Monday, June 02, 2008

Knee jerk

So, I started this series on domestic violence with a couple of videos to get myself and my readers thinking about it. I sure would like for y'all to jump in with some commentary - I know there are some thoughtful folks out there that have been working on this topic... Anyway, I promised some more commentary of my own.
On the surface, upon watching the first video, I had much the same reactions that I would guess a lot of folks had - Why doesn't she fight back or flee? How can she allow that to happen to herself? Similar to my reaction to the Creamed Asparagus cartoon I posted about.
As martial artists, we make a detailed, prolonged study of violence. I would like to be able to say that I have the solution to situations like was portrayed in that video but that would be dishonest. Not because I think it is an insoluble problem or because I think that aikido doesn't have the answer - aikido is very much about this kind of problem, but the problem is deep and wide and any attempt to describe the aiki solution to it in a few hundred words would be ludicrous.
From a purely subjective point of view I thought there was something wrong with the abused woman's affect three years later. There was something disturbing and askew about her apparent ability to create the professional distance necessary to coach law enforcement officers using the videotapes her son made of her husband abusing her that viciously. I can't put my finger on it exactly - just a feeling I got watching it.
In the second video, Patrick Stewart speaks from a position of personal experience to advocate for greater governmental involvement in control of these situations. My knee jerk reaction to that is, "Oh, great! Another goverment program." I have an innate distrust in the ability of any government to compassionately handle this type of problem. But then, if not the government, who will step in? They are the only ones sanctioned by society to exert coersive force in this type of situation, so if a private party steps in they would be ripe for legal action. Still though, it seems like any decent man (or woman) who were to witness this sort of thing would have to stand in the way and to hell with the consequences - but we've seen that this sort of intervention doesn't always happen.
Here is another video with a celebrity stating a contrary opinion on the topic. This is certainly not going to be the last word in this thread, but interesting...


  1. >As martial artists, we make a detailed, prolonged study of violence.

    Interesting idea...

    My martial arts study feels like a combined study of physics and poor legal advice.

    Why is it that I've been to so many martial arts schools as a visitor and I've never seen any serious focus on confrontation, domestic violence, road rage...? The military conducted a study on physical regimen and concluded that the best way to prepare for a night hike over slippery rocks with a 50 lb. pack is to go on a night hike over slippery rocks with a 50 lb. pack.

    Why, then, can't I get a martial arts teacher to school me in confrontations, violent outbursts, or any other type of violent behavior outside the sparring ring? And why is it that when they do focus on this type of activity, it's at a grade-school level only?

    Just some thoughts and frustrations...sorry :)

  2. Don't be sorry - good question and good comments. perhaps i should have said something like 'as martial artists we should be interested in making detailed study of violence'

    true we often get sidetracked teaching our particular styles and rank requirements and drills, etc... and dont look at the big picture of violence.

    ...but I would say that in my class and in most of the aikido classes i've been to there is a definite big picture focus on violence. we are oriented toward dealing with chaos and violence in general. (you can also say that most aiki guys don't practice with enough intensity to learn to handle violence but that is to some degree a different (training)topic. the systematic way we teach the things we teach is oriented toward dealing with un-knowably chaotic violence.

    I'd say things like domestic violence and roadrage are situational things - not violence in general. situational training is a good thing (and another thing that I agree most martial artists dont deal with enough) but schooling in roadrage does not (to me) equate to a detailed study of violence.

    wrt your example ofthe night hike over slippery rocks... there is always a risk-benefit judgement. military folks might get enough benefit from a night hike over rocks that they are willing to risk a few broken legs. most civilian martial artists would probably not benefit significantly from a night hike. I know that you are using that as an analogy. in the case of the civilian martial artist, there is only so much high-intensity chaotic violence that can be injected into a class and not have risk outweigh potential benefit. that's why we have to work with violence and chaos in a slow, careful, somewhat abstract way.

  3. good article on the topic:

  4. It is easy to treat a subject like this superficially - to package a few techniques that may cater towards a student who could use them in times of distress.

    It is more difficult to deal with the subtleties of some parts of the topic. Of the grey areas between two people, friends or what have you, who are dating, or on an outing, or just working together. When things go wrong there's no musical score to tell you that something unwanted is happening.

    The military analogy is great to highlight the culture we have in many dojos. Unquestioning. Focused. Driven.

    The real world is however full of distraction. THere is no chain of command. THe mission is not so clear cut. Decision making for self defence is oftentimes counterintuitive and requires some logic and wherewithal on the part of the victim. How many dojos are prepared to develop this?

    Lastly, self defence is also about survival. Picking up the pieces means sifting through self blame. Guilt. Post traumatic stress. IN this regard the army has had a poor history of dealing with the fallout of war on an individual front. This is because of one thing - there is little talk or training regarding choices and options.

    There are choices one can make to help decrease the probability of something like this happening and help increase your chances of survival. But it is not your fault you were targetted .... No one wants to be a victim.



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