Violence Is Super Complex, Where Does Your Training Fit In?

Violence Is Super Complex, Where Does Your Training Fit In?

When all you have is hammer, every problem looks like a nail. People tend to only be familiar with a small part of violence based on what they have experience with. A SWAT team will know the “assault” part of violence while a jiu-jitero is more familiar with an honorable duel between two unarmed men. Since there are plenty of variations of violence you will also need a vast toolset to deal with every problem in an appropriate way.

I love continuously educating myself on subjects like martial arts, strategy and self-defense. So that’s why I recently read a book called “Meditations On Violence” by Rory Miller. That book inspired this article and I would definitely recommend you to check it out.

What Makes Experts So Bad At Understanding Violence?

Our brains love to generalize our experiences in order to make sense of complicated things. Out of these ideas we then try to extract principles in order to try and understand the world. So how we see violence is very heavily influenced by how we have experienced it ourselves.

So if you ask judoka about violence then he will fall back on his experience, which is fighting a similarly sized opponent under a certain ruleset with everyone playing fair. This does prepare him well for some situations but it doesn’t prepare him at all against a buss of hooligans with baseball bats for example.

Similarly a sniper won’t be that well prepared for a situation where a target is not allowed to get hurt or for an unarmed bar fight. But he is extremely lethal when he is “sniping” and  if you ask him about violence his vision will be probably be heavily be influenced by this contact he has had with violence.

It’s all about understanding the different kinds of situations where violence occurs and about using the right tools for the job.

Making Sense Of Violence

Violence is way more complex than people give it credit for. If you just wanted to understand one part of it, interpersonal violence for example, you would need to understand all kinds of different fields: and physiology, athletics, law, group dynamics, criminology, psychology, ethics etc. But if you want to apply any sort of meaningful response to violence you need to be fast and effective. And the more complicated something is, the slower it becomes.

Since it’s so complex it’s hard for an expert in one field to be prepared for everything, imagine you are a bjj guy and you spend 4 hours a week perfecting your “armbar form closed guard. What situations is he prepared for then? Let’s make a matrix in order to demonstrate how complex violence can really be by just charting a few possibilities. And then we’ll try to figure out in which situation the “armbar” would be an appropriate technique to apply.

Here is another article talking about the importance of techniques for self-defense

Let’s look at the amount of people fighting vs the amount of force that is appropriate to use. The number game would give us three options: (A) we outnumber them, (B) they outnumber us or (C) we are equal in numbers. While one the appropriate force side of things we have the following options: (X) you are not allowed to injure them, (Y) you are allowed to injure but not kill or (Z) killing is both legally justified and necessary.

Us> them Them > Us US = THEM
No injury Armbar would injure them Injure them + inefficient against greater numbers Would injure them
Injury but no killing Possible Very dangerous to be on the ground when outnumbered Possible but inefficient and risky
Kill Armbars don’t kill Armbars don’t kill and would be dangerous Armbars don’t kill


As you can see, even if we only look at two different variables of violence there is still only one scenario where it’s appropriate to try and armbar someone from the closed guard. And we could add so many other variables like element of surprise and weapons etc.

Sometimes sensitivity drills are more important than techniques, learn about them here.

Choosing a technique and trying to learn how to fit it in every situation is not the way to go. You can’t just learn how to deal with one or two parts of the matrix and hope that when violence strikes, you will be lucky enough for it to be what you have prepared for. You could be preparing for a knife fight  your entire life just to have someone rob you with a gun. Let me repeat that, training for one scenario doesn’t prepare you for everything.


What’s The Real Goal?

Now that we have talked about how complicated violence really is, we can start talking about what the actual goal of our training is.  Lots of martial arts academies try to teach fitness, spirituality, personal growth, competition fighting, self-defense and much more. But these are all vastly different subjects each complex and beautiful in their own way. So when looking for a school you need to make sure you really know what it is you want and find someone who actually teaches that. Competition teams won’t have as much of a self-defense program usually and self-defense people won’t be great a sports competition.

Fitness is important though, learn about how to work out your abs for fighting.

If you want to be efficient at defending yourself then start identifying all the situations you want to be prepared for and find someone to teach you all the necessary skills. This can mean training with weapons but it can also mean learning how to negotiate. Just as you will have to decide what it is you want to learn you should also ponder about what you aren’t looking to learn. Why go to a philosophy based aikido class if you want to learn how to choke somebody out in a mma event?

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Stapho started training Brazilian jiu-jitsu in 2009 in Belgium where training was scarce but he was hooked from the first class nonetheless. It didn’t take long for him to watch every instructional available and to replace everything in his room with mats. Some days he would spend 6 hours on public transportation in order to get 2 hours of training. In 2015 he finally decided to follow his dream, quit school and move to Stockholm to train full time at Prana Jiu-jitsu. He is now a purple belt with big hopes who has collected medals all over Europe. Apart from jiu jitsu he reads non-stop about nutrition, psychology, sport science and strategy. Since 2009 Stapho has been addicted to Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Originally from Belgium he is currently training full time in Stockholm Sweden and on his way to a Brown belt.

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