Athletes are part of life. Most of us in an athletic field or profession, regardless of our discipline, are often referred to as jocks. Fair enough. However, although jocks can be nice guys and contribute to the well-being of society, there is a time when discretion and common sense dictate withdrawal from a potentially violent situation. Instincts play a part, as do circumstances. But let’s be clear-simply being a great athlete, weight lifter, buffed out football player, hockey player or any configuration of the same-does not guarantee one’s safety in a self-defense situation. Retreat is a viable military tactic, and knowing when to retreat and create distance between you and a potentially destructive or lethal situation is vital to staying healthy or even staying alive. One may be right in an argument, but he may also be dead right, and that’s the crux of the problem.
True story-June, 2011: A southern California strength and conditioning coach, his brother and friends were out late one night. In visiting an all-night restaurant, a confrontation began between them and a woman who cut in line. Words were exchanged. One of the guys apparently spit in the woman’s face in response to her negative attitude. The argument escalated and the restaurant owner asked them all to leave. She called her boyfriend, and when he arrived with his entourage of buddies, a fight occurred in the parking lot. The result was that the strength and conditioning coach was stabbed to death. One of his friends also died of knife wounds inflicted by the girl’s boyfriend who had a prior history of armed assault with a deadly weapon. The alleged stabber/murderer was arrested and is currently waiting trial.
Sad… but too common. How many stories exist of young people dying because of such a lack of wisdom and an all-too-anxious ego-driven desire to mix it up? What self-defense principles could have been employed to diffuse this situation and prevent the tragic death of those in this event?
1: Balanced and Calm Demeanor
Life will forever present events and/or people who annoy us or do things that potentially upset us. However, that does not mean we should allow them or their actions to imbalance us and disturb our sense of calm. In truth, no one can upset us. We allow them or their actions to upset us. Having someone cut in line is one thing, but does it warrant an escalation to the point of argument or worse?
2: Humble Attitude
Humility is the highest form of strength; arrogance is the highest form of weakness. Humility is a great shield against the arrogance of insanity that pervades society. Lacking humility and having a quick trigger to spit in someone’s face is anything but humble and everything that is incendiary.
3: Awareness of the Situation
Reading a situation is critical to well-being. Heroes may never get killed in the movies, but real life is not the movies. People’s emotions are like fire, and young people’s emotions are like a forest fire, and, sadly, most young people feel they are invincible. Such thought is a specter of illusion. Assessing a situation and its potential for creating problems and danger is essential to our well-being. Living in a state of naiveté is dangerous. Be safe. Be aware.
4: Create Distance
When a situation begins to flare up, one of the safest and wisest things to do is leave. Create distance between you and the situation. Had these young men left the restaurant when the girl was calling her boyfriend or when the owner asked them to leave, they would still be alive. There’s nothing smart or heroic about staying in the forest when a fire starts, fires which can spread very fast, especially when there is ample emotional kindling to fuel it.
5: Do You Want to Die on this Hill?
Some battles are better not fought or at least postponed until a better opportunity presents itself for engagement. Picking and choosing our battles is important. Some battles are not worth fighting, let alone sacrificing our life for. A person cutting in line, although unseemly, is an event demanding wise assessment. In this case, such assessment was not made and the result was the tragic death of two young men and all of the attending pain, suffering and turmoil accompanying it.
Was this murder scenario Death by Jockdom? Was it more a condition of ego and testosterone than wisdom and humility? Only the participants can answer that. The fact is, two young men cannot answer because they’re dead, however accomplished or nice people they may have been.
We are living in an ever-volatile environment demanding, perhaps more than ever, a calm disposition and ability to assess situations for their danger. Tensions are high. People are stressed. Respect for law and order, even life, seems to be waning. Life is more fragile than some people choose to believe. Danger can be around any corner, at any time. One never knows when a situation will erupt into a volcanic explosion. Be wise. Be smart. Be calm. Be balanced. Be humble. Assess situations for their potential damage. Create distance if you have to in order to remain safe, and never forget to ask yourself, “Do you want to die on this hill?”