A slight play on the chicken or egg thing, with a martial arts twist.
I watch my two young sons playing. The youngest is only 5, and has had no martial arts training yet beyond trying to copy and few kicks he's seen us practice.
Neither of my kids has ever trained judo or anything like it.
Yet I watch them play fight. It usually ends up with then wrestling on the floor. I see crude but very credible techniques happen almost constantly. I see them move in very efficient ways, I see 'tai sabaki' happening to evade or redirect force. I see seamless transitions. I see very proficient roll out and back onto feet with guard straight up.
Obviously I know that martial is a refinement of instinctive ability. Unless martial art was passed down from gods or aliens (joke). But what this gets me thinking is, when so many martial artists assume that 'the average untrained thug won't know what's coming', maybe it is the martial artist that will be caught off guard, having been conditioned to think about certain way, while 'the average untrained thug' is actually more martial artist than the martial artist.
Of course I'm not saying that martial arts training is counterproductive. Not for one second. Effective training to refine an instinctive ability can only be a good thing. But as martial artists we do have a tendency to boast about how open minded we are, we like to brag about how much more humble we are than everyone else while getting quite defensive about such things. Perhaps if we really were open minded and humble and if we really did leave our egos at the door, ie if we practice what we preach, I wonder if it would have any impact on deep rooted perceptions within the arts.
I guess I'm kind of wondering, when it comes to the nuts and bolts of teaching our kids to defend themselves, if we should kind of let them explore their natural ability to move, rather than forcing them to stand in lines, bow a lot, and do as they're told. Or put another way, can we learn as much from kids as they can learn from us?