sheep or wolf?


We win a violent encounter with someone that intends to hurt us by being better at violence and hurting them more.


It is the beginning of a new training year and as usual for this time I engage my students to find out if last year delivered and what they expect from the coming year.

To facilitate this enquiry I ask them what is it we do and why do you want to keep on doing it?

At first, the answers are pretty much the same old stock answers, but that does not cut it for me so I push them to be more definitive in what they say, and more deliberate in what they think.

Eventually, the consensus is Self Defence because they think there is a chance that they will need it somewhere down the line.

While this is still well and truly in the realm of same old stock answers it does allow me to make them dig into this answer and see where that takes us.

Q. Why would you need ‘Self Defence’

A. Because someone is attacking me.

Q. How do you stop them from attacking you?

A. Blank Look.

When I push them on this there is a variety of IDEAS about techniques and strategies put forwards as everyone dances around the Elephant.

Q. How do we stop someone that has total intent on what he wants and zero regards for our well being from attacking us, in fact from hurting us?

Blank stares all around.

I answer my own question.

A. There is only one answer and that answer is so simple.  We hurt them first and we hurt them more.

Blank stares all around.

This is a common blindspot with many Martial Artists, the one place we should look but have great difficulty doing so.

My school is not a Fight Club and I am most definitely not training people to be thugs but we must face reality.

Or fail in the face of our fantasies.

I must add that I am not deluded enough to think that I am training warriors or that I am a warrior.

Warriors go to WAR.  Warriors are soldiers, the military.

We are not them, but we can learn from them, learn from the people that teach them.

One of the very best educators is U.S. Army LTC. Dave Grossman [retired].

His book ‘On Killing’ is a must-read for any serious Martial Artist that hopes to come close to understanding themselves and by extension the Bad Guy.

It is not the book that the title may make you think off.

Although his topic is at the extreme end of person to person violence if we exchange the word ‘hurting’ for ‘killing’ it is the same story.

We win a violent encounter with someone that intends to hurt us by being better at violence and hurting them more.

Are you training for that?

This type of training is not done by punching partners or kicking pads or dare I say by doing Forms or Chi Sau.

It is worked on by talking and thinking honestly.

Mostly we need to change the paradigms we think we follow.

We are ‘Good People’ are we not?

How do we justify hurting other people, even bad people?

Right there, that is the real work, without this, we are only learning how to dance.

An example of Dave Grossman’s thinking was used in the movie American Sniper, it may help to give you a position to start this work.


“There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs.

Some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world, and if it ever darkened their doorstep, they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves.

Those are the sheep.

Then you’ve got predators who use violence to prey on the weak.

They’re the wolves.

And then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression, an overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed who live to confront the wolf.

They are the sheepdog”.


As people that chose freely to become Martial Artists, we are in that same world.

We may not like to think about it but we are one of the three types of people, our choice puts it in our own hands.

Train to be a sheep, train to be a wolf or train to be a sheepdog.

We are all training to be one of them, we just don’t realise it.

If we are training “just in case it happens”  what will we do when the wolf appears?

If we are not at some level training to be brutal is there any hope of us being brutal when we absolutely need it?

Or like Jim Kelly in “Enter The Dragon” will it be… “I don’t waste my time with it, when it comes, I won’t even notice; I’ll be too busy looking good”.








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