Martial Arts and the Restraint Factor

by Alan Kandel

I witnessed an episode of road rage once. It wasn’t pretty. I was traveling on a main city thoroughfare, and seemingly out of nowhere, two vehicles appeared, and caught up in what looked like a “cat and mouse” chase. Meanwhile, the vehicles’ occupants were slinging, let me guess, expletives at each another. By this stage, the rage had obviously intensified and by the time the dueling factions made it to the intersection ahead, the drivers of both vehicles executed right turns, one still in hot pursuit of the other. And that was the last I saw of them. I couldn’t help but think that soon a suitable place to park the cars would be found and the warring parties were then going have it out, try to settle the score and, for what, because somewhere back down the road one driver maybe unintentionally or inadvertently cut the other driver off?

I look at this example and think the whole situation could have been avoided had individual and collective restraint been exercised.

That situation reminds me of another and it involved me.

Having nothing at all to do with martial arts training, nevertheless, I happened one day to be riding a bicycle and on a portion of a road on which I was riding, there was a steep downgrade. It was a two-lane country road and off on the side was a narrow shoulder with loose gravel. In the interest of safety – my own, during descent, I decided to occupy the center of the lane. The road speed limit was 40 or 45 and I estimate my speed to be about 35. In the corner of my left eye, I just happened to catch sight of the corner of the front bumper and headlight of a trailing car just off my bike’s rear wheel. We’re talking mere inches here. It was then that I noticed the vehicle’s two occupants laughing it up and right at that moment the car began to pass me. Once having done so and pulling back into the lane ahead of me, the driver maneuvered the car in such a way that I was literally being run off the road.

I was furious!

At the bottom of the hill there was a traffic signal and for vehicles traveling in my direction the displayed light was red. When I caught up to the offending car, the occupants of which had given the term “out-for-a-Sunday-joy-ride” new meaning, this is when I approached (and reproached) the person sitting behind the wheel: “How would you feel had you killed me?!” It was probably not the smartest move on my part. In response, the driver assailed an expletive in my general direction and then took off.

Honestly, I could have been killed. But all that happened was I got hot under the collar and was the target of an expletive. In hindsight, probably what I should have done was get the car license plate number report it to police but, being I let my emotions get the best of me I did not think in a rational manner.  (For all I know when I approached the driver, he might have put a gun to my face, one just never knows). That I walked away from this incident, I was then in a position where I could put it all behind me, and that’s what I did, until now.

One never knows when they’ll find themselves in a situation where there is the potential for a disastrous outcome.

There are times where people’s differences of opinions cause flared tempers that escalate to the point of no return. But in thinking, why let things reach this stage? In some situations maybe there is some macho thing going on where one side has to prove dominance. I suspect, in many cases, that’s probably part of it.

When I regularly practiced martial arts I learned self-control. And by having and practicing restraint, one can benefit greatly.

The takeaway here is in trying situations try to keep cool-headed. In doing so, chances are good that good judgment will prevail. But also be mindful that no two situations are exactly alike and different situations dictate different responses.

While I’m no expert on matters such as the above, my sense is people diligently engaged in quality martial arts training acquire tools (e.g., self-control) and skills to better prepare them for and handle what life can throw our way.

Restraint is one of those tools and it’s golden!

Copyright Alan Kandel. October 4, 2012.

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