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never argue with an idiot…

I’ll give you a little anecdote this week. It’s not long don’t worry.

I was giving a talk to some kids yesterday afternoon on Self Defence. Now usually when I’m hired to do a self defence/martial arts course, I give a small talk to satisfy the self defence angle, and then I just get the group to train a lot. I have a little joke with them first and tell them that I’m going to try to compress my self defence philosophy into as little time as possible. I’m now doing it in about 30 seconds. It goes something like: “don’t walk home late at night get the bus hang around with good people don’t go anywhere you’re not comfortable with don’t get involved with drug dealers they have a tendency to be killed wear your seatbelt don’t start fights”. There’s a bit more but that’s not too far off the total. Now obviously there’s a bit more too it but I don’t like to insult people’s intelligence. Anyway, we had 20 minutes without equipment to kill on Monday, so I fleshed it out a bit but while I was I remembered a funny thing that happened to me a couple of years ago.

I was asked to come and do a demonstration with a college group. The topic of the day was “self defence” and they invited me and a few other karate and self defence guys along to show some technique and give a short talk. I was told “15 minutes, no more really, say 10 minutes of techniques and 5 minutes for questions and answers and advice” so I had a couple of things set by for the group to do and then a few things to say at the end. I should point out I was doing this for free. There had been an increase in violence around the campus and this was one of the things they were doing to prevent it. I went up second, after a very nicely spoken Kung Fu instructor who basically said “almost all martial arts are useless against a surprise attack, and most attacks are surprise attacks” and then went on to tell the group that even after 10 years of training, he still wouldn’t be confident that he could fend off an attacker, but he hoped his training would help him. I appreciated what he was trying to say, but the group seemed a bit depressed with this news. Understandably I suppose. I can’t remember what he showed as I popped out to get some coffee, but he got a polite smattering of applause and a mumbled thank you when he was done. Wow. Way to warm them up buddy, I thought. So full of caffeine I went next. I went straight to technique. I explained a bit about BJJ and the concept of MMA and how I’d only be showing one aspect of fighting etc. I showed a quick duck under and a standing rear naked choke. We had a laugh doing it and, possibly because they were happy to be out of their seats for a bit, the group seemed to enjoy it. I cracked my 5 martial arts related jokes and they laughed politely. All going well so far then. Of course I had to talk next, and as I’ve said above, this usually takes about 30 seconds. So I was all set to flesh it out a bit and talk for  a few more minutes. I needn’t have worried. I started out by reflecting what the Kung Fu guy had said, and I told them that his honesty was refreshing and that a lot of people would tell them horseshit just to impress them. Then I went on to explain a few things about why I don’t train for self defence at all, and instead I just train for sport (BJJ, Muay thai, MMA) and how if these sports happen to help me in a self defence environment, then well and good, but I don’t waste any time thinking about it. I think I likened it to a car crash. I can learn how to drive safely, put on my seatbelt, obey the speed limits and road signs, but if someone is drunk and reckless and hits me, then all that is for nothing. All you can do is hope you react when the time comes. I also emphasised the one technique that never fails, (usually before I say it someone in the group will shout “a kick in the nuts!) which of course is the 100m sprint. They laughed politely, I fielded a couple of questions and then I was done. It had been grand, they were a nice group split about 50-50 male to female and a few older students and lecturers too. No problems.

Or so I thought. Next up was a guy who had been down the back of the room in the last row of seats. He had been sitting quietly and I honestly thought he was a parent of one of the kids there. It turns out he was the next speaker. He was introduced as a “Reality Self Defence Instructor” and I was back in my place at the front of the room, sipping my coffee when he opened with “The best thing you can do is forget everything you’ve been told so far because it’s bollocks”. For whatever reason, the Kung Fu lad had left the classroom, so I was the only one there. My memory may have embellished this bit but I seem to remember him either pointing or signalling my way when he said it. Either way, there was little doubt his remark as aimed my way. He got a few more minutes in with some some stuff he’d plagiarised from Geoff Thompson or whoever but the boiling that had started in my gut bubbled over just before he really got going and spilled out of my mouth. “Sorry to stop you” I managed without shouting, “but maybe you could explain what was bollocks first”. I was already a bit miffed so when he said “I’m trying to give a talk here pal” it didn’t help my mood. Pal. Pal? I’ll give him Pal. I don’t know what that term really means but my mother used to use the “I’ll give you ….” template and it always scared me. So I prepared to give him… eh… Pal. Verbal Pal you understand. We hadn’t yet resorted to physical Pal. This was a classroom after all.

