Jack Advises a Would-Be Karate Kid

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Dear Jack,

The other day I got into an altercation with a guy in a parking lot. It was stupid, but it was also really scary because he was so much bigger than me. I got through it ok because somebody called the cops and they showed up before anything could happen.

Now I'm scared. I know people who have been robbed. A friend of mine surprised some burglars. A guy I work with had a home invasion. This dude in the parking lot was completely nuts, working himself up to something violent. If he had really come after me, he would have squashed me like a bug.

I don't like guns, so I was thinking about taking martial arts – Krav Maga or Aikido or MMA - something like that. What do you think is the best system for self-defense?

--Squashed Bug

Dear Grasshopper,

A long time ago in a lifetime far far away, I was a young man driving home late one night from a visit with a lady friend. There was a car behind me as I pulled onto my street. It looked a lot like one of my friend's cars, so when it followed me into the driveway I didn't think anything about it. I got out of my car and walked up to the gate to pet my dog – the sweetest, biggest, goofiest Alaskan Malemute you ever saw. His name was Doofus.

Looking back, I saw two guys I had never seen before getting out of this car. As they walked toward me, Doofus hit the gate so hard it almost came off its hinges. These two gentlemen quietly got back in their car and drove away.

I've trained in the martial arts, but I doubt I could have held off two determined attackers. If they had had guns, no level of martial arts training and no dog no matter how big could have stopped them. If I had had a gun, one or more of us probably would have ended up shot or dead.

It takes years of martial arts training to reach a level where your natural reaction to an attack allows you to defeat your opponent. If you have to think about what to do, you've already lost. A seminar or even a few months of study won't get it done. If you don't practice those reactions on an almost daily basis, your skills will fade.

What you should do is live your life. If learning a martial art allows you to live without fear, then go for it, but don't expect to learn to defend yourself. Train for personal improvement. The best martial art system is the one that works best for you. Most schools have trial periods, so try them until you find one that fits. When you find one, stick with it. The confidence you gain will probably remove that Victim sign from your back, reducing your chances of being attacked in the first place.

Or you could buy a dog, but if you do, buy a dog for a companion, not protection. It's his bark, not his bite, that keeps the bad guys away.

The thing is, you can't prepare for everything life throws your way. You’ve gone your whole life and this is the first time you've ever been in a tense situation, yet now you're scared. Chances are you will never be in this situation again. Chances are the next situation will be completely different. You can't change your fate. You can only change who you are.

Got a problem? Let Jack Waggon set you straight: jack.wagg@gmail.com

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