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Monday, June 20, 2011

Product Review: Art of Conflict Management: Achieving Solutions for Life, Work, and Beyond

Its funny how one little event can change your perceptions.

I borrowed this course from my father, from whom I steal many of my Teaching Company courses. When I first started thinking about reviewing it, my initial thoughts were sort of lukewarm. Don't misunderstand me: it is a solid course, with some useful insights into a lot of modern conflict management strategies. But looking at it as a self-defense instructor, my initial filter on it was that it dealt entirely with social conflicts, and as such, wasn't necessarily vital to someone interested in personal protection.

Then there was the thread.

Some of you reading this will know what I'm talking about. For the rest of you, suffice it to say that a thread on Facebook took a turn for the worse, largely because someone took it upon themselves to jump into a discussion with some very aggressive and insulting language. And honestly, I think that was probably the point, is also possible (however unlikely) that the person in question had some genuinely useful information to share. But what might have been a useful dialogue has now just become another exchange in the endless verbal wars waged between members of the martial arts/combatives/self-defense community. Instead of opening borders, it has closed them.

This post isn't about the flamewar, however. Flame wars within the martial arts community are a dime-a-dozen. They happen constantly. I wish I could say I thought that would change, but I'd be lying.

What this post is about is this: there is a lot more to self-defense and personal protection that being able to kick and punch well. In the PDR System, the second of our Three D's of self-defense is "Defuse". Rory Miller talks a lot about the need to be willing to negotiate, apologize, or walk away. I believe Marc MacYoung has written about similar things, though I confess to not having gotten around to reading any of his work yet.

For all that martial artists talk about self-defense, most of them have lousy verbal confrontation management skills. Some of them still buy into a mindset that says that talking is for pussies, or think that they can approach verbal conflicts the same way the approach physical ones (i.e., charge in with overwhelming force and get the other person to submit). Of course, those approaches don't always work, and even if they do, the results are rarely as positive as they might be.

What does all of this have to do with a Teaching Company course?

Simple. This course is about managing the kind of conflicts that most people engage in on a daily basis in a real, mature, productive way. It is a skill that most people will use far more often than they will any kind of physical toolbox. It is a skill that most martial arts instructors cannot teach, but that anyone purporting to teach self-defense should be investigating. Even if you are not interested in self-defense, this course offers a lot of valuable information that will serve you in your life.

I highly recommend it.

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