On writing

The golden rule in martial arts

What’s the golden rule in martial arts? Run away.

View from the hotel, by day. It looks even more spectacular at night, but my night photography just doesn't hack it. Note the cloud cover. I'm very happy about that. We have to walk from the hotel to the State Library. Cloud cover is good.
View from the hotel, by day. It looks spectacular at night, but my night photography just doesn’t hack it. Note the cloud cover. I’m very happy about that. We have to walk from the hotel to the State Library. Cloud cover is good.


We’re here in Brisbane for Genre-Con. Somewhat busy, attending sessions, so not a large blog today, but so far, every session has been truly good.

My favourite sessions so far:

Friday workshop: Write the fight right with Alan Baxter. Tremendously entertaining, as well as being informative.

What’s the golden rule in martial arts? Run away.

After this session we’re going back to look at some of the fight scenes in Linesman#3. Although, given the golden rule, we can’t have our hero run away, can we?

Saturday panel: Mining Myth and History. Kate Forsyth, Sulari Gentill and Christine Wells, chaired by Lisa Fletcher.

Three different points of view on writing historical fiction.
Sulari Gentill sounds like my kind of writer. I’ve got to look up the Rowland Sinclair mysteries.

Saturday night banquet: Mary Robinette Kowal.

An entertaining speaker, and loved the way she used rejection in the puppetry world and compared it to rejection in the writing world.
Loved the puppet show at the end.

To date, the standard of the panels has been excellent.

5 replies on “The golden rule in martial arts”

Hi! i can’t believe that to run away is the golden rule. it surprises me, and i think that’s the greatest option when your in trouble. but if you have no choice so thats the right time to fight for good. thank you for the post. it helps a lot. good day!!

Alan was saying much the same as you are saying here. The best option is not to fight at all, if you can avoid it.
It’s a good thing to teach young kids. Don’t fight just because you can, only fight when you need to.

Just some comments from a random guy who liked the first linesman book.

If there is a golden rule I think it is more along the lines of avoiding the fight rather than running away from it. If you need to choose between running away and fighting, you most likely have made at least one mistake already, but situations differ, not all conflicts can be avoided. Or rather sometimes avoiding the fight might be the worse option.

When you teach kids or new students martial arts there is little room for nuances, you often start with telling them to always run away if they can. It is a simplification though, and there are several reasons for it, based on legal considerations as well as their skills and mental and physical abilities.

For a more nuanced view I would suggest something more like a golden set of guidelines, not rules, no fixed rules fit every situation.

1. Be aware of your surroundings and be prepared for the possibility of conflict, avoid risky or uncontrolled situations

2. De-escalate, do not commit to either fight or flight, try to talk your way out of it

3. If the opponent is still determined to fight you, run if you think you can get away, if not and as a last resort, use as little violence as you can to avoid being hurt yourself (or someone else getting hurt)

These three guidelines assumes an individual encounter in a modern society, where we for the most part hand off the use of force to the authorities. I.e. you do not personally have to solve the long term problem. Martial arts training in my view is about giving you the tools to not have to fight (to add points 1 and 2 to the toolbox) or if that option is taken from you, to reduce the damage inflicted (to yourself, bystanders and also the opponent). These tools are for the most part mental, awareness, preparedness, confidence, to avoid panicking (and escalating a conflict) and to a minor part physical (speed, stamina, self protection and graded options for force/violence).

If you are the police, the soldier on the spot or the acting authority in another capacity, the rules change somewhat, you have to take the longer view as well. The highest priority is no longer to avoid violence, at that specific time, at almost any cost, but rather to reduce the total violence/damage over a period of years, decades or longer. Thus, running away is rarely a valid option.
This is where we come back to your hero, and the reason he in the typical situation can’t run away. Not because he is a “Hero” and heroes do not run(TM), but because of the role and the circumstances. Because the role and the circumstances changes the view he needs to take and the options available, which of course doesn’t mean that he can never run.
If you were, on the other hand, writing a book about someone who only need to care about himself then running away should probably be his standard procedure (i.e. the hero at the start of book #1).

This division between roles in society, associated viewpoints and consequences of the different options is an interesting topic to explore

Thank you


I read this yesterday, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

As you say, an interesting topic to explore. All of it, but particularly with Ean and why he can’t run away. We know Ean can’t run, but you put it clearly why he can’t run.

Food for thought, indeed.

Thank you.

Thank you Karen,
I unfortunately got overloaded with work and did not get back here to check for some time.

In case you read this somewhat late comment I would just like to point out that this also fits neatly into the gender switch discussion or why people act the way they do. (i.e. somewhat more complex than the typical individualisation into hero/coward)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *