It’s All in the Phrasing (“Self-Defense” vs. “Martial Art”)

Some of you who read this blog on a regular basis know that I started wing chun back in 1995. This was shortly after I started attending college. I was 19 years old…and a walking hormone. My college had a pretty big student body, so there were plenty of women to pursue. To quote George Burns from the movie 18 AGAIN, “You’ll never have a bigger selection.” (I can’t remember if he said “bigger” or “finer,” but the point remains: there were a lot more women there than there were in high school!)

I didn’t know much about how to get very far with women. (In high school I went on maybe two dates…so yes, I was still a virgin when I attended college.) However, I DID know standing out from other guys was important. You had to be different. In my mind, different equaled interesting, which led to attraction. Or so I thought.

One thing that obviously set me apart was my love of martial arts. So when I met new women and they asked what I did for fun, the first thing I said was, “I practice a martial art called wing chun kung fu.”

Little did I know, that was the death knell.

Why? Because no matter how much explaining I did (about wing chun being created by a woman, how it was spiritually uplifting, how it helped with confidence), it created a negative connotation in their mind.

I didn’t realize it until one woman bluntly said to me, “Oh, so you like to beat people up?”

This threw me for a loop! I said, “No…no, it’s for self-defense! It’s for when people try to beat ME up!”

But it didn’t matter. She had already made that negative connection in her mind, and no amount of babbling would help. I just sounded like I was back-pedaling to save face.

For a long time, I never even bothered mentioning to anyone that I did wing chun. I kept it quiet and put out this image that I was just your typical cookie cutter, think INSIDE the box kind of person. And that made me sad, because I WASN’T that guy. Call it arrogance if you want, but I think that I am an interesting person who is into things that most people aren’t, but I can still connect those things to modern-day life in a way where ANYONE could be intrigued by them.

It was a long time before I realized something: if I tweaked the phrasing a little bit, I could get a better reaction. Believe it or not, I learned this from author and pick-up artist “expert” Neil Strauss, also known as Style.

He made a video series where he was teaching a group of guys the PUA secrets. At one point he went around and asked what the guys did for a living. One guy designed military defense systems. This impressed Neil a lot. What impressed him about it the most was that it was DEFENSE systems, not OFFENSE.

That struck a chord. I had been saying it wrong all these years! Instead of “I practice a martial art called wing chun,” I should say, “I practice a SYSTEM OF SELF-DEFENSE called wing chun.”

I haven’t been using this new terminology that long and, since I am married, I’m no longer using it to try to pick up women! However, I do still make an effort to spread the word about wing chun. This art has done so much for me, not just by helping my confidence but also teaching me lessons that I can apply to all aspects of life. In my opinion, EVERYONE could benefit from what it has taught me. That’s why I seek to spread the word as often as I can.

It helps to have this new approach so that mentioning it isn’t an automatic turnoff to new people I meet. Believe me, I still meet people who shut down the moment I say it, but I ignore the ignorant and embrace those who seek the enlightenment that I can bring.

I know this was a lengthy article, and in this day and age of 150 word Tweets, it’s probably asking a lot to expect anyone to read through it all. Still, if you do, then as always I encourage replies!


About Steve Grogan

I am 40 years old, divorced, and a father of four kids. I am a practitioner of a self-defense system called wing chun kung fu. My other hobbies include writing, playing guitar, reading, watching movies, and listening to music. Recently I have gotten back into fitness, and this time I am DETERMINED to get the washboard abs...whether my metabolism will cooperate with me or not! The purpose of this blog is to write not only about my hobbies, but also about whatever crosses my mind, whether it is something I don't understand or something that aggravates me. So join me as I indulge my tendency to think too much about topics that don't usually cross anyone else's mind!
This entry was posted in article, blog, college, confidence, ego, enlightenment, fitness, health, ignorant, impressions, inspiration, introspection, life, martial arts, motivation, Neil Strauss, nostalgia, observation, pride, PUA, random, rant, reflective, self-defense, teaching, wing chun, Writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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