Kevin O’Hagan, 7th Dan Combat Ju Jutsu and author of numerous books is undoubtedly one of the very best Reality Based Martial Arts instructors in the UK. On Sunday 2nd Sept, I attended one of his seminars on the Anatomy Of A Street Assault. As per usual, Kevin’s seminar was very informative, practical and thought provoking!
The first section looked into the different types of assault, perpetrators motivation behind each type of assault, how to identify them and how to avoid being selected or how to defuse a situation once you have been selected. This is the part that this review will cover. There was a very pragmatic physical side to the seminar as well, but that is not covered here.
Firstly, it was made clear that we were not talking about fighting. Kevin defined fighting as either combat sport, or when 2 people decide to step outside and “sort it out”. A fight is basically where 2 people, for whatever reason, both consent to having a fight. A street assault (subject of seminar) is where one person initiates violence and the other is unwillingly drawn into it.
There are only 2 real types of street assault, which are:-
Otherwise known as “social” violence, where the perpetrator is generally showing of to an audience; trying to intimidate the victim and make himself look tough. It is easy for the victim to be drawn into this if not careful and then it could degenerate into a fight (where the victim is provoked to the point of consenting to fight).
Generally this consists of staring and excessive eye contact. When the eye contact is met and matched (which the perpetrator is looking for), then threats are made (usually accompanied by a lot of profanities). This can escalate into pushing and shoving, more profanities and louder shouting, then eventually (if one of them does not back down) a big hay-maker is usually thrown, followed by a full on fight.
Going back to the first stage (staring), Kevin explained that the you simply do not meet the stare. You glance around at the perpetrator, you can even nod at him in acknowledgement, but you do not hold and return his stare. But you don’t turn your back on him either. This way you let him know that you aware of him (he can’t launch a surprise attack), but you are not returning the unspoken (at this stage) challenge. This may be enough to avoid escalation by not giving the perpetrator an excuse to escalate. However, if he does escalate and aggressively ask who you are looking at, you simply apologise and say that you were looking at somebody near or behind him who you thought you recognised. Either way, it is better to simply apologise than to end up in a pointless fight.
Perpetrators tend to de-humanise their victims, so try to make yourself very human to him. You could say something like “sorry mate, I’ve just lost my job and wife’s left me and I’m having a really hard time right now, I really don’t want any more trouble”. It might be enough!
Each situation will be different, so you have to make your decision at the time. Another possibility is to try to put doubt into the perpetrators mind that he might be picking on the wrong guy by saying something like, “sorry mate I really don’t want any trouble. I’m still on probation from the last fight I had and I really don’t want to go back to jail”!
If this still does not work then it could progress to the pushing and shoving stage. At this point, if you don’t think you can talk him out of it then you have 2 main options; pre-emptive strike, or face him down with your own show of highly aggressive behaviour.
Whichever strategy you choose, you should already be in The Fence position. You may say something like “is there nothing that I can do to persuade you not to fight me”? Possibly you might get a positive answer that there is something you can do to avoid further conflict. If you get a negative answer, then you will hopefully have witnesses to testify (if required) that you tried everything to talk him out of it. At this point as you ask the question, you should be lining him up for a pre-emptive strike to a vital spot which will hopefully finish it all then and there.
Alternatively you may decide to push him away really hard and step back slightly as you do so. The step back gives the impression that he has been pushed further back then he actually has been and giving an exaggerated impression of how strong you are. At this point you launch your own tirade of threats, abuse and profanities to try to intimidate him into thinking that he has picked an even bigger nutter then himself.
Other factors to consider include that male victims will often not want to back down if they with their girlfriend/wife and the perpetrator will use this to provoke further. This can include directly insulting the lady. But Kevin pointed that most ladies would much rather walk away then have their guy involved in a fight, so a guy is just making a bad situation for his lady even worse if falls for the bait. If however you have a lady who would want you to get into a fight, then Kevin’s advise was “get rid of her, she’s trouble”.
But each situation will be different so a judgement call will have to be made at the time. Kevin also emphasised that as well as practicing the physical techniques, you should practice the verbal lines above in role play with a training partner, or you will forget them under pressure.
Ambushes are asocial and the perpetrator does not want an audience. These people are more “professional” then those who seek confrontation and they give no warning or build up. It just happens and you have very little time to react or prepare in any way.
