After class last night, I went out for some post-recovery beers with my friend Joe and we ended up on the subject of self-defense and how most people walking around have no situational awareness at all. And from there, we got very philosophical (read: half in the bag) with a variety of subjects dealing with personal security, self defense, and the lack thereof in today’s society. Joe works for DHS, but he is also a Doctoral Candidate studying Behavioral Sciences at NYU. His primary duties revolve around the development and implementation of training programs dealing with pre-violence queues, non-violent compliance, and violence prerequisite among other things.
What’s violence prerequisite? It’s the theory that for anyone to be aggressively violent towards you, they must possess 1.) the opportunity to hurt you, 2.) the intent to hurt you, and 3.) the ability to hurt you.
However, there is a lot of wiggle room there.
For example, the argument can be made that everyone walking the planet has the ability and/or opportunity to hurt you. I can grab a stick and poke you in the eye. That guy over there can trip you as you walk down the side walk. The naked guy across the street; the one chanting and waving the K-Bar knife around? Yeah, he can probably hurt you too.
Even intent is open to interpretation. I can seriously ruin someone’s day by running a stoplight. I didn’t mean to hospitalize the driver of the car I just T-boned; I just really needed to get home to set the DVR for that Golden Girls marathon. My primary intent pushed everything to the side, including not caring about endangering anyone.
So I’ll say that for someone to do violence against you, they mostly have to have opportunity, intent, and ability. But out of all of that, what interests me the most is how we deal with it all.
It seems to me that most martial arts (Krav Maga and to some extent BJJ being notable exceptions) concentrate only on one side of this triangle; the ability to hurt you. Opportunity is rarely ever addressed and intent is always implied. The focus is always on removing the ability for someone to cause harm as quickly and as violently as possible. I feel like I am constantly crapping all over these guys, but I’ll offer up the Combat Hapkido school that rents space from us as an example. Painted on the wall of their room is a motto that goes something like ‘If they can’t breathe, they can’t fight. If they can’t stand, they can’t fight’ and so on and so on. Their overall emphasis is placed on disablement by producing as much physical damage as possible in the least amount of time.
And while that is certainly a valid way of dealing with violent people, it’s just a tad overzealous depending on the situation. I mean, if a guy is getting in my face in a bar my first reaction is not going to be ripping off his bean bag while head butting him in the throat. And yes, I’ve seen the Hapkido guys drilling this with no contact. Monkey steals the peach, or something like that…
But what about the other two facets of the theory? The intent and the opportunity? If I can get biblical for a moment, we need to be working on making ourselves the kind of people that other folks have no reason to intend to hurt (Romans 12:18). And in my opinion that includes learning the ability to thwart other’s ability to do us harm. As far as opportunity goes, I’ll just offer up this article from a BJJ blog I stumbled across last week. So if the intent or opportunity is diffused or disabled, coupled with a way to neutralize the ability, then there is no need to disable them. In fact, if any of those three can be effectively removed then you are much safer overall. And if not, just check out the video CS from The Patient Grappler put up in response to this post.
To me, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and the other grappling arts seem to be mostly about dealing with opportunity. In the Combatives class I’ll occasionally drop in on, as much time is spent on neutralizing someone’s ability to cause harm as is taking away the opportunity and intent. Sure it has the ability to seriously hurt someone, but I’ve found that most people who train BJJ will hold that in reserve in case the opportunity and intent cannot be stopped. Well, unless you’re talking about the “I train UFC, dawg!” type of guys…