I recently read your article "Post 9/11 Taekwondo." I think that my school is offering teaching like the "plastic pistol" you referred to. I do not want to train merely for sport, I have a desire to meet the need that lies in almost every man---to be a warrior, or at least be prepared to be a warrior when it really matters. So my question for you is, what would you suggest?
Even in Iraq, most people go about their normal lives without worrying about dealing with terrorists. The suicide bombings are mostly in Bagdad, not in every city in the country. For most people in the United States, having to deal with terrorists, or even with ordinary criminals, is only a rare possibility; there is more of chance of being killed in motor vehicle accident than every even seeing a terrorist. However, no matter the slight chance of ever having to face a terrorist threat, when it happens to you, it has a 100% chance of occurring.
Intensely training for something that is only a remote possibility is a waste of resources. Even people whose job is responding to disasters do not spend a lot of time training for remote possibilities. In earthquake prone Oakland, California, fire departments train more for fighting the yearly grass fires than they do for earthquake response.
If one trains in the martial arts for the purpose of fighting to the death, the person will soon tire of the training and will probably stop any type of martial art training. If one trains in a martial art for fun, then the person will probably train for a lifetime. Which is better?
It is relatively easy to fight for sport and then step things up for the real thing. However, it is difficult and dangerous for a person to train for deadly effect, and then try to tone things down to fight for sport. Under the right conditions, a normally calm person can become angry enough to kill. However, a normally angry person finds it difficult to calm down under any circumstances. A sport fighter has to take purposeful actions to be deadly, so a sport fighter is usually not accidentally deadly. However, a deadly fighter has to be constantly vigilant when sport fighting so as to not harm the opponent. In the heat of an intense fight, a sport fighter is not tempted to be deadly, whereas, the deadly fighter has to be constantly vigilant or he or she may revert to training and harm the opponent.
Being a warrior is more of an attitude or state of mind than it is training to be a deadly fighter. Anyone can be deadly when they choose to be. To be a warrior and still live a normal life, one only has to maintain a warrior attitude. This is easier to accomplish for people who have been raised to believe there are worse things than death in life, such as disgrace or dishonor. For others, they have to train to achieve and maintain a warrior attitude.
While training in a sport martial art, one must always think about the practical application of techniques and the attitude required to be able to use them in real situation. When teaching a technique or drill, I am always stressing its application to a real situation in an effort to keep students thinking about real fighting situations.\
When training in class, sparring, performing a pattern, or while driving home from work, always think about how you would use your skills in a real situation: what you would be feeling, what you would be saying, and the attitude you would have during the confrontation. Then, when, or if, the real thing occurs, you will be more prepared for it since you would have dealt with the situation many times in your mind.