Violence is My Middle Name

Austin Danger Powers – “Danger…is my middle name.”
Willie Violent Jones – “Violent…is my middle name.”
Violence Combatives – “We fight violently.”
Violence Self Defense – “Self defense is sheer violence.”

     Consider what I say here. I’ve been in the martial teaching business since 1990 when I opened my first classes and school. This escalated/evolved to the point I started traveling to teach, whereupon I had to close my school. Too busy. Since then and for 22 years, I have taught in places all over the planet as far as China and Australia. I’ve literally seen hundreds of courses and schools come and go. I constantly interact with school and course owners. It has helped me identify doctrine and dogma problems, planned and mostly unplanned obsolescence, successes, but more failures. I have definite opinions on martial success and failure.

     And I have opinions on using the word “violence” or "violent" in system names and ads. I’ve seen a training trend through recent years, to include these words in the title of courses and programs. “Violent This-or-That,” course, or “This-or-That Violence” course. I don’t think it’s a good idea or a good name, or part of a name. Maybe it’s okay for a movie? For a B-Movie at that. But, for a training course, for a successful business? No. It’s back to the "who, what, where, when, how and why" review to see why.

     WHO? For starters, remember the customer. The "who-things" like – who are your customers. Do they just want to be violent? Why do they want be violent? Yes, who is the customer? Your next customer? The one you haven’t met yet. And may never meet because of your message. Your viewers? Your readers? Who wants, as a main attraction – just to be violent? Who responds to your violent shingle? Who shuns it? (Also remember the who includes the police. The Prosecutor. The Judge. The Jury, all are “consumers” of your message. Remember that line, as it will come back again later in the essay.).

     I also understand the attempts of various people at sounding oh-so-tough, like tough-guy courses, with skulls crushing everything and so forth. I mean, while I don’t like it, and I see through right it, I kind of understand what they are getting at, what they are trying for. Usually this is a very small slice of the market catering to, I would say, based on my observations, oh…white males mostly between 17 and…oh…36, 38-ish? And a certain type at that. Are you stopping there? Very few people are around that "get" what you are trying to say and do.

     Then WHAT. What's in a word, anyway? This word violence? Violence and violent will always be perceived as negative words. It just…does and will. Look at the common definition.

Behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something. synonyms: brutality, brute force, ferocity, savagery, cruelty, sadism, barbarity, brutishness More strength of emotion or an unpleasant or destructive natural force. "the violence of her own feelings" synonyms: intensity, severity, strength, force, vehemence, fury, fire; "the violence of his passion"; LAW- the unlawful exercise of physical force or intimidation by the exhibition of such force.

     Not one single good or positive message in definition and synonyms. And, that phrase – “The unlawful exercise of physical force or intimidation.” Wow. So now you want to teach something with the word violence in the title? Every definition of violence is negative, with a part and parcel, negative message attached, whether you, yourself perceive it so or not, and no matter innocent it may seem to you? Bubba, it’s negative. 

    Of course, books can cover this voilent subject. They are politically correct. I have seen books like “Understanding Violence” by reputable doctors and so forth. Understandable, acceptable and informative in a professional studies sense. They are psychology books like: 
  -Violence and Domestic Abuse
  -Youth Aggression and Violence
  -Children Exposed to Violence
  -Violence: The Enduring Problem
  -Violent Men: An Inquiry Into the Psychology of Violence

     A search on the web will open many magazine and news reports that worry about martial arts and violence, and of course, especially the impact on kids and teens studying them. Run a search and read the concerns. Bullying is also a major, pop topic these days, and a hefty vein of violence comes with it. Bullying runs hand-in-hand with the the definitions of abuse and violence.

     In every literary aspect the word violence has a negative connotation, doesn't it? We the people don’t like violence. We the people want to stop violence. Violence is a problem. But then next, you/we want to teach physical violence! But from only a self defense perspective? Yes, but folks, don’t call it “violence- anything, because semantically, overtly, covertly, it’s a big problem. How’s that going to flesh out for you? I add the word “flesh” for an obvious reason. How in the world are you going to beat, bruise, stab, cut or shoot flesh in a legally, morally and ethical, acceptable method. It’s a tightrope we in this business walk.

     Ye ol’ martial arts schools have violence cleverly hidden in their titles, haven't they? Kung Fu. Krav Maga. Jujitsu. Judo. I mean they are not called “Kung Violence.” Not “Violent Maga.” Not "Violent Judo." Would you send your kids to “Boxing,” or to a class called “Boxing Violence?” Would the advertisement read, “Learn the Violence of Boxing?” No, not a good idea. All martial arts are indeed teaching violence and fighting, but they don't use that term. Smart, huh?

     Look at the three biggest, monster movements out there – Krav Maga, BJJ, MMA. All absent a title with the terms of "violence." They seem to be about something else on the surface, but they're not, are they? Bruce Lee's, Jeet Kune Do is another example. It has been crazy popular since…since Bruce! It translates to "way of the intercepting fist," Intercepting an attack. Thwarting the violent attacker. And it seems we can get by with "combat sports," fairly well. It's SPORTS! And slip by these days with even some "fight clubs."  Not "Violent Sports." Not "Violent Fight Clubs." On the use of "fight club" monickers, I think the further time takes us away from the orignial movie and closer to combat sport competitions, the better, the title "fight clubs" are accepted. 

