At what point, madness?


I recently received a more-than-usually visible bruise (cheekbone that promises to turn into a proper shiner) doing Krav Maga. It made me think about the risks associated with martial arts and fighting training.

In my experience, people who do these sorts of things are highly aware of the risks involved. They accept the risk because of a combination of enjoying the training, and maybe feeling that they want to defend themselves. Research concludes that there’s a significant genetic element to risk-taking behavior. Generally, the study suggests that experiencing fear encourages impulsive behavior in risk-takers.

This doesn’t feel like the right explanation for my behavior, however. Principally, I don’t fit the pattern of risk-loving behavior described, and secondly, because I don’t experience fear during training: even if I were a “risky gene” carrier, Krav Maga would not activate that kind of response in me.

That said, there are those who eschew sports that are considered pretty mainstream because of the risks. Typically, the same people will happily ride in a car, or cook in a kitchen even though these activities also carry considerable danger.

I’m not aware of the absolute values of these risks, and I am deliberately avoiding looking them up because no other people are normally aware of actuarial risks associated with their activities. Based on my sense of how I judge danger, I think a typical strategy is to discount danger if there doesn’t seem to be a way to avoid it. Therefore, the car journey and the kitchen isn’t dangerous; a knife drill or an ice climb is dangerous.

Curiously, if this standard is correct, it appears to be transferable. Horse riding used to be a necessity (ye olde car journey), so wasn’t regarded as dangerous. We’ve somehow inherited this attitude such that we now think it proper to turn a little girl loose in a field with an animal capable of crushing her ribcage by accident, and filming the adorable results.


Update: having spent the latter part of 2014 nursing a broken hand because of a training accident, I suspect that Krav Maga might be on the more risky end of the sport spectrum.

At least it’s not lawn darts.