This is a story about our responsibilities as instructors to impart sound judgement about the proper time, place, and circumstances for using martial arts.
Dateline: Pittsburgh PA, September 21, 2012. An armed man held an office worker hostage for more than five hours in a high rise building in the downtown area. Initial reports suggested the assailant was armed with a gun and a duffle bag with possible explosives. These turned out not to be the case.
A week after the hostage event one of our instructors relayed to his class that he would have walked across town and into the office building and taken out the assailant. He went on, encouraging the students to use their skills in similar fashion in similar situations.
Had this been a class for local police officers, first responders, secret service, or adolescent mutant turtles this message might have been appropriate. But as it happens, this was the family class, filled with both adults and children, office workers, pre-teens, college youths, moms, and a smattering of middle agers.
Should we as instructors, be encouraging our students to interfere with a police action? There is a really big difference between defending yourself against an attacker, and inserting yourself into a volatile environment, taking the offense against an armed assailant.
As an aside, Tang Soo Do is a defensive art with our primary emphasis being defense/strike. This has many different meanings, but the notion that defense comes first is paramount.
But even if that were not so - we should not be encouraging children to actively engage armed adults. Our primary message to our children should be, that in any life threatening situation, their first and primary responsibility is to survive. Run, hide, listen to the adults you trust, go to a safe place, follow the directions of the first responders. Do what your parents tell you.
Do not, under any circumstance move towards a gun wielding assailant. This is sound advice for our children, laborers, office workers, moms, dads, college kids, pre-teens, teens, toddlers, and anyone else with a pulse.
With training and practice, martial arts are effective - but one should not confuse the mental discipline and technical prowess of martial arts with bravado, bragging, and bullying. If you are fortunate enough to have a class filled with Navy Seals - go for it, train their minds and bodies to de-arm the bad guys; otherwise, teach defense and survival.