     The word, the title “violence” is absent from all the big successful ones, yet semantically, we know that violence is also their, and our, true core, work and business. They are just smarter at tagging it, selling it, packaging and covering over it. It’s all still a tightrope. It's all how you massage the name.

     Even, consider subliminal violent ads. Business wise, remember the old NAPMA study done with karate advertising? Two people, one punching the other in a very classical pose. To the true-blue martial artist, this seems brilliant. The good, person wins. The school owner, the school staff, the photographer all recognize the puncher as the victor, good guy. YET! Regular citizens, regular people looked at the ad on the web, door-hangers and print ads, saw themselves as the one being punched! When surveyed they ask, “will I be punched in the face like this? Every week?” (well, yes, maybe, but do we want them to understand the overall context? But the overall, context is survival. Self defense. Proper use of legal force. Do we want to make that difficult message worse and add violence to the title?) To us? A classical, meaningful, positive “karate” message. To them, a negative. How do you suppose your new potential, customers will perceive your course, your school of “Violent Combatives,” “Violent Countermeasures?” “Violent This-or That?” How many martial arts literally became dance routines when occupied by enemy forces?

     Also, while we are at it, consider your logos. How many bloody weapons are in it? Smashed skulls? Figures of bodies smashing bodies? Highly successful courses usually have abstract artwork of some sort. I just was hired by the British government to teach counter-ambush courses. Do you think they would have hired me if I boldly advertised I was in the "Edged Weapon Costa Nostra?" and, or had screaming skulls in a pile of corpses as a logo? 

     Think of the word "engagement." Most folks just conjure up weddings unless you have some military DNA. Even the established infantries and special forces use the term ROE, "rules of engagement," not ROV "rules of violence." It's a quandary we're in, this name-game trap. If we use the titles "crime prevention" and, or "self defense," people's eyes glaze over. They immediately conjure up a boring lecture, or a meeting at the old folks home. Or, an excuse for a Tae Kwon Do class for parents to come in and do some eye-poking. Still, I refuse to use the titles "violent" or "violence." I am even slowly disassociating myself from the term combatives, but I don’t think that selling "combat" and "combatives" is as bad as selling "violence."   

     I think you can inspire and motivate people to use proper force, with and without weapons, and not turn them into “Amok, Vikings of Violence.” What then? For many decades now, “Force” or “Use of Force” has been an acceptable standard, a term, an expression that has flown flags all the way to the Supreme Court of the USA. Police, military, civil and criminal law. It’s all about levels and appropriate use of force. The terminology is acceptable by various levels of maturity, and acceptable by various levels of institutions concerned with the big pictures of societies. Twenty-two years ago, I started switching over to the title “Force Necessary” from martial arts, after a short stint of foolish, dabbling with thuggish names like “street-fighters” (I too, was once 30 years old). I’ve used Force Necessary supported with sub-titles: 
-“Sometimes force is necessary,” and, 
-“Only use that force necessary to win or survive.”

…to further explain and define the title, and my message, my mission. (To a civilian, there are many definitions of winning, not just leaving a pulpy corpse on the sidewalk, shot full of holes or impaled with the latest, over-priced, tactical knife.) I have had success using the old term "Police Judo," as oppossed to "Police Combatives," and other admin-cringing acronyms. 

     I said I would mention the police, prosecutors, judges and juries before closing out. So the police hear, “I am a student of Violent Quantifications” as the arrested person reports, in handcuffs, after defending herself, thinking such study is a plus. Indeed, your last step in surviving the violent act is thwarting jail or lawsuits. Civil or criminal courts. But, if you are trained by, or certified by… 
  – “Violence Kinetics” or, 
  – “Violent Measures” or, 
  – “Seven Degrees of Violence,” 

…and have the tattoos or the t-shirts advertising them? Watch out. Any and everything will be used against you in court. Anything with the words violence and violent in it, and you are probably starting off your defense behind the old eight ball for a jury to grasp. Do you have a perceived super-hero, system-head promised to fly in and rescue you with his brilliant testimony? What's he look like and sound like? Where's he been? He'll explain to some virgin, nimrods on a jury in 20 minutes about the essence of, the importance of sheer violence in mankind's evolution, and therefore explain away your sudden, imperative, violent act?” Good luck with your situation. Be advised from a veteran street cop and detective, you might very well however, statistically, be squeezed into a plea bargain before you have your system-head appear in court.


    I am frequently asked about this-or-that course. "What do you think of Ralph Williams 'Violence Development' class." I really try to keep my mouth shut on such matters, but bubba – just for starters? Wrong name. Right out the chute. Bad idea. Think about what you call yourself. What you do and what you teach? Who are you? Who are your “customers?” Who do you want to help? As many as possible? How do you advertise? Are you happy with a small group of amok Vikings? Which is fine, I guess, as long as you know where you are and where you will shall remain. Small.

What is your overt and covert message? Are your good intentions muddled by your name? How big is your telescope? How smart are you about what you are doing, in the big picture? The tightrope we walk is already shakey enough.

It all starts with your name. 
In the languages of the world, violence is a very bad word.
Is violence your middle name?


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