Kevin explained that the best way to avoid this type of assault is through awareness. The ambusher is looking for an easy victim who they can assault (mug, rape) quickly and efficiently without any witnesses. An analogy was drawn with lions hunting. Lions always try to single out the young, old, frail or injured; who has strayed from the main herd. In the same way, the human predator looks for somebody on their own and somebody who is not really aware of their surroundings. This could be somebody who is engrossed in texting on their mobile phone, lost in their IPod, or simply putting groceries into the back of their car and not looking around.
Simply looking around so that the street predators know that you are aware of their presence (so they won’t be able to take you by surprise) can often be enough to deter them and have them look for somebody else.
It was also emphasised that if anybody tries to force you into a car or to go to a secondary location, do not co-operate in any circumstances. At the secondary location the perpetrator can do whatever they like without fear of being caught. Although at the original location they may be threatening to kill or maim you, THEY are still afraid themselves of being caught. You are better off facing injury at the original site, then possible death at a secondary site.
This review only covers part of the seminar and there was much more to it that what is covered here. Most martial art courses deal only with the physical skills of fighting. Very few deal with avoiding or de-escalating a situation so that you don’t have to fight in the first place. Kevin O’Hagan’s courses are applicable to people of any style and I would highly recommend them to any and all martial artists.
Having recently attended the Traditional Shotokan Karate Association (TSKA) Residential Course (12th – 14th May), I thought I’d share my experiences with you.
Being my first time at the TSKA residential course, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect, though it was well recommended by my club-mates. So I turned up with high expectations and I have to say that I was not in slightest bit disappointed. The 3 main instructors for the course were Sensei Pete Manning 6th Dan, Sensei John Euden 5th Dan and my own instructor, Sensei Paul Mitchell 5th Dan.
Despite the 3 Sensei’s each having their own unique approach, each of them was very practical in their application to teach the art as an effective form of self defence rather than sport or just looking good.
Sensei Pete Manning began with basics, making it clear that not only are our basics the foundation on which all Karate is built, but that as Dan grades it is our responsibility (not only to ourselves, but to those we teach) to make sure that we keep our standards high and don’t get lazy.
As we had guests from other Shotokan Karate associations, Sensei Manning also made it clear that although some of the coming course content would be different from what some people had seen before, it was still within the Shotokan system. He explained that although some people train to a very high technical ability, they sometimes limit themselves to the grading syllabus which is not always the most effective method for surviving a real life street self defence situation.
This came into play later in the course when Sensei Manning took us through Jitte kata and it’s bunkai. The sequence of Age Uke’s (Rising Blocks) near the end of Jitte which are often explained simply as blocks to straight punches are clearly ineffective in that application. Firstly, why would you block one opponent, then turn to block somebody else. As Sensei Manning pointed out, what would the first opponent do after he’s been blocked then you turn your back on him to block somebody else. Of course they’re going to continue their attack.
Secondly, he explained that if you think our basics blocks (Rising Block, Outside Block, Inside block, etc) are just blocks, then try using them in sparring! Have one person attack with any basic techniques and the defender can only use full basic blocks (no parries or evasions). The defender will simply not stand a chance.
Instead, the Age Uke sequence at the end of Jitte was practiced as circular punches and elbow strikes which we used against focused mitts. Emphasis was also placed on using centrifugal force. I reminded myself as we practiced that Karate is largely based on Kung Fu (especially White Crane) which primarily relies on centrifugal force, rather than the linear force that most Karateka have become so familiar with. Despite the earlier emphasis on technical basics, with this exercise we were encouraged to use more natural stances, in particular the heal of the back foot could come off the floor rather the technical version of our basics where the heal stays down.
I reflected as we trained that although the methodology was a bit different between the technical basics and the applied version, they both had commonality. The technical version teaches us to rotate the hips (thus the erect spinal column) very fast. The applied version still used a rapid hip/spinal rotation, it just took it a bit further in more free flowing manner. Although some Shotokan Karateka may not have experienced this methodology before, I thought of the famous Funakoshi quote, “Learn various stances as a beginner but then rely on a natural posture”.
We also covered some releases from grabs, as well as some slightly unconventional (but nonetheless effective) strikes and take-downs from the opening sequence of Jitte.
Sensei Paul Mitchell continued on a similar theme with a combination of 2 crosses, upper cut and a devastating swinging back-fist strike. Again we used natural stances and centrifugal force. Emphasis was placed on striking right through the target. To do this we had to leave out the usual kime which Shotokan usually relies on. Sensei Mitchell reminded us that Funakoshi said that if you study the past to begin to understand the present. Whereas most Karateka think that looking back is to look at Okinawan Karate; Funakoshi (being Okinawan) would have looked back to Chinese martial arts on which the Okinawan Karate was largely based. The combination Sensei Mitchell had us doing was from a Chinese martial art, Chen Tai Chi. It nevertheless fitted in hand in glove with Shotokan, filling in some of the practicality gaps in Shotokan’s arsenal,when only trained on a technical level.
