Head movement is an under-utilised yet essential skill in Self Defence training. Its one that probably isn’t given the time & attention it deserves, particularly if you are training in a holistic manner. It is understandable that it isn’t covered in a short course but for those who are more than hobbyists it needs to be part of your arsenal.
Head movement can be divided into two categories, defensive & general. Defensive head movement refers to movement in response to a strike such as slipping or bobbing & weaving. General head movement is head movement that a boxer would engage in whilst squared off, so as to be a moving target or to set up offense. In self defence training people generally say that general head movement shouldn’t occur because once you get in that posturing zone you can turn and run. This is true to some extent but first – can you run? Are you in shape? Do the circumstances allow it ie Are you cornered, do you have significant others with you that you can’t leave? Are you in this situation due to employment? On top of the obvious what happens if the initial engagement occurs, you separate & they come back at you? I’d encourage general head movement without a doubt!
It’s a great 2nd line of defence. Aside from use in actual real Self Defence & combat sports examples, how many times have you seen something out the corner of your eye that is moving toward your head & you instinctively move out of the way? As a sports coach I’ve done it many times dodging a ball that’s been thrown or kicked to me when I’m not ready, particularly when I’ve picked it up at the last moment & I didn’t have enough time to get my hands up to catch it.
On that note it’s not always possible to get your hands up in time to defend yourself for a variety of reasons.
1 Sometimes you just don’t have the proximity. Blocking is useful in the right context just as covering is also, but what happens when you pick up the movement a touch too late?
Your only choice like the examples above is head movement.
2 We all know the 90degree rule & it definitely has validity but what happens when the attacker is much larger than you? If you are outweighed significantly by your attacker it may not hold up even if the stars align and you get the perfect structure it can fail you, particularly if they have greater momentum etc. Force on force isn’t always the best option, particularly if you are lighter. Lighter people increase their chances significantly by being able to move, like a matador. It’s how I got by!
Also speaking strategically, if you do successfully block the shot you are halting their momentum at the expense of a portion of your structure, so they still have the advantage – and please don’t talk about blocking and striking simultaneously. Even though it occurs occasionally in the boxing world making it the premise of your defence shows you have no experience in fighting. You do any 2 tasks at the same time you are doing them both inadequately, particularly at the speed required. If you do successfully block the attack remember the next shot will proceed immediately – it’s not like the technique workshops you commonly see where an arm freezes mid air. Blocking that first shot would enable them to fire back immediately due to stopping their momentum. Whereas ducking successfully opens up so many possibilities, escapes, counters…so many options. Getting out of the way buys you time.
3 Head Movement can still work when you are holding something. I have had someone take a swing at me while carrying shopping bags and on a basketball court holding a ball (more than once!). I have seen Youtube videos where people even throw a punch at people holding an infant. You can’t always just drop what you have and then get back in the game.
4. Head Movement still works if someone has hold of your hands/arms. Maybe they have your arm and are hitting you, perhaps the aggressor’s friend or maybe your friend or significant other has hold of your arms also. There are many scenarios where this is a possibility.
5. Head Movement still works if you have an arm injury be it in a sling or in plaster.
6. It can also be applied if they have an implement both bladed or blunt.
Lastly it is not always appropriate to have your hands in a defensive position. I work in a field where I’m trying to gain the trust of some historically violent people. If I have body language that conveys nervousness or fear or even that I’m ready to fight this would nullify any progress I have made and potentially make me a target. Most conventional, under the radar RBSD stances may have this effect. This is also the case whilst I’m walking through these areas, walking with your hands in a tactical position makes you look a bit socially awkward maybe makes you a target. I’m probably an exception to the rule here but I don’t want you to look like an oddball for the sake of being tactical. Imagine going on a first date insisting on sitting with your back to the wall, locating exits and potential risks, scanning the environment with your head on a swivel. When it comes time to pay you take your ridiculous coin pouch that you doubles as a cumbersome weapon off your tactical belt to pay dinner I almost guarantee you won’t be getting laid! Why not train your body to be a functional weapon, you don’t need to carry a tool that makes you look like a tool! HEAD MOVEMENT!
