There are two types of denial.
The first is acute denial and it has its uses, like when your body wants to quit during a workout. It might be telling you that you are dying, but you are not and you know it; that type of short term denial is helpful.
Chronic denial is another beast altogether and is dangerously misleading. It takes many forms but usually revolves around a self-worth. Chronic internal denial is easy to maintain because it can only be challenged by you. Chronic external denial lasts only as long as circumstances allow because reality will definitely intercede at some point.
In martial arts, you see all types of denial taking place; for example, the belief that your martial art will save you in an actual fight.
It might, but most likely not.
There are myriad reasons why, from nonsensical techniques to low levels of fitness and everything in between, but it really does not change the outcome. One-on-one, someone with no formal training who is comfortable with violence will likely beat most of the "trained" martial artists you and I know.
Hear that? That is the sound of thousands of martial dreams dying.
But why? A lack of reality. A lack of perspective. An overemphasis on their art as being a panacea for all things fighting. An underemphasis on the complementary elements that make martial arts effective like fitness and health. Take your pick.
I have written about this childhood event before, but I am going to tell it again, even though it is only tangentially related to the point I am making about denial.
When I was a child, I was beaten up at a playground by some older kids who were there just to torment the smaller children. I was not good at being bullied, something that seems to be lacking in a good number of people if social slacktivism is any indication, and I stood up for myself, something that social justice warriors have turned into a fetishistic love of the color pink. Either way, I tried to fight back and promptly got a beating thrown into me.
When it was over, I limped home; bloody and crying, I went into the house and was confronted by my father. When he heard what had happened, he put me in the car and took me back to the playground--the scene of the crime, as it were--and asked if the same kids were still there. They were, at which point I honestly thought he was going to go punish them on my behalf.
That is a ridiculous notion to consider when I look back on it from middle age--what was he going to do? Initiate a fist fight with three teenagers because they beat up his five year old son? Of course not, but at the time? Totally my expectation.
Instead, he sent me back out to deal with them alone; it was my battle and it was not done. I will spare you the drama that took place in the car, but it ended with me walking back into the playground as my father drove away. Those taillights did not just signal the departure of a guardian against those who would violently exploit me, but the end of my ignorance about what it meant to face fear.
I took my second beating from the kids in a much different way than the first. It meant less if that makes any sense. I knew I was going to lose because I had no illusions about fighting the same fight twice and the outcome being different. That was the end of denial.
There was no limping home bloody and crying. I essentially stayed in the playground until the kids that were beating me up were literally too tired to keep doing it. Eventually, they left and I sat in the park sulking until my mother picked me up later that night. By then, the blood had dried and I had a brand new perspective on life.
That was a single example of violence in a life full of many--buy me a coffee one day and I will share the rest with you if you are so inclined to hear them.
I recall this particular one now because, when I think back on it, there were so many lessons learned that shaped how I would approach fighting and martial arts as time went on and I gained more experience with both.
Not the least of which was that denial is willful ignorance. Much like I should not have expected my father to fight my battles for me, you should not expect martial arts to fight yours for you. Do not let circumstances teach you that lesson.
Teach it to yourself before reality does.