The words we choose to describe things shade and flavor our perception of those things; this can be to our benefit or detriment. Any given word gives rise to a whole cloud of associations, some better than others. For example, take the words attacker and defender. It’s easy to associate speed, aggressiveness, initiative, strength, power and evil with the role of the attacker and tasked, hounded, reactive, protective and good with the role of the defender.
So which one is better to be, if you had the choice?
Again, this is one of those trick questions where everyone shouts, “Attacker!” and then turns around and uses the language and posture of the defender when it comes down to action. Why? Especially when you know it’s better to be the attacker — it works great for the criminal, the killer, the survivor… it means you have the initiative, you are, by definition, in the cause-state, doing instead of getting done.
And all it gets is lip service.
You do it because socially, it’s wrong. It’s evil, it’s immoral, it’s not what your mom, your clergy, or the cops would like you to do. Such behavior is corrosive to the social fabric; behaving like a killer is to take on the mantle of the killer. It’s unsporting. It’s unfair. It’s the very definition of cruel.
And you can’t think of yourself in those terms.
Now, I’ve tried to talk about this before, but maybe I’ve been too vague or too nice, I don’t know. But I’m here now to tell you:
You either see yourself as the person stomping on the downed man or you are the downed man.
No ifs, ands or buts.
And again, before you protest, check yourself. A lot of the language I see floating around when people talk “reality self-defense” is the language not of killers, but of people trying to justify that role, to feel better about it. Trying on the mantle of the killer, finding it distasteful, and then looking for logical constructs to make it fit better, to give yourself sufficient reason to try it on in the first place.
Justification can only effect mechanical performance in one direction — to make it poorer.
The attacker has no justification. This is why, socially, we find it distasteful, wrong, and evil. But all the attacker has to do is attack. One simple thing.
The role of the defender is a justifiable one. We can explain away our need to behave in a socially unacceptable way by virtue of being attacked. Because we have accepted the number two slot, and dumped ourselves into the effect-state, it’s okay with mom, et. al. The only problem is that being a defender is a very busy job, with lots to try to do. We have to register the attack, attempt to counter it, and only then may we attempt a counter-attack. If you’ve seen our live “knife-defense” demo, then you know how well that works out… And for those who haven’t seen it, here’s the breakdown: it works like gangbusters for the stabber, not so great for the stabee.
Even if you are resolved to be a bloodthirsty and vicious defender, you’re still applying the loser moniker. Best of luck with that.
Ultimately, you have to ditch even the idea of being an attacker — lose the attacker/defender dichotomy entirely. Because really, what makes a difference in violence is not self-defense, or even fighting — it’s all about hurting people. It’s what you’ll do when there are people around you who need to get hurt. Who need to get maimed, dropped on the ground, crippled so they stay there, and maybe even killed.
That’s all I train. When people ask me what I do, the simplest answer is, “I teach people how to kill sociopaths.” Not only is it the simplest, it’s also the most accurate. And after that, I don’t waste my time or breath trying to justify it — and most people demand justification after a statement like that — because trying to make them feel better about it is really just me trying to make me feel better about it. And there is no feeling better about it. In a social context, it’s wrong.
But we’re never talking about a social context, are we? Not unless the Virginia Tech shooting was a garden party. So there’s no feeling good or bad about it — there’s only what’s mechanically correct. And trying to make it sound or feel better just convinces us it’s okay to be in second place. We all know that’s a lie.
Or do we?
Depends on how much mat time you get. The more you actually model the behaviors we present, the more comfortable you’ll be with the mechanical facts of violence, and seeing yourself as the person doing them. At that point it stops being words and becomes the only way to be in violent conflict.