I’m not going to discuss how to do this you can go to any reputable boxing gym the world over and they’ll show you but what I will add is to make sure you train it from both stances including disadvantages ones with an emphasis of maintaining proactive structure. That is your feet are under you, you are in a position that you can initiate offence or more defence if required. So if head movement is not in your curriculum it is incomplete.
Violence is a useful tool is the catch cry for many in the self defence /combatives industry and rightfully so. You’ve seen the inspirational memes posted everywhere.
Violence is often ugly but on the odd occasion its a beautiful thing when used in the right context, such as a kid fighting off a bully, a woman fighting off a would be rapist etc. There’s a term that I would put on equal stead however it is always regarded in a negative light in this industry and that is ego.
Ego is defined as ‘a person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance’ and that’s pretty damn important if you ask me. How many times have you heard the phrase leave your ego at the door? I say bring your ego with you because its pretty important, if you have no ego then you will be eaten alive in the gym and in life. Just like violence you need to be able to distinguish when and how it’s appropriate. Sure its wrong to come into a training environment and act like a douche trying to beat up everyone, but in a competitive drill I want people to compete, not lay down without putting up a fight. I love to see people in my classes put in effort & strive to be better than the next person, especially kids. Half the kids that are training with me are doing so because their parents feel they need more ego, they need to feel that are worthy of defending and that they shouldn't allow people to treat them like a door mat. Thats a lack of ego right there.
I first started training because my ego motivated me to want to be able to fight if I needed to. Growing up in the environment I did lacking in ego would be detrimental. Throughout my training life my ego made me work harder than the next man, I would stay in the gym longer, practice everything at home & strive to improve. At 45 years of age I still do a minimum 8 training sessions a week, I hold my self to a higher standard than the average, its my ego that prevents me from getting out of shape and becoming one of those overweight, out of shape instructors who rely on their reputations rather than ability. My ego makes me ignore my minor injuries that are always there and continue to strive to be the best, I’ve had a number of pretty major surgeries and even if it may be a valid excuse my ego reemphasises its an excuse and to get back on it. Its my ego that has and will continue to help me in combat – be it combat sports or even self defence, it is my ego that makes me want to win & continue to so despite adversity, despite wanting to quit or choosing the simple path. My ego has picked me off the floor in a boxing ring and powered me on to victory after it looked like defeat was certain. My ego didn’t allow me to lose or look incapable in front of the large crowd cheering for the other guy My ego made me want to climb the rankings of fighters eventually making me a champion. My ego makes me stand up for myself, not allowing myself become a victim wherever my world shall take me. My ego makes me strive to have my self defence school rated as one of the best worldwide. My ego makes me want my students to be the best they can be and be able to dismantle anyone who may threaten them. My ego makes my quality control measures more stringent than my competition thus achieving the aforementioned. . It’s my ego that makes me actually strive to find the best methods of training and not taking short cuts because they are easier.
One thing that all professional fighters and successful athletes have is a big ego, some outwardly so that they seem conceited ie McGregor, Mayweather, Mundine yet others such as GGG, Roy Jones jnr etc have the same they just appear quietly confident.
On the flip side ego has caused many problems for both myself and others. I should’ve walked away from a number of the fights and challenges I have been presented in my time but my ego stopped me, that was absolutely not the best course of action in some of those instances. My ego doesn’t allow me to network in the martial arts industry as it will prevent me from partnering with people who I am not philosophy aligned with even if it means a better pay day.
The struggle is you need to know when to switch it on and when it needs to take a back seat, I’ve become better at this with time, the older I get the more control I have but it isn't as bad as advertised, in many instances its a necessity.
I’m not shocked anymore from anything I see in the Self Defence/Martial Arts Industry. There is all sorts of crazy in it that it’s tiresome trying to change or amend it. One thing I’d like to address or challenge is the phenomena that I like to call the Milli Vanilli Instructors.
If you don’t know who Milli Vanilli was, they were a band who had two guys with all the superficial assets needed to succeed, they were good looking, in shape, could dance, had all the charisma in the world. Problem is they couldn’t sing or play any music. They were discovered to be frauds that mimed their songs. Is the music really important anyway? In the Self Defence industry it obviously is not. You see there are a multitude of instructors out there who may look the part yet the material and training they present is lacking and we are ignoring the important part…….the music ie the training.
