One of the things that always delights me is that way that good martial advice tends to transcend system, culture and geographic location. What works, works. Therefore, we see much commonality between what can seem, on the surface at least, to be radically differing systems.
I have just started reading “Self-defence for gentlemen and ladies” by Colonel Thomas Hoyer Monstery (1824 – 1901); which was originally published in 1877. Thomas Hoyer Monstery was a Danish-American fencing and boxing instructor, duellist and mercenary.
In the part of the book that deals with self-defence (which I have obviously skipped forward to!) he writes the following:
“Always try to get in the first blow in a chance encounter. Parley with your enemy, and watch him until you see that you will be assaulted …”
Here we see an understanding that many situations have a dialogue component and that pre-emptively striking, when you beleive an attack is immanent, is advised.
Of course we see that mirrored in the advice of today’s self-protection experts such as Geoff Thompson:
“You are either first or you are last, and last in this arena might mean the cold slab. If you have to be physical, the pre-emptive strike is the only consistently effective technique … You only have to look at human conflict (civil, national and global) over the centuries to see that war always demands artifice and it always demands pre-emption. The street might be a war in microcosm, but it is no less war-like. The pre-emptive strike really is just common sense, and the moment you face an angry man who wants to flatten the world with your head you will know, no-one will need to draw you diagrams, you will just instinctively know.”
We also see it mirrored in the advice of past masters such as Gichin Funakoshi, Choki Motobu and Kenwa Mabuni:
"When there are no avenues of escape or one is caught even before any attempt to escape can be made, then for the first time the use of self-defense techniques should be considered. Even at times like these, do not show any intention of attacking, but first let the attacker become careless. At that time attack him concentrating one's whole strength in one blow to a vital point and in the moment of surprise, escape and seek shelter and help." – Gichin Funakoshi
“When faced with someone who disrupts the peace or who will do one harm, one is as a warrior in battle, and so it only stands to reason that one should seize the initiative and pre-empt the enemy’s use of violence. Such action in no way goes against the precept of ‘no first attack’ …the expression ‘karate ni sente nashi’ [no first attack in karate] should be properly understood to mean that the karateka must never take a hostile attitude, or be the cause of a violent incident; he or she should always have the virtues of calmness, prudence and humility in dealing with others.” – Kenwa Mabuni
“There is a saying ‘no first attack in karate’ …To be sure, it is not the budo [martial art] spirit to train for the purpose of striking others without good reason. I assume that you already understand that in karate one's primary goal must be the training of mind and body… But when a situation can't be avoided and the enemy is intent on doing you serious harm, you must fight ferociously. When one does fight, taking control of the enemy is vital, and one must take that control with the very first move. Therefore, in a fight one must attack first. It is very important to remember this.” – Choki Motobu
What we can see in the above quotes is the need to avoid violence through awareness and good behaviour. Once again, Colonel Thomas Hoyer Monstery mirrors this advice in his book:
“My final advice on boxing is: be civil to all, and never seek a quarrel, but if one is forced on you, strike quick and surprise your opponent.”
Here we have a former British bouncer, three Okinawan karateka, and one American fencing / boxing instructor all recommending the same ideals and practicalities.
As Geoff states, “the pre-emptive strike is the only consistently effective technique.” It should therefore come as no surprise that is it so widely recommend. This truth is wider than any one specific system such that all systems should embrace it. Truth must shape system, as opposed to system trying to redefine “truth”.
These commonalities also help illustrate that we are best served when we seek universal truths as opposed to the idiosyncrasies of style. In seeking those truths, we do well to seek alternative expressions of those truths from outside our own style; because in doing so, we better understand the truths that lie at the heart of the style we use as a base. Truth is truth; no matter where it is found.
All the best,