De-escalation. It’s a word one rarely thinks of, when faced with a potential threat against one’s safety and well-being. For the most part, our survival instinct (fight or flight, if you will), will kick in and unless you’re some kind of macho jerk with a point to prove, you’ll do whatever is necessary to bring conflict to an end.
All that being said and without getting into the details of whatever self-defence laws your local jurisdiction may carry, every person has an inherent right to protect and defend themselves. And in most cases, others. But the ability to de-escalate a situation is one of the most effective resources in a properly trained martial artist’s toolbox; one that is usually and widely overlooked. There are tons of quotes and passages from martial arts’ reading that explain how the best victories are from the battles you didn’t have to fight and I would be inclined to agree.
As children, our parents were always very quick to tell us to “just walk away” and to “keep your hands to yourself,” when faced with confrontation. Speaking from experience, that rarely EVER worked during my childhood. Surprisingly, it works a bit better as an adult and it may be because adults are sometimes prone to actually consider another person’s words as opposed to being a kid hopped up on hormones and lack of sense. I say sometimes because I’ve definitely encountered adults who basically act like children. But I digress…
A colleague of mine recently clued me in to a YouTube channel that discusses and covers de-escalation and examines confrontations and what may have caused them. The channel is called Active Self Protection and it’s pretty good. I have to agree with my colleague, once you start watching some of the videos, it can get pretty addicting, especially from a martial arts perspective. It provides the opportunity of examining the question “what if,” without having to get into the actual situation.
The point is, a big part of learning martial arts the proper way is understanding that physical force isn’t always the way. I would personally push it one step further and point out that getting into a fight should ALWAYS be the last resort but I’m realistic enough to know one does not always have the choice. If someone attacks you, you can find yourself on the defensive trying to ward them off and likely answering their attack before you reasonably have time to try any “verbal judo.”
Throughout my personal and professional life, I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve managed to avoid a physical confrontation, simply by using my words to de-escalate the situation. Remember that there’s no shame in preferring not to fight. And it’s always amazing to look at a given situation after the fact and realize that it could have been avoided if the parties involved had tried to talk it out, rather than beat the snot out of each other. Build that verbal judo. It can be a life-saver. Food for thought… ☯️