Self-defense techniques often entail using deadly force against an attacker, but before they're taught to students — especially younger ones — due consideration must be given to what it means to end a human life.

I recently attended a martial arts seminar that was just plain disturbing. The highlight of the demo portion was a series of defenses against a knife attack. Nearly every routine went like this: Block the stabbing arm, throw the attacker, apply a wrist lock and cut his neck with his own knife. What bothered me was the thoughtlessness with which the students drew rubber knives across bare throats. Their actions meant death, and there was no sign these martial artists — some of whom were as young as 12 or 13 — understood it. Killing someone is horrible. Even if you are justified in taking a life, it means the absolute end of another human being. No one ever really makes peace with having killed someone. It is a humbling thing, a black stain on your soul that never goes away. I’d wager that no one in that demonstration ever cut into another living thing, much less a human throat. If they had, they wouldn’t have taken it so lightly. Reality I guess what really bothers me is that this cavalier attitude toward killing is not confined to that demonstration or even the art that was featured. I’ve seen attackers get dispatched with their own rubber weapons in a dozen demos from as many different arts. What is disturbing is that we no longer take death seriously. We don’t take death seriously because we don’t have to. Most of us live comfortable lives in a relatively safe society. The martial arts are no longer a necessity for survival. They are a bourgeois hobby — $75 a month to get in shape and learn self-confidence. But the level of comfort we’ve achieved in contemporary martial arts is a subtle betrayal. Comfort is not what brought the arts into being or sustained them for thousands of years; an omnipresent threat of assault and murder did. History The people who founded the martial arts we now study took death seriously. They did because they had to. They couldn’t count on police to protect them or hospitals to heal them. In the lawless societies that spawned the fighting arts, violent confrontation was part of everyday life. And without the safety net of dependable and accessible health care, each injury was potentially fatal. This is why the ancient masters were so secretive, treating each technique with ritual awe. Their actions had absolute consequence, and they were acutely aware of it. Death was never far away. Now that violent confrontation is no longer an everyday occurrence, we no longer feel our own mortality. We play at death, carving each other up with rubber knives to titillate crowds. We give lectures on our “deadly” or “lethal” techniques, then congratulate ourselves on restraining our righteous anger. We talk about death like we understand it and have it under control. But we don’t. Necessity If there is one thing that is sorely lacking in the martial arts, it is an understanding that life is brief and fragile and that this is the reason we learn discipline and respect in the dojo. As martial artists, we must always remember that our actions can have absolute consequences. Resources To order Keith Vargo's book Philosophy of Fighting: Morals and Motivations of the Modern Warrior, go here. To download a FREE Guide titled Hoplology: Martial Arts Weapons and How Humans Fight, go here. For more information about Keith Vargo and his martial arts writings, visit his blog.

SUBSCRIBE TO BLACKBELT MAGAZINE TODAY!
Don't miss a single issue of the world largest magazine of martial arts.

Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
Keep Reading Show less

Whether your martial art has you rolling on the ground and grappling, striking and sparring, or working with weapons (hopefully the unsharpened variety!), there are five common types of injuries martial artists tend to see. It is nearly impossible to avoid all injuries, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of injury that everyone who practices any martial art should be aware of.

Stress Fractures

One of the most common martial arts injuries, stress fractures occur when bones are struck with repetitive force -- think checking kicks in muay thai, or repeatedly hitting a heavy bag with inadequate wrist support. Stress fractures are also very common in runners' feet and legs, so if you've recently upped your cardio to get in better shape for your art, be on the lookout!

Keep Reading Show less

A good pair of gloves is like a dollop of whipped cream on a cake slice—it just makes everything better! Whereas a bad pair of gloves can make your training session feel uncomfortable and awkward, a great pair can make you feel like you could beat Mike Tyson (or at least stay alive in a fight with him for a few seconds). One training session with gloves on either end of the spectrum will quickly make you appreciate the importance of quality equipment.

What to Expect from Creed

In this case, you can definitely expect good quality whipped crea—er, gloves. Made of genuine leather, Creed Heavy Bag Gloves are built to last. After wearing them for many weeks filled with numerous rounds of heavy bag training, the gloves still feel great!

The Creed Heavy Bag Gloves provide a comfortable and protective balance of padding in the appropriate areas. This ensures that they keep their shape well, cover your fist well in the areas that hit the target and ensure the satisfying smack of solid impact rather than the crack of a rolled wrist.

Keep Reading Show less

UFC 250 Poster Featuring Main Card with Amanda Nunes and Felicia Spencer

The UFC 250 main card set for Saturday night will feature five fights in lighter weight divisions that won't disappoint fight fans. The match ups are guaranteed to be fast paced and heavy hitting with three bantamweight matches and the highly anticipated women's featherweight title fight between Amanda Nunes and Felicia Spencer.

Reigning champ Amanda Nunes will be center stage at the UFC Apex arena once again Saturday night to defend her women's featherweight title against her challenger Felicia Spencer.

Keep Reading Show less
Don’t miss a thing Subscribe to Our Newsletter