“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy,
understand him well enough to defeat him,
then in that very moment I also love him.”
-Ender from Orson Scott Card’s Enders Game, 1985
It is also the moment you can defeat him.
Perhaps this quotation has been said, written or thought 1000 times. To me, this quotation defines the difference between a true self defense style and just another martial art.
Because you see, the real enemy is death (read: the unknown).
In that split second when your life is on the line, accepting death as part of life is often the difference between the end for you or for your enemy. When you truly understand your enemy (read: death), you can fight in defense of your life without holding back.
The quotation above is from the adapted film Ender’s Game by Gavin Hood (now available on Netflix), based on the novel of the same name by Orson Scott Card. It is how the protagonist, Ender ends his war against the enemy. Although he is duped into believing his war is a simulation, this mindset allows him to forgo his emotions and giving his all to win. The key is to “understand him [the enemy] well enough” because if you know too much and/or think too much about what might happen, you are lead to inaction. In a life or death scenario, that means it’s your end not theirs.
This is what a self-defense scenario could be like.
As the defender, if you hold back in the moment for fear of death, then you most likely meet your fear. But when you embrace death as you love life, you let go of your fears and give it your all to fight for your life without fear of death, and thus increase your ability to defend yourself.
Recently, someone in a manner of incoherent rage attempted to insult me by insinuating that because the core of what I teach is self-defense, I am somehow less a fighter or a warrior. While in the ring or cage many opponents are likely to beat me, this does not bother me because this is not why I train, or what I teach. (Unless, of course, I am training someone for the ring.)
I do what I do, so that I may walk in peace knowing that, should the need arise, I will do all that I must to face my fear and come out the other end a survivor.
Training to preserve your life in that one moment is radically different than training to win a fight with rules and where death is unlikely. How many modern fighters would enter the ring if they knew death was certain?
Once upon a time, I know many more would easily take to such call, and now in modern society, many see this as barbaric.
Yet, such individuals understand something far better than many of us, and that is death. If you are not willing to fight 100% in that moment of need, and your attacker is, then they will overcome you with will alone.
If in that moment of imminent harm or death, you are too concerned with the law or what others might think, then you will surely meet that which you fear.
To train for self-defense is to train to walk in peace.
With the hope that you never need to use it. With the knowledge that you can control it. But with the wiliness to use it all at 100% should the need arise.
In Ender’s Game, Ender wins because he lets go and fights to win because he doesn’t see losing as an option. Yet, when he realizes the war was not a simulation and he has just destroyed his enemy, and not solely in self-defense, he feels anguish. He realizes what he did was not self-defense but something else, and because of this, the deaths of his enemy were in vain.
This simple yet complex idea is why murder is wrong, yet killing in self-defense is justifiable regardless of the scale.
This same mentality can be taken from the microcosm that is self-defense and applied to the macrocosm of war, as depicted in the film’s story.
Remember the real enemy.
If we forget even for a split second that death is part of life, then our enemy no matter the scale will surely overcome us. The question you have to ask yourself is, “Will they feel remorse after your death? Or will they feel something else entirely?” But in the split second moment of fear, you don’t have time to question. You cannot rationalize, you can only act.
With this, I leave you with a quotation from another literary masterpiece, one of my favorite quotations of all time — so much so that part of it is immortalized on my body:
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”
-Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear from Frank Herbert’s Dune, 1965
Written by: Jonathan Fader
Edited by: Zerlinda Chau