Martial arts are mostly thought of as being violent. At the beginning of each enrolment year there come those that want to fight. They see martial arts as a solution to their way of solving conflicts on streets, in bars or other locations. They feel that they will be “equipped” with better tooling and can turn the outcome of the conflict in their favor.
The main question is: “Is that so?”
There are two ways to answer this question that may mislead the answer to just one direction: the direction in which one is able only to fight back.
The first answer is by asking yourself: “What is the aim of a bully you meet on the street?” The correct answer is: to harm you. Bully would do anything to achieve his scope. What about you? What is your scope? Is it to fight back? If yes, the possible outcome is that you'll be injured. This means that you are in trouble and you definitively have lost at least two things: your pride and your health. The other alternative is that you’ll harm the bully, when you probably could think in terms of I have won. But there is something more to it. What if the bully sues you due to the caused injuries? You might win (rarely, if there is a physical injury involved) on the court but more probably you'll have to pay for healing injuries. Have you then in fact won?
Let’s look at the story from a different angle. What should be your scope in a conflict with a bully? To get out of it uninjured? If so, what options do you have? You can calm the bully – this could prove very hard in most cases. You can ask him if you can buy him a beer – might be that this options has better chances. Or you can run away as fast as you can. If you are faster your scope – not to be injured – is fulfilled. No harm was done on either side, no sues are pending … clean solution. But is it a martial arts’ way? Sun Zi said: “The greatest victory is fought without fight!”
Most novices upon hearing this story are very disappointed and some of them quit practicing, with comments going on “Are we here to learn running?” or “Are martial artists cowards?”. Wrong questions! The only correct one is “What are the options to protect myself from being injured in a conflict?”
The story does not end here. There is another question that I was asked long ago by a friend of mine “If you let all the bullies do what they want, then the world is theirs. Do we want this?” There is an answer to conflict resolution in martial arts, a very easy and natural answer: one does not need to be violent or coward to fulfill his scope of “not to be injured”. By practicing martial arts you gain the knowledge that you can solve conflicts via your inner power of stability and, that as a last resort are able to use your learnt skill. The path to this knowledge is long and hard and has a name to it - “gong fu” (hard work).