It hurts me to see instructors held in high esteem & quite frankly when you see their training and it has no substance, if you look at it with a hint of common sense you can clearly see they are snake oil salesman. Who says you can’t polish a turd? I hear podcasts with guests with a sycophantic following & then I see what they do & its just so disappointing! Just before I heard you say all the right things & you give a backstory that should have taught you something, yet this is your training? This is what you pass off as reality?
It happens all the time, I recently heard someone talk the talk – 'I’m an ex crim who turned my life around and teach from my lessons from a life of violence'. Problem is you are more of a criminal now if you take money from people for that nonsense you consider training! I suspect you survived your time inside by other means than being a tough guy. But its ok because what happened behind bars there is no proof of, its’ your word (you’ve earnt our trust!) and the gullible public hear the word gaol (jail) & they believe! This is not religion, you can ask for proof! Its not about blind faith!
There’s probably about 3 or 4 backstories that are identical in this industry for those who have success. Military, Police, Security, Gaol I guess if you want to be successful follow the business model! Problem is I have worked security & currently in gaols and maybe I’m doing it wrong but if you treat people like people its not that violent a profession. In fact I’d go so far to say that the workplace made it less likely for me to use my training, It was very, very restrictive. I saw way more violence working as a school teacher & if I really wanted to be accurate the uniform below is what we should be most impressed with. Statistics show that worldwide, nurses are far more likely to be attacked than police officers and prison guards. Maybe some of the industry ‘pundits’ need to update their cosplay wardrobes and get a nursing costume! Perhaps do a TAFE course to bolster their resume! I can see it at seminars now ‘I loved martial arts growing up & I wanted a testing ground so I did 10 years in ER at Nepean Hospital’ That’s way more accurate than what I’m hearing.
In this industry in general, there are a lot of people held in high esteem that really shouldn’t be if training, knowledge & ability are valued. It’s more about perception. Some adopt a WWE flavour. That is they are overly theatrical by stomping their feet and snarling as they hit pads/bags. Some actually hit people hard in demos whilst they are standing still and not providing any resistance. That’s a dick move for mine as a 10 year old could hurt someone doing that.
To be ultra successful many lie through their teeth about their ability & conquests. People seem to appreciate ‘war stories’ as I have witnessed a well known instructor tell the same story with a different ending three times catering for the technique he was teaching at the time. He also went on to tell a story from a film as if it happened to him! The majority of attendees all lapped it up. Another ‘icon’ that has given himself a nickname & talks all kind of nonsense about how much of a bad ass he is yet looks like he should be searching for snow white with his other 6 buddies! Looking at him and some of his film he is or never was in any shape or ability to have been able to perform the feats he claims. His videos, which I’m sure he chose the best takes, looks like a blooper reel of poor athleticism and awkwardness. I usually don’t like to demean someone due to their physical characteristics/abilities but when you put YOURSELF on a pedestal built from lies you are fair game. He talks like he is Jorge Masvidal yet looks and moves like Danny Devito and yes, he has a cult following.
So should we focus less on actual results and more on building a persona? Maybe perfect your 1000 yard stare? Develop an alpha portfolio of excessively masculine pics holding knives & guns? Maybe blur out the faces in group training pics to give off the impression that it’s a top secret gig with people so damn dangerous you cannot show their identity. Or maybe they are dentists? Joke explanation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CF2opel339U
So what is it that people value? What are they key words that draw people in? You know what, on second thoughts I don’t really care, I for one wish to remain ethical. Coaching is about improving your athletes not your reputation. I put integrity first.
Almost every time I write something its kind of airing something that I find annoying, this time is no different. In fact I’m defending the right to criticise, that is if its warranted. A little while back I had a car accident, I wasn’t travelling very fast maybe 30km/hr and when the air bag deployed it broke my nose. So I did a bit of research and watched a report on air bags fitted in Hondas (like mine), not exactly riveting but the parallels are uncanny. You see it would be safe to assume that everyone who has designed an airbag has done so in an attempt to protect people. They, in their heart of hearts probably even had a sense of accomplishment thinking about the number of lives they will save and probably already have. There was one particular company who probably with the same ideals designed what they thought, to the best of their knowledge would serve its purpose. The problem is their design actually caused more harm than good. These particular air bags when deployed actually fired out all kinds of projectiles that actually killed and disfigured many people. At last count there were 27 deaths & over 300 severe injuries.
