The first precept of Sensei Gichin Funakoshi by Mireille Clark

" Karate begins with courtesy and ends with courtesy."

Trash talk is common in many sports. Verbal insults, swear words, and threats are sent towards one's opponents in order to "psych out" or intimidate their opponents. It is done to unnerve, distract, frighten, and/or lower the confidence of the person in order to gain an advantage. Talking trash talk also seems to help motivate, and build up the person sending the insults. This behavior happens despite the fact that each sport has sanctions against disrespecting one's opponent. Why does this happen? Because the benefits of using this competitive "tool" outweighs the penalties that might occur. "By distracting and unnerving their opponents, while arousing themselves at the same time, athletes hope to shift the sometimes fine line between victory and defeat. As LoConto and Roth explained, "The goal is demean opponents and cause enough imbalance to diminish their performance"" Website

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Young athletes learn by the age of 11 years old from their peers, opponents, parents, and even coaches that trash talk is not only effective, and accepted, but that it is a desired behavior and attitude. According to studies, 42% of boys, and 22% of girls felt that it was acceptable to trash talk their opponents, and this number may be rising.

Traditional Martial Arts training however stresses the opposite behavior. We are exhorted to control our emotions, de-escalate violence, avoid engaging in the fight if possible, and show respect at all times. I believe that this is due to the understanding that we are not training in a sport where no one is injured at the end of the confrontation. According to Sensei Gichin Funakoshi, "When two tigers fight, one is certain to be maimed, and one to die."

When we are placed in a self defense situation, we have to be ready to do whatever is necessary to survive because our opponent is seeking to harm us. It is not an accumulation of points, or goals that we are hoping to achieve, we need to walk away from that moment with our lives intact. This may mean breaking limbs, gouging eyes, even killing the attacker since they are threatening our lives.

We need to feel a deep respect for what we can do, and would do if placed in that situation, and therefore we seek to de- escalate violence as much as possible.

In a website dedicated to prison staff learning how to control violent behavior in inmates it emphasizes "NEVER THREATEN: Once you have made a threat or given an ultimatum you have ceased all negotiations and put yourself in a potential win lose situation."website

Verbal de-escalation techniques is to use closed sentences that stops conversation as responses to questions sent in your direction:

"If you're asked “What are you looking at?” the easy answer is to say something along the lines of, "Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you were someone I knew. My mistake, sorry," and start to move away. If after this the guy pursues the issue, you know he is just out for a fight and you must then prepare for self defense. To reduce the ‘squeaky voice’ effect common when you get a heightened level of adrenaline in your system, look down slightly as you speak. Looking upwards makes your voice squeakier.

Making open statements only invites more conversation. If someone has engaged you in a verbal confrontation, they haven't yet justified in their mind a physical attack. They may still be trying to figure you out as a fighter, looking to distract you to set you up for a proactive strike, or simply cannot yet justify physically attacking you yet. What they are looking is for a reason, and using open statements and questions keeps you in the conversation longer. Give yourself more rope, and eventually they'll find a reason to escalate to a full out attack."

Therefore, you respect yourself enough that you do not need to defend your pride, masculinity/femininity or honor against their insults. You respect your opponent enough that you chose not to confront them if unnecessary, and you allow them the option to desist. You focus on your goal of walking away safely from any potentially dangerous situation as quickly as possible. If the situation comes that you must fight, then you make sure that you are the tiger that goes home. You do not spend your time or energy with words, but go straight into action.

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Bunkai Jutsu said…
Good points. For too long traditional martial arts have ignored the psychological aspects of pre-fight build up; or indeed how to avoid a fight if possible at this stage. It is good to see that more and more people are talking about this side of self defence.
Colin Wee said…
I've spent 25 years studying martial arts. It's got so many layers which keep me entertained and motivated. I have over the past few years come to appreciate the nijukun, maybe not as much as Mireille does, but I think without this emphasis, a student practitioner will not get a complete understanding of his/her practice. I think it should be mandatory reading, along with Art of War and Book of Five Rings.


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