How To Avoid A Fight (It’s Not What You Think)

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Sometimes avoiding a fight isn’t what it appears to be. I’ll explain in a moment, but first a question:

Do you ever feel like you’re in your own way?

I know for me, sometimes I feel like I’m cut off from what might be possible in a given situation. This can easily lead me into a place where I feel boxed in, closed down, resistant.

It happened the other day with my doorman, and I think I managed to avoid a fight.

Picture this. The doorman in my building approaches me and says:

“There’s this guy who lives in my building an he wants to fight me. I don’t know what to do. I need something to like, you know, chop him in the throat or kick him in the balls so I can beat him.”

Imagine for a moment my embarrassment, that I’m the guy who has to deal with this kind of question.

So I looked him in the eye and I said to him, “Why don’t you try making friends with the guy? You’re his neighbor – go apologize for whatever he thinks he’s pissed off at you about and repair the relationship.”

He started to get upset, and said, “No no no no no no. This guy wants to fight. He’s bigger than me, and I can see it in his eyes – he’s trying to intimidate me. He wants to fight.”

I said, “Man, relax. Most guys don’t want to fight. Most guys would just like to resolve the issue without contact. They want to posture but they really don’t want to fight.”

Again, he said,“No no no no – I’ve got to fight.”

“Look,” I said. “You asked the professional what he thinks. That’s what I think you should do. Now you do what you want to do.”

These next two points will make sense to you if you’re a regular practitioner.

First, the martial arts and self-defense and all of the other things that accompany this practice are not a quick fix. There’s no “magic bullet” in life.

To go to work on your own shortcomings through consistent application of effort…to me that means that you’re a caliber of human that has really evolved.

Second, if you’re engaged in this work you know that it’s worthwhile to be a person of peace. Confidence is a natural benefit of the martial arts, so you don’t have to fake it.

See, it’s my contention that my doorman couldn’t really see what was possible for him because he was totally wrapped up in his fear.

We’ve all been there, so it’s not hard to imagine the place he was stuck in. A fight looks inevitable, but battling with the “other guy” isn’t really the issue.

So I thought to myself, “Well, maybe this is an invitation for me to look at where I’m still afraid of my own life…

Where am I cutting off possibility?

Where am I cutting off the my own ability to see where I have options?  

And where I can find peaceful, positive answers or solutions?

It certainly seems to me that this is a good question to ask. It’s especially good when as a different approach to the martial arts training we’re doing.

Because – back to the doorman –  in my mind a $9.99 bottle of wine could solve this issue, no problem.

Imagine if the guy was able to knock on his neighbor’s door with a bottle of wine and go, “Man, I don’t know why we got off on the wrong foot. But we did and let’s make amends. Here, accept my gift.”

So instead of wondering what might happen, or hoping that this guy would bridge the divide himself, here’s what I did…

I went upstairs to my apartment and I got a bottle of wine. I brought it back down, put it on the desk and wrote two words…

“Peace offering.”

I don’t know what he did with it, but I hope it gave him a push to break down the wall. If we can help create a new possibility for ourselves or others through things like this – being a “secret agent of peace” – we should. It’s worth it.

And here’s the kicker: we don’t need to even be attached to the outcome or the result. We can just do do this type of thing to break out of our own habitual patterns, to explore where we’re stuck, or to try on a different way of going at our problems.

Now it’s your turn. Where in your life are you a little bit afraid or holding on too tight? Where can you develop new possibilities in an otherwise impossible situation?

For more about our larger project of cooperative Jiu-Jitsu and martial arts training, please visit the
Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Brooklyn BJJ) website here

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  1. AWESOME!!!! I would love to know what happened. My Dr had a problem with his Neighbor, and I told him to offer him cookies and a handshake. Then mention it would be great after 11:00 to keep it down. Great story. I hope there is a follow-up even though you mentioned not being attached to results. Still a fun story!

  2. Herman M Petsche

    As always an awesome message that is very practical inside and outside the Dojo.
    Thank You Shihan.

  3. Frank Mann

    Awesome advice Shihan. And thank you for the reminder about what true martial arts is all about…osu!

  4. Gerald

    Excellent! A whole new outlook on dealing with conflict.. Thank you so much for the insight

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