There is something especially difficult about turning down a challenge to prove yourself as a martial artist. Whether it’s because you want to put to bed any doubts about your skill, or someone is just talking crap about your system/dojo, the compulsion to go toe to toe is strong for a lot of people.
Here is where things go terribly wrong. The minute you add conditions or rules like “no hitting in the face” you are no longer practicing a martial art. You are engaging in a sport. Now, this new sport that you’ve invented has one or two rules about conduct, but how do you decide a winner? We like to define victory as looking and feeling as good when you get home as when you left the house. In your contest, this does not make for a gratifying end. So, you decide to go until someone ”gives up”. Well, in a life-or-death struggle, giving up means dying. This sounds a little extreme. So you decide to stop when it hurts. But, a lot of techniques are painful long before they have caused the desired effect to the other persons mind/body. So, stopping when it hurts means that the technique may or may not have gone off corretly in the end. So, we really haven’t proven anything yet. This is getting tricky.
So, to really, really prove the validity of our skill and our martial art, we need to throw away any conditions, real or implied. We will need to continue until one of the contestants is either incapacitated or otherwise unable to continue (read: dead). There is a word for this kind of contest; a deul. So, unless you are prepared to duel the person you are face to face with, DON’T DO IT! When you put in artificial constraints, the martial artists who trains for a life-or-death fight is setting themself up for failure.
The next time someone challenges you to a friendly competition, suggest the no hitting in the face rule as an understood and fair compromise between friends. Surely a fight with just one rule should be pretty telling. Square up, and let them make the call to begin (since we’re already making concessions)—then slap them full on in the face.
When you get the inevitable “What the hell? I thought you said no hitting the face!” Tell them, “My martial art teaches me to break rules. I will do anything, I mean anything I have to, to stop a person intent on causing me harm. Do you want to keep going?”