Keeping the option of peace open when forced to fight back.
By Professor Don Cross, M.Ed.
If confronted by an aggressive person who wants to cause you physical harm, there are essentially four responses available to you. One, you can do nothing and simply be a victim. This option is extremely risky, to say the least. Two, you can immediately react without thought, get violent, and punch and kick the aggressor into submission. This option is not without its hazards. Choosing this option could lead to your own arrest and incarceration (even if you didn’t throw the first punch), or worse, serious injury or death. Three, you can simply stand your ground and make it clear to the brute, through your body language and what you say, that to be assaulted and having to fight back is not okay with you, and you leave (if you can). And fourth, you can learn to use non-violent self-defense Jujitsu skills that are assertive and proactive, which allow you to immobilize your attacker, de-escalate the violence, and allow you to escape.
Fighting back should always be your last option after you decide that you must do something and you cannot withdraw from the conflict through talk or simple escaping techniques. You must learn to resist the reactive impulse to thoughtlessly strike out at a potential attacker. There are numerous cases where people have fought a mugger and lost their lives. Had they chosen another option, they might still be alive.
My Jujitsu Sensei taught me not to fight back unless it is a question of life or death (mine or someone else’s), and when I have no other options open to me. He taught me to stand up for what I believe, to be assertive, but to maintain my self-discipline and keep a level head when confronted by aggressive or violent people. He taught me to use the ‘power of the voice’ to neutralize a potentially violent situation, and to use escaping techniques if grabbed. And then, if necessary, employ joint immobilization techniques to control the aggressive person and de-escalate the violence.
If it should become a question of survival, life gives you the right to fight back. But the law makes it clear that our response to violence must be appropriate and not an over-reaction. By law you are allowed to do what is necessary to escape from a violent situation. But you have broken the law if your response causes undue injury to another that is not justified by the circumstances. Therefore, you’ve got to think first about your options before lashing out wildly at an attacker.
It is clearly not always possible to stand by idly checking out your options when you’re in physical jeopardy. But, your reactions to violence need to be proactive, intelligent, and informed responses, rather than reactive and violent ones. Your reactions to violence are an indication of the nature and depth of the training you have received on the subject from parents, peers, and teachers throughout your life.
Metaphorically speaking, the Samurai warriors carried two swords in their belts — one of discrimination, and the other of detachment. They were taught to discriminate between what is real and what is imagined, and then detach their minds and emotions from that which is false before taking the appropriate action. For the Samurai, and modern day martial artists, fighting is a matter of intelligently considering strategies and properly choosing of available options. If you are confronted by an aggressive person who wants to do you some harm, you must make your decisions on how to respond with all the objectivity of which you are capable.
First, you have to keep in mind the relationship you have with the person attacking you, and what the consequences of your reaction will be. Secondly, you need to quickly assess whether this is the best place to engage in a fight, and where your escape routes are located. Thirdly, you need to determine if the timing is right for you to fight back, withdraw, talk fast, or run. Fourthly, you have to be clear about your intentions in the conflict, as well as the nature of your energy and that of the attacker. You must know that you are following the truth, that it is not your inflated or inflamed ego that is reacting, and that you are consciously entering into the conflict to protect and preserve life: your own, the attacker, and everyone else who will be affected by the outcome of the fight. To fight back in any other way is contrary to the life principle, and ultimately self-defeating.
We don’t need any more aggressive people in this world. We need people who are skilled at waging thoughtful peace, who make peace the primary option in every conflict. As Alexander Pope once said: “Conflict should always be so managed as to remember that the only true end of it is peace.”