This past Saturday I had the pleasure of attending an on location self defense seminar at a nearby bar. The location matched every description of where you just might run into that lone drunk looking for a little sport fighting or get rolled in the parking lot by the local construction labor gang.
Needles to say that when the invite and enrolment email happened in my box I quickly responded with a loud “count me in”. Granted I know the school instructor and many of his students and the reputation for what to expect was going to be…. not your typical… here grab my wrist.
Reality training is something most martial arts schools never really address. Sure they have their defense drills and counters but when it comes to putting your hands on someone outside of the padded floor they tend to be lacking. This bar had no padded floor unless you count the warped deck boards and overly worn bar stools. It is amazing how creative a bar stool can be utilized but I get ahead of myself.
It is the gun guys that like to mix up the onsite training and this class was a nice mix of having the weapons guys stage a hands-on encounter day. It was very hands on, head butt on, elbow on, but very little foot and kicking.
The space requirements were limited just as you would expect in a social gathering and everyone really had to be aware of their fronts and back at all time. Throughout the day I was encountered from the front while being bumped and shoved from the back. Quite realistic if you apply the theory that the bad guy is going to use all the obstacles they can to control the encounter. I found myself not using bystanders to achieve success or trying to gain advantage in my encounter. In looking back I realize that I just did not want to anger anyone that I did not trust to be on my side. This would increase my bad guy count from one to two or more and given the limited space and speed that we worked you did everything you could to not escalate the situation. Escape and evasion with quick force to end the match was the rule of the day.
Bar stools, pitchers, tables, and any other item that could be pickup, throws, slammed down or just used for mayhem were fair game. The purity of the dojo was gone and so did the classical rules of take care of your Uke. We did not abuse the Uke but I saw many people get contact to the lips and groin. Nothing beyond the light tap and no blood or injuries but thumping did happen. Personally I am glad I wore my cup. It was well worth the discomfort for the knee shots I took and it was not the only big guys doing the cup thumps. Everyone was in control but the energy and commitment levels were high.
My hat goes off to Master Peplinski. He started the day off with a parking lot encounter that I was not expecting. As I was getting my gear out of the car I watched a lone man approach. When he was about 15 feet away our eyes locked and he ask for a dollar. I told him to “p** off” and went on about my day.
Turns out that the panhandler was part of the exercise and he had been planted to see how close he could get to the people coming to participate. When class started he came in and gave his report about what went well and who was an easy mark. It was enlightening to have him tell his story about how people would turn their backs on him or others would lower their eyes as if afraid.
The training day started with simple hand strike and counter techniques. No stretching or hi meet your neighbor we just started sweating. Everyone seemed to be a little reluctant to start the roll playing but thanks to several hams in the crowd we quickly put our insecurities behind and jumped to task.
Many different martial art styles were present yet no one used kicks. This could be for several reasons but the main thought I come up with is that we were not trying to fight, just get out of the encounter and space was limited. I used a few sweeps and lot of knees but maybe one or two kicks all day. The big consideration was the space issue. We started very close and had to play the role of aggressor or victim. It might be two on one, one on three or several on several. You just had to find what worked and elbows and knees worked.
Head strikes were presented as the ultimate fight stopper but not in the way they are typically presented. I am a bit of a big guy and have strong shoulders and arms but when the biker dude and I had to faceoff it completely changed my plan of attack. I knew I could beat on his legs and abdomen with knees and shins but the palm strike across the jaw line was going to be my best first strike. As Master Phil. demonstrated early in the seminar, the strike he was looking for was not straight up into the jaw line but more of a rounding type strike working below the TMJ down to the chin. As we worked with the strike the student style differences became more apparent. Those that worked hard and linear styles tended to ground their stance and strike with more shoulder to generate speed. While those coming from more circular and softer styles did more core rotation to push through the strike. Both were effective but it was nice to see the different applications from the style backgrounds.
Yes we played with guns and knives and we all lost. I am not a big fan of gun disarm techniques. They tend to be presented as methods that work, while in reality there is very little margin for error when countering firearms. That being said we did not try to achieve disarm techniques and none of this I am going to take your pistol from you and shoot you back. Instead, we practiced that guns are intimidating and simply trying to not be shot was rule one. Second was to try and lock down the weapon and not let it point towards you and then take the other hand and beat the stuffing out of the opponent and don’t quit until the opponent is unconscious or completely out of the fight.
Knives, I would almost rather have someone come at me with a handgun than a knife and this seminar reaffirmed my belief. All the classical counters and redirections we learned sure look good but when you get down to the actual act of the Uke trying to stab you six, eight, or twenty times you better have a better plan. Here is how it was presented: Get out of the way and run if at all possible. Don’t stand and fight unless absolutely necessary. (I really like that one) Second, you have to accept the fact that you are going to get cut so try to lock down the weapon and then beat the opponent till the fight is over. Are you going to get injured, you bet. But in the long run with the speed and multiple strikes that the knife presents you just can’t slide out, palm press, grasp wrist, turn your center, redirect strike and hit the Uke with the knife. Can it be done yes; is it probable, not really.
Lastly I want to bring up the most informative part of the seminar. It really became apparent when we were doing the corner drills. The scenario was this. Take two or three big guys and have them surround someone in a tight corner of the room. The objective was to have the surrounded guy get out of the encounter and escape. You could do anything you wanted to get out of the counter but the goal was to get out of the counter. What tended to work best was you had to take first strike and it was not always to the biggest guy.
Here is what really stood out. Those that like to strike but not be in control of their center were not effective. It did not matter if you pocked out eyes, did knee shots, sweeps, head butts, or charged like a bull. What worked was to be able to work your opponent’s commitments and use your center rotation to redirect the opponent. The first guy you could usually handle with a strike and slip by but the second and third were already committed to their strikes or grapples. This meant that you had to be reactionary in your counters and you had better move them aside or you were not going to be able to open a hole for escape. You could really see this in the people who did not have much time in the martial arts. They tended to swing their fist and try to charge through.
In all it was a great day and many thanks to Master Phil. Peplinski and his great staff for the invite.
More about his school – U.S. Taekwondo and Hapkido