We like options, here at Situation Handled. In our Self-Protection courses we start with a few techniques that we believe are important to learn. For those who want to explore deeper and practice our martial art, there are a set of techniques required for each belt level. And practicing techniques in order to gain specific skills is important. Practicing until we have a response built into our muscle memory is also important. That’s why we constantly drill and practice. But there is an inherent danger too. Not every encounter we face requires the most violent of responses, even in the case of physical self-defense. If the only option we have in a conflict is to destroy, then everyone who so much as raises their voice to us looks like a target. This is not the way I want to live my life. I’d rather have what I like to call a ‘sliding scale of responses.’


Each of our techniques and principles are designed to be scalable in relation to the threat. This means that we don’t have to memorize a new technique (or worse a pre-determined series of movements) for each type of threat we face. For example, we might practice just deflecting and pushing away to create space in an attempt to retreat and diffuse the situation. Or we might use the same motion with little or no ‘impact’ to guide away someone – an inebriated friend, perhaps that we didn’t want to put into the hospital. Other times the same skill is practiced with the idea that it is life or death and each movement needs as much impact and power as we can create. In each of those examples we still put the same principle in action. It is the same technique, just applied differently. Without this practice of varying levels of response, we run the risk of using too much or too little violence for the situation, which leads to lawsuits and possible jail time on one end, and harm to ourselves or those we care about on the other. So many students I’ve worked with who’ve had other training say they’ve never heard this kind of thing taught outside of To-Shin Do.


Why do so few programs teach this type of sliding scale response? It’s hard, would be my first guess. Hard to teach. Hard to learn. It is so much easier to have a ‘one size fits all response’. But life tends to not work that way. For those of us that want self-protection to be our way of life, we need an approach to training that fits all the possibilities life can throw at us. Knowing how to tailor our response to the situation allows us to use To-Shin Do in countless ways that may not even look like martial arts to the outsider. We get the option to win without looking like a martial artist, perhaps even without it looking like a conflict at all.


Of course, if all we ever train for is to talk our way out of conflict or to use less violent movements to escape, we’d still be missing some options we want to have … just in case. So while we practice ways to resolve a conflict and still avoid violence whenever possible, we’re also really good at winning the other way too.