As Martial Artists, we tend to complicate things - to look at the toughest way to solve a simple problem just so we can appear knowledgeable. I mean, honestly it is something all instructors do regardless of what they teach.
We generally subscribe to the silver-bullet theory where any threat can be satisfied within the doctrines of our style. However, the plain truth is some of the easiest ways to de-escalate an altercation are hidden in plain sight. For example, a prominent JKD instructor, Sifu Tim Tackett uses a novel approach called Verbal Jiu Jitsu to throw water on potentially explosive situations. He credits learning this particular technique from Nicholas Hughes at a seminar they did together in Austin Texas.
Tim Tackett had been interested in martial arts from a young age. After joining the Air Force in 1962, he was stationed in Taiwan where he began training in various Tai Chi and Kung Fu styles. In 1966, he returned to the United States and opened a Gung Fu school in California, but soon focused on furthering his career as a high school Drama teacher.
During that time he developed a fascination with Bruce Lee’s JKD. In 1973, he was granted a senior instructor's rank by Dan Inosanto who also gave him permission to teach Lee’s system. This was the beginning of Sifu Tackett’s long and distinguished career as an authority on Jeet Kune Do; he has been credited with elevating JKD to a pragmatic, real-world platform.
To be clear, Sifu Tackett is not advocating using Verbal Jiu Jitsu to solve a serious street threat; instead he believes this strategy could help diffuse a confrontation which may escalate into a dangerous encounter. For example, if you have words with someone in a bar and go outside to resolve it, anything can happen (and none of it good).
Imagine two of you square off – mano y mano – and the punches fly. You hit your opponent, he hits the curb and you are standing trial for manslaughter! Sadly all of it could have been avoided, perhaps by simple words that calm an angry patron so he chuckles and moves on to another beer. Situation resolved.
Scenario #1: Antagonist: “Hey what are you looking at?” You: “Sorry man, I was just admiring your shirt. Where did you get it?”
Scenario #2: Antagonist: “Hey what the hell is your problem? Why are you starring at my girlfriend?” You: “Sorry friend, I honestly thought she was my cousin. She looks just like her.”
Scenario #3: Antagonist: “Hey man why are you staring at me?” You: “Oh wow, I didn’t mean to, my head is not in the game. My dog just died and he was all I had.”
As an instructor, Sifu Tackett is a firm believer in realistic training to prepare for the unpredictability of the street. He emphasizes that Verbal Jiu Jitsu will not help you if someone has a knife to your throat or pulls a gun out to demand money. It is a misdirection tactic meant to de-escalate common disputes that could spiral out of control over a minor disagreement. It is just one more tool in your tool box to help protect you and your family. Keep an open mind and give it a try.