“In the 16th Century, there was a famous samurai named Tsukahara Bokuden. In the Kōyō Gunkan, a famous anecdote is told of Bokuden’s encounter with a mannerless ruffian. When asked about his style, Bokuden replied that he studied the “Style of No Sword”. The ruffian laughed and challenged Bokuden to fight. Bokuden agreed but suggested they row out to a nearby island on a lake to avoid disturbing others. The ruffian agreed, but when he jumped from the boat to the shore of the island, Bokuden pushed the boat back out, leaving the ruffian stranded on the island. Bokuden explained: ‘This is my no-sword school’.”
I usually focus on the details of fighting but we should also constantly remind ourselves that our first duty is to avoid violence.
As you can see in my list of articles, I have included many examples of unfortunate or rash men paying heavily for fighting carelessly, with penalties such as accidentally causing a death and prison sentences.
Part of the Eastern warrior tradition involves work transcending the ego and most confrontations in the world can be avoided through either clever ruses such as that employed by Bokunden (and Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon) or (more painfully) by declining to engage, which often means “letting it go” and allowing another man to appear to “get away” with whatever insults or slights that might be involved.
Guys trying to start fights will usually call into question your manhood, insult your mother or your mate, make remarks about your sexuality, etc.
It is often difficult, but it is best to not allow idiots to manipulate your emotions and draw you into conflicts in which you have no real stake. Of course, I say this even though in these situations, I too get the adrenal response, with itchy fists and clenchy muscles and the urge to surprise the bully with a sudden blast of violence.
“Do you know what I could do to you?” I think.
But I can’t let this arrive on my face. In reality, I want to get out of this situation without conflict. I’ll apologize if necessary (although of course I want to put them in the hospital!). But that’s thinking as if you are in a movie, and not real life where they come and take you away for assault.
In reality, there are only small subsets of people who can be violent without consequence.
One is if you are drifting and have no fixed address. If violence happens, you can just leave town.
Two, if you have very good connections. If you are well-connected, the cops may look the other way or you can lawyer up.
But for most of us, its way better to avoid conflict through resolution or even giving the bully “face” as they say (which is what they are usually after). Let them have their moment, knowing inside what you could do (and will do if they cross the line over into assault on you or yours).
This is not even addressing the fact that you will feel really bad when you discover that the guy you accidentally killed or put in the hospital, although he was an asshole, he also had kids and a wife and responsibilities, or a mother who loved him.
Again, its only in the movies that can dispense violence with impunity. In the real world, these acts have consequences.