wasn’t fair how the small house sparrows got their food taken away by the big-ass crows. The crows always attacked them for the food she left out in the garden and never, ever lost that fight. We talked a bit about the way nature works and it struck me that I seemed to be in a different dimension than her: I don’t expect nature to be fair. I also don’t hate it or get angry at it. Nature just is. A hurricane doesn’t care whose house it levels. A tsunami doesn’t give a damn who it drowns.

People are apparently so unaccustomed to nature tearing them a new one that they believe it shouldn’t happen  at all. Our society has come to the point that it can handle pretty much any attack from nature. Not as in withstanding it 100% but at the very least mitigate the effects and for sure, clean up and rebuild afterwards.  When nature suddenly strikes and there’s nothing you can do, it can be frightening if you’ve lived in that fantasy world where earthquakes and floods are things that only happen to other people, in far away countries.

Again, there’s this theme of not taking responsibility and believing (however erroneously) that “It can’t happen to me!” which brings everything back full circle with the original article.


I agree with the author. People no longer have realistic ideas about violence because they don’t know what it is to fight or defend yourself. As a result, they make bad decisions or take the wrong course of action and eventually end up in a violent situation. They don’t know what to do then and mess up. Afterwards, they are shattered and traumatized by the event. Because nobody else understands violence either, they can’t really talk about it and it feels even worse.

The root cause I see here is refusing to take responsibility for your own actions and safety along with a refusal to accept that reality and life are larger than your little neck of the woods. Somehow, a lot of people have lost track of that and this article reminds us that it didn’t used to be like this.

We can argue about what caused all this or we can move on and try to fix it. Me, I vote for the latter. Which is why I teach my children how to defend themselves and explain to them how there are also bad people in this world. I also don’t expect anybody to solve my problems for me. If I dig myself into a pit, I’ll claw out of it myself.

There’s nothing heroic or special about this. It’s the way people should behave IMO. You don’t get an applause or a cookie for doing what you were supposed to do in the first place. I guess some people need to get punched in the face  more often before they learn that lesson.


UPDATE: A few people pointed to some inflammatory statements of the author in that original article. I understand your point but that wasn’t what I am talking about here. I also don’t agree with everything he wrote (not by a long shot) but some of his points are spot on in my opinion. I tried to give my own perspective on those here on my blog.  No more, no less.




Become a Patron and get access to unique content: my newsletter, instructional videos, violence analysis and much more!


  1. Good post and good points. I sometimes wonder if I’m off the mark. In the U.S. I think we have far too easy access to firearms. I’ve always thought that tougher licensing and training requirements would be the happy middle ground. Still, the Belgium example makes me pause. Maybe Belgium is too far in the other direction? i.e. totally take the guns away. Problem is you can still get weapons on the black market which is probably what happened?

    Here in the U.S. we have that whole state’s rights thing. So, unless there is a federal mandate, one state may have tough gun laws while another has lax ones. What happens? The criminals go to the lax state and figure a way to get their guns.

    I definitely think more people need to be punched in the face. At the very least, metaphorically!


    • We have very strict gun laws. Getting a firearm is difficult. A carry permit is next to impossible. But there is a huge and flourishing black market. Weird thing, the criminals don’t apply for licenses but go to that black market. Whoda thunk it?!
      Owning a firearm for self defense or home defense is severely frowned upon by the public opinion and the media do their part in keeping this mindset ingrained. Unfortunately, criminals have increasingly less scruples in using firearms, especially assault rifles. The stats have almost doubled in a few years. After what happened with the crazy gunman, people are starting to question the whole ” the police protects us and guns are always bad” mantra. Rightfully so IMO.

      I’m not a huge fan of firearms but I do think they serve a useful purpose. I’m for having one for self defense but along with very strict training requirements, safety protocols, storage requirements along with random checks and huge fines if you mess those things up. For people who handle guns correctly, this doesn’t pose a problem. For the cowboys and yahoos, it will. So they would probably get weeded out of the herd of gun owners.

