I’m not one for telling my ‘war stories’ as I don’t want to look like these guys who make things up to enhance their reputation, besides how do you know if they are true? I’ve been to seminars where the stories grew from year to year and were adapted to suit the topic being discussed and/or the audience! Shouldn’t the material you present speak for itself? This article is called reality check not tall tales! Realistically self defence is about decision making and avoidance & if you are good at that you don’t have many stories. I find it interesting that the big tough guys have the most stories when in actuality I would think they would be a ‘hard target’ that people are too scared to mess with? The exceptions to this rule is being in the wrong place at the wrong time or maybe you are put in that position by your occupation or perhaps live in a place with him crime rates. My excuse is work put me in a few predicaments, I often spent time in areas of high crime & I was a dickhead with an ego! Many of my stories including this one I would not consider self defence because by definition self defence is when you are devoid of choice. That is if you choose to be there it’s a street fight, not self defence. Self Defence is when that choice is taken away from you, someone has decided you are the object of their unwanted attention. So the story I chose isn’t that sexy, it wont have you on the edge of your seat or thinking I’m Jason Borne however it has a few good takeaways and teaching points to consider.
Long story short I became separated from my ride home from the city late one night. My mate who had the car drove to a different club & I had to walk a few kilometres to meet up with him. At this stage I wasn’t happy with him. It was very late, I was tired, hungry, a little intoxicated and now I had to walk for about 30 minutes and each step I took I became angrier and angrier cursing his name. As I was walking I took a shortcut through a few laneways and back streets, I didn’t care. I would’ve walked through a wall that particular night.
As I walked along I saw someone approaching in the distance. I could tell he was trouble perhaps the trademark identity concealing hoody and constant looking around gave it away but like many in such a circumstance I was in denial it was happening or more accurately I just didn’t care. I needed to blow off some steam. The twitchy guy came right up to me and asked for a light, to which I snarled ‘don’t smoke and neither should you’ By the looks of him he didn’t care too much for his health as he looked a little junkyish. He didn’t look too pleased with my response and as he motioned to put his smoke back in his pocket he pulled out a blade. Still looking twitchy and nervous and with his head on a swivel like he was watching tennis (or just completed a dodgy krav maga demo ha!) still looking everywhere he asked for my wallet, phone etc. I reached for my wallet and as I did this he turned his head once again to check that no one was around and at this stage without any thinking or preparation boom I threw a straight right that connected flush on the side of his head. It was as if I was on auto-pilot flooring him instantly, the knife dropped to the ground. I looked at him, he was breathing & seemed ok, and I hurled a few insults and tried to encourage him to change his life decisions with some choice words. I picked up the knife and threw it down the drain and left. Not the coolest story I could’ve told (I didn’t embellish it that much!) but a great story for teaching.
So what did I learn from that story & how does it affect my teaching? Something that’s very important is that the sample size (one event) isn’t enough to make any assumptions over and not enough to build a system around. Too many people say I used this move and it worked for me. It worked once and there were probably many things that would’ve worked at the time. Self Defence is unpredictable what works for scenario A may not work for scenario B due to a slight variation. A lot could’ve gone wrong in this example but the stars aligned that night so I was fortunate.
You see I’m not always such a cool customer in the face of danger, in fact catch me at another time & the result probably would’ve been very different. Had I perhaps had an illness or an injury or even had been in a great mood or the opposite really upset the result probably would have been very different. My anger over rid my fear. I was too angry to feel scared, my fight, flight or freeze response was fight on this occasion and that’s was predetermined by the events preceding this scenario. My anger caused me to make a number of mistakes that given night. Some questioned that should be addressed:
The list could go on and on.
So what did I learn from this?
#1Simplicity is key, I have a saying ‘a big right hand solves a lot of problems’ & by that I mean many self defence situations can be solved by the ability to hit hard. Whilst many people try to learn complex manoeuvres that probably wont work at match speed you would be better off learning to hit harder! I knew if I landed flush it would be lights out on this guy. I had thrown that punch more times than I care to count. I threw it on bags, pads and people in sparring so I had confidence in that particular tool. As Bruce Lee said “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who had practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
#2 Selected Sport fighting works!! When it comes to striking (I was a kickboxer at the time) you learn timing, footwork, placement & all of those things that enable you to land a strike as well as how to take a shot. The whole sport fighting doesn’t help self defence is a myth; you just need to know how to adapt and apply it. Punching people on a regular basis will make your self defence better than punching the air or pads, fact.
#3 I spent my fight career as a southpaw after being naturally orthodox. I switched as I was a JKD guy 30 odd years ago. Thousands of hours went out the window and I jumped into an orthodox stance! Crazy – where’s the muscle memory everyone speaks of? So quite often you’re going to do what you’re going to do in spite of the hours you put in, particularly under duress. Lucky I’m ambidextrous!
#4 your state of mind changes moment to moment, another place and time a different outcome may have arisen as mentioned earlier. Some days if I stub my toe I end up in the foetal position! What if it was one of those days?#5 This incident made me question contemporary unarmed knife defence. Most RBSD schools categorise their knife training into two categories, static and dynamic. This particular scenario, a few other experiences and watching countless hours of CCTV footage made me work on a third that I refer to as dynamic threats. That is the knife isn’t placed in a static position on your body nor is it on its path attempting to cut you however it is used to threaten whilst in motion. That is the assailant may be waving it around as if it is an extension of their arm whilst gesturing. It is essential to train all three however this is the one often overlooked. It, like the others, requires split second decision-making and a mistake could be fatal. Like general hand-to-hand combat, knife defence is not a one size fits all exercise. The strategy used needs to be adapted to the users ability as well as the assailants. Obviously you don’t have time to do a background check on the assailant to determine your course of action, however it is more to do with their physical attributes. In my example above he didn’t look like he could take a hit, had he been bigger & more physically imposing my strategy may have changed. There are three schools of thought when defending a knife when fleeing is not an option: 1) attack the person 2) Secure the knife wielding limb and 3) Move away from the weapon i.e. flanking. There are also examples where two of these are combined but from my experience fixation on the blade occurs so doing two things at once wouldn’t happen and if it did you would neglect one and focus on the other. Deciding between these options is where the split second decision that needs to be made. All are right & all are wrong, the circumstance dictates the response. It is too difficult to say you should always do this one or that one & quite often in training you switch between all three. My advice is to become adept at all three and drill them at match speed i.e. real time. You will soon see what works and what doesn’t & if it works in training that means it may work in real life; if it only works sometimes in training then it will rarely work when you need it
#6 Stay in shape. An athlete with better attributes such as speed, power, balance, reaction time, coordination etc will do far better than the couch potato technique master. Same with running away, it’s pretty easy to say run away if someone pulls a knife on you, but can you run? Do you have the speed, endurance and/or cardio? If the answer is no then I wouldn’t advise it. Adrenaline improves you physically however it won’t turn Kyle Sandilands into Usain Bolt!
Like I said earlier, self defence is about decision making, make the right decisions then your skill set or lack thereof doesn’t matter. True self defence is not being there when it goes down! Be smart, Be Safe.