Martial arts offer us a conundrum. On one hand, we are taught to never seek out violence, and to avoid hurting others at all cost. On the other hand, it is commonly known that there can be no exact substitute in the dojo for the fury and adrenaline of real danger, and thus our life protection skills can never be complete without at least brushing with combat.
This catch-22 is all too familiar for most civilian martial artists, and has helped charlatans stay in business for years without ever having to prove anything.
Modern day artists have one luxury that previous generations never had – the prevalence of video. It’s true that there is no substitute for the feeling of uncontrolled violence, but at least we can see what it looks like and ask ourselves the tough questions regarding our own preparedness.
Today I found an excellent video that demonstrates an all too classic scenario – a muscley street thug causing trouble with a person he thinks might be an easy target. The cause of the confrontation is unknown, but the thug can be found confronting the man aggressively on his own doorstep. Watch as the situation escalates, and what happens when the thug finds out the hard way that he picked a martial artist for a target:
I like this video because it is very ‘real’. The martial artist wasn’t outside of a bar, or at a ruckus sporting event; he was simply at his home when trouble came his way. This is the kind of thing that could happen to anyone, even individuals who make good decisions to stay away from questionable areas.
One thing that impressed me about the martial artist was his patience. He sustained significant verbal abuse, and got screamed at right in his face. That experience causes the hair on the back of the neck to stand straight up and puts a person in a very aggressive mood instantly. Nevertheless he maintained himself and didn’t show any signs of agitation.
Secondly, when the thug went so far as to put hands on him, he didn’t react with an immediate death blow, or ground and pound pummelation. He pushed him away to try and create distance and give the thug yet another opportunity to go away. The martial artist also kept his hands in front of him in a ready-to-use position (not quite as good as Geoff Thompson’s fence, but still good and unaggressive).
Eventually, as the thug noticed he wasn’t getting anywhere, he began to escalate the situation by throwing a trash can around and pushing the martial artist persistently. It was soon after that that the martial artist made the personal decision that he no longer felt safe, and made an attack. Once he made that aggressive motion, he didn’t go back to trying to be passive. He controlled distance and kept his hands up. He waited, still patiently, until the energetic thug, bounding around with unchecked adrenaline, tried to close the gap. At that time the martial artist punched him square in the face with a well executed straight punch.
As the thug limped away the martial artist maintained distance and control, but did not follow up with further punishment. He used enough violence to eliminate the threat, and then allowed the situation to dissolve.
At no point did the martial artist try anything fancy. He kept a natural stance and hand position. He made small movements and kept control at all times.
This martial artist may not win 1,000 tournaments with style and panache, but he had ‘it’ when ‘it’ really counted.
Video and the Law
One very important take-away from this video is that the martial artist behaved well in accordance to the law. He tried his best to de-escalate the situation, and did nothing to provoke the thug. He defended himself once the thug began showing signs of persistent physical aggression. In fact, the martial artist would probably have been justified punching the thug out the first time he went to push or grab him. (Indeed, the one thing that makes me nervous in this video is the possibility of the thug having a knife and being so close inside the martial artist’s personal space).
This video also shows the abundance of video these days. Flip cams and cam phones are all over the place, which means if trouble starts (especially in a crowded area like in the video), there is a very decent chance it will be on video. We as martial artists can use that to our advantage. We can make obvious signs of non-aggression so that later in court we can use that video as evidence of our control and focus on self defense.
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Neil Martin of the blog Urban Samurai recently released a free e-book entitled Street Smart: A Practical Guide to Dealing with Street Violence. Being a fellow e-book type person, I decided to check it out and see what he had to say.
The book is based off of Neil’s training and experience in real life self defense. He takes a pragmatic approach to analyzing violence and how we as law abiding citizens can best prepare ourselves.
Neil starts at the beginning, as it were, and works his way through both basic and complex pieces of street violence. Here is a rough break down of some of the key aspects of the book:
- Self Defense and the Law. The early chapters focus on defining what self defense actually is and how it relates to the law. This is one of the most important areas of study for martial artists as their ability to inflict damage can cause repercussions.
- Attitude, Awareness, Action. Neil explores what he calls the three A’s. These A’s are what he considers to be the most important aspects of analyzing and handling a violent situation.
- Fear and Confrontation. Using personal experience as a guide, Neil explains the role of fear in the human mind and how it can be used as a positive tool instead of negative.
- The Fence. Geoff Thompson, a leader in self defense instruction, has come up with a concept called The Fence. It is a concept that I really believe in, and so does Neil. He explains how to apply it in real life.
- Self Defense Strategies and Techniques. This book isn’t about a long list of specific techniques. However, there are a few key strategies and techniques outlined that are useful in a number of situations. They focus on simplicity and effectiveness.
- Weapon Scenarios. As much as we’d all like combat to be hand-to-hand and even, things tend to work out differently. Neil describes the likelihood of weapon scenarios and how to prepare yourself for the shock of such an event.
- Post Combat Complications. Rarely talked about are the mental effects on a person after a fight. This part of the book helps you to understand what you might expect and how to handle yourself should police get involved.
I definitely enjoyed this book. Neil didn’t get bogged down in a slew of what-if scenarios and techniques. A common problem, especially for traditional stylists, is the in-dojo tendency to practice lots of different techniques in a very controlled environment. This often leads, as Neil points out, to a false sense of security and confidence in ability. Neil’s approach instead explains the unavoidable differences between training and real life, and how to best maximize your training and mindset for real confrontation.
I enjoyed the concrete examples Neil used to illustrate his points. He didn’t rely on hypotheticals, and instead used experience and first/second hand accounts of violent incidences. He establishes good credibility which allows the reader to open up to the concepts he explains.
One thing I thought the book could have used was pictures or more significant structuring to break up the content. The luxury of creating an e-book is that you aren’t bound by the strict standards of old-school books. Pictures and captions could have helped to illustrate some of the concepts he was talking about. Along the same lines, a table of contents at the beginning would have made for easier reference when going back to reread specific sections.
Those are small potatoes though in the broader context of the book. The length was very digestable and the ideas inside were all well researched and valuable.
I would recommend this e-book (it’s free, just sign up for his mailing list) to anyone who feels like they could use a little brush up on street self defense concepts. And if you don’t feel like you could use a little more knowledge, you definitely need to go over and get it.
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Hey everyone. I’m working on a very exciting project right now. I recently got in contact with Forrest Morgan, author of Living the Martial Way, and he agreed to do an interview for the site. Swish!
Mr. Morgan’s book is easily one of the most important martial arts texts I’ve ever read, and I know it has influenced a good many of you readers as well.
I thought, given this rare opportunity, that I wouldn’t hoard the question-asking all to myself. Instead I’m going to submit a few reader inspired questions as well!
What would you like to ask Mr. Morgan – Something about his personal training? Details about a concept in his book? His take on the modern martial arts scene? Who he prefers, Superman or Batman? Let your imagination loose. Include your question in the comments section below (or email me at ikigai 108 @ gmail . com).
Together we can get a lot of valuable information from one of today’s leading martial minds.
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