"[T]here are, at bottom, basically two ways to order social affairs, Coercively, through the mechanisms of the state -- what we can call political society. And voluntarily, through the private interaction of individuals and associations -- what we can call civil society. ... In a civil society, you make the decision. In a political society, someone else does. ... Civil society is based on reason, eloquence, and persuasion, which is to say voluntarism. Political society, on the other hand, is based on force." ~ Ed Crane
Battling Leviathan--Enter the Dragon
Defending liberty against the Leviathan State will be an ongoing proposition for its champions and their heirs. The Asian empty-handed martial arts provide intriguing metaphors for the variety of tactics available. A first insight to glean from them is that the individual creators developed very different styles. This illustrates that there is not a single correct way of carrying out a singular principle like self-defense. Different physical attributes, mental ability, and cultural environment led to the creation of some very different self-defense methods. So too will the methods of people be different who try to assert ownership over their own lives.
As an aside, when talking about the outcome of a battle, one has to identify what 'winning' and 'losing' mean. For one person, continuing to draw another breath is a victory. For another, managing to keep his principles in the face of great difficulty or death is a win. While individuals will have their own definitions, for the purposes of this commentary, we'll have three criteria of victory: 1) you pass your genes onto a new generation, 2) you infect other hearts and minds with liberty and 3) you live a moral life that includes respect for human freedom.
'Hard' martial arts like Korean Tae Kwon Do, Japanese Karate, and some Chinese Kung Fu styles boil down to a person delivering focused destructive kinetic energy (' times mass times velocity squared) into an area of a couple square inches or less. Their primary focus is offense, best used in preemptive or retaliatory fashion. The practitioner's size, strength and quickness all figure prominently in their effectiveness. As a result, big, strong practitioners are able to defeat smaller practitioners of equal skill fairly predictably. This tactic--smashing apart a target--is a common one of the state. The free individual who chooses to meet the state on these terms reminds me of a drinking buddy who talks about going out 'Ruby Ridge' style when the authorities finally come for his guns over his glass of whiskey. As Ruby Ridge and Waco demonstrated, this is not an effective tactic for passing your genes into future generations. Influencing others with your ideas or succeeding in completing a moral life are achievable, if perhaps problematic. One might recommend this tactic if your children are grown and living away from you, you've said your piece to the world and you've made your peace with death.
The Japanese art of Judo's objective is to destroy an opponent's balance, and then defeat him with a throw or immobilizing hold. Freedom's outspoken intellectuals might qualify as its judo players, as they repeatedly inject moral truth into the public consciousness to upset mass-man's contentment with slavery or to paralyze his hypocritical predations. Judo players place themselves at some physical risk, as my misshapen right ring finger testifies. Against the victory criteria, one may gain points for success in getting out one's ideas. But as intellectuals are the easy and frequent targets of the state, getting your progeny into the next decade is not a certainty. Also, being crushed under the weight of leviathan, perhaps to death, is a real possibility.
Japanese Aikido uses an opponent's own energy against him to control or throw him. Party affiliated libertarians are some of freedom's Aikido men, as they attempt to use the state's own powers against itself. Like any tactic, it works to different degrees and sometimes fails to work at all. For instance, operating within the state's legal system offers opportunities for defense lawyers to defend liberty. It fails, too, as the tax resisters can attest. Positive political results are less frequent, but can improve individual's lives. The rap against libertarian Aikido men is they are prone to be corrupted by the power of the state, or that other tactics (Judo or Tai Chi Chuan) are more effective. But if living morally is a more difficult proposition for libertarian Aikido men, this tactic is less antagonistic to the state, probably offering your children and ideas better living prospects.
The metaphorical counterpart to Chinese Tai Chi Chuan, a 'soft' martial art, may be symbolized by the free individual who applies his focus to his own spiritual and physical improvement, developing self-defense prowess almost as a side effect. Much less of these practitioners' energy is directed toward changing the outside world. Individuals who home-school their children are a good example, especially if they take steps to improve their defensive position by relocating to a community that provides social support or camouflage from enemies. The success stories here are more prevalent. For example, home-schooled children generally receive superior educations. Home-schooling's demonstrable superiority wins converts among the collectivists. Finally, self-improvement is a common characteristic of many well-lived lives.
Martial arts are varied because people are varied. To further illustrate, Bruce Lee's first art Wing Chun kung fu was invented by a woman to minimize a woman's physical disadvantages when facing a bigger stronger opponent. A more brutish style or a more passive self-defense didn't serve the inventor's unique needs and abilities. Likewise, individual freedom fighters are going to continue to come in all different shapes and sizes. They'll choose the paths that best suit their skills and dispositions. Intellectuals will write, activists will politic, anti-authoritarians will segregate themselves, and fed-up warriors will go down in blazes of glory. May each to his own self be true.
On a final note, this list of martial arts is by no means comprehensive. There are scores of Asian martial arts and martial arts that are native to the other populated continents. Since personal responsibility includes taking responsibility for your own well being, please take an active interest in learning tools, strategies and tactics of self-defense. The warrior arts can enrich the lives of those individuals willing to explore them.