Sunday, July 21, 2013

Could Zimmerman and Martin have Benefited from Martial Arts Training?

I watched the Zimmerman / Martin trial as closely as I could and have a pretty good understanding of the evidence as it was presented. The jury did a reasonable job with the information they were given. We can’t know for sure what happened that night because we don’t have Martin’s perspective of the events.

As a karate instructor, I have to imagine how different this might have turned out if both participants had martial arts training.

Recognize that Zimmerman had attended a Mixed Martial Arts class for about a year, and his instructor described him as soft and generally avoided any description of him as effective. Most MMA classes don’t qualify for a description of “Traditional Martial Art.” Put bluntly, one does not sign their 11 year old up for cage fighting to learn discipline and self respect.

Also, it is pretty clear that Martin had experience fighting MMA style, although he too lacked any formal training under the supervision of a Master that would have imparted sound judgement as to the appropriate use of force, options for force, or self control.

In short, neither of these two young men had proper martial arts training.

I believe that most fights start as a result of fear, and the one with the most fear usually hits first. Remember, according to Zimmerman, Martin didn’t know about the gun until they were both on the ground, so it would make sense that Zimmerman had less reason to be fearful in the early going. A martial art teaches us how to not be afraid. If I don’t think you can hurt me, I am much less fearful of you.

Second, a martial art like Tang Soo Do emphasizes defense first. We don’t teach you how to invade an enemy bunker. Everything we do starts with a block or other defensive technique - we assume the other guy is going to strike first. So imagine Zimmerman and Martin squared off waiting for the other guy to strike first. It is likely the police would have arrived before any serious damage was done.

“If” one of the participants did decide to initiate contact, the other one would have blocked it. No falling to the ground, no struggle for the gun.

Third, even if at some point they did fall to the ground, neither would have ended up getting their head bashed in. Before you start thinking, “but I see this all the time on MMA-R-Us TV shows”, read this. (Summary, MMA has rules that don’t apply in reality).

Lastly, martial art classes teach judgement, or how to avoid conflict, how to defend against a bigger/better fighter, and that your primary goal is not to win, but to survive.

Both of these young men would have been well served with good martial arts training.

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