Some of these tragic events even occurred in minor accidents & it was proven that it would have been safer for the individual to have no air bag fitted than this particular type. So what should we have done? Ignored this issue so as not to offend or upset the manufacturer? Kept producing them and turn a blind eye to the inadequacies they present? Make up an excuse that it’s not them that perhaps it’s the steering wheel? Maybe it’s the way the individual drove? We’ve done it this way for years & its worked fine?
Thankfully all involved decided to address the issue. They did a recall of that particular brand. They took on a new supplier who had the most stringent of stringent testing of their designs rather than stay loyal to that brand. They tested their products under extreme pressure to ensure that when the time came they were confident it would work. They even engaged in problem solving so as to cover every conceivable variable that may occur.
Obviously martial arts isn’t as serious as this but you get the idea. This is why I feel the need to speak up and encourage others to do so. You see there are still some people out there who have integrity and actually care about the material they put out. There are people out there who legitimately test their system not unlike the air bags and an even braver few who would scrap their entire system if they discovered it to be ineffective. If your goal is to help people protect themselves just like the air bag, than the following actions may be considered negligent:
Its simple really, remove the emotional attachment thus removing the cognitive bias.
The martial arts would have to be the most disconnected of all the subcultures I frequent. The promises that instructors make resemble that of politicians around election time. They say one thing yet deliver something very different.
The disconnect begins with the actual name ‘Martial Arts’ with its definition seen here from wikipedia:
‘The term is derived from Latin and means "arts of Mars", Mars is from Roman mythology the god of war. Some authors have argued that fighting arts or fighting systems would be more appropriate on the basis that many martial arts were never "martial" in the sense of being used or created by professional warriors.’
First of all there is a huge disparity between martial arts and its intended use, war. I’m a practitioner of combat training, not preparing for war & it would also be conceited of me to consider myself a warrior. I mean I hit the bags & pads and spar weekly, that does not make me a warrior. The fact that I sit in front of a heater in slippers watching Netflix with my morning coffee probably cancels that out! This can also be applied to fighting too because a large percentage of what practitioners do has little correlation to fighting, yet they refuse to believe that. It seems to be characterised by high levels of cognitive bias even though it’s so glaringly obvious.
Then there’s the people who talk the talk and then you see them train or coach & you are left wondering if it is the same person who you were just listening to. I listen to podcasts of these people held in high esteem and then I see their physical and it is so far removed that it discredits their work.Talk is cheap right?!?! I was a street fighter growing up, in and out of prison until I joined the special forces and after all of that its evident that I can’t fight?!?! You watch them either coaching or training themselves and they are uncoordinated have little power or speed and it just looks average at best. They then have the argument that if they are angry & they are fighting for real it’s a different story. Apparently being angry makes up for a lack of skill and athleticism? I may have to add one session a week on getting angry? Perhaps I should manicure my lawn and wait for people to walk on it?
The same could be said by the droves of people on forums or social media criticising everything. They are great at giving advice but its more a case of ‘do as I say not as I do’. You often click on their link & you see something not too different from the video they are laughing at. I had a competitor often make negative comments about what we do & I used to engage with him until he put some of his training videos out. It was clear he didn’t comprehend what was happening in my videos and that he didn’t have the depth of understanding to ever figure it out so I stopped wasting my time.
The other things that I cant rationalise is what it means to be an instructor or black belt, it appears as though that ‘qualification’ is a gold pass allowing you to do a whole lot more such as:
There’s disconnect in that if you have the right surname or are attached to the right system you can teach what you want with no recourse. It would be like Picasso, if he took a shit on some canvas and called it art it would be in high demand and considered wonderful! It doesn’t take away from the fact that it is what it is regardless of who produces it. I recently saw a walking stick system, the disconnect appears again. Do they realise that the vast majority of people who use a walking stick do so for mobility? Without it they cannot move, walk, step etc? Unless it was designed for pimps but I thought they’d have a highly developed pimp hand yet the goldfish high heels would also make mobility difficult?
