Young People Ask . . .
Should I Learn Self-Defense?
“There’s this really bad gang in school,” says Jesse. “If they see you in the hallway and want your sneakers, jacket, or even your pants, they take them. If you report it, they’ll get you again.”
COPING with violence has become a way of life for many youths. Said the magazine USA Today: “About one of every five high school students carries a firearm, knife, razor, club, or other weapon on a regular basis. Many carry them to school.” A teenage boy named Jairo knows this firsthand. “Our school was the first [in New York City] to have metal detectors,” he says, “but that doesn’t stop the kids from having knives and guns. I don’t know how they get them in, but they do.”
Understandably, the threat of being assaulted has many youths thinking about how they can protect themselves. Young Lola observes: “After a girl from my school was stabbed to death for her earrings, they began teaching self-defense courses in school. Almost everyone signed up.” Other youths have resorted to carrying chemical sprays and other weapons. The question is, Do self-defense methods really protect you?
The Martial Arts
They show it on TV all the time—martial arts experts flipping through the air, kicking and punching with the grace of a dancer. Within seconds the bad guys lie motionless on the ground. Amazing! The martial arts seem like the ultimate protection. In reality, though, life isn’t like the movies. A man with years of experience in karate said: “It takes just a bullet. If a person at a distance has a gun, you don’t stand a chance. If you’re too closed in without any room for movement, it’s not really that great either.”
Realize, too, that to become proficient in the martial arts, one must spend a lot of money and undergo years of vigorous training. And unless you stay in training, your ability to perform those fancy moves can get dangerously rusty in no time at all. The same can be said about other forms of self-defense, such as boxing. Besides, having a reputation for knowing how to fight is likely to attract unwanted attention. Troublemakers may decide to take you on as a challenge.
There is a greater danger, however, in learning the martial arts. The Economist magazine recently reported: “Most, if not all, of the martial arts are inextricably linked to the three main East Asian religions, Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.” Another source adds: “Everything done in karate—every movement, every feeling—can be traced to some principle of Zen.” Zen is a sect of Buddhism that emphasizes religious meditation. These religious roots pose a serious problem for Christians in view of the Bible’s words at 2 Corinthians 6:17: “‘Therefore get out from among [false worshipers], and separate yourselves,’ says Jehovah, ‘and quit touching the unclean thing.’”
Use of Weapons
What, though, about packing a gun or a knife? Doing so may indeed make you feel confident. But that confidence could prove fatal if you started taking unnecessary risks or courting trouble. Warns the Bible: “As for the one searching for bad, it will come upon him.” (Proverbs 11:27) And if uninvited trouble comes your way, pulling out a weapon is sure to escalate the conflict. You could get killed—or end up killing someone else. How would God, the Source of life, view your actions if you could have avoided using violence?—Psalm 11:5; 36:9.
True, some do not really intend to use lethal force. They may say they carry a weapon just to scare off harassers. But says Health magazine: “Firearms instructors agree: Don’t get a gun if you aren’t prepared to use it. Waving a firearm around as a bluff can scare off some assailants, but will only enrage others.”
What about “safer” weapons, such as chemical sprays? Besides the fact that they are illegal in some places, these weapons have serious drawbacks. Instead of immobilizing a drug-crazed attacker, they may only succeed in infuriating him. It is even possible that the wind might blow the chemical into your face rather than the attacker’s—assuming you get the spray out in the first place. Seeing you rummaging through your pockets or purse, the assailant may assume you are reaching for a gun and decide to take some aggressive action of his own. One police detective thus comments: “There is no guarantee that mace [a chemical spray], or any other weapon, will work. Or that you will have it out in time. Weapons never help a situation. People put too much faith in them.”
Weapons—The Godly View
The threat of violence was real back in Jesus’ day. One of his most famous parables, commonly called the parable of the Good Samaritan, related an incident involving violent robbery. (Luke 10:30-35) When Jesus asked his disciples to equip themselves with swords, it was not for protection. In fact, it led to his stating the principle: “All those who take the sword will perish by the sword.”—Matthew 26:51, 52; Luke 22:36-38.
True Christians, therefore, do not arm themselves so as to harm their fellowman. (Compare Isaiah 2:4.) They follow the Bible’s advice at Romans 12:18: “If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.” Does this mean being defenseless? Not at all!
Wisdom—Better Than Weapons
In an age when there seems to be a gadget for everything, it may surprise you to know that you can have at your disposal a means of defense that is far more effective than any man-made device. At Ecclesiastes 9:18, we read: “Wisdom is better than implements for fighting.” This wisdom is more than what some call “street smarts.” It is the application of Bible principles, and it can often help you to avoid violent situations in the first place.
Jairo, for example, who earlier described his violent school, steers clear of trouble by applying the Bible’s words at 1 Thessalonians 4:11: “Make it your aim to live quietly and to mind your own business.” Says Jairo: “If you know there’s going to be a fight, you have to mind your own business and go home. Some hang around, and that’s when they get into trouble.”
“Letting everyone know I’m one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is my best protection,” states young Lola. “People leave me alone since they know I’m not going to be a threat to them.” “It’s more than just saying you’re a Witness,” adds Eliu. “They should see that you’re different.” Christians must be “no part of the world.” (John 15:19) But be careful not to project a superior attitude. (Proverbs 11:2) One youth put it this way: “Don’t walk down the hallways as if you own the place.” This could trigger resentment. Relates a Christian youth named Luchy: “I’m friendly, and I talk to my classmates; but I simply don’t act like them.”
How you dress is also important. “I’m careful not to wear things that attract attention,” says one youth. “I figure I don’t have to wear the most expensive brands to look good.” Following the Bible’s counsel to dress modestly may help you to keep a low profile and avoid trouble.—1 Timothy 2:9.
If You Are Confronted With Violence
What, though, if in spite of your efforts to stay out of harm’s way, you are threatened with violence? First, try to apply the principle at Proverbs 15:1: “An answer, when mild, turns away rage, but a word causing pain makes anger to come up.” Young Eliu did so when he was in school. He says: “Sometimes it’s just a matter of not taking aggressive statements so seriously. In a lot of cases, it’s how you respond that causes the trouble.” By refusing to “return evil for evil,” you may be able to keep a situation from getting out of hand.—Romans 12:17.
When diplomacy fails, however, you must take steps to protect yourself. If a group of youths demand that you give them your sneakers or some prized possessions, give them up! Your life is far more precious than the things you possess. (Luke 12:15) If violence seems imminent, walk away—better yet, run away! “Before the quarrel has burst forth, take your leave,” says Proverbs 17:14. (Compare Luke 4:29, 30; John 8:59.) If escape is impossible, you may have no choice but to ward off violence as best you can. Afterward, be sure to let your parents know what happened. Perhaps they can help out in some way.
Just as the Bible prophesied, we live in violent times. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) But toting a gun or learning karate kicks will not make you any safer. Be cautious. Use godly wisdom when faced with trouble. And above all, have faith and trust in Jehovah. Like the psalmist, you can confidently pray: “From the man of violence you will deliver me.”—Psalm 18:48.
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Martial arts are not the answer for Christians