Rory Miller in his book, Meditations on Violence, calls the unintentional lead-up to violence, the monkey dance. People get worked up to a point where violence occurs. We see this in bar fights, road rage and school yard fights. The participants did not necessarily come for a fight but they end up in one. As a martial artist you have a responsibility to remain in control of yourself. If you are a black-belt, you are expected to be disciplined and you will be looked upon as an expert on fighting by the authorities. If violence occurs, you may be held to a different standard than a non-martial artist. As discussed in other articles you have the right to defend yourself but you do not have the right to beat someone up, especially if the altercation occurs because you let the situation spiral out of control.
Many fights (not all) can be de-escalated to a peaceful settlement by avoiding threatening actions. I was the victim of road rage. I am not sure what I did to draw the attention of this guy but he started tailgating, flashing beams, running up alongside and turning into the side of my car, coming close to hitting me. I’ll admit that my blood began to boil. I had had a long day, I was tired and I had a short fuse. I came very close to joining the monkey dance, but I took a deep breath and did not make eye contact with the pursuer. I used the mirrors and sideways glances to confirm there was no weapon but otherwise I kept my eyes ahead and stayed in my lane. He ran out of steam and drove away.
Another time I was in a bar with friends and a woman in our party rebuffed the advances of a drunk guy, who did not take it well. As he raved, a guy in our party took it upon himself to “defend” our damsel in distress and escalated the situation. As the token martial artist in the group, I was called upon to intervene. I separated the guys gently and explained that it would be less fun in the back of a police car than continuing the evening away from each other. The idea of the police coming burst the bubble of tension, the situation de-escalated and the adversaries separated. Finally, after it was over the bouncers showed up and asked ME if there was a problem. I told them I didn’t know and went back to my drink. The bouncers were too little too late. I had to be prepared to address the situation. The bouncers would only have been there on time to clean up the mess, if I did not de-escalate the situation. Later in the evening a couple of guys dressed like bikers came up to me and I thought: “Here we go” but they just complimented me on how I handled the situation.
Chojun Miyagi’s quote, “When your temper rises, lower your fists – when your fists rise lower your temper.”, provides a helpful lesson. You are responsible to attempt to diffuse a non-life threatening situation. A nonviolent outcome should always be the goal. That is why we have hostage negotiators not just the SWAT team. On the other hand, the SWAT team is usually on hand for a hostage situation in case the goal of a nonviolent is not achieved. You should always work toward a nonviolent solution but be prepared to defend yourself.
Your safety is paramount. The best fight is the avoided fight. Fights are unpredictable. You never know if there will be a weapon or an unseen adversary. Defusing a situation is not cowering from a threat. It is taking action on a potential altercation to get a positive nonviolent outcome.