Is It Worth Fighting For?

By Lena Varuolo
Published on Mar 31st, 2011

The majority of people look to martial arts as a study of self defense. Although I can't find any hard statistics to back this up, countless hours of discussions with people either in the martial arts or looking to study makes this point quite clear. Since the focus for most is learning to defend themselves, why is it when confronted with a self defense situation people freeze, even after obtaining an intermediate to advanced belt rank in their system?

When I first started studying the martial arts many years ago, I joined several online martial arts news groups. One thing that disturbed me was the numerous accounts of intermediate to upper belt ranks freezing, and ultimately getting injured when confronted with a real-life self defense situation. I kept asking myself how could this happen? They obviously had some training, thus I assume some skill in their art, especially if they obtained a higher rank. Fear motivated me to discover why this happened to them. After all, I was training in the martial arts for self defense and wanted to make sure that it didn't happen to ME if the situation should ever arise.

In my years of research, I discovered various reasons as to why a person may freeze under the stress of a potentially violent act. In the interest of time, I want to discuss one thing that may help you or your students reduce the possibility of freezing; deciding before a situation occurs if it's worth fighting for. Have you ever gone through what you would do when confronted with a violent or potentially violent situation? For example, would you fight if you were mugged? Tied up? Someone broke into your car? Hurts your feelings? Where would you draw the line?

These are not easy questions to answer. And what makes it difficult is there are no right or wrong answers. So why even ask ourselves these questions? First thing I urge you to consider is whenever we engage in violence, no matter how trivial, it has the potential to escalate into a life threatening situation. How many times have you heard about someone who refused to give over their valuables to a mugger and ended up injured, in a hospital, or even lost their life? Was their wallet really worth that?

One reason to ask yourself these questions is that it can keep your mental state more practical and less emotional, keeping you from having to decide how far to take it in the heat of the moment. If you've already decided it's not worth fighting if should someone flips you off in traffic, you can draw on that no matter how angry it may make you.

Also when confronted with a situation, if you've already thought about it, it's no longer “new” and you don't think about how to react; you have already decided how you would act, already established your boundaries. This keeps you from having to think about what to do when confronted, saving you valuable time. Knowing how you're going to handle a situation helps diminish the chance of you freezing in the heat of the moment.

One of my limits, I will never allow myself to be taken to a remote location. This comes from the knowledge that when a criminal does this, they are going to take you to a more secluded place to escalate the violence and your chances for escaping lessen greatly. I'd rather fight before being taken to the location and have a chance of survival than face near certain death later.

To practice, mentally and emotionally, for potential conflict: sit down and go through a list of confrontational and potentially violent acts, visualize them, decide how far they might go, decide what you might say, etc., and finally, breathe deeply and let go of the images, knowing you are safe. I find this exercise helpful in preparing yourself if such a situation should arise.

Filed under Techniques and Tutorials

Author Bio :: Lena Varuolo

Lena Varuolo has studied the martial arts for over a decade. She began competing internationally in 2006 at the International Karate Championships in Holland. Lena earned her black belt in Ed Parker's Kenpo in October of 2007. Since then, she has taught seminars in Ireland, as well as Bethany Beach, Delaware. Ms. Varuolo is a member of the Association of Women Martial Arts Instructors and National Women's Martial Arts Federation.

When Lena is not training or teaching, she is the director of Information Technology for the Martial Arts Learning Community.

She is the owner of Eclipse Web Service. As liaison for her business, Lena has taught over a dozen seminars on various types of computer software. Lena holds a degree in music, specializing in classical and jazz trombone and has been performing for 30 years. In addition to her martial arts teaching, Lena teaches both computer skills and trombone privately. Lena believes her music training compliments her martial arts

Lena is also the founder of Defense Awareness and regularly conducts Defense Awareness seminars. She works to empower people - especially women and others targeted for abuse and assault.

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