Some of you may already know this, but I am a sci-fi geek. I am a big fan of Star Trek and have thoroughly enjoyed J.J. Abrams’s alternative reality, modernized version of the original series with Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and all the characters that made that show. While I won’t engage in arguments over which Star Trek captain was best, I do have a soft spot for Kirk’s fighting spirit, and have found myself citing examples from Star Trek to illustrate certain points. This article delves into this more deeply. *SPOILER WARNING: If you haven’t seen the first new re-make of Star Trek and want to see it fresh, don’t read this article until after you’ve seen it.
1) Don’t focus on the odds. In the recent remake of Star Trek, Spock tells Kirk that the statistical likelihood of their valiant plan to save Earth succeeding is less than 4.3% (oddly specific, I know), asking him that should he perish that he tell Uhura that he loves her. To this, Kirk simply asserts to Spock: “It’ll work.” If you have no choice but to fight, there’s no point in thinking about how badly the odds are stacked against you. This will distract you from your goal in fighting whether it is escape from an attacker or victory in a competition. You just Kirk yourself up and do what you gotta do.
2) Never say never. Even the least practical moves can work in the right context. In a number of classic Original Star Trek fights, you’ll see Kirk using the strange move of doubling his hands together and whacking his foe in the back with effective results, not to mention his sacrifice butt check maneuver. Not that I would train this particular move or anything, but there is still something to learn from this. You can see these referenced moves at 0:16-0:19 in the video below.
In the martial arts, there are sometimes moves that don’t seem as practical for self-defense. But sometimes that seemingly impractical move can be surprisingly effective when used in the right context. It is therefore important to keep an open mind in order to see whatever opportunities present themselves in a self-defense context.
3) Use your opponent’s emotions to your advantage. In the Star Trek remake movie, Kirk antagonized Spock into attacking him to prove to him that he was emotionally compromised to get him to step down from command. While he got his butt kicked by the “emotionally compromised” Spock, he did still complete his objective.
Emotions can be a powerful tool in self-defense/law enforcement scenarios. People who work in law enforcement or security know that if they can keep their subject from reaching a heightened state of emotion, they can more easily reason with them and keep the situation from escalating to violence. On the other hand, they can sometimes use a person’s heightened emotional state to get the subject to tunnel vision and focus their aggression on themselves, leaving the aggressor distracted so their partner can move in to control him/her.
4) Choose your terms of engagement. Kirk demonstrates this point so perfectly in the way he handled the training exercise known as “The Kobayashi Maru” in which he is supposed to face a no-win situation and accept the possibility of death for the greater good. Instead, he re-wrote the program so that he could beat the program and complete his mission objectives.
In a self-defense situation in which you are at a clear disadvantage, whether it is due to size or skill advantage, if you have the option, choose terms of engagement that give you the best possible advantage to gain the desired result. For example, a woman with little to no training who is attacked and brought to the ground and held down by the wrists in a mount position by a much larger male attacker might be better off waiting for a better opportunity to fight back rather than trying to defend herself when he has his full attention on her. She is more likely to effectively defend herself if she waits until he lets go of one of her wrists to undo his pants, for example, while her attacker is distracted and has less control over her body. There are no rules, only results. Cheating doesn’t exist in self-defense, even if it did for Kirk at Starfleet Academy.
5) Heart matters more than size, strength or skill. Captain Kirk is not always the most skilled fighter in the show/movies, but when he does engage in battle, he fights the good fight, to whatever end, doing whatever it takes to get the job done. When he faces the Romulan on Nero’s ship in the Star Trek remake, he was on the losing end of a severe beating. It seemed like it would end badly as he was held over an abyss by his throat, but in that moment, while the Romulan gloated over his domination of him, he managed to find an opportunity and seize it, as you can see below. If he hadn’t kept fighting, he might have been defeated before getting this opportunity. Heart was what got him there, the motivation to keep fighting even when all seemed lost.
This is often true in real self-defense situations. If you have no choice but to fight, defend yourself with heart. We teach the women in our self-defense classes that the psychology behind their defensive actions often counts more than their size, strength or even skill level. We teach them to fight as though they are defending a loved one, a son or daughter, a younger sister, etc, calling on the protective instincts that are latent within them that adrenalize them to make them both physically and mentally stronger as they fight. Heart can take you where you need to go in the worst situations.
There is a general theme to Captain Kirk. His approach to fighting is largely based on intuition. He is highly intuitive and that’s why things always seem to work out well for him when it comes to fights. That being said, there are limits to what he can do, and sometimes potentially dire circumstances that can result when one “leaps without looking,” which is a theme in the second remake film “Into Darkness,” as you can see in the trailer below. Intuition is important, but Kirk does end up eating his humble pie in this second movie. All his early successes in his career in Starfleet have gone to his head, giving him a sense of invincibility, leading him to take risks that could potentially cause more damage than good. It also causes him to be overly reliant on his own intuitive abilities rather than listening to his capable crew and/or utilizing their abilities to minimize/avoid conflict. This is something highly intuitive people should be cautious of in the martial arts, self-defense, and life in general.
Did you have any other take-aways from the fight scenes in the Star Trek movies? Please share them in the comments so the rest of us martial arts sci-fi geeks can appreciate them.