Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Deflecting Conflict

I was chatting with my martial arts teacher after class last week about how we learn in martial arts to deflect force rather than trying to overpower force with force. As with many lessons in martial arts, this one teaches us how to handle conflict in the rest of our lives as well. I related to him this story which he thought was a great example, so I will share it with you too.

A few years ago, I was walking along a neighborhood street after dark. Up ahead there was a group of young men. As I passed them, one of them said something vulgar and sexual to me. I walked on past without reacting, but they started to follow close behind me. They were looking for trouble. There was no one else on the street.

So I did what any self-respecting martial artist would do. I turned to face them. And I said,

“When an old lady like me gets a compliment from a handsome young fella like yourself, it’s a good day!” And I gave them a big smile.

Well, they weren’t expecting that. They all stopped in their tracks and looked confused. Then, after a pause, the one who had spoken to me softened his stance and simply said,

“God bless you.”

“God bless you too,” I replied.

All the tension evaporated. We all nodded at each other, turned, and went on our way.

14 thoughts on “Deflecting Conflict”

  1. Such a perfect story about how to deflect by changing the atmosphere. All day long I've been watching the saga about impeachment and wondering where in the world we are going. Perhaps we need someone to deflect in exactly the same way. Thank you, Galen.

  2. That was brilliant, Galen! No need to let fear dictate your thoughts and actions. I would have loved to see those guys'faces.

  3. I think we were all pretty surprised by how it turned out. I did what I did spontaneously. I've written before about how training will kick in when we need the skills we've been practicing. Sometimes in ways we don't expect and can't predict. Thanks for your comment, Pam.

  4. DJan, you make an important point, and I like your term "changing the atmosphere." So many conflicts in our lives, big and small, can be handled in a way that does not escalate hostility. The more we "feed" judgment and enmity, the less chance we have of ever resolving any conflict in a way that will promote peace. Thanks for commenting.

  5. Thanks, Martha. I had almost forgotten it until it came up in my conversation with my teacher. What we were talking about is how the best "martial arts" response is not to fight. It's so counter to our usual response to aggression, which is to "fight fire with fire." Sometimes "water" is the best way to fight fire! Thanks for your comment.

  6. I did enjoy your story. I imagine it was very scary but to fact it was brave and you did the perfect thing to deflect and that is to do something totally unexpected.
    Blessings and hugs for this one!

  7. I liked that story so much 🙂 this part was so good….."So I did what any self-respecting martial artist would do. I turned to face them. And I said,……"

    You asserted yourself in a very unpredictable manner. You appeared to these young men, as someone without fear, who also responded in kind and humorous words. This wisdom dumbfounded these kids ,hahaha. You diffused the negative force into a very positive one . This is a great story …I am smiling and almost laughing out loud as I write.

    You said ' We all nodded at each other, turned, and went on our way.' This is also what you do in martial arts , right? You bow out and leave. In the last episode of the 1973 Kung FU , K C Caine bows out as he leaves the scene. That was it …he was gone….end of the series. It was so powerful.

    Nice post, Galen!

  8. Sometimes the magic works, Brian! People think that because I practice martial arts I can beat someone up. If put to the test, I'm not at all sure I could, and certainly could not have prevailed physically against this group of young men. But my practice has taught me much more about handling myself than simply being able to defend myself physically. I find that my practice comes into play in all sorts of situations, none of which involve physical contact.

    I had not made the connection to bowing, but that is exactly right. Thanks for making that comparison. I managed to get myself out of this situation and I didn't even have to brand my arms on a fiery cauldron! Loved that series! So radical for its time. And much of Grasshopper's teaching came right out of the Tao Te Ching.

    Glad you liked the story.

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