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Tai Chi and Martial Art  
martial arts and the application of combat tai chi

Self Defence: A State of Mind


Everyone has the right to life and the sanction of the Universe to preserve it. If a situation can't be resolved in any other way, then you must meet it knowing you are doing the right thing, dismissing any fear or doubt.

There is plenty of martial art literature about that addresses just such issues. We have all seen adverts on street self-defence and engaged in those perennial Dojo discussions about whether this technique or that technique is practical. Most people initially come to the martial arts because they want to learn to defend themselves. Indeed, most martial arts adverts trade on it "Learn to defend yourself! Gain confidence".

The basic problem is that a person lacking in confidence is not going to gain it overnight, and possibly not in six months or even six years. We all carry a lot of psychological baggage around with us which does not help.

Although the cause of stress may be different from those experienced by our primitive ancestors, the way in which our body reacts to conditions of threat has changed very little. For example, part of the adrenal gland called the Medulla releases adrenaline in the bloodstream. This has the effect of mobilising the body's energy reserves, using stored sugar and diverting blood from the smooth muscles of the stomach which function without any active decision on our part to the striate muscles that are used for bodily movements and whose action is controlled by the will. These and many other complex physical changes occur, some of them in less than a second does, to maximise the body's ability to cope with danger and stressful situations does. Unfortunately an individual responds not to some real environment but to a perceived environment. In other words, its not whether you are going to be attacked that counts, its whether you think you are that leads to increased heart rate, muscle tension, breathing rate, blood pressure and all the other bodily changes we experience in a crisis.

Interestingly, the Chinese translate crisis as both danger and opportunity. In a crisis it is important to act, and not to react. One expression goes "for a fast breaking crisis, its better to throttle back to conscious competence". All too often we forget that we need to stop for an instant and think about what we are doing. In psychology this is known as cognitive restructuring or cognitive re-framing.

The first feelings of stress are a cue for action. Initially feelings of powerlessness and the urge to become angry or embattled should be rejected next. To take control of yourself consider the options before direct physical action; such as asserting yourself verbally, running away (don't let anyone tell you that running isn't self-defence) or in the last instant defending yourself physically if you have to do so.

You may argue that there is not time to run through all these options, but once again research shows that violent confrontations follow a bell curve. You have thirty seconds on increasingly violent verbal aggression, a physical flash point and a further thirty seconds of decreasingly violent physical aggression, after which the process can begin again. So you have thirty seconds which to review your choices, and if during this time you remain calm, there is less chance of the situation escalating to the physical level. In the end, if you had to defend yourself and you feel you failed, it's time to engage in some cognitive re-framing.

If you find yourself in a similar situation again, knowing what you know now, you might do things differently, but you did the best you could to take care of yourself in the circumstances that you found yourself in at the time, and you are still here.

Raymond Wood 7th. Dan Kyoto Kyushindo

 


text from Ray Wood (possibly attributed to an an original unknown author)



 
Interestingly, the Chinese translate crisis as both danger and opportunity. In a crisis it is important to act, and not to react. One expression goes "for a fast breaking crisis, its better to throttle back to conscious competence". All too often we forget that we need to stop for an instant and think about what we are doing.
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