In later sessions, Sensei Mitchell took us through more conventional Shotokan punches, focusing on Gyaka Zuki (Reverse Punch) and Kizami Zuki (Extended Punch) with Suri-Ashi (Sliding Step). After solo practice to refresh the technique, we partnered up and used focus mitts to make sure that the techniques were delivering enough real power.
Sensei Paul Mitchell’s last session drew largely from his knowledge of Tai Chi and for those who hadn’t seen it before it was quite mind-blowing. Ki (Chi in Chinese) is internal energy and would have been a very important concept for the Okinawans as their martial arts were largely based around it. Many Westerners do not believe in Ki/Chi and that’s fine, but it may have have been how Funakoshi would have trained.
Several evasions and takedowns were practiced which relied on complete relaxation so that we could use ki energy. Although as Karateka we think we know how to relax in our technique, this session took it to a whole new level. This session was not really something that could be taken away and used in isolation as the concepts take years of practice, even for Karate Dan grades. However, it did give the students a taste of the higher levels and concepts of martial art that is waiting for them should they choose to follow that path. For anybody who would like to understand it a bit better, Sensei Mitchell is in the process of writing a book which will be worth looking out for once it is published.
Sensei John Euden was probably the most classical in his approach, but nevertheless just as practical in his application. His first session started with the kata Senka. This kata he explained was created by Master Asai, and although it is not taught in all Shotokan associations it is nevertheless a Shotokan kata. He recommended that we take it away and practice it to help keep it alive. For the uninitiated, Senka has a lot of spinning/circular movements, utilizing centrifugal force, so again fitted in with an overall theme.
Later we did some slightly unconventional combinations of basics which tested us mentally as well as physically. I was glad to see that I was not the only one who struggled a bit with them. We then partnered up and practiced various striking and blocking combinations which took even more concentration (especially if you didn’t want to get hit). This was great training for reactions and building speed.
Later we practiced sequences of blocks and strikes, leading into take-downs, wrist locks and arm locks. Some of these locks were excruciatingly painful, which in some strange way did seem to delight Sensei Euden 🙂
During some of the sessions with other instructors, several times we heard yells of pain coming from the intermediate grades that Sensei Euden was demonstrating on as he taught them alongside us.
Other highlights of the residential included the beach training and the party. The beach training has become a tradition now. The soft sand makes it ideal for practicing take downs and throws learnt in the other sessions without getting too many bruises, though the wrist locks still hurt just as much. You may get the odd mouthful of sand, but it does teach you when to keep your mouth shut!
Then somebody came up with the bright idea of going into the sea and training. OK, this was not a new idea and is also part of the tradition. So we went in up to about our wastes and practiced some punches and blocks. Some people, with encouragement from Sensei Mitchell, ducked themselves right under. I will admit that I didn’t quite find that such a good idea, though several around me seemed to think that it was. Oh well; maybe I’ll man up enough to do it next year!
The party on the Saturday night is another annual tradition. There was a BBQ, buffet, quiz, live singing and of course a bar. One of the highlights was a hilarious dance display provided by an alcoholically liberated individual, which really deserves to end up on Youtube. Overall it was a very good party where it was great to meet and mix with Karateka from other clubs around the country.
It appears that hangovers at Sunday morning training is another tradition, but I’d better not say too much about that!
To conclude, all 3 of the Sensei’s taught in an open, friendly, approachable but very professional manner and with a good sense of humour. The course was fun, informative and hard work. It also had a good social side to it and it was a pleasure to mix with like minded Karateka from other clubs and even other associations. I would not hesitate to recommend it to anybody and fully intend to go back again in the future.
This course is another opportunity for interested martial artists to spend three hours studying the analysis of Shotokan Karate’s massive potential as a method of dealing with realistic acts of violence. Many martial artists tend to spend the majority of their time training in grading related material and as such do not develop enough realistic Martial skills. My Sensei, Paul Mitchell 5th Dan, has devoted much of his 30 years training studying practical martial Arts and he is happy to pass on his knowledge to any interested party regardless of style or discipline. All grades welcome however juniors are required to be minimum 4th Kyu/Kup unless training with a parent.
It is on Sunday, 27 May, from 11:00 