- Feb 8, 2009
- Reaction score
One might think that an apology isn't a self-defense technique, and certainly not one that has any place in a martial arts forum. I think it does.
Apologies come in several forms.
They can be used to express condolences for something another person is experiencing - not as an expression contrition for having caused the issue, but as a general statement of emotional support. For example, "I am sorry to hear that you lost your pet recently."
They can be used to express genuine contrition for something one has done that caused offense or damage to another. "I am sorry that I ran into the back of your car because I was not paying attention to my driving."
Apologies are also social lubricants, and in this sense, they are useful as self-defense mechanisms. "I'm sorry," can be used to cover a variety of situations in which the person making the statement did not do anything wrong, but they recognize that someone else has taken offense at some presumed wrongdoing.
How many physical altercations have started because a person accidentally brushed into someone else (for example), who took immediate offense and and caused a scene, simply because the person wrongfully accused refused to apologize?
Some feel it is wrong to apologize when one has done nothing wrong, and they refuse to do so. I understand that point of view, but I maintain that it is not perhaps the best response when one considers the self-defense ramifications.
Altercations often occur because one person wants to fight, and the other is persuaded to fight as well. If one can avoid fighting by simply apologizing, even if they did nothing to apologize for, is this not the best solution for all concerned?
"Hey! You stepped on my foot!"
"Oh, did I? I'm sorry."
"Oh, did I? I'm sorry."
When sincerely delivered, that apology, whether or not the person really stepped on the other guy's foot, changes the dynamics of the interaction. By not responding with a denial or a challenge, the person who thinks their foot was stepped on now has to make a decision whether or not to continue the confrontation. They can save face by saying something like "Well, be more careful!" and withdrawing, if they don't truly want a physical altercation.
If they choose to continue, it becomes clear to any onlookers that you are the 'reasonable person' and they are not. If the situation continues to escalate, you are the victim who is engaging in self-defense, not them. You're trying to de-escalate and disengage; they are being unreasonable and starting a fight.
That can be very important later on. It is good to have witnesses who are willing to state that you were not the aggressor if a fight ensues and the police get involved.
That is not to say that a person needs to keep apologizing, to back down, or to cower, beg, plead, or to refuse to defend themselves with violence if need be. It simply means that in many cases, an apology will preclude the need for violence, or at the very least, make it clear that one is not the aggressor.
Sometimes, the requirements of good self-defense mean saying things that are designed to de-escalate. It might mean sucking up a little pride. Many of us study martial arts to learn to defend ourselves. Apologies can be another tool to help with that. There are people whose pride forbids them from apologizing for something they did not do, even to avoid a fight. I understand their point of view, but I would suggest that they are not fully exploring the art of self-defense if that is the case. Apologies are one of the many ways in which a person can avoid being attacked and having to resort to violence to defend themselves.