On Thursday, September 12th, I posted an essay titled “Run, hide, fight?“. The title refers to a video on techniques for surviving an active shooter event. Little was I to know that only four days later, this past Monday, September 16th, just such an event would take place. The massacre at the Washington Navy Yard left thirteen dead including the shooter, Aaron Alexis. Unlike the dark theater in Aurora, Colorado or the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, this tragedy took place in the Naval Sea Systems Command Center, a military facility staffed by mostly civilian employees, just a few miles from our nation’s capital.
What makes this all increasingly surreal is that the video I posted simulates and office place shooting more in line with the setting of this week’s events than the previous shootings. Added to this is that the shooter in the video uses a shotgun similar to the primary weapon Alexis brought with him on Monday. It was never my intention for this blog to discuss current events but it would seem that those events have caught up with me.
To say that I am saddened by this tragedy is an understatement. My heart truly goes out to all those who lost their lives and to all those families that are now in mourning. What each one of these events demonstrates, again and again, is that there is little we can do in a free society to prepare for acts this random or this antisocial. What we can do is live in the moment, be aware of our surroundings, and look out for each other. These acts alone, having nothing to do with martial arts training, will probably keep us safe 99% of the time.
We still live in a comparatively peaceful and safe country. I have never trained out of fear for my life and events like these, as scary as they are, won’t change that. As I explored in “Rational or Irrational Fear“, the odds say we are more likely be in a car accident, or die of cancer. Train with purpose, but train because you love the martial arts. Your fighting skills might never be needed. But, other skills, like awareness of yourself and of others, will almost certainly serve you well.
I am reminded of a friend and martial artist who was a passenger on the back of a motorcycle some years ago. The bike hit some gravel on the side of the road and skidded out of control. Both my friend, and the man she was with, came off the bike. He was badly bruised and scraped up by the fall but she rolled right out of the crash and came up on her feet, unscathed. The moral of this story is that you never know which skills you will use or where you will need them. Enjoy the practice, make it a part of your life, and one way or another, it will serve you well.