When I was a kid, I used to have these little fantasies about beating up the other kids who teased me in school. I always knew that brains was better than brawn, but it still would have felt good to kick some butt once in while.
I always had an interest in martial arts, but I never had the support of my parents to try anything like that. In retrospect, they were correct. I would've spent years studying trying to improve, only to realize that my body would eventually let me down. It probably would have been more damaging to my psyche in the long run.
I was never afraid when out in public. I was smart enough to realize, that while it was an easy target, very few criminal types would go through the extra effort it would take to mug me. They'd have to sit and figure out how to do it, where they can simply knock them old lady down and grab her purse.
Something that has always stuck with me was from a "street smart" school assembly put on by an ex cop from Chicago. He said, there is only ever one person in danger on any street at any moment. That person is the most vulnerable target. If you can create the feeling that you are even the second-easiest target, you're perfectly safe, because criminals are stupid and lazy and will only go after the absolutely easiest target. Conversely, if you're the only person in an area, regardless of how tough you are or how tough you look you can still be in danger. If there's only one target, you are by default the most vulnerable target.
Because of this I've ridden in my wheelchair with confidence in North Philadelphia, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Atlantic City, Reading Pennsylvania and never been afraid. This isn't because I'm exceptionally brave, it's just that I always have an awareness of who was around me, and I make certain I'm not the easiest target at any given moment.
Many of my friends, particularly people who became disabled later in life, live in a great amount of fear. They feel they are more vulnerable today than they once were.
I read an article today about a group of disabled veterans, amputees specifically, we're learning martial arts to defend themselves. I think it's excellent for disabled people to keep themselves in good physical condition, and I think that martial arts in general is healthy both physically and mentally, but I question the value of this training for recently disabled individuals. I haven't made up my mind one way or the other, but looking back at some of the people I've known over the years, I don't think it would be healthy for everyone.
Make up your own mind, and let's hear your comments. Here's the original article from Stars and Stripes: Wheelchair-bound vet rolls with the punches -- Amputee’s martial arts lessons teach self-defense and self-esteem