There's an old saying amongst those who fly aeroplanes: "There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots." (I also like the hang-glider's saying: "Never fly any higher than you'd like to fall ...")
These sentiments go to pushing the envelope in ventures that already have more inherent risks than sitting in one's easy chair and reading the Sunday paper. Sure, you could die in an earthquake doing that. You could get hit by a bus while you are crossing the street. All life carries some risk, but some activities start with a better chance you'll die if you screw up. You can go base-jumping or solo cave-diving dozens of times without incident, but the odds are more likely that you'll croak doing those than a whole lot of other things. Climb Mt. Everest? Guide, oxygen, everything? One climber in twelve, by count, doesn't survive the trip. Lot of corpsesicles up there in the cold heights.
You like those odds? I don't. I expect most of the climbers who died didn't think they'd be the one of a dozen.
Walk into the local biker bar on Saturday night and allow loudly as how all the gentlemen therein are witless and engaged in incestuous relationships with their mothers? That blows right past "bold" into "plumb stupid" -- unless this is part of a fiendishly-clever plan to kill a particular biker and then somehow make your escape in the confusion. And if you were that clever, you'd probably have come up with a better way to off the guy and spend your remaining time among the living. Like plinking him from five hundred meters with a rifle.
As Rory Miller offers about matters of potentially-crippling or deadly mayhem: "If you can't be absent, run early and run often."-
Can I get an "Amen?" To me, this is just common sense. Nobody can whup up on you if you're not there.
I think a goodly part of martial arts usefulness lies in giving the player a sense of self confidence. Yes, yes, we can argue about reality versus fantasy, what you think you can do versus what you really can, but -- a lot of fights get started because the combatants feel the need to prove something, either to themselves or somebody else. This desire arises often from a feeling of insecurity. A fear that someone will think badly of them, that they will be viewed as cowardly. If you believe -- however rightly or wrongly -- that you can take out the biker bar, then a lot of that insecurity disappears. You don't feel the need to demonstrate something you believe, and it allows you to avoid the event. It's mental more than physical. I don't have anything to prove, and certainly not to this yahoo.
Thinking I can take you out isn't the same as being able to do it, of course, but it might be enough to let me walk away without giving it a go.
It came up in a discussion recently about the placebo effect -- Being brave or pretending to be brave can have the same effect, can't it? (And something else came out of that conversation I hadn't thought about before: Not really any way to do a double-blind study of the placebo effect per se, is there? What do you give somebody instead of a placebo to test it ... ?)
Back to the confidence thing. Having it helps you avoid the choice between walking tall or walking at all, if you aren't worried about being viewed as using a white feather to scratch the yellow streak down your spineless backside. Living well is the best revenge, and living at all beats the option most of the time.
I think the attitude is along the lines of, "Well, if we do this dance, somebody is gonna get seriously hurt. I'd hope it's you, but it might be me, and I'm applying Kenny Rogers from "The Gambler:" You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em/ know when walk away and know when to run ...
Yet -- no matter what any expert tells you, there will be times when running is simply not an option. Two off the top of my head: Somebody comes at you while you are strolling with granny and the toddlers. You can't run until you do something to slow the attacker down below Granny's cruising speed. The slower she is, the more you have to do.
Somebody is assaulting the little girl next door under the rhoddy in your front yard as you step outside to collect the mail? If you run from the first or ignore the second? Doesn't speak well of you, does it?
You might have enough good fortune to never have to deal with such choices. But if you do? Then what?
Is my self-confidence faulty? Maybe. Maybe vitamins don't really make me feel better, I only think I feel better. I'll take that, thank you.