By Matthew Schafer
Over the past 21 years in the martial arts I've seen many people and fads come and go. However, one thing that seems to stay the same is the romantic notion of what a "real fight" will be like. Women seem to have their heads on fairly straight when it comes to self defense but I'm sorry to say that generally I can't say the same for they guys, especially the young guys. I've asked many women why they're studying self defense and their answers seem quite realistic. Generally women talk about a guy getting too "touchy feely" and having to stop them, a guy following them home and trying to rape them, or being car jacked. Where it starts getting interesting is when you start talking to the guys.
I place a certain amount of the blame on TV and the UFC personally, but when it comes to guys nine times out of ten they almost always envision a bar fight. Women picture some drug addict kicking in their front door and coming in to rape them, but guys picture some macho scene in a bar and going outside, putting up their hands, and squaring off with some other guy and having some big fight like in the UFC. It takes a lot of work to break these guy's romantic notion of squaring off in a bar and trading blows with another guy while their girl cheers in the background.
The truth is that people actually squaring off and assuming fighting stances rarely, if ever, happens during a real violent encounter and if you look at statistics you'll see that they show this. After spending 5 years as a bouncer I've seen all kinds of things and hundreds of fights but never once have I seen two guys model the "sparring scenario" which is to put their hands up, get into fighting stances, and then fight. Even in a bar or nightclub there is no "stepping outside" or putting your hands up; if a guy gets pissed off and wants to get you they'll walk right up to you with a smile on their face and when they're standing right next to you they'll sucker punch you with an ashtray and then start kicking you when you're down and helpless.
The point I'm trying to make is that the notion of putting your hands up and getting in a fighting stance is really just romantic B.S. Sure if you're just messing around or in a competition you have the luxury of "getting ready" but when someone really wants to hurt you it’s not a luxury you will have. If someone wants to punch you they won't put their hands up first so you can see it coming, they will walk up to you and sucker punch you. A common tactic that I've seen used time and time again, and is also commonly used to mug people on the street, is for the "bad guy" to pretend to ignore someone and walk up to them like they're going to walk right past them, and then when they get right next to them they suddenly turn and punch, grab, shoot or stab them. Another popular tactic is to maneuver behind them and punch them or jab an object in their kidney which can completely incapacitate them.
The threat that people face isn't some big guy in a bar, its violent crime which is aggravated assault, forcible rape, robbery, and murder. It would be great if someone that wanted to rob or rape you would walk up to you and announce their intentions so you both could get into fighting stances and use your best sparring techniques, but statistically the encounter will actually start with you being blindsided and punched, stabbed, bludgeoned, or shot. Statistically, when you actually become aware that its time to start defending yourself its far more likely that you'll be laying on the ground and bleeding with one or more people standing over you, then dancing around in your sparring stance.
Luckily there is a silver lining and that lining is that since the person that actually wants to hurt you isn't going to bother with putting their hands up, getting in a sparring stance, dancing around with fancy footwork, worrying about kicking and punching ranges, setting up combinations, and pretty much everything else that is a part of sparring, you don't have to worry about that either. When a real criminal attacks you they won't be in a fancy stance or using fancy footwork, if they attack you they will just walk right up to you and attack leaving themselves wide open and completely vulnerable the entire time. If they throw a right hook, which is how most assaults and fights start, they’ll just walk right up to you and throw it which means that every single target on their body will be exposed and unprotected.
If you’re walking down the street and someone surprises you by coming out of nowhere and punching you in the face, as long as they haven’t knocked you out or incapacitated you then you can defend yourself. You don’t have to worry about all that fancy sparring b.s. because your attacker will be standing right next to you completely exposed. At this point he will probably be grabbing you with one hand and punching you with the other, but as long as you’re still conscious you can turn the tables. All you have to do is locate one vulnerable area on his body and hit it as hard as you can.
Let’s say he’s repeatedly punching you in the back. While he’s doing this you see his eye so you simply step into him and jam your finger into his eye as hard as you can and push. You’ve just collapsed the dome of his eyeball and now his optic fluid is running down your arm as he drops to the ground, grabs his eye, and begins screaming, giving you a chance to run away.
He may have broken your nose and nearly ruptured your kidney from the repeated punches but he didn’t knock you out or incapacitate you; while all you did was look at someone who was completely open, pick a vulnerable area, step in and hit that area, and then follow through. As long as he didn’t knock you out you can defend yourself and you have a completely open and vulnerable person right there.
Since criminals like to surprise you and sucker punch you its very unlikely that most people will ever see the attack coming unless they’ve received the proper training and are using it. Even then you can be surprised which is why a lot of situations start with someone bent over covering their head, or on the ground, with someone standing right there hitting or kicking them repeatedly.
Here’s a quick technique that has saved several people. You’re walking down the street minding your own business when you notice that just up ahead there is a man leaning against a building looking at you. As you get closer he comes off the wall and walks towards you. He’s now just about 6 feet away and he says, “Hey, do you have the time?” You instinctively look down at your watch and just as you’re focusing in on the dial you feel like a bomb exploded in your head. The stranger managed to distract you for just a second and as soon as you looked down at your watch he came forwards and punched you in the face with this right hand. Now your head is ringing, you’re seeing double, and your knees are starting to buckle. You’ve just been knocked nearly unconscious and you never saw it coming.
You’re a little dizzy and off balance as you instinctively bend forward and cover your head with your arms. Your attacker grabs your left shoulder with his left hand and begins to repeatedly punch you in the back of your head with his right hand. You begin to curl into the fetal position as you open your eyes and see the ground…and his knees. You stare right at his nearest knee as you take a small step into him with your nearest leg, drop shoulder first right into his knee, and roll towards him. Your entire body weight has just crashed through his knee tearing his joint as he falls to the ground. As soon as you hit the ground you roll into him and grab his head with both your hands and you push it to the ground and use it to help you come up to a knee. Once you’re on your knee you strike his head into the ground once, twice, or as many times as you wish and then run away.
Most people like this technique, especially after they practice it, but often ask, “what if you miss the knee?” Since your entire body weight is falling down onto his leg you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll knock him down with your weight. If you don’t think so then just practice this a few times and you’ll see how easy it is. Since your entire body weight is crashing into his leg, even if you don’t fall directly on his knee there is a good chance that you will still tear his ACL (the ligament that connects the front of the knee joint) on the way down.
But what if you don’t tear it? Well, you will still knock him down which means that he can sustain other injuries from the fall (broken wrists, broken arms, head trauma, etc.) but even if he doesn’t you’ll catch him by surprise and when you roll into him and hold his head down as you get up you ensure he stays on the ground because it is impossible to get up if someone holds your head on the ground. After that you strike his head into the ground which will most likely knock him out right away and could very well kill him.
I’ve taught this technique for years and many people have said that it has saved their lives. Many people have adapted it to use it before they get hit. The way this works is when someone confronts you, you go submissive, put you hands up, tuck your chin, and curl your back. Then once they get right next to you, you just drop onto the knee and do the technique. Either way it is very effective.
Unfortunately few martial artists or martial arts schools realize that real violence doesn’t start with two guys squaring off in fighting stances and everyone seems to be only preparing for the one-on-one sparing style fight, and that would be fine in criminal wanted to "fight", but statistically they don't and they seem quite content with leaving fighting stances out of it.