While I had posted and discussed how the Street is so much different then the Ring and how it allows for a wider array of options that limited training in a specific form or application of martial arts just can't cover. I decided to do a little piece on guess what? How training in self-defense without competitive application is a possible form of self-harm to developing one's own training.
Traditional Martial Arts, no not the Neo-Traditional Watered Down schools teaching "karate" in a Gi but ignoring classic training methods like exercise, weight lifting/strength training and combat applications, have always placed a heavy focus on philosophy and even in some regard religious aspects of the culture in which said martial art was developed. This was because all conflicts are human conflicts and dealing with people (social self-defense or de-escalation principles as known to us Modern Budoka) was a critical part of dealing conflicts. The highest form skill was not in fighting your opponent but in simply redirecting his intentions away from harming you.
Things that were regarded as "correct actions" such as showing humility were not just to be a "good person" or "good citizen" but a form of social self-defense. Many people want to be known as a "bad ass" or "tough guy" but do so because deep down they are weak and want to have the safety of being intimidating to others. They mistake fear for respect, because the "bad ass" demands your respect. However, if you beat your chest and declare yourself a "tough guy" someone who wants that same reputation will challenge, even if they lose the fight they gain the "respect" of stepping up. The problem is when you get known for being a violent thug, most people will avoid you and sure they will demonstrate some common curtesy or look the other way when you break a social standard. This isn't because of how "threatening" you are it is a matter of seeking to avoid trouble and this means avoiding you, the trouble maker with the reputation as a "bad ass tough guy."
So personality traits like humility, showing respect and acting with compassion were all intended to make one seem very un-bad ass like... This allowed one to 1. Conceal their skills and ability until needed, making it many more times effective and 2. Allowed one to avoid situations and places which would make one's need to fight even more required then normal life. There is also the third point, that these traits don't attract those who makes such situations a social issue. The only people who flock to the be in the crowds around "tough guys" are either a) other tough guys or b) wannabe tough guys. So if you act like a loud mouthed trying to prove how tough you are, you will either attract others wanting to prove how tough you are or you will prove how tough you are in some way.
So keep in mind there are some aspects of martial arts philosophy that aren't Asian mysticism or fanciful ideas or even New Aged Thinking. They are practical methods of social-self-defense meant to prevent a fight, prevent conflict by abiding my social norms and action with respect to other. True respect isn't about how intimidating someone is but treating others as you would have them treat you. Sure there are people who like to cross the line of what is acceptable by social codes (not merely laws).
This also becomes an issue of ideologies and cultures. In my Culture of an American from the South standing up and fighting someone who threatens or challenges you is illegal, called Assault & Battery but it is Social Acceptable as standing up for yourself. Because in my Culture in the South of the United States of America standing up for yourself is a sign of your willingness to stand up for other things like family, your children and even your country. Fighting isn't a right of passage it is a fact of life, we all have to fight for something, even if only ourselves but, fighting should not be entered into lightly. Fighting is about survival and sometimes survival means avoiding a fight. The core idea of martial arts philosophy is avoiding needless fighting, de-escalating situations and avoiding trouble. When trouble cannot be avoid we must respond with a force needed to end the threat. Needless fighting only attracts the reputation and attention of those seeking a reputation for violence.
Our problem, however, is both philosophical and legal... How much force is enough, how much mercy is too much? Legally, you can use excessive force in Self-Defense and then what started as Self-Defense becomes Assault, Battery or Malicious Wounding perhaps even Murder. Philosophically speaking, who are? what are you? and how do you justify harming another human being?
Many times it seems that traditional martial artists are so focused on History or identifying themselves as "warriors" they don't even realize the practical applications of what they are taught. Far too much have traditional systems been watered down to a fun but unrealistic sport or even a form of "day care" or personal development where the practical application of the philosophical and ethic conditions is seen as a way to improve the self and never viewed as a practical survival/self-defense method for social self-defense. In the same way, many Self-Defense experts like Dr. George J. Thompson the Founder of the Verbal Judo Institute (the only tactical communication course in the world) applied the basic principles of judo in redirecting physical force to sociology and psychological principles to de-escalate and control a situation by reducing conflicts. While this is a "tactical course" it is based on the same ideology as traditional martial arts of judo and jujitsu.
Traditional Martial Arts are not just about adopting martial traditions, wearing a gi or learning Japanese, Korean or Chinese terms. They were first and foremost combat techniques for the battlefield, they were adapted with philosophical ideas that are a foundation for the sciences of psychology and sociology. And, it is the lack of this understanding by traditionalists that creates the most fundamental obstacle to Traditional Martial Arts, a lack of "real world" application. That real world application isn't just a matter of fighting styles but of philosophies...