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One of My Students Got in a Fight

teaching a class

I know that we’re in the heat of promoting Mastering the Crucifix by Matt “Aesopian” Kirtley, and that’s still important. You should definitely read the free chapter and then buy the full book. That said, one of my students got into a fight recently. I want to talk about that.

The context: Jenko (not his real name) trained with me for about three years in the off and on way that students at a University club do. He was one of the most consistent students I had, but summer and winter breaks interrupted his training. Regardless, Jenko would come back every semester eager to learn and ready to work. Near the end of his undergraduate career, he enrolled in a police internship program, went through the academy, and is now working full-time as a police officer.

When I say that Jenko got in a fight, he was on duty. He wasn’t dojo-storming or defending the honor of spilled beer at a dive bar. His fight was mostly unavoidable, an occupational hazard, but Jenko is a young guy, and he is relatively new to the force. An actual fight with a drug addict is a scary thing in this context.

Here is the first text that Jenko sent me:

I got in a scuffle last night at work, and I walked away without a scratch, and the other guy went to the hospital. I just wanted to let you know I really appreciate the time and effort you put into teaching all of us. The little bit of self-defense training we got at the academy down here was completely worthless. If I went in there with just what the department taught us I probably would get my ass kicked and have hepatitis.”

Jenko is a bit of a comedian at times, but I asked him to tell me more because while I’ve had a few students use their jiu-jitsu to defend themselves, none of those instances were as serious as the situation Jenko had been in. Jenko was breaking up a parking lot fight and the aggressor turned his rage on him. Jenko subdued him and pinned him with a “knee on back” position while the offender continued trying to flail and spit blood at Jenko and his partner.

I asked Jenko if he was scared (because I am a touchy feely emotional guy like that). His response:

I feel like I’ve been able to handle myself in these situations with more confidence, and as a result I’ve been able to keep a little cooler head than some of the other guys, which means I’ve probably done less physical damage to the offenders I’ve come in contact with than maybe someone else would have.”

In one sentence, Jenko summed up one of my favorite things about jiu-jitsu: you get used to the stress of someone actively trying to harm you, making it easier for you to remain rational and in control. For me, this has extended into my personal and professional life. I am much slower to anger in all cases and am thus better equipped to make the smarter, strategic decision where the pre-jiu-jitsu version of me would have acted out of anger or fear. Whether you’re a cop, a bouncer, or a librarian, this is a valuable skill.

I can’t explain how happy I am that Jenko has been able to stay safe, and I hope that his story will help to motivate other people to train as well.