Last week, a video surfaced of an Alliance Minnesota Purple Belt who was sucker punched after a pick-up basketball game at a YMCA. The Alliance Purple Belt was able to effectively use his BJJ skills to take the fight to the ground, secure his attacker’s back and then transition to a triangle choke attempt, to an arm attempt, to opponent guard sweep and finally to a foot lock position. The initial video posted on the Alliance Minnesota Facebook page started moments before the sucker punch and was applauded by many in the BJJ community since it demonstrated the power of BJJ in a self-defense situation and it also showed the restraint of the BJJ practitioner who gave his attacker a chance to back off rather than secure a footlock.
A day later, a longer video was posted that showed the minute before the altercation where both men were talking trash about each other’s basketball game. Both men acted in a childish manner, cursing and mocking each other’s basketball skills. While the Purple Belt was sucker punched and had to defend himself against the attacker, the whole situation could have been avoided if the Purple Belt showed the discipline and restraint of a martial artist and defused the situation before it escalated.
At the start of the video, the eventual attacker and the Purple Belt are walking off the court and the attacker calls out the Purple Belt. Rather than engage this person in verbal sparring, the Purple Belt should have either diffused the situation right there or walked away. It is difficult to just walk away when you are called out or verbally accosted. We have our pride and egos. We don’t want to back down in front of our peers since they might lose respect for us.
However, the Purple Belt should have used his head and calmly diffuse the situation rather than lowering himself to the attacker’s level .This is the guaranteed way to avoid escalating the situation into a physical confrontation. In the event the attacker continues the verbal assault, the Purple Belt should have further wished the attacker a ‘nice day’ and to ‘take care.’ In the worst case scenario, for any of us we should simply walk away. Sure we might be called names and taunted for backing down, but it is the best way to avoid a physical altercation.
We as martial artists, should be examples of calmness and reason in these situations. We should be the ones who have the inner-confidence and character from our training to be the better person and to work to resolve the situation without violence. The ability to do so is a sign of inner strength, rather than a sign of weakness that others may perceive from the situation.
I was once in a confrontation in downtown Las Vegas at 3 AM in the morning with a drunk college-aged guy who got in my face and called me every name in the book. Since I was sober, I was able to quickly compute a few of my options and potential outcomes.
Option A: Walk away and I can be back at my hotel in 20 minutes relaxing.
Option B: I throw a punch and it turns into “Keeping it Real Goes Wrong” and I am injured and/or arrested.
Option C: I throw a punch or do something to injure him and I am arrested, sued, and facing jail time.
Out of those 3 options, the only one where I am in complete control and am 100% sure of the outcome was to walk away. Sure, I was mad and part of me wondered what could have happened if we did get into a physical altercation. IN the end, the best outcome for all of us, was to be the bigger person and walk away.
If I were still in my college phase, I might have taken the bait and done something I would have regretted. Thankfully, I had trained BJJ for a year when that confrontation occurred and the lessons learned in BJJ helped me to walk away. My ego was calmer from having the constant release of stress from drilling and rolling. I also knew from BJJ that you could not judge a book by its cover since I had been roughed up by numerous training partners who were much smaller than me. From the beatings I took in class, I also gained the knowledge of knowing just how uncomfortable a physical confrontation could be and how helpless I could find myself if things went wrong for me during a quick 15 to 30 second fight. One punch could severely injure me or my opponent. One takedown could break a limb or cause permanent damage to my back or neck.
Martial Arts and BJJ isn’t just physical exercise. It is a mental and spiritual enlightenment as well. The awareness gained from BJJ should give us the confidence and ability to diffuse a potentially violent situation and to walk away with our heads held high. The best form of self-defense is to diffuse a situation through diplomacy before any punches are thrown.