Most people who come into martial arts today have little or no experience in defending themselves. Interviewing many students over the years, I was always amazed to find over half never had a street fight, except for the occasional shoving match. This translates to the student having to learn from the ground up about their mind/body connection and viewing their opponent or opponents through a totally new prism.

I also see self defense as the most commonly neglected part of most systems. Not neglected by the teachers, for they do their best to convey the knowledge in a comprehensive way, but by the student who fails to embrace the seriousness of the subject and the amount of energy one has to put into this aspect of the craft. Waiting to be shown techniques presupposes that you will practice them, even if you feel awkward in their execution. Pick the brains of your Sigung, Shih Fus, Sisuks, Lao-Shihs and sihings or si-jies. They'll be glad to enhance your knowledge and will be pleased at your earnestness to learn the subject matter. At Shaolin Kung Fu Studios you can be assured that you will be pushed to develop all aspects of the art, particularly self defense.

If you are shown a self-defense movement, it is incumbent upon you to learn it. Practice it over and over again. Modify it to fit your body type, add to or subtract from it to make it work for you......but own it. Make it yours. Deposit it in your self-defense bank account for immediate withdrawal. As a younger sash, you must operate this way precisely because you have not developed a sufficient arsenal into the muscle memory yet.

You should look at the body and learn its language. If I do this or that, the body will respond in a certain fashion.

After a while, a curious thing happens. You will begin to instinctively pull from this reservoir of knowledge that you have compiled but not always in the preset movement patterns that you have learned. In other words, you will have graduated grade school and will, in a 'no-mind' fashion, put everything together from all your training; forms, sparring and self defense. This should happen somewhere between green and purple sash. It will happen gradually.

At this point you will be in more control of your destiny regarding threat assessment and potential confrontations. The element of fear will be greatly reduced, replaced by confidence in your ability to act responsibly and if need be, clearly, decisively, rather than reacting from fear or ego.

Then hopefully, you will be able to put your own moves together by contemplation, planning and practice with a willing partner. By continually adding to your knowledge, your self defense will stand out as a reflection of your dedication and devotion.

As Shih Fu Mike pointed out, one who stands and yells, or calls you names is not really a threat. However, I would add the caveat that you have a space perimeter that must be respected, even by the yelling loud mouth. A warning not to come closer may or may not stop an advancing aggressor who, you must assume, is moving toward you to commence a physical assault.

Question is...

Must one wait in all circumstances for another to lay hands upon you before you act? Your gut will tell you the answer to this question, or experience in a real situation. Many of us learn self defense which is street oriented and is without rules and spar under certain rules that do not apply in the streets. You must be able to make this separation on the street. There are no rules on the street except those that you bring by virtue of your character. We must all ask ourselves how far we are willing to go to defend ourselves, defend our lives, or the life of another. The answer is different for each of us and requires serious consideration before an event arises.

Is the Shaolin philosophy of mercy, non-aggression and compassion in line with brutal self defense? Yes, it is. Peace is cultivated through strength that is, in turn, fortified through knowledge. We are trained to never be offensive. We do have the right to defend ourselves or others from harm. In fact, we are obligated to do so. Otherwise, why practice and perfect this art?

In learning this aspect of Shaolin Kung Fu we have a dual responsibility. This duty, to be as proficient as we possibly can, will insure the attainment of a few important goals. But we must realize that self defense is a very serious, sober matter. Life and limb can be taken in an instant. We only have to look at Neokin # 5 to understand how final a self-defense move can be.

With knowledge and confidence comes a calming of the spirit. The adrenaline rush doesn't overtake us into uncharted waters. We learn to control that because we know what it is that we are doing and adapt with changing conditions.

We can be merciful to our opponent because we have the knowledge and can practice restraint with confidence.

We fulfill our role in society by adding to the general welfare of the population while being a protective force for good, establishing ourselves as role models to be respected and emulated rather than feared and despised.

And finally we understand that the whole purpose of learning martial arts is never having to use that skill to harm a single soul in society. That is the grand, ultimate message of Shaolin Kung Fu; a message about character. The lesson of humility.

Learn the art passionately and embrace all its aspects. Bad things happen to good people and we all must be prepared.

I'm reminded of the cliché... he who fails to prepare, prepares for failure.

Pi'an,

Shih Fu Fred


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