Technique and Tool Worship: Working to a Solution
Previously, we examined what it takes to make a technique effective. The idea that some techniques are inherently “good” or “bad” is sometimes just a matter of opinion. However, comparing them on a sliding scale of effectiveness reveals options that may be more successful than others. What is commonly lost when discussing techniques is the more important concept: Find a solution to the problem.
The technique is a means to a solution
The field of self-defense —and combat sports for that matter—has often been called “high stakes problem solving.” The “problem” is a person (or group of people) is trying to take something from you or do something to you, that you don’t want done. All too often the common response by martial artists and many self-defense experts is to present a tool or technique as a solution to the problem. The technique is the hook; it’s the thing they can demonstrate to others and charge money to teach or sell. It is portrayed as the solution. It promises that if you just do that technique or use that tool, you will be magically transported back to safety. In reality, however, it’s not the solution. The technique is a means to a solution. It is not the solution itself.
Depending on the context of the conflict (i.e., the “problem”), the solution may vary and may be less than obvious. A man attempting to stab you presents the problem of receiving grave bodily harm. The common martial arts thought process dictates that if you perform “technique X”, you can take the knife away from the bad guy and solve the problem. But the knife isn’t really the problem. The problem is the aggressor wanting to cause harm to you.
How do you solve that problem? You need to create enough distance so that the aggressor cannot harm you, or to take their ability—WITH or WITHOUT the knife—to cause you harm. If a person is intent on stabbing you, they probably won’t stop just because they lost their tool. If you managed to disarm the bad guy, you might have solved the immediate issue of getting stabbed, but you have not yet achieved the true goal – returning to safety.
The solution to any aggressor attempting to cause you harm is to take away his ability or his willingness to continue, which does not change depending on the available tools or techniques. Running away reduces his ability to cause harm because of proximity, but any resistance (striking, shooting, stabbing, yelling) may affect his willingness to continue due to the increased effort required to continue. Never lose sight of what the solution to the problem is and what you can/should/must use to get there. Doing so might trap you in a loop from which you cannot escape.
By: Jon Grabo