      Anyway, no easy answers on this topic.

  2. But it’s like our state’s rights problem: the criminals go to the black market. Re: firearms. I never was for a total ban — just mandatory training and licensing. I’ve seen how some of our “law abiding” citizens drive! I shudder to think how they’d handle a weapon without proper training. :-)

    Yes, no easy answer.

  3. I think you raise fair points. Personally, I’ve always had a problem with the “zero tolerance” policy in schools (you hit a bully, you get suspended) and I know a bit about people passing off their responsibility to educate and raise their own kids. Taking responsibility has become a problem. We need to get realistic about violence instead of treating it as a taboo subject.
    That said, the original article is repulsive and sexist. The author is very judgemental – which is fine, it’s an op/ed in a magazine – and incorrect or at least blatantly generalising on several points. He claims that people don’t understand evolution and that evolution involves brutal violent natural selection. Survival of the fittest has nothing to do with fitness, it has to do with adapting. If anything, his conservative view on “manhood” is promoting the opposite of adapting. He also claims that radical feminists view men and women as being equal and that they are not. Actually, feminism is about equal treatment for men and women, I have never heard a feminist claim that their is no difference between the sexes.
    In the final paragraph he explains that he judges men whether they train for fighting and if they have experience with violence. He goes on to say that he doesn’t train and that his experience is limited. That means that if I buy into what he is saying, by his own set of parameters, I can’t trust this guy.

    • Bram, there’s a reason why his piece is a rant. It’s over the top on purpose. At least, that’s how I see it. I don’t think it’s meant to be taken 100% as is. Just my opinion.

      • Could be, it’s hard to judge that on a written piece and I tend to be pessimistic in my judgement. I’m glad you had the sensibility to argue this point eloquently and leaving the sexist stereotypes out of it.

  4. Kevin Keough says

    …you aren’t supposed to talk or write about this. You won’t remain silent. You are an enemy of the state and not well-liked by your peers (excluding the animals), me thinks.

    You are welcome in this neck of the woods.

  5. Excellent post! These are issues I’ve thought about a lot in the last few years, likely due to my time teaching at a community college (Your commentary on modern education is spot on. It’s even happening at the university level.) but, especially, the birth of my two sons. They’re arrival has made me really think hard about what it takes and what it means to grow up to be a good man, a concept that I worry is fading in modern society.


    • I face the same issues with my children Eric. It’s a continuing struggle to teach them values I hold dear but are seen as anachronistic by today’s society.

  6. Excellent article!

  7. I agree 100%! People are completely out of touch.

    Back when I used to do Loss Prevention (arresting shoplifters) and I would tell people what I did for a living they would give me this AMAZED look and say something to the affect of, “People actually steal THAT often?!?”

    People seem to get this idea in their head that crime and violence are things that happen to “other people” and certainly not in their neighborhoods.

    We’re always going to have to deal with violence and crime. Unfortunately, law enforcement will never have the man power to be truly proactive in dealing with violence and crime – they’ll always have to function in, primarily, “reactionary mode”.

    Therefore, it is the right of every individual to be able to protect themselves until law enforcement arrives.

    Though, I do agree with Bob in that I see no issue with asking law-abiding citizens to submit to a background check and to receive proper training in the use of such a deadly weapon.

    Train Hard,
    Josh Skinner

    • I can only agree with you Josh. People do indeed see violence and crime as something that can’t happen to them. And when it does, they’re floored.

  8. What a great article. Great to see you choosing topics with no easy answer. I tend to think that part of the problem is the assumption that we can control events, including nature. It seems that there is a some of that viewpoint in martial arts as well. Assuming that you will be able to control a conflict when it happens.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to seeing your updates arrive in email. You provide some great food for thought.

    Best wishes in the New Year.

