Every skill I acquire, every new technique or idea hits a very clear filter: will it make me safer? Will it increase my chances of getting out of a bad situation intact? I honor tradition, but I don't really care about it- a single family in Japan has kept a tradition alive for over 350 years that has been the core skill of my close-quarters survival. They have my deepest respect and gratitude, but it was the effectiveness, not the age or lineage that earned my respect. Get it? Same with wisdom and athletics and anything else. They are cool, but not what I need from my training.
The thing is, in my risk management strategy I am managing danger. I get paid to do stuff where stupid people, people who don't pay attention and people who are simply unlucky get hurt. This shit can be dangerous. I work my ass off to minimize that, predicting and preventing every contingency I can... but any martial skill I develop is for the sole purpose of not being the one zipped into the body bag or waking up in the emergency room.
Most martial artists are not managing danger- they are managing fear and that is an entirely different thing.
Steve Barnes, in his wonderful introduction to "Meditations on Violence" writes:
"... legions of young men swamped martial arts schools all over the world, seeking to be strong, to be brave, to be capable-- to, in other words, deal with their fear that they would not be able."
I think I could write pages about fear. I don't respond to it the way most people do, though I used to. Most people acknowledge fear as a bad thing and will do a lot to alleviate the discomfort. I don't usually bother.
Fear isn't real for me. That doesn't mean I don't feel it or that I like it. It simply means that I've had joints popped and small bones broken and an eye gouged and concussions and compared to those, fear isn't real. I have a definite need to avoid the damage, avoid the danger. Fear is just white noise in the background and sometimes a tool.
For most people, fear is a stimulus, a negative stimulus, and they will do what they can to alleviate that negative stimulus. Any animal would do the same. But since fear is mental, it can be alleviated mentally.
You need to be able to do things to mitigate danger.
You only need to think you can do things to alleviate fear.
Compare a blackbelt that took two years to earn in a non-contact system and a blackbelt that took eight years where you had to fight five blackbelts full contact in succession and beat half of them... they alleviate fear just the same. They don't mitigate danger the same.
Note this- danger can only mitigated. There will always be danger and no matter how hard your training is, how realistic, if you are confidant you can handle whatever you will face, it has become a talisman, just as delusional as an easy blackbelt.
Confidence is the result of fear alleviation. It can never be known as over-confidence unless it is tested and failed. If one stays away from danger, the talisman, the confidence, the alleviation of fear are all good things. If a strategy for dealing with fear alone runs into danger... it's probably just as well that the hindbrain steps in and shuts things down.
A danger management strategy shouldn't lead to confidence. The more you know about danger, the fewer answers there are. Words like 'always' and 'never' have a way of disappearing from your vocabulary. Confidence is a short step, at most, from complacency, and complacency is the number one killer in danger zones.