Meditations on Violence

July 12, 2011

I just finished Rory Miller’s  ‘Meditations on Violence‘ and, as any good book should, it got me thinking. This isn’t a book review, or even a book report, but I only want to express some of the thoughts and feelings I have on the subject of violence.

In addition to the insights on how violence happens in real life, as opposed to on the mat, Rory’s book has helped me to gain a lot of perspective on why I do the things I do. I found myself questioning, again, my own motivations for training.

As far as self defense goes, I believe myself to be well ahead of the curve. I don’t drink anymore, I don’t frequent bars or clubs, and I don’t use drugs, so I have no business visiting shady neighborhoods or areas where I might be seen as an outsider. My life is pretty fucking insular – even boring. I work, I train, and I spend time with my family, and that’s all good enough for me. If the greatest part of self defense is being aware of risks and not putting ourselves in risky places in the first place, I’ve come a very long way from where I once was.

So what do I have to worry about? Why do I feel the need to bang myself up? The answer is not as simple as ‘because I like it,’ although that has become a huge part of it. I know I’ve got more compelling reasons than that.

I’ve never been a warrior. In the very few actual fights I’ve ever been in throughout my adult life, I ‘lost’ every time. I was always shitfaced, stumbling drunk, and, in all fairness, partially had it coming. At least the guy who beat my face into the blacktop for talking to his girlfriend thought so. I thought it was a harmless conversation at the time, while she, apparently, did not. Was his reaction over the top? Probably, but if I’d been in control of myself, none of it would have happened in the first place. So yeah, I take credit where credit is due. I put myself in a position to get pummeled, and I paid the price for my stupidity.

I’ve been intimidated by guys much larger than myself where it didn’t end in physical violence, and I don’t like the feeling. I would not have been able to defend myself, and we both knew it. In short, I was made to feel like a pussy, because I was a pussy.

Rory’s book highlights for me how guys like that could spot me coming a mile away. Hindsight being what it is, I can look back at who I was and what I was doing during those moments, and what I see is the perfect victim; small, weak, unsure of himself, and, usually, drunk.

So, what do I expect to change with martial arts training? First and foremost, I train for myself. For a long time, I hated myself. Some days I still do. I hate my weakness. Removing alcohol from my life has gone a long way towards making me a safer, better human being in all respects – but it isn’t enough. I still have weakness. I still have low self esteem. While not as true today as it once was, I still feel weak. Paraphrasing Rory from the last chapter of the book, people like me can either chose to accept our weakness and become comfortable with it – a valid choice – or we can grow. I don’t want to choose to accept it. I choose to grow. More important to me than just training to beat the shit out of someone else, I guess I really train to beat the pussy out of myself.

Self defense in general is a very broad subject, and the most important part of it by far is not putting ourselves in risky positions in the first place. If I’m not drunk in the dive bar I used to inhabit when some angry asshole comes in looking for a fight, then I’m in no danger from him. But if that asshole lives down the block from me and happens to wander my way looking for trouble, I don’t want to be the little guy on the receiving end of his anger. I’d absolutely prefer to live my life without that situation ever happening, but, if a violent situation can’t be avoided and a violent person must be confronted, I want to be able to competently damage that motherfucker quickly and surely and end it. I don’t want to fight – but if it comes to that, I don’t want to lose.

I know an Aikidoka. He’s an all-around great guy, one of a small handful of exceptional human beings that I personally know. From what I understand, modern Aikido adheres to a philosophy of ‘I don’t want you to hurt me, and I don’t want to hurt you.’ While I absolutely respect and admire this position, I have a somewhat different belief; I don’t want either of us to get hurt, but if you insist that somebody is going to get hurt, I want it to be you.

All that being said, I’ve got a long way to go towards acquiring that level of competency. I haven’t acquired anything like it yet, and it often feels like it’s a long way off. Last night on the mat, it felt like I couldn’t do a goddamn thing right, and I let it snowball on me. In that two hours I died multiple times, and I kicked myself harder every time. It’s an old, bad habit. I know I’ve got a long way to go – but nobody ever said it was going to be easy. If guess if I wanted easy, I could just be a pussy for the rest of my life.


One Response to “Meditations on Violence”

  1. Nick said

    A compition might be some thing you might want to try. It can boost your inspiration to train better and help you see how other people around you are doing. It might just give you that extra push to see that other people are having the same problems that your having now. It’s always good to visit your sister schools and attend the kajukenbo events to better understand it’s not just you everyone has there douts and self asteem problems. It’s learning to except that it there and to work on bettering your self through your training. Remember a belt is only some thing that holds your pants up.

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