I had this debate with a Special Forces guy when I was a mental health counselor in the Army. I was telling him of a fellow enlisted counselor that I worked with who had done an amazing thing with our aikido-based takedown training. One day a disgruntled patient had walked into the clinic and pulled a gun on the receptionist. The soldier/counselor I worked with had taken control of the gun, threw the patient to the ground and subdued him with no shots fired and no one got hurt. The only other training this soldier had was some high school wrestling.
I related this incident to the Spec Ops guy and he just laughed. That wasn’t REAL martial arts, he said, and intimated that my friend was lucky he and other people weren’t dead. He then went on to describe the Special Forces training he received, and it became clear to me that martial arts to him meant snapping sentries’ necks and killing others in the quickest fashion possible. With a clear intent to kill, he felt this enraged patient deserved the same himself, and not to use that level of force was to put others at risk.
I quickly realized that he and I were training for completely different contexts.
I like this because too many people assume that for some reason SF or SWAT or whatever training is in some way "more real" than... what? Reality is reality. The counselor pulled it off in real time for real stakes with damn little room for error. That's real.
And we have a guy arguing from training (anything in the above to indicate the SF guy had ever been deployed? Ever been on a mission that screwed up so badly that he had to go unarmed against an armed man?) that the experience was somehow invalid. He made good points, making points is easy- but he is arguing with success in an environment where he may have been killed using his tactics (and probably would have been sued, successful or not) and there is no way to know. No way to know if the counselor could pull it off a second time, no way to know if the SF guy could have pulled it off once.
That uncertainty terrifies humans. When arguments arise out of this (and, for the record, I don't think Steve and I are having an argument or even debating, we are looking for the bridge between our experiences) it is because people are whistling in the dark, hiding behind talismans from this fear.
You can never know. You can believe, you can trust. You can have an edge. But you can't know, and you can't even know how big your edge is- or if this is the one fight in a thousand where your edge is a vulnerability.
...he just laughed. That wasn’t REAL martial arts, he said... this burns me, a little. He implies that REAL would be better, but what could be a better outcome? He also equates REAL with his "realistic" training, and that training as more real than real. I sometimes wish that when people catch themselves in a contradiction like this that their brains would implode. Maybe it would happen if they could only see it.
Dave deals with it with his characteristic wisdom: I quickly realized that he and I were training for completely different contexts. In anything, context is critical, sometimes context is more critical than the event: If a 200 pound guy picks you up, slams you into the ground and begins strangling you, you shoot him. Clearly self-defense... unless it is a judo randori, in which case it is murder.
I believe that the SF soldier cripples himself when he chooses to believe that his training is more real than real.
I believe his instructors at some point told him that he was training for the "real thing" and that helped to close his mind. (Caveat- I see this as intensified in martial arts where often students are taught one definition of a win, e.g. KO, submission, ippon; work in one environment; and under one set of rules and extrapolate this snap shot to the vast world of violence. Military/LEOs sometimes expand these, but rarely enough. They usually deal with only a slightly larger picture.)
I believe deciding to train to only a certain set of problems (I don't live in a high crime area so I can skip the nasty stuff) is a form of denial. A small woman who wants to survive a home invasion attack may need a level of ruthlessness and ferocious technique that would make the SF guy faint.
Here's that uncertainty terror again: You don't get to pick which bad things will happen in your life. Deciding that you are prepared for what is essentially unknowable is talisman thinking.
Last- the greatest skill a martial artist can develop and the greatest gift an instructor can give a student is permission to see and respond to what is actually happening. Permission to break any 'always' or 'never' when it is clearly not working. Permission to respond lethally or to not fight at all as required and the judgment to tell, in the moment which is required.