An instructor once told me that violence is chaos in action and it’s your job to bring order to the chaos. I believe this is an accurate statement and would add “before it kills you” to the end of that sentence. Violence comes in many shapes and sizes and each situation can be radically different from the next, despite starting off with the same or similar parameters. Predicting how the encounter will unfold is difficult and unreliable, to put it mildly. If you’re truly honest about it, you accept this. But that truth is uncomfortable because, in general, humans don’t like chaos.
We like things to make sense.
We like black or white answers.
We want it to be easy and simple.
It rarely is.
As a result, there is a need to analyze, scrutinize and study violence to put together a system that allows you to handle it when it comes your way. Martial arts and self-defense systems are a part of that. Studying human psychology, the legal system, physics, avoidance and prevention, etc. are also part of the solution. All those together make it difficult again and we typically don’t like that. A commonly used quick solution is to make assumptions by willfully omitting factors you don’t have an answer for or relying on “common knowledge”. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. That is why I always harp on Randy’s quote of “The differences are just as important as the similarities.”
You can take a violent situation and look at the similarities to come to certain conclusions. These conclusions can be completely accurate or completely false, depending on certain parameters you won’t know up front will be present. I covered this dynamic in the first article in my newsletter series, but when I saw these two videos, I found them to be prefect illustrations for it.
Both videos feature a man armed with a gun facing an unarmed man. These are the similarities. My point is that the differences are just as important and the chaos of violence makes it unpredictable what the outcome will be. Let’s take a look.
As far as I know, a guy barges into town hall to confront his ex. A security guard tries to stop him and the fight ensues. The guard shoots the guy in the head, killing him instantly. NSFW.
A robber sticks a gun in a store clerk’s face and thinks all is groovy. Then he gets a surprise…
In both videos, an unarmed man is confronted with a firearm wielding opponent. Two similarities, radically different outcomes. Why?
Because the differences are just as important as the two similarities.
If you take a minute or two, you can come up with a long list of differences between both videos and come to certain conclusions. The next step is to try and understand why those differences are there, what is their relative importance, how do they influence the end result and how you can account for them in your own training.
Answering those questions takes time and effort, with no certainty of getting things right when you are placed in the same or a similar situation. That’s just how violence works.
What is the point of this article? I have several I want to make:
- If you only look at the similarities, you ignore the differences at your peril. Taking complex situations and reducing them to the simplest of common denominators is not always the best solution to a problem.
- It’s easy to make assumptions and ignore the factors that create chaos and unpredictability. Just because it’s easier to practice then or it keeps you from scrutinizing the flaws in your system, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
- It’s easy to make assumptions that are wrong or incomplete. I’ve heard tons and tons of instructors say you can’t just rip a gun out of somebody’s hand. The second video shows just that… Does that mean you can always pull this off? No. Again, many different parameters come into play (try to list them, just as an exercise…) So be wary of extrapolating general rules from single incidents. As Dr. K. says: the plural of anecdote is not evidence.
- Contrast all this with the confidence some professionals and experienced fighters have with their techniques. They have a higher success rate with them than people who lack their experience. But does that mean they will work for you? How can you know you aren’t lacking a specific component to get the same result? The professional teaching you his most effective techniques might not know about the importance of that component. He might even take it for granted. Who knows?
- There are no guarantees. As much as we like things to be simple, they rarely are. Anybody who tells you they have an easy, never-fail solution to violence is either full of shit or he doesn’t understand the true nature of violence.
- It’s your butt on the line. You decide how far you take things. You decide what your assumptions are, which factors you incorporate in your training, when you re-evaluate them, etc. I can’t make those choices for you as I don’t live your life. My only recommendation is to do all this as a conscious choice instead of blindly accepting information from any instructor, including me.
As always, good luck in your training.