“I Don’t Want to Hurt People”
I’m hearing this expressed a lot lately by students and others. This article is an effort to clarify my views on hurting versus injuring, and how pacifism is entirely compatible with a martial art lifestyle.
So, first of all, wanting not to hurt people is a good thing. We don’t become martial artists because we like inflicting pain. If I suspect otherwise from a student, I’ll drop them and suggest they train elsewhere.
That said, let’s define terms.
Hurt means that something caused pain. This could be a fall or throw, a joint lock, pressure-point attack, or a simple strike or kick. Hurt means that something activated pain receptors, that’s all.
Injury, on the other hand, indicates that the body has been damaged in some way. Bruises, sprains, strains, breaks, cuts, abrasions, and so forth are all examples of injuries. They could be caused by any of the martial art activities listed above, or anything else in life (stubbing a toe, hitting your head getting into your car, etc.) Hopefully, all your injuries will fully heal.
At Kuk Sool Won™ of Muncie, safety during practice is our number one priority. That means protection from injury, not necessarily from pain. Pain is a part of life, and the more we embrace that fact and lose our fear of pain, the better equipped we are to deal with life’s challenges. As martial artists, one of our goals is to increase our tolerance to pain.
Increased pain tolerance is vital from a self-defense standpoint since sudden intense pain can lead to shock and unconsciousness (it’s hard to defend yourself when you’re unconscious). In fact, many bad guys use this to immediately subdue their targets, striking them hard and fast and then taking them somewhere private to do further bad things. Now, a sad fact is that anyone can be sucker-punched, but martial artists who understand and are familiar with pain can defend themselves despite such attacks.
So, is injuring people a necessary part of martial art training? No, not at all.
Is learning to inflict pain a necessary part of martial art training? Yes, it is.
One of the things that I love about Kuk Sool Won™ is the “smorgasbord approach.” We have a huge array of techniques and follow-ups, but we don’t have to use them all, all the time. For instance, if a teen is on a date and their partner is too aggressive for their taste, knocking them out or breaking fingers might be an over-reaction. In other words, causing injury might not be called for, but judiciously applied pain might be enough to set things back on the right track. On the other hand, if subtlety doesn’t do the job, my students have the tools necessary to take things as far as needed.
Like a smorgasbord, you don’t have to take it all the first time. Take what you want, what you need. You can always come back for more.
So, what if you are committed to living in peace and doing no harm to other living beings? Does that mean that you are also committed to live and prosper only at the whim of those more aggressive than you? I don’t think so. A life of peace is entirely compatible with living as a martial artist. In fact, some claim that choosing a life of peace is only possible for those trained in martial art. Unless you know how to cause pain and injury, you can’t choose to practice otherwise (a sort of um and yang argument). I’m not sure I agree completely with that view, but there is some truth there.
At any rate, the lifestyle of a martial artist is one of self-defense. We defend ourselves not only for ourselves, but for the sake of our loved ones, and we practice so that we can protect them too. It should be said that we don’t study violent solutions only. We learn about verbally de-escalating, using body language (non-verbal communication) and all sorts of other tactics to keep our loved ones and ourselves safe.
Martial arts in general and Kuk Sool Won™, in particular, are not meant for violent people. They are for people who want to have control over the direction of their lives, who make their own decisions. They are for people who love life and want to live it to its fullest and who are interested and engaged, life-long learners, people who are happy and loving.
I sincerely hope that the Kuk Sool lifestyle is for you.