I have a student, who at the age of sixteen is already stronger than I am. He lifts daily, plays football, lacrosse and now trains in martial arts. To top it off, he is extraordinarily athletic. His reflexes, pain response and mobility are off the charts. In short, there is very little reason for him to do martial arts, except for one small one.
I’m 6’2″ 220 lbs and despite being one-upped by enthusiastic gym rats, I’m no slouch. With enough enthusiasm, I could probably hospitalize a good majority of the population. No ego, no exaggeration. However, I don’t relish the thought of hurting anyone I don’t have to. I don’t really even look forward to hurting someone I would have to if I had less training. The real benefit of my training is that I don’t have to hurt anyone to keep myself safe. I have enough control, restraint and ability to stop someone from causing me harm without them necessarily being injured in the process. It sounds like bad pacifist bullshit, but that’s the truth. I’m certainly prepared to defend myself, and make it the priority, but it’s no longer the only priority.
The next question is why? First, my own desire to not hurt people. Second, is my desire to life freely as a welcome member of society. People look at me, and the self-defense argument goes out the window, particularly if they discover what my career is. The minute I seriously injure someone, my motives are called into question. There is a perception that I somehow MUST be able to defend myself without causing others harm. Thank you Hollywood. Although there is the other perception that I contend with that all martial artists are bloodthirsty lunatics. Again, not in my favor.
The real problem with being, big and capable is that people have unrealistic ideas about what you are going to do about it, whether they admit it or not. For us, training is about learning how to manage a dangerous situation in a way that will play out in our favor in the long run, not just get us home safe.