Voltaire once said, "I know I am among civilized men because they are fighting so savagely." When most people think about combat, they think about war. They think of combat as the fighting that occurs between two opposing armies, but combat may also occur between just two people. Because of this, many of the principles of warfare are also applicable to personal combat situations. This article explains some of the principles of combat that are related to personal self-defense situations.
Combat takes place between all living things; even plants compete for an area of ground. Humans have engaged in combat since the beginning of humanity, when Adam and Eve's sons, Cain and Abel, engaged in combat.
Most people think of combat as being a useless endeavor, remember Edwin Starr’s 1970 hit song “War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!” However, combative behavior has its purposes in our society. It helps establish one's position within the societal group hierarchy (affective combative behavior). It also provides for the protection of the group and individuals in the group from enemies (pseudo-predatory combative behavior). Nowadays, affective combative behavior is frowned upon as being socially dysfunctional, and pseudo-predatory combative behavior is generally limited to professionals who use it daily, such as military or law enforcement personnel.
Combat as entertainment
Throughout human history, combat has been used for entertainment. People are impressed by the physical abilities of the combatants, aroused by the actions of the combatants, and excited by the possibility of injury to the combatants. People are entertained by watching flashy fighting skills that are beyond the abilities of ordinary people. This is illustrated by the popularity of action movies and combat video game. Combat is an integral part of human nature. Sports are a type of combat; people are attracted to martial arts because of their combative nature.
As a result of the public's attraction to the flamboyant, many martial arts have become more entertainment oriented. They have changed their rules, increased the fighting range, and awarded more points for flashy, large movement kicks to take advantage of the public's attraction to flamboyant techniques, but the techniques are practically useless in combat. Combatants stand far away from each other and perform flashy techniques for the crowd and the public considers the better fighter to the one with the most flamboyant skills. However, combat is an extremely physical, up-close, and personal activity; it’s not pretty to watch. The better gather is the one who is the victor.
Because of overexposure to flamboyant fighting skills, people have begun to think that displaying flamboyant fighting skills is the way humans should exhibit effective combative behavior. However, the natural way for humans to display effective combative behavior is the same as the behavior animals exhibit when they enter territorial combat. There is little fighting, it is usually just a display of prowess and combat behavior to intimidate the interloper. Nowadays, because of viewing action movies, combat video games, etc., people have forgotten how to read the displays of combat that humans naturally exhibit.
Human and animal combat displays use specific types of movement, posture, and visual activity. Human predators will display the intentions of a predator. They will view the victim impersonally. The victim is not someone to be punished or someone who arouses anger, he or she is merely a victim to be dominated, and, if necessary, defeated. Everybody should always be aware of their situation and environment, but a predator is also aware of how to dominate it and has the intent to exploit it. The goal of combat is not to stand and exchange blows but to explosively dominate the situation as effectively and efficiently as possible.
In combat, there is usually no need to establish a personal connection with the opponent through talking; the only reason to communicate is to mislead or lure the opponent. Communication leads to an emotional connection that only acts to disrupt combative awareness and intent. Eye contact with the opponent should also be avoided. The eyes are for gathering information about the surroundings. Eye contact tends to arouse emotions on both sides and lock attention onto the opponent, which detracts from being aware of the surroundings.
In combat situations, opponents display their intentions through posture, stance, and movement. Combative postures should be used only to prepare for action since any posture that overtly signals intent or capability will telegraph your intention to the opponent. The most common and natural combative posture in humans is the "stalking posture," which is like that of a hunting cat. In the stalking posture, the person is crouched with knees bent, leaning slightly forward in a ready position that allows for quick movement in any direction and permits an explosive transition from slow cautious stalking to an explosive attack. This posture indicates the intent and mindset of a predator.
Martial arts combat
Martial arts were developed for group protection with an emphasis on fighting skills and a concern for combat results; they were not designed for self-protection or self-perfection. Don Draeger, in his book Bojutsu and Budo, states that the difference between Bojutsu (fighting methods or techniques) and Budo (fighting way or philosophy) is that Bojutsu represents the pursuit of the combat professional whose main interest is the protecting the solidarity of the group, while Budo represents the pursuit of the amateur whose main interest is self-protections and spiritual cultivation of one's self.
An example of this is the military or sports teams where protection of the group and group goals are more important than the protection of one's self. A lone professional cannot exist in these groups and will be ejected. The person will now no longer be a professional protecting the group, but an amateur acting for purely selfish reasons.
A warrior’s comportment represents combative capability before, during, and after the fighting. It is the way a combat professional displays pseudo-predatory combative behavior.
The warrior's demeanor is upright, fluid, and aware. It neither offers a challenge nor presents a weakness. It is a posture that provides a foundation for action or avoidance of action. It is one of unassuming awareness, where one's posture is one that neither draws attention for a display of bravery, such as piercing eyes or swaggering nor a display of meekness, such as averted eyes or slumped shoulders. The warrior’s vision is ambient, looking and seeing without challenging or inviting. The warrior presents neither a display of capability nor an offer as a target.
The warrior exhibits a "dominating awareness" that displays an awareness of the situation and the underlying ability to handle any situation. The warrior's awareness is an intuitive one gained through years of training and experience rather than conscious, analytical alertness. It is a dominating awareness that displays the ability to preempt and forestall an attack rather than reacting to and defending against an attack.
Just as all the dogs in a dog park instinctively sense when a dominant dog has entered the park, everyone in a room knows when a warrior has entered the room.