Martial and Tactical Muse : Words Before Violence


– In business there are always negotiations that take place before the exchange of hard currency begins –

The reason for me coming up with the little sentence at the top of this post stemmed from an incident that happened not too long ago that nearly resulted in a bloody altercation.

Many times we hear in self defence / martial arts talks that before we resort to fighting and physical contact, we must do our best to deescalate the situation verbally if not avoid it altogether.

I had come to witness such an incident and the power and understated importance of verbal deescalation.

It happened when me and a friend were out during dinner. We were having chicken rice in your typical Chinese chicken rice store. It was a packed night, a full house. We were lucky to have gotten a place to sit so quickly.

Usually at normal conditions there would be one chef at the cutting board, chopping up the chicken to prepare. But for that day, a secondary chef was aiding at a separate station to chop chickens and prep meals.

As me and my friend were eating a commotion caught my eye. Apparently there was an argument between the chef and a customer.

Now arguments happen as usual, but this customer was one rowdy fellow.

You know the type – buff guy, grizzly-bear-chest fur, moustache that put evil lords of the barbaric kingdoms to shame. That sort of look. He was arguing with the secondary chef about an order.

From the looks of things, the chef was telling the customer to sit back at his place and wait. I mean honestly, you’re in a packed full house restaurant. You’d expect your food to come slow. Just wait patiently like everyone else.

But things started to get a little heated up as suddenly this customer had a friend of his step in. The exchange escalated.

At this point the argument was getting the attention of everyone (although they were acting nonchalant, they were eavesdropping out of curiosity). Me and my friend were whispering to each other that we would step in to help the chef in case the situation got out of hand. He was an Aikido practitioner while I practiced FMA.

And suddenly out of the nowhere, the customer’s friend grabbed the chef’s cleaver that was lying on the chopping board and stared threateningly at the chef. The chef was now shaking his head, wondering how in the world did a simple argument end up like this. At this point I told my friend to stay down. The situation was tactically not sound. Tight spaces with low amounts of mobility avenues.

If there was anything bladed combat has taught me is that tight spaces with limited mobility increased your chances of getting killed exponentially. Blade fighting / combat is all about maneuverability.

At this point the owner of the shop quickly came in and started to talk things down. He told the customer nicely to have a seat and that their food would reach them shortly. With his patting and soft deescalating gesture, the situation cooled. The customer’s friend placed the cleaver back at the chopping board and both of them – Bearman and Bullboy, walked to their seats scowling.

The chef just shook his head and continued working. The food was delivered to those two and they left quickly soon after.

Later when everything was calm I asked the owner of the store what actually happened. He was complaining about how some customers were so rude and unnecessarily rowdy. It was a full house. It was to be expected that one’s order would arrive late.

It was a good thing the situation didn’t escalate. But atop the meal I ordered, it left an extra food for thought on my plate.

It was quite worrisome to know that anything can happen anywhere, in the least expected of places. The scary thing above all, was that every other customer was nonchalant to the plight of the chef. Nobody wanted to step up and get involved.

Yes, it was a normal and perhaps a safe thing to not to get involved. But I always told myself, what would happen if I were in that situation when I needed help. And nobody lifted a finger to help me.

It is true when they say that only you are responsible for your own safety. Nobody is there to help you. Nobody will risk their life for you.

But above all else, if there was one thing this incident and experience has taught me, it was that verbal deescalation is important.

There are unnecessary risks that can be avoided with just a few words to calm and pacify the situation. There is no winner in a fight, especially one that involves a blade. In the end, the key is to go back home safe and sound.

Besides, is it worth getting killed over some chicken?

Puts a whole new meaning though to, “This chicken is so good, it is to die for!”

Stay safe everyone.