Also there is a lot of tough talk, I’d do this & I’d do that. I’m a lion or a wolf & I saw someone lay down a challenge recently to a group & the response was I can’t believe how unprofessional he is!!!! We need to look at what we do with critical thought, not be blinded by our styles blinkers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions & if said person cannot justify their actions with a solid argument or science then we need to call it for what it is. You may think this is negative but what’s even more unsavoury is continuing to pay money for second rate advice that may be more harmful than helpful.
Almost every martial arts style advertises and promotes their school using the term self defence, but is what teach applicable on the street? Martial arts techniques will work in a specific time & place; the problem is that the time and place is quite often just movies! So how do you determine what’s useful & what isn’t? One way is scenario training.
Your typical scenario training looks like a porn flick, it starts with some terrible dialogue and acting that is often skipped over, followed by a random segue into everybody’s favourite part, the physical act, that quite often involves several people. But seriously, Self Defence / Martial arts like any physical pursuit should be trained in the same manner as we do sport. The training needs to simulate the event that you are training for as closely as possible. Let me restate that, as closely as possible. You are essentially engaging in role-playing or simulation training of a potentially violent situation. So what advice would I give to anyone wishing to delve into the world of scenario training? Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years:
Rule #1 Safety First
Just like fight club this rule needs to appear twice because it’s that important. Pad the person &/or pad the environment to ensure the safety of participants. Scenario training often involves props or taking the training from a safe, sterile gym and into a variety of unpredictable locations. At Krav West we often train in buses, stairs, bathrooms, clubs, skate bowls and many other volatile locations. These locations do not have the luxury of padded walls & floors like most gyms therefore the risk of injury is increased. We accommodate for this by conducting a risk assessment and once potential hazards are identified we look at means of eliminating or reducing them. This is done as stated before by padding the participants or the environment and we also employ ‘spotters’ Just like lifting in the gym we have a spotter to support another person during a particular exercise that may go astray, we have them in particular scenarios such as on the stairs standing behind participants to catch them should they fall. We also stress the importance appropriate protective equipment and have a number of substitute soft props that we use in place of tables etc. We have strict rules about taking care of training partners & a level of etiquette we adhere to in regards to how we attack each other.
Check your ego at the door
This is vital to ensure rule #1, the integrity of the drills & the cohesiveness of the group. Everyone needs to understand that this is different to a fight; this is a learning exercise not mortal combat! I manage to take the ego out by explaining to all participants that this is not you versus them. This is a particular situation that you hopefully do not find yourself in, it’s not a competition, it’s about problem solving. Both the assailant and the victim are playing roles and both are disadvantaged to some degree. It’s similar to MMA where during a sparring session one fighters instructions are to wrestle & the other one to strike, maybe it’s not your forte, maybe it’s not what you would do, but for the sake of the drill and skill development it’s necessary. Each person needs to accept that in certain scenarios they are crash test dummies and are there for others to build their skills. These roles are swapped so everyone has an opportunity to experience both sides of the drill. The other area where ego needs to take a back seat is it is not a time you have a captive audience to try out your new comedy routine or puns. This often changes the mood and detracts from the drill same with using it as an excuse to try and hurt people. I’m fortunate in that I have a great group who get along and trust each other which enables us to take training to a whole new level!
Have Clear Objectives & Roles
Everyone needs to be on the same page or it can turn pear shaped real quick. Everyone needs to know their role to make it work & they need to ‘stick to the script’ as I am often heard saying! We don’t actually write out scripts or have it storyboarded however we each have a role that is essential for success, if someone starts ad libbing or going improv it often doesn’t achieve the desired result. The one person who can be left in the dark is the ‘victim’ or the person who the scenario is for. We refer to this as an open scenario. An open scenario means that they do not know what they are getting into, the only instructions given is to solve the problem. It’s a little bit like that old TV show ‘Thank God You’re Here’ The participant starts outside the room while the team create the set, then walk into it and take care of business on the fly. In a closed scenario, everyone has a solid idea of how it’s all going to go down. I quite often show a CCTV video of an attack and we basically re-enact it trying a few different methods of solving the problem. This is the means we prefer to use on less experienced students. This allows for the student to plan a response, which detracts from the ‘ambush’ style of training that characterises reality-based training, yet is often necessary for skill development and progression.
