18 April 2008

Martial Arts=Crime Prevention?

There was a programme on national TV a few weeks ago that featured a junior martial arts tournament. I watch with dismay as some parents were interviewed and they mentioned how they feel confident to “let go” of their children now that their children can protect themselves. It was even more alarming when some of the kids interviewed were confident that they can kick their way out of trouble should someone try to attack or abduct them.

As someone who have been participating actively in the martial arts and fitness field since the 1970s and an instructor in several of them, the attitude shown by these parents and their children are precisely what I’m afraid of when people take up the martial arts with the purpose of self defence.

Many people think that all you need is to learn the martial arts then you will be able to kick and punch your way out of a crime situation. But it is not as simple as that and several previous cases support my contention. Around 2 years ago, for example, there was the case of a young girl found raped and murdered in the field close to the hotel where she worked. Apparently she took a short cut across the dark field the previous night on her way to work.

Her father, in a press interview, stated that her daughter must have been attacked by several people because she had studied a martial art in school, attaining red belt (just 1 rank below black belt), and could have fought her way out of trouble if her attacker was alone. In this context, this incident raises several issues.

Firstly, any good crime prevention advocate can tell you that the number one enemy to crime prevention is being complacent e.g. it cannot happen to me because I’m trained in the martial arts, or I don’t bother other people etc. Could it be that her confidence in her previous martial art training made the girl overlook other safety and prevention aspects, confident that she could fight her way out of trouble? In other words, she became complacent. Might it not be the same attitude that the parents and their children mentioned above?

Secondly, as in the case mentioned above, we cannot guarantee that we will be attacked by one person. No matter how well trained we are in the martial arts, it is very, very difficult to fight more than one attacker out there in the real world. It is hard enough to fight off 1 attacker, especially if it’s a surprise attack!

Thirdly, in relation to the above, the degree of difficulty may be greatly increased if our attacker or attackers are high on drugs which may make their bodies “immune” to punches and strikes.

Fourthly, you have to be really, really good to be able to use the martial arts effectively in a fight. For example, in most martial arts training, early on you are taught stances, forms and techniques which are actually dangerous if applied in a real fight. So if you learn a martial art for only a few months and then quit thinking that you know enough to defend yourself, or even if you achieve black belt status in secondary school and then quit training after that, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Fifthly, in relation to the above, you need to be fit and strong for your techniques to be effective in taking out your attacker. This is especially so if you use “tournament-related” techniques. I have a friend who was a national athlete in silat olahraga relating his street fighting experience, where he delivered a perfectly good tournament-style sidekick to one of his assailants who sprawled to the ground, but much to his surprise got up and continue the fight.

So if we think our 9-12 year olds can generate enough power to punch and kick their way out of trouble against an adult attacker, please think again. If they can, can they generate enough power to kick and punch to take out several attackers? If they can, can they generate enough power to kick and punch to take out attackers high on drugs?

I will strongly advise anybody to learn the martial arts, because it offers good health and fitness benefits. But for self defence and crime prevention, it must be seen in the context of a holistic prevention “strategy” which includes having the correct attitude, making yourself a harder target and minimising the opportunity for crime to be committed. Your martial art skill is only one part of this strategy and should really be your LAST LINE of defence in case all other preventive efforts have failed.

Therefore I urged all parents to inculcate the correct attitude in ourselves and our children so we don’t fall into the over-confidence trap of complacency with the so-called martial arts skills. Prevention is definitely still much better than “cure”.For those of us whom are not inclined towards a lifetime of practicing the martial arts, the best alternative may be to seek training in self defence skills per se.

Yes, there is a difference between martial arts and self defence skills. You may not get to wear a black belt or win trophies in tournaments but at least it can give you a chance of running away from the “kill zone” safely. And that should be your main purpose: to get away from danger, not to beat up your attacker(s).

Written by Zulkipli Ismail
Sourced from http://fitnesssafetyandfamily.blogspot.com/2008/04/martial-arts-crime-prevention.html

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