Spending a good deal of my 30's in a deprived, violent inner city - I have seen more than my fair share of conflict.
I have been attacked in the street - by a gang of teenagers because I would not buy booze for them. I have thrown violent drunks out of the pub I was working in. People have tried to mug me - once with a knife - the other unarmed. I have been shot at and I've seen someone shot to death point-blank with a machine gun. Gentle reader, I have seen too much.
When I started learning martial arts, it was to defend myself. I started with Karate as a youngster, then moved to Tai Chi because I feared physical assault and wanted to protect myself. As by first teacher, Brian used to say....
"Karate is a pain trade-off. A regular small amount of pain over a long period of time to stop a huge amount of pain in a short time."
I remember laughing and agreeing. It was a great slogun that kept me training and pushing myself.
By the time of my first conflict, I was embarrassed at how easy it was to defend myself - he had no training, and as he tried to take my wallet, he certainly did not expect anything from a skinny guy like me. It was too easy. I don't think I even broke sweat.
Yet as I walked away, casually feigning nonchalance, my mind was racing. What if he was armed? Why didn't I try to arrest him? He would now probably pick himself up and find someone else. Over the following weeks, I could not get it out of my mind.
It has been the same with all conflicts that I have experienced - the physical challenge is nothing compared to the mental turbulence that is created by violence. There are many martial arts that teach you how to destroy the assault and repel the attacker. But do they teach you how to calm yourself, and focus? Do they teach you to let go of the negative emotions that can plague you for weeks, months and sometimes years after the event?
There is pleasure when you scratch an itchy rash... but it's better still - to have no rash. It is the same with fear. Your martial arts teacher should not only teach you how to defend yourself physically, but also mentally.
I will soon be publishing how to detach from negative emotions and heal yourself to your core. Watch this space....
....and be happy.