this conversation about fighting and self-defense - or fighting v. self-defense has gotten interesting.
There are a whole lot of people working really hard to be right and to make others wrong about...well, you name it. There are a lot of people running around being angry about a lot of things at the present, and it's encouraging we can still bang out various opinions and potential disagreements from a place of curiosity without becoming bitterly positioned.
One of the comments about the last post posited that the versus context wasn't the best way to view the distinction between self-defense and fighting (and this is all wrapped up inside the context of training paradigms). Another conversation highlighted a bias. Mine, and his. I know I have several. So this is good.
The bias is evolving into a series of questions.
Here's the bias: a deep Fighter orientation to training will be less detrimental to male students than to female students.
Men have a stronger paradigm for fighting than women. And yes, I am taking very broad generalities here because if I caveat everything with 'there are always exceptions' I will never get to the end of it. I respect my colleagues enough to acknowledge they can apply that fact on their own, plus, it saves time to say it once and move on.
Men grow up with a Fighter/Hero personification and actions toward this are positively reinforced both subtly and overtly. As kids, girls do not have the Fighter/Hero goal nearly so strongly in their worlds - some girls don't have it at all. It's changing, but the Fighter/Hero role model for girls are still the exception, not the rule.
Example: Both my sons trained in martial arts as kids. There were girls in their classes. The percentage was not equal though, 25 maybe 30% of the kids were female. And when on average, there are more female children than male children - that percentage difference is noteworthy.
How many girls do you see on the high school wrestling teams? More now than 20 years ago, sure. But where would you put it? 40%? 30% Not even close. Go to an MMA gym - what's the gender ratio? It won't be even close to an even split in most places. It's a great microcosm of the social messages we marinate in - boys fight. Girls...not so much.
Boys grow up learning the social rules around the fight. When to stop. that it's okay to let your friends pull you off and walk away. You can hold your own, but don't cross certain lines. There's a textbook's worth of dissecting we could do on this one. Bottom line, girls don't grow up with this same level of fight-indoctrination directly or vicariously.
Put her in a self-defense class and tell her she needs to learn to be a fighter and she's going to glitch. Maybe not openly and maybe not even consciously - but if she didn't grow up in martial arts etc., she knows she isn't here to learn to be a good Fighter.
This is because just like the boys who get indoctrinated in the Fighter/Hero context of being male, she's getting indoctrinated into world of shadow and gray lines and paradoxical expectations. Be nice, but don't be taken advantage of. Be pretty...but don't attract too much attention. Be helpful, but don't be naive. Be strong, but don't be bitchy about it. Again, a textbook's worth of stuff here too. On the mat in self-defense training she knows she is not going to be confronted with violence in the context of a fight*. The guy at the end of the bar is not going to start something with her with a "hey! What da' fuck YOU lookin' at!!?? You want a piece of me??"
Nope. He's going to offer to walk her to her car on the way to his, because she shouldn't go out into the dark parking lot alone. He's going to shame her if she refuses his Hero moment. He's going to take her flirting and use it to carefully maneuver her where there aren't any witnesses. He's going to be the guy she kinda' knows (because he's part of the larger social group she hangs out with) who tells her "your ex is a dumb son-of-a-bitch for not hanging on to you...because if I had a woman like you...I'd make damned sure you knew how important you were...." as the beginning of his predatory interview.
The word "fight" has hella' strong social violence connotations attached. No matter how much we intellectualize it away, those connotations are there. The violence most women face does not follow clean social violence patterns. She is not going to exchange blows with someone of equal size/mass/power. She knows this in an way that is more intuitive than conscious; and if it's unconscious enough, she will doubt her instincts and take the word of the accomplished instructor. She will violate what she knows and start training like a Fighter.
If she is learning to be a Fighter, she will be taught rules of engagement. Social rules unconsciously programmed into all the men she trains with, and who are likely her instructors. Those rules may get her killed.
And as I'm writing this, I'm wondering if maybe the social violence context that men carry might be more dangerous for the men than for the women when a Fight Context is assigned to self-defense. Asocial violence isn't going square up to him any more than it/he will square up to the girl at the end of the bar. It is going to hit him at lightening speed and with a viciousness and apathy (for him as a human being) for which all his fight training and socialization is profoundly antithetical. Maybe, this is worse. He's going to approach the violence inside his Social Fighting context and it is going to fail spectacularly.
Fighting v. Self-defense.
It's a simple fix. The training drills like a 4 on 1 sparring are good drills. Learning to read that your partner throws 2 jabs for every cross is a great skill for rapid assessment and decision making, etc, etc. Discovering that you have the determination to hang through 5 different sparring partners at the end of a 7 hour test - epic. In context.
Instructors just need to make that context clear. Overtly. Directly. Nothing implied or assumed. And people who teach self-defense, who know there is a difference between a fight and a blitz attack (as an example), and who know they are using fighting drills to teach AN aspect applicable to self-defense, and who get the different types of violence and the various victim profiles, who understand the intense implications with fighting language and how fighting drills are filled with training flaws, and...and...and don't make shit up, who are willing to say "I don't know" - these self-defense instructors can blend the worlds and it will work.
Just not easy. The minute instruction gets lazy, it risks the drift into Fighting contexts with the assumption people will "get it". Only they won't. It's not a lack of intelligence. The social conditioning has gone into core belief systems held at the monkey brain level, one of the strongest decision makers we live in.
One of the comments on the last post was that Fighting VERSUS Self-Defense wasn't the right approach. There's truth to that statement. As a permanent place for dialogue, it isn't useful either. If you don't know there is a difference though, getting clear that there are in fact differences and then what the differences are is critical if self-defense instruction is going to be ethically relevant.
*domestic violence dynamics can look a lot like a fight. The aggression and violence looks like fighting but the context that creates the possibility for domestic violence is about dominance, control and maintaining power differentials.