Saturday, March 28, 2009

Stay out of trouble ...

Setting aside issues of technique and conditioning, training for self defence should include:
  1. An appreciation for the potential for violence and its consequences
  2. Some clues on how to recognize and avoid trouble
  3. Strategies to increase your chances of survival in dangerous situations
Without this kind of training you may find yourself ill-equipped to deal with an encounter where-in society does not prove as civilized as one might hope.  Witness this first-hand account of a 53-year old man who bumbled into an unfortunate altercation in suburban Melbourne:
It was a sunny Saturday afternoon, my wife and I pulled up directly outside the shop she wished to visit and, like the dutiful husband that I am, I waited patiently in the car for her return. As I sat there getting progressively more bored, I noticed two youths, obviously blind drunk, causing some commotion at a nearby shop. Their pockets were filled with stubbies and, as a result, one of the pair's trousers fell down. He continued to walk a few paces before apparently realising his state of undress and nonchalantly hoisting his pants up.

He then made his way into the shop my wife was visiting and I kept a watchful eye on him. The drunken youth soon exited the shop closely followed by my wife. She apologised for the delay, saying that some yobs had caused a commotion in the shop. I nodded towards the youth who had just preceded her. "That's probably him there," I said. Unfortunately for me, said youth noticed me looking, took objection and, cursing, threw a stubbie hard at the car, on which it landed with a solid thump. Taken aback, I leapt from the car to inspect the damage.

In retrospect, this was not the smartest of moves as the drunken yob took this as a signal to attack me. I saw him rushing towards me, face contorted in fury, then a well-thrown left hook smashed into my jaw.

As I said, I'm 53 and awaiting a hip replacement, I smoke far too heavily and the word "exercise" seems to have been removed from my personal dictionary. So, when it comes to what in former times was known as fisticuffs, I'm hardly on the shortlist for the Olympic Bashing Event. Being Scottish and having a deep sense of personal pride, I was reluctant to let a drunken yob get the better of me, so I defended myself and a rather dramatic fight took place. I was thrown repeatedly over the bonnets and boots of cars and on to the ground and, at one point, had the thug straddling my chest as he literally tried to rip my throat out. Eventually, some bystanders came to my aid and dragged the two of us apart.

My wife and I were advised to get back into our car and drive, which we did quite promptly. Then my wife decided to pull over a few metres further on to call the police.

It was a few seconds after this that the drunken youth put his face threw my window and asked if I was all right. I was taken aback and muttered that I was fine. With that he threw another punch to my jaw, I grabbed him to prevent further blows and my wife, showing a lot of common sense, put the pedal to the metal.

The result of this trip to the shops? A broken jaw, which will take eight painful weeks to heal, a bruised windpipe, lacerations, bruises, a dented car door, a ripped jumper and a pair of glasses missing. Worse than this, though, is the fear instilled in me. All of this was as a result of looking at someone. Do I need to spend the rest of my time in Australia avoiding eye contact? Must I be fearful of going shopping in broad daylight? Must my wife suffer nightmares that the man indeed did kill me, as he so obviously wanted to? Should I replace my Jack Russell pup with a half-starved rottweiler?

So what is violence actually like? It's physically painful, not terribly pleasant and downright scary.*
I generally steer away from teaching short-courses on self-defence because it takes time to acquire and internalize the deeper skills, plus regular practice to maintain them.   Then again, people like this unfortunate gentleman could benefit from a quick lesson or two in staying out of trouble in the first place.

*I should stress that I don't think Australia is a particularly dangerous country. For one thing, we have low gun  ownership, leading to a fairly low murder rate.  And while we do have the most venomous snakes in the world, they generally stay away from people.  And the crocodiles only seem to eat tourists. ;-)