Taught the third class in our four class self-defense series last monday, despite being sick as a dog. It went well. Six hours in and I feel like everyone has a good grasp on the basic materials. The small field trip really helped, hanging out for a while and practicing recognizing individual and group dynamics. Learning to see and categorize what would otherwise just be a “gut” reaction is a skill more people should develop.

The third class was mostly the reverse CPR class. We covered all the ways to stop someone quickly and thoroughly. We covered why humans are hard to stop, unless you hit the right button. And we talked about how to push each button just right.

I think it says a lot that such material is the rarest thing in martial arts. Doesn’t matter how bad-ass a martial art is, most of the class isn’t going to revolve around those buttons, or even acknowledge that they exist. I teach a jab-hook-liver-low kick combo more than I teach button pushing.

In weapon arts, the lightsaber effect is huge. Or I suppose it might be the taser-saber effect…the belief that the lightest touch with a weapon is instant death. It’s a grey area that people aren’t comfortable talking about. The usual crowd likes to “man” it up, or “realism” it up I suppose, by insisting on faster speeds and more impact to make a more pure art. Which, oddly enough, always seems to mean tournaments and competitions.

Reading “Arwrology” I came across an interesting anecdote. It relates in some ways to other anecdotes that have come up before, usually about what is more lethal, the thrust or the cut. There is always some tale about how someone survived one type of injury, or a lot of such injuries, and kept fighting. The point of these stories is usually brought up to support the argument for afterblows, or armour in bouts allowing harder/faster hits that means more realistic fighting, or that rapiers are stupid weapons.

This story was about a german soldier who survived being stabbed by two Irish soldiers. 165 times. With rifle bayonets.

I’ve seen video footage from a prison stabbing where a guy was curled up on the floor and stabbed over 60 times. For sure he died, but the autopsy revealed that only 3 of the stabs were fatal.

165 blows, or 60, all delivered with great fury and intent. It’s not easy to push the right button.

And to be honest, it’s not the point of most martial arts. It’s a little odd that we lie to ourselves about that so much. Counting coup is a honourable thing, and fun. It doesn’t need to be more than that. Mastering a complex and challenging art is a worthy goal for a lifetime. The attempt to layer gritty realism on top is a bit of a sham.

Which is a bit weird, I suppose. I took up martial arts because bad things happened, and I wanted to stop them. I did learn how to stop bad things from happening, but I also learned that bad things happen anyway. Aeschylus was not to blame for the turtle.

But I do find that when I teach reverse CPR, it’s from a far different toolkit than the one I teach martial arts from. Bluntly, I think that black little toolkit has things in it most martial arts would never teach, and many more would not know how to defend against.

I think I prefer it that way.