Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Who should train in martial arts?

A fatal brawl in Sydney, Australia
When we wish to learn self defense, we seek out self defense experts. People who are skilled and experienced in various combative arts who can teach us how to fight should the need arise.

We don't think to ask someone who has never been a victim of assault their entire lives, "how did you manage that?"

If your primary concern is self defense, the first question you should be asking yourself is how you can avoid such situations. What you should do once they happen must be a distant second consideration. To become an effective fighter who can see off larger opponents, it takes a lot of time and dedication. To avoid situations which lead to violent crime, it merely takes a little common sense.

If we take a look at Australian crime statistics, those least at risk of assault are aged 65 and over (0.8%). Those most at risk are between the ages of 15 and 19 - 9.9% had been assaulted in the 12 months prior to the survey. That's 1 in 10!

Those most at risk were young, male, unmarried, born in Australia, and unemployed. Most offenders were also young and male. The same goes for robbery - those most likely to be victims were young males, and those most likely to offend were young males.

and yet, feelings of safety were an inversion of actual assaults - the young feel much more safe than the elderly, and young males feel safer than young females.

I think there is an obvious correlation here between one's attitude to personal safety, and one's actual safety. If we feel invincible, we're more likely to engage in behaviour which would make us a victim of violent crime at some point.

Aftermath of a fight in Perth, Australia
If you have no interest in martial arts and do not make a habit of getting yourself into bad situations, you might be better off not worrying about it. Spend your time on things other than preparing for an event which is very unlikely.

However, it's one thing to tell young people they aren't bullet proof, and another for them to internalise and understand it, and so change their behaviour. This is where martial arts can help, be they male or female.

I believe that young people can benefit the most from training in martial arts. Not just as a method of self defense should the need arise, but as a safer outlet for those perfectly natural feelings of aggression, competition, and the willingness to take risks. It also gives focus to those who may be directionless, and socialisation for those who are isolated and lacking strong role models. I have no statistics (yet many anecdotes) to back this up, but I think activities like martial arts can reduce the likelihood of someone engaging in criminal behaviour.

Importantly, martial arts can also teach us that we aren't invincible. In any decent school which allows a certain level of contact sparring, new students will soon learn that there are many individuals out there who are perfectly capable of physically dominating them. If you're never been strangled or punched in the face, it's quite easy to lack this perspective. Especially if you're young and fearless.

1 comment:

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