It turns out he had a particular problem with myself and Kung Fu man’s pessimistic appraisal of people’s chances in self defence situations. If, he reckoned, you thought people 3 things, they could survive all violent attacks, and yes he used the word ‘all’. One of his particular bugbears was my advice to run at all costs. I’ll spare you the entire conversation, instead, here are some highlights.

Me: “So you don’t think people should run away?”

Him: “No, sometimes you can’t run”

Me: “example?”

Him: “Like if you have someone with you”

Me: “and they can’t run?”

Him: “Say they’re disabled”

Me: “What?”

Him: “Say they’re in a wheelchair”

Me: “Seriously? That’s your first thought on the matter. What if my companion is wheelchair bound?” C’mon!”

Him: “You see lots of people in wheelchairs”

Me: “I’m sure you do but I think at that stage I’d be handing my wallet over. I’d also have to ask serious questions about how I’d allowed myself to endanger my wheelchair bound friend”

Him: “Well then they’ve won”

Me: “Well, I’d live with that”

Him: (pointing aggressively at my face) “some people wouldn’t be able to.”

Me: (shaking my head) “Sure, whatever. Next example. Why can’t you run?”

Him: “Right, say I’m down a blind alley”

Me: “Define blind alley”

Him “A lane that doesn’t go anywhere”

Me: “Seriously, that’s your second example? Are you sure you want to go on?”

Him: “C’mon then, what do you do when you’re down a blind alley? You can’t run”

Me: “Firstly, we live in Dublin not in a maze. The whole point of lanes and alleys is that they go somewhere. They connect one place to another. The last time I saw a blind alley was in a Jackie Chan movie.”

Him: “They exist”

Me: “name one”

Him (to his credit he didn’t pause): “The delivery road to Arnotts”

Me: “What the fuck would I be doing down the delivery road to Arnotts?”

Him: “Maybe collecting something?”

Me: “Well presumably it’s open then, so the alley isn’t blind anymore, it goes into the back of Arnotts.”

Him: “Fine then. Imagine an alley that didn’t go anywhere and you’re stuck down it”

Me: “then I’d fight them off using the fire escape ladders and the bins”

Him: “That’s stupid. How?”

Me: “Using Kung Fu and gymnastics and comic timing. As long as we’re imagining things why not make it cool?”

It went on like this, and had gone on for a good 5 minutes before too, but it never quite reached the height of that exchange.


Now I’d like to tell you that I received a standing ovation from taking on this guy, but I didn’t. In fact, the majority of people were just a bit bored by the end of it, and pretty much everyone left the building more confused than they had arrived, which is a shame because they had arrived pretty confused too. For one I just couldn’t sit by and be called a bullshitter, and for another thing, the guy was just one of those out of shape “poke-em-in-the-eye” merchants” who I just can’t stand. Oh yeah, there was another funny exchange later on. We were still on the running thing. He really was like a dog with a bone.

Him: “Sometimes, it’s impossible to run”

Me: “Maybe for you”

Him: “what do you mean”

Me: “Well, you don’t look like you could run very far.Look I don’t mean to be offensive, I’m just saying that maybe you don’t run because you know people would catch you if you did”

Him: “Now you’re just slagging”

Me: “No really I’m stating the facts. If self preservation is really your goal, then you’d be thinner than you are”

It went on and on. Apparently this still happens in the college every semester… yet I haven’t been asked back, curiously enough.

In other less strange news, I’ve been continuing with my randomness experiment and it’s going well. It makes for some interesting classes and some really tough ones too. I’m enjoying it. I’m on holidays in beautiful Italy all next week but if I get a chance I’ll blog a little more on some training related stuff by the end of the week

See you on the mat,




2 thoughts on “never argue with an idiot…

  1. Fair play Barry. I never knew just how much BS there was in Martial Arts/Fighting systems or whatever until I spent some time in KO. I think what made it crystal clear to me was in work one day, the stereotypical obnoxious, obese, computer programmer sitting next to me announced he was a second dan black belt in Shotokan. Its good being a skeptic. Of course once you apply a skeptic eye to anything, you just see more and more BS all around you. The trick for me is not to turn into Victor Meldrew, well not too much anyway.
    I used to love MMA. Its like running a head to head, placebo controlled study in a way.

    Posted by Paul Kerins | October 19, 2010, 7:38 pm
  2. i really enjoyed the story, if you have any more , please put them up…

    Posted by TONY | November 1, 2010, 1:55 pm

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