There needs to be a clear end point also, we use a whistle to signal to stop, to distinguish from people yelling out ‘stop’ as this would likely be background noise in a real encounter. People often get lost in the moment and cannot hear commands particularly with certain headgear on, yet the sound of the whistle manages to get through. This also allows for more scenarios within scenarios such as a third party getting involved once the original one is resolved.
Pre-& Post incident is essential
Just as time is taken developing the physical component, careful consideration must be made for the pre & post incident. Violent encounters are usually decided in the pre-fight or frill necking stage as we refer to it. The person who lands the initial significant attack here usually triumphs. Therefore you’re tactics and strategies in this phase must be sound. People get beaten in fights before they even realise they were in one. This stage needs to be characterised by some aggressive dialogue and posturing to help develop the recognition of pre contact cues as well as working on your verbal de-escalation skills, positioning etc. You must also keep it street, when you attack don’t drop into a horse stance or touch gloves and come out fighting, keep it in context.
The Post incident needs careful consideration also. How many times have we seen one fight ending only for the individual to get cleaned up by a friend that’s just out of view? Good practice should be ingrained into the training to make them habit such as scanning 360 degrees after the threat is neutralised.
Remember to consider the consequences of your chosen response in each scenario. Would it be considered reasonable and necessary in the eyes of the law? Familiarise yourself with the your local laws and act accordingly within the scenario. I know as an instructor I would feel a great sense of guilt if one of my students wound up in gaol for excessive use of force, just as I would if they were harmed if I taught ineffective techniques. The workplace is another consideration. Would your actions cost you your job if you were at work? If a female is in a scenario where they could be sexually assaulted then it is quite reasonable to think they could go knuckle deep in the eye sockets of the attacker, if they were working as a nurse and harassed by a patient is there a less than lethal option that is protocol? We try to have a solution or way out that is non violent in every scenario, that is by using correct verbal de-escalation and/or conflict resolution skills or even fleeing (if you’re a fast runner). Remember context is key and also everyone has the right to defend themselves but don’t overdo it!
Engage the mind as well as the body
Reality based training differs from other classifications of martial arts as we try and simulate biological processes that occur in a confrontation. The body’s natural response to perceived danger where hormones like adrenalin and cortisol are released, include; increasing respiration and heart rates, the sense of nervousness and fatigue and loss of certain cognitive function. This is quite difficult to simulate, particularly with experienced students. New students engaging in this type of training may generally feel this before each class. To immerse their minds sometimes we need to engage in visualisation techniques or mental rehearsal to get the individual in the right frame of mind prior to the scenario. Visualisation is imagining a situation with a perfect outcome, in great detail and engaging as many senses as possible. The practitioner can actually experience skill enhancement of both physical and psychological reactions parallel with physical practice. This can be conducted almost anywhere and is relevant both in your own time and prior to entering a scenario to elicit an adrenal type response. Other ways we can achieve a similar reaction is through pre-exhaustion techniques. That is making the practitioner undergo some very intense anaerobic activity prior to the scenario, to increase both heart and respiration rates as well as that feeling of fatigue. Our favourite pre exhaustion tool is our air assault bike. Some trainers make participants spin around until they are dizzy to replicate being confused and stunned by a shot.
Extension / Diversification
There are many ways to make this relevant to differing levels of students. You can alter the speed, environment, contact & difficulty of the scenario. With advanced students I like to throw in a curveball, adding more attackers, a weapon or get them to start in less than optimal positions or left of field attacks. We can up the intensity and also the effect of their techniques on the attacker ie the initial response didn’t work. Like any training repetition is essential.
Rinse & Repeat
Once finished it’s a good idea to regroup and reflect on the scenario. Provide constructive feedback ie look at what went well and what didn’t. We often film our scenarios and review them shortly after. Once we identify methods of improving performance we redo the process again and again until we are satisfied with the outcome.and the reactions are becoming autonomous.
The options are endless it is only limited by your imagination; you can take a single skill and train it under a multitude of circumstances by altering a single variable. So before you start head to your local drama school to get your method acting on point, grab yourself a Spartan suit and keep it real!
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.