No sane person wants to be involved in violence. If you did, all you’d have to do is run outside and punch the first person you saw in the neck as hard as you could. Getting involved in a violent act is easy—the fact that you don’t go looking for it is a testament to your civility, sociability, and sanity. Everyone’s willing to cop to this. Other than baseline humanity, the primary thing that keeps you away from violence is fear. This, no one wants to admit—so they come up with layers of excuses to cover the fact that they’re simply afraid. All the reasons why you can’t are really just facets of a single reason: you’re afraid.
There’s nothing wrong with being afraid—a little fear is healthy—and to paraphrase Eddie Rickenbacker, America’s top fighter ace in World War I, there is no courage without fear.
What’s wrong is lying to yourself about it, making up ego-salving excuses why you can’t do it.
Finally, collected in a single place (other than the inside of your skull), here are all the reasons why you can’t:
Not Enough Training
“I don’t have enough days/months/years/belts/levels, etc., to be able to hurt someone.” If only you had more time in, you’d be ready. Maybe next month. Maybe next year. The sad part is you typically don’t get to pick when it happens, so, ergo, you’re as ready as you’re ever gonna be. And the fact that most people who successfully use violence—professional criminals—have little or no training whatsoever blows this one out of the water.
“I can’t move like you guys do.” Neither could Frank the Lawyer, the self-proclaimed Most Uncoordinated Person in the Universe. I trained Frank for about a year, a year spent lying awake at night agonizing over his personal safety—he was the only person I ever trained who I prayed would never, ever be called upon to use it. He was literally the most uncoordinated person I’d ever met. He had two left feet—and that was just his hands. Fast forward five years later when I get a phone call from him and he tells me how he took out two muggers, one of whom had a knife. To quote him, “It was just like a movie.”
This was the guy who convinced me that if he can do it, literally anyone can. Scratch that excuse.
The wheelchair-bound, the blind, a guy with one functional arm. What do they all have in common? Not this excuse. These are all people we trained—and they were more than capable of getting it done right. What’s your excuse? A bum knee? I got two of ‘em. You have no excuse. Even if it’s as severe as the ones above, it didn’t slow anybody I know down. It only slows you down if you want it to.
Not Cut Out for It
If you’re human, you are. You’re born to it, built for it, and the only reason you’re here is because all your ancestors did it to everything that got in their way. If we could bring back a Neanderthal, I guarantee he’d piss his hides at the mere sight of you. You might not think of yourself as particularly scary that way, but then you’ve forgotten that your kind wiped his kind out. Whether you like it or not, everyone’s cut out for the commission of violence.
“I could never do that to someone!”
This is typically code for “I had no idea people did that to each other and so I’m going to go unilateral for the peace-thing with the idea that if I don’t do it to anybody then no one will ever do it to me.”
You’d be amazed at what you can do when the social security blanket gets stripped away and it’s just the screech and sparks of your life rubbing up against the steel deck plate of reality.
A gentleman once openly scoffed at me and said, “I could never kick someone in the throat when they were down.” Really? Not even if they were down because they were picking up a crowbar to brain you with? You really are very sporting about your own murder. Closed-casket funeral notwithstanding.
What he was really saying was that he was afraid. As we all are. But he was lying to me about it, as if I wouldn’t notice, and worst of all, he was lying to himself.
If he’s lucky, it’ll never matter. And statistics are on his side. If he ain’t lucky, that ego’s gonna get him killed. And for no good reason other than he was unwilling to admit a small, universal weakness.
I have to tell you, Rickenbacker’s quote startled me. I mean, he was the top American ace in WWI. He once dove on and single-handedly fought with a formation of seven planes. Seven to one, by choice. A stone-to-the-bone killer. And he admitted to spending most of his time terrified out of his gourd. But then, as he said, courage is the act of overcoming fear.
So get over it. You have no excuse. You’re not saying you can’t, you’re saying you don’t want to. Well, none of us do.
Train hard, to the best of your abilities, and know that it’s more than enough. It’s served people who were smaller than you, weaker than you, less well-trained than you, when it counted most. And they’ve all made it back alive and well. So can you—but only if you quit with the excuses and get to work.
— Chris Ranck-Buhr (from 2006)