When Two Tigers Fight

“When two tigers fight, one is injured and one is killed.” 

-Chinese Proverb

There is an adage that when two armed men encounter each other, there will be one of three results:

  1. One man dies, and the other man goes home
  2. One man dies, and the other man goes home–and dies
  3. Both men die

There is a fourth possiblity… and it is that both men can agree not to fight. And that fourth possiblity is the only guarantee that one will live between the two. The chances are too great–however–that either one or both will be severely injured. Whether the weapons used are sharp, not-too-sharp, heavy blunt object, or not-too-heavy blunt object–you or your opponent may still suffer injury or death. When approaching mutual combat, one must always weigh this possiblity strongly.

Self-defense programs must differentiate true self-defense from mutual combat; they are not the same–nor are they equal. In true self-defense, I would add a third option to the stop-me-or-I-stop-you philosophy used by many FMAers:  I kill you. When you are attacked and you do not know your attacker, I would call this “true self defense”. Regardless of the venue–a bar, your home, at work, outside of a bank, a robbery, an aggravated assault, an argument with a stranger, a car accident–when you do not know your opponent, I believe that killing your opponent is somewhat justified because you do not know what sort of danger you are really facing. Now, if you can stop your opponent short of giving him brain damage or plunging a pair of scissors in his eye, then do it. Break his leg or his collar bone, knock him out, choke him into unconsciousness. In fact, by injuring an opponent this way, you are actually saving your opponent from sure death by allowing him an out. However, you often will not have this kind of control over your situation and there is the option that you may have to seriously hurt your opponent to stop him. I would rather be put on trial for going too far in self-defense than prayed over at my own funeral.

The other end of the spectrum is mutual combat. This is where you know your opponent and a fight occurs that could have been avoided. And that is why I call this “mutual” combat. You most likely knew there was a touchy situation that led to the fight. Perhaps you were angry, your opponent was angry… Or maybe you did not know your opponent but a verbal escalation occurred before the attack. In any case, mutual combat occurs when you are not surprise attacked and you are aware that you are not the victim of an attempted murder. In this situation, death that is caused by accident, negligence or effort is wrong. And excuse me for bringing religion into this discussion–but God’s word states that when a man kills another, his life is required of him. It is only right, by accident or intent, that a killer is punished. Not in cases of self-defense, I must emphasize; but any man, trained or not, has a duty to avoid a fight. And I obligate any man who has a potential altercation with a known opponent to avoiding the fight at all costs.

Going into the mutual combat situation is also very dangerous, regardless of how trained you are. The greatest fighters have all been taken down by lucky punches, and when you are fighting due to anger or fear your reflexes are off. How many articles have you seen where two untrained combatants fight and one dies? Too many, that’s how many. One can die from the punch alone, a medical condition unknown to either men, the fall, an object on the ground. And I am not speaking just of your opponent–but you, sir. Every man reading this blog can be killed by a lucky punch. Is your life worth collecting a debt on some jerk flirting with your wife? Or someone playing his music too loud? Or a family member blurting out an embarrassing secret? How would you feel if you punched a friend out of anger because he’d had too much to drink… and it killed him?

Every combatant–trained or not–has this potential. As a martial arts teacher you must never neglect to make sure your students understand this very real and very wise saying.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Author: thekuntawman

full time martial arts teacher, full time martial arts philosopher, and full time martial arts critic

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