Those that follow the teachings of the Koga Method know that the primary objective of any technique in the Koga Method, as it is for law enforcement in general, is CONTROL. Koga Sensei always said this objective must be firm in your mind. In going through his personal computer files the following, “Short Essay on Control” was discovered – This is the first article in the new series, Kogaism:

Kogaism: Control


Robert K. Koga

April 25, 2011

Control is an interesting word and perhaps has a negative connotation with most free-spirited Americans. A common dictionary definition is “the power or authority to guide or manage.” That doesn’t sound too bad, but most of us interpret the word to mean something that restrains us in what we wish to do or achieve. In the world of defensive tactics, martial arts and self-defense, control is a major component of what we do, how we behave, and what we try to achieve.

When we examine control in defensive tactics, our primary interest is in controlling the suspect we are dealing with to prevent him from hurting us or hurting others. We are there as representatives of the community we serve and are charged with the responsibility to protect our citizens and visitors. When an individual breaks the peace and threatens the safety of our community we are called upon to take control of the situation and of the individual. We are not entitled to punish the offender, but rather to control his behavior until a court determines that he should be punished and how. Our primary goal is to restrain his actions through our presence, our communications skills, our understanding, or our ability to physically overcome him. It isn’t our goal to injure him or cause him unnecessary pain and suffering, but to simply control him so he is no longer a threat to himself or others.

As martial artists, control has many definitions and nuances. A karate practitioner develops the control to stop an eye-blinking punch or kick a hair’s breadth from his target. Judo players work long hours training to control their opponent and make him submit as they grapple across the mat. Students of the Japanese sword strive to make each sword movement exactly the same as every other with incredible surgical precision.

In the realm of self-defense we are anxious to control our environment so we are safe from predators who would harm us by locking our doors, being aware of our surroundings, and avoiding dangerous situations and circumstances. We wish to stop our assailant in his tracks so that we might move to safety and security.

In each of these three activities the word control is used, and used in a slightly different way. Each is entirely correct. But these definitions overlook the most important aspect of control – that of self control. Self control is the ability to maintain one’s emotional equilibrium, restraining anger and hostility, overcoming personal fears, and to maintain a firm resolve in the face of danger or adversity.

No matter how heinous the crime or how reprehensible the behavior of the offender, police officers are expected to maintain their self control and only use the force necessary to accomplish their duty. Martial artists are expected to develop self control to such a level that they never use their skill other than to protect themselves or others. In self defense, we are expected to control our fears and anger to only protect ourselves and not cross the line of abusive conduct.

It is a wonderful and worthwhile goal to develop the types of control we’ve discussed here, but the most important form of control remains self control. Without self control we become vigilantes as police officers. Without self control we become brutes as martial artists and insult our heritage. Without self control we become frightened bullies when defending ourselves.

How do we develop this self control? The first step is to recognize that developing self control is a critical goal in itself and desire to improve the self control we’ve learned from our parents, religious leaders, teachers, and a lifetime of maturing. The second step is to train hard and learn and practice the skills that give us the confidence in ourselves that lead to self control. If a person is poorly trained and without skill, he will likely resort to the greatest amount of force he can muster at the time, whether it is necessary or appropriate.

By contrast a skilled individual; policeman, martial artist or defender will know that he is capable of meeting a challenge without relying on brutality and needless violence. He will confidently take charge of his own destiny, knowing that he is doing the right thing at the right time in the right way. His very actions will demonstrate and define self control – the most important form of control we know.