A Black Eye in the Board Room: Co-workers Reaction to Martial Arts

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Man with swollen jaw, black eye

Most people’s experience with martial arts is either cage fighting on television or their 7 year old taking Tae Kwon Do for a year and a half and quitting at green belt. This lack of experience with martial arts can make it hard for your coworkers to relate to your martial arts activities. Since they don’t know the roots of martial arts, they don’t have the context to start or carry a conversation. This means that your martial art is not necessarily a good base for starting conversations at work or for networking. While your coworkers are playing softball or golf (or just watching TV) you are probably the only one training in the dojo. Many times, you are better of talking about what your coworkers can relate to, like what was on TV last night.

I am proud of my martial arts and have brought it up in conversation at work with varied success. I am a pretty big guy at 6’3” 260 (I should be 220, but I am working on that) and I keep my hair cut very short. Some people might consider me intimidating. I found that the martial arts conversation can make some people nervous, so I am now careful with whom I discuss it. A coworker of mine used to be an amateur boxer, so he and I talk about my training and my competitions. One of the partners of the firm overheard how intense some of the sparring sessions could be and it caused a bit of tension. The sparring sessions I participate in can get intense and some people might consider them violent. It appeared that was the case in this situation. I do not want to be considered a violent person. I am a martial artist not a bar room brawler. I used humor to ease the tension of that situation and now I am greeted on Monday mornings with a humor filled “Did you beat anyone up this weekend?”

Injuries can also bring up uncomfortable conversations. An example of this is a meeting I was in with a very senior executive of a company I worked for. I had a BJJ class the night before and had really bad marks on my neck from a choke that I fought out of. I wore a collar to try and hide the marks but a co-worker saw the marks and very enthusiastically brought them to everyone’s attention in the meeting. As I explained how I got them, the executive was looking at me like I shot someone’s puppy. Again, I used humor and an attitude that I did nothing wrong that eased the tension and ended the distraction so I could get back to the meeting agenda.

Be proud of your martial arts. Just understand that not everyone will understand why you do martial arts and some people will be intimidated by it. Think about what people’s reaction might be, especially at work, before you talk about your activities, particularly if they might be construed as being violent and when you are injured, especially a facial injury, be prepared to discuss it and not leave the impression that you hang out in the wrong bars.

Martial Arts is not the Same as Self Defense

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May 19, 2015

self defence

Many people use the movies and television to measure the usefulness of martial arts in a fight or defending oneself. I know many martial artists from white belts through multi-degree black belts. The degree of their ability to defend themselves in real life situations is as varied as their belt level. I also know people who have no training, who can defend themselves well.

Even rigorous training in the martial arts will not guaranty that you are able to defend yourself. It will help. Being able to block and attack are tools in self-defense. Sparring can sharpen your skills and kata will help improve your technique. However,to defend yourself you need to add some other things to your training.

1. The most important skill you need to learn is SITUATIONAL AWARENESS. You need to have a good idea of what is going on around you at all times. Watch videos of the knock-out game. Look at the victims. See how engaged they are in observing their surroundings. If you are in a parking garage with your ear buds in and completely engrossed by something on your phone, you are vulnerable and will find it hard to avoid problems. Whereas, if you are fully engaged in observing your surroundings, you will many times see trouble before it starts or at least see it at the point of impact. Situational awareness also includes being aware of: what time it is, what state of inebriation you are in, where your friends are in a bar, where your car is parked and other mundane factors.  Know what is happening around you at all times.

I was at a bar several years ago. It was late in the evening and I noticed that there was some commotion in the parking lot. I was driving and I told my friends it was time to go. They were not happy with me but we left and went somewhere else. We read in the news the next day that there was a large violent altercation in that parking lot. The best defense is to NOT be there when trouble starts. Keep your eyes open and don’t be afraid to tell people it is time to go.

2. YOU NEED TO BE ABLE TO BE HIT. If anyone is hit hard enough, they will be hurt, but most times being hit or grabbed is more shocking than injury causing. It is the shock that stuns us and causes us to hesitate. This hesitation can lead to trouble. Not acting when you are hit or grabbed, leaves you open for further injury or worse. You need to be able to take the first attack (hopefully, a deflected attack since you were practicing situational awareness and saw it coming). Then you need to be able to react, either fighting back or getting away.

There is only one way to get over the shock of being hit or grabbed, practice. Sparring and grappling are the best ways to practice but if your style of martial arts does not offer those, you should practice these skills in a controlled environment somewhere else. This needs to be done with realistic attacks and defenses. As you practice, so will you fight.

A good friend of mine teaches a solid, hands-on self-defense for women class. My wife took the class and when my friend initiated a choke attack, my wife’s hand trap and groin kick defense was a little too enthusiastic. We laugh about the over exuberance still, but the training was realistic and that is the only kind that can prepare you adequately for attack.

3. YOU NEED TO BE ABLE TO ATTACK. This is where your martial arts comes into play. If an attacker gets a hold of you or is between you and safety, you need to be able to act in a way that preserves your well-being even if it comes at the cost of your attacker’s. If you are in danger of grievous injury or death, you need to be willing to inflict damage on your attacker. This does not mean that you perform an eye gouge on a drunk guy in a bar that bumps you. However, it your life is in danger you need to be willing and able to inflict damage to your attacker or there is a good chance you will be a victim.

I am not going to discuss attack techniques in this article. The internet is not a dojo or a self-defense class. If you need training, I recommend that you find a reputable school in your area to learn.

Remember, you are responsible for your well-being. The police or security cannot be everywhere and many times are only able to take the report afterward.

  • Be aware of your surroundings and avoid trouble.
  • If you are attacked, avoid hesitation from the shock of the attack
  • When necessary, fight like your life depends on it, because it might.

None of these things are easy and they all require practice. Many of us will never be attacked but being prepared is important. Consider it in the same light you would a fire extinguisher. You will probably never have a fire, bit it is prudent to have a fire extinguisher anyway.


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This is the inaugural post of Dauntless Fight Club. We will be exploring the martial arts, especially for people 40 and over. We will have articles, interviews, and in time videos that will inform and entertain. I look forward to sharing the martial arts experience with you and to hear your thoughts.