I started watching the Mandalorian a short while ago, so I have the main character’s catchphrase “this is the way,” somewhat at the forefront of my subconscious. Hence the title, in case you haven’t seen the show. But what I’m referring to with today’s title, is the use of force or violence. As a martial artist, people have a tendency to believe that I can kick ass on a whim and at my leisure. I certainly have the capabilities and training, despite the detail that stating that fact doesn’t make me out to be very humble. But humble I am, and my training doesn’t mean that I’m like an action hero who will clear a pub of multiple opponents simply for the indignity of looking at me the wrong way.
The world is a violent place, and there are many people who will make a point of BEING violent for very little reason. And those reasons are generally bullshit, anyway. As a martial artist, I take pride in the fact that I have the ability to protect myself and my loved ones. As a Buddhist, I abhor the idea that I would ever have to use it. And use it, I have. I have the benefit of the fact that for the majority of my life, my violent encounters have been in the line of duty. This certainly has never done anything to soothe the dislike I’ve felt or the memories I carry of every encounter, but it’s an important factor nonetheless.
Unfortunately, I’ve also had encounters that have taken place in my civilian life. And those have carried just as much weight as the ones that happened on the job, if not more so. How does one who believes in the prospect of a peaceful life but trains in a fighting art deal with such a scenario? Never the same way twice, is the first answer that comes to mind. That’s mostly because no two situations will ever be the same. And no two opponents will ever be the same, either. But there are some pretty common misconceptions, when it comes to defending oneself.
There are many reasons why people fight. In many cases, a person feels that he or she has no choice. It may be a question of ego, personality or even honour. Maybe the person just has a shitty personality, temper or outlook on life. Maybe, just maybe, that person is dealing with something in their lives and that something is the final straw and they’re taking it out on you. But the reality is that none of those reasons qualify. If you make the conscious decision to step up to someone and fight them, you’ve already lost. AND you’re in the wrong.
First, let’s examine the concept of self-defence. The term seems to imply that you need to fight someone else off in order to ensure your safety and well-being. Basically, you’re trying to prevent harm to yourself or another. But here’s the thing: that prevention doesn’t mean that you HAVE to fight. That’s what most people seem to misunderstand. You may eventually reach a “point of no return” where you’ll no longer have a choice than to fight, and I’ll get to that. But there are other steps you can take to defend yourself.
Diffusing the situation is a good one. Never underestimate the power of using your voice. Although it may not always be possible to calmly discuss the matter, especially with some liquored up hothead who thinks you were making googly eyes at his lady (true story). But there will be times when you’ll be able to talk your way out of things. The other good one, is getting up and leaving. And I know some fellow martial artists may disagree with this one, but why stick around? If there’s someone there who wants to do me harm, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to stick around.
Sure, some people may call me coward or chicken, but who cares? Know where I am while they’re calling me that? In the safety of my car or home. Away from harm, without broken bones, bloody appendages or criminal charges pending against me for beating the living fuck out of some asshole. But while we’re on the subject of criminal charges, it’s important to know what your rights are and what the laws may apply to your situation.
In Canada, Section 34 of the Criminal Code reads, “A person is not guilty of an offence if they believe on reasonable grounds that force is being used against them or another person or that a threat of force is being made against them or another person, the act that constitutes the offence is committed for the purpose of defending or protecting themselves or the other person from that use or threat of force and the act committed is reasonable under the circumstances.” Section 34, Criminal Code of Canada.
Those are a lot of fancy words, and you can check out the Section yourself to read the before and after, as it can sometimes lend pertinence. But the layman’s version of it, is that if someone comes at you and you genuinely believe that they mean you harm, you can use force in response as long as it’s for your own defence or the defence of another person. They also refer to it being “reasonable under the circumstances,” which basically means you can’t shoot someone in the chest because they try to punch you. But everything is circumstantial to the totality of the situation.
Patrick Swayze had a great line in his movie Roadhouse where he said, “Nobody ever wins a fight.” Kind of ironic, since the movie is all about being a bouncer in a violent bar. But realistically, there’s no shame in walking away. Unless your life or the life of someone else is on the line, fighting just isn’t worth it. Besides navigating the law, which can be open to interpretation, getting into violent altercations will change you in ways you may not anticipate. Peace is easier. ☯