Context – the Emperor of the Fight



It does not take long to become involved in the self-defense community before you came across the most ubiquitous argument around – what technique is best?

This debate takes many, many forms. From the classic martial art version of “my wing chun bil jee can defeat your grappling takedown”, to the gun-centric one of “you can’t see your sights under stress so point shooting is the only way”, the often rancorous discussions rage all over cyber space. So many of us waste so much time discussing these things when in truth, when the truth it is almost irrelevant  The simple fact is, that most of the techniques being promulgated will work in some fashion. The debate over the majority of them is a waste of time. What truly matters, and what trumps every single technique, is context.

There is a plausible and very possible context in which the most favored technique/tactic/ procedure will be the absolute wrong thing to do, and an equally plausible context in which it is good and valid. We have all heard the absurdist extreme version of this – what would you rather have in a fight, a hand grenade or a knife? Well, at distance a hand grenade looks pretty useful but in a phone booth it is inferior to the blade.

Let’s look at a gun related example of this. There are a number of different ready positions that different experts will advocate. The Low Ready is very popular and can work well. However, if you are in an active shooter situation in a public place, say a shopping mall, then using the low ready will cause you to sweep a lot of innocents with your muzzle. In that case, perhaps something like SUL, where the gun is brought close to the chest and the muzzle point downwards may be far better. But what if you are getting out of a vehicle? Then a downwards facing muzzle may cause you to point the gun at parts of your own body! In that case, something like a Temple Index may be a better choice. But wait! What if you are on the bottom floor of your home and on the floor above you are your children? Muzzling them can safely be described as not a good thing. So are any of those ready positions bad? No, there are contexts in which each of them are the best choice, and contexts where each is the opposite.

Let’s look at another view of this concept. Take the standard dogma of “Don’t Go to the Ground in a Street fight” because the other guy’s friend will come up and kick you in the head. In that context, that piece of advice is spot on! But what if you are in an environment where it is only you and the other guy? Does that not change the dynamic? What about an environment where you are on unstable footing like ice covered concrete? Is trying to explosively maneuver against an attacker there particularly smart? There is a pretty high likelihood you will go down anyway and maybe in an uncontrolled way where you do extra damage to yourself.  In another vein, what if you are not by yourself? What if, instead, you have five of your MMA training partners with you? Perhaps they may have a say in keeping others from kicking your head in? Again, as with the pistol ready position example, there are contexts in which going to the ground is foolish in the extreme, and other contexts in which it is a damn fine idea.

Note that in this entire article I have not made a statement as to which of these things is always the perfect solution. Because, depending on context, they all are.

So the next time you are all charged up ready to argue if your favored technique or tactic or procedure is the “best”, maybe pause for a second to see if the context is appropriate.