  9. I am if absolute, full agreement with your post, though the guy who wrote the piece in your link is a sexist, ignorant ass.
    We ALL have to take responsibility for ourselves regardless of gender, and perhaps even spread that out to help others too. Glorifying ‘the good old days’ and using as examples of manliness the practices of the Russian and South Korean army is ignorant at best …. probably because the writer is a reactionary pencil neck geek with a nice theory but nowhere to go from there … but I digress ….
    Yes, please, everyone, INTERACT with nature, the real wold, physically. Understand how it works. Get dirt behind your fingernails. Fall over. Fail. Be a good loser. Stop viewing the world as dualistic good/bad. Nature IS. Go out in it more and find out.

    If anyone is interested I recommend “Shop Class as Soulcraft” by Matthew B Crawford. A fabulous book about the value of physical work. The author posits the theory that we have given away our power by creating a culture where other people fix things for us, everything from toasters to cars and have lost connection to the tangible world as a result.
    We have fabricated a society where we don’t have to deal with any type of confrontation any more and though I agree that this is a huge problem, I’d much rather have Wim or Mr Crawford, or me, come up some solutions to help fix it than that idiot who wrote the article.

    • Thanks Maija, glad to see you liked the post. For the record, I don’t agree with everything in that guy’s piece. But he does raise a good point about people no longer knowing what violence is. Which I see related to the whole taking responsibility for yourself thing.

      • Agreed.
        Though I would point out the dysfunctional nature of bullying and hazing the author seems to admire vs a rite of passage a la Dog Brothers say, which I admire. And the difference between being a misogynist admirer of bear wrestling and keeping pet lions (which all smacks of over compensation to me. My neighbor has a stuffed mountain lion in his window and he’s a small, mean spirited coward) and being a real man.
        Violence is part of the universal nature of things, destruction a natural, and necessary force of nature, but let’s be a bit more imaginative and look to better solutions to embrace this truth as opposed to some outdated fantasy yearnings of an imagined past.
        The ‘fix’ should surely aim for more sanity and less fear, through the wisdom real experience gives, as opposed to more brutality and ignorance that fear itself creates.

  10. I like your post Wim. Well reasoned, makes sense. The post you linked to…not so much.

  11. Lack of experience with violence seems to be a side effect of modern rich societies being so effective at dealing with physical danger. Solving a problem always creates new problems, but hopefully smaller ones (cancer and heard trouble rates going up because people are living longer and not wearing out their bodies with hard labour on insufficient food). If there’s less need for physical violence (and fewer life threatening emergencies), then there is no honourable way for more people to get experience with it (and creating emergencies to build -virtus- is just silly).

    My society does have a problem with irresponsibility and hiding from the effects of its actions, but I’m not sure if its due to a lack of physical danger.

    Locklin’s idea that bullying and contact sports build -virtus- is completely contrary to my experience.

  12. Garry Hodgins says

    I agree with alot of what you say here. I am a secondary school teacher of young ladies aged 13 – 18. I am not an authoritarian and am fortunate enough to not have any discipline issues with my students but have noticed that some parents are oblivious to what their child is capable of accademically and invest more energy in worrying about how their child’s results will reflect on people’s perception of them than on their child’s needs. So, I have to manage parental anxiety far more often than children’s anxiety. The children are often more with it than their parents, its a bizarre world we have created. I also work mostly with women and have been punched in the face enough times to know its a good idea to avoid it. I could write a minor thesis on the dynamics between men and women and the fictional bubble wrapped world that many people live in. I have concluded that I am a wee bit mad to still be studying martial arts after 16 years, that I am alot healthier and disciplined than the people whom I work with, that I am not looking for answers outside of myself as much as others and I have no interest in messing with other people, in fact I hope everyone succeeds in their endeavours and finds happiness. I think having a sense of how it feels to be really attacked and the study of martial arts has allowed me these insights. As my tai chi master said, I believe I am a nice person, others are less sure. Happy new year. My sincere sympathies to those who lost people in your country. Please God you can continue to help people be a little bit more aware and safer in the face of such devastating and random an act of violence.

Speak Your Mind