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Sliding Scale of Responses

I like to remind students (and myself) of options. More specifically, I like to remind students that we do have options, and how easy it is to lose sight of that. It is an easy habit to practice a technique in a given way so often that it because an automatic reaction. In some cases this is a good thing to have a response built into our muscle memory. That’s why we constantly drill and practice. But there is an inherent danger too. Not every encounter we face requires the most violent of responses, even in the case of physical self-defense. If the only option we have in a conflict is to destroy, then everyone who raises their voice to us looks like a target. This is not the way I want to live my life. I’d rather have what I like to call a ‘sliding scale of responses.’

One way we accomplish that in training is to vary the way we apply any given technique. For example, some days we might practice performing just the ‘Defend’ portion of the technique, then push away to create space and attempt to retreat and diffuse the situation. Some days we practice the full technique, but with little or no ‘impact’ as if this was an inebriated friend we didn’t want to put into the hospital. And other days the skill is practiced with the idea that it is life or death. In each of those examples we still put the principle in action. It is the same technique, just applied differently. Without this practice of varying levels of response, we run the risk of using too much or too little violence for the situation, which leads to lawsuits and possible jail time on one end, and harm to ourselves or those we care about on the other. So many students I’ve worked with who’ve had other training say they’ve never heard this kind of thing taught outside of To-Shin Do.

Why don’t other martial arts teach this? It’s hard, would be my first guess. Hard to teach. Hard to learn. It is so much easier to have a ‘one size fits all response’. But life tends to not work that way. For those of us that want martial arts to be our way of life, we need an approach to training that fits all the possibilities life can throw at us. Knowing how to tailor our response to the situation allows us to use To-Shin Do in countless ways that may not even look like martial arts to the outsider. We get the option to win without looking like a martial artist, perhaps even without it looking like a conflict at all.

Of course, if all we ever train for is to talk our way out of conflict or to use less violent movements to escape, we’d still be missing some options we want to have … just in case. So while we practice ways to resolve a conflict and still avoid violence whenever possible, we’re also really good at winning the other way too.

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