"Training is not fighting. Training is learning how to do things. Fighting is learning how to defeat the opponent who has a vote."
- Vox Day
Everyone knows that training is important. Without training, success is a dice-roll, and failure is likely. Even if you get something right, it is easy to mis-attribute your success to one thing, when in reality something else entirely won the day. Only those with training know what to look for.
Through volume of repetition, training gives you the speed and instincts to do the right thing, whether that is resolving an argument, building a house, or coming out on top in a bar-fight.
But training isn't enough.
All the training in the world isn't enough without experience.
In order to be confident in himself, a man has to know he can physically protect himself. It doesn't matter if this is rational in the modern age. It just is. If wealth, charisma, or social connections are the measure of power today, physical fitness and skill in fighting still dominate how men evaluate other men, and how they think of themselves. It's primordial.
Today's generation half-understands this. They've seen Fight Club. They understand the attraction of being dangerous. They sign up in herds for Karate, Taekwondo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the works. But they mistake training for fighting. They mistake the tools for the finished product. The finger for the moon.
I received my black-belt in Shudokan karate when I was sixteen years old. By the time I had received that supposed sign of mastery, I had heard three fight stories involving black-belts.
The first was a story I read about. A young martial-artist and his girlfriend were waiting at subway station. A linebacker-type started hitting on the girlfriend. Black-belt didn't like it, told him to stop. The two men argued, and then the black-belt threw a kick. He'd aimed for the groin, but missed, hitting the pubic bone. Linebacker-type shoved him down and body-slammed him. The fight was over. The "trained" fighter suffered several broken ribs and a fractured skull.
The second story was from an older black-belt who lived up the street from me. When he was in high-school, and long before he'd started training, he played football. One of his teammates at the time had been having a rough day, and my neighbor said something critical that pushed this young black-belt over the edge. He challenged my neighbor to a fight. Neighbor tried to get out of it, but got caught.
After some initial tag, my untrained neighbor managed to get the black-belt on his back, straddle him, punch his opponent repeatedly in the face.
The black-belt's braces cut up my neighbor's knuckles. They cut up his own lips worse.
The third story involved one of my instructors. He saw some workplace bullying going on, and decided to intervene. When the bully turned on him, my teacher tried to de-escalate. Instead of being reasonable, the bully threw a wide hook.
My teacher said it felt like slow-motion, as he covered his temples and did exactly what he'd done in the dojo thousands of times, ducking beneath the arm, watching it sail over his head before throwing a quick reverse into the assailant's kidney. Bully went down, stopped causing trouble.
Not good, for those who think training is fighting. I remembered these stories as a black-belt. I knew I was trained, but I didn't know if I could fight or not.
It wasn't until I was in my early 20's that I got into my first real fight. It left me with a scar above my forehead, where my opponent had smashed it into the pavement. It also left me with the knowledge that I could handle myself in a real fight: I didn't let go of his neck and choked him out.
Training is good. Training is helpful. At the very least, it will help keep you in shape. But if you had to choose between ten years of training and one real street-fight, men should take the fight. You learn more about yourself, more about what you can and can't do, more about how resilient, how tough, how "game" you are in those twenty seconds than you would in the decade of training.
At the end of the day, most of us will never need to fight. Most of us will never be called upon to protect ourselves or others. At least, our lives won't depend on it if we don't fight.
"...while it is always better to be prepared than it is to be unprepared, most men who do nothing will be fine. Nothing is going to happen to them. The statistics favor the lazy. Men today are free to be weak and afraid and inept in all of the ways their ancestors were not.
Those who say that masculinity is no longer necessary are correct."
- Jack Donovan, A More Complete Beast
For any given individual, learning how to fight isn't particularly necessary. But as a man, you will never earn the confidence you want and the respect you desire if you haven't been punched in the face. As an man, you will never be able to follow Socrates' injunction to "know thyself" if you don't know how much you can take before tapping out or passing out.
Society needs some men who know how to fight. We wouldn't be standing up against Antifa if they weren't throwing bricks at people and hitting them with bike-locks, for the crime of listening to what someone else had to say. We wouldn't be lining up and facing down the black bloc if the police were shutting them down. Crazy times call for crazy measures.
But dealing with Antifa is not just reducing a negative. The conflict is its own positive; its own source of personal growth.
In June of 2017, I was walking back to my car, alone, at Evergreen State College. Three Antifa members accosted me, let me go, then circled around and tried to jump me, accosting me again. They could have easily hit me, or punched me, or done something. They visibly wanted to. They knew who I was.
But they didn't.
I didn't make any threats. I didn't try to intimidate them or anything. But I knew I could beat them if they tried something. I was confident in myself because I knew I could handle a fight. I was relaxed and unintimidated, and they could read body-language as well as anyone else.
They are human after all, even if most of their males aren't really men.
But this self-knowledge and confidence isn't just useful for staring down misguided college kids. It permeates your self-conception, and how you see the world. It changes how you walk, how you talk. It changes your dating life. Getting into a fight is like losing weight, or tanning up. You become less self-conscious, less anxious, and that self-assuredness radiates like a fire from those whose lizard-brains aren't stuck in permanent, low-grade fear.
Some women say they can tell if a man's a virgin or not by how he walks. Same thing with fighting.
But street fights are scary. People get injured. Sometimes they die.
These things can happen.
If you don't know where to begin, don't want to break the law because picking fights is illegal where you live, or are concerned you'd just lose miserably, then train. Training is good, and training can give you the tools for having a fight worth being in. Good training builds the muscle memory and hones the reflexes that will give you a chance against someone who has fought before. Most fights only last a few seconds, and if it takes you a second to react, you've already lost.
Training is good, and martial arts training is a great way to start building the physical fitness and confidence that are proper and good for a man.
Just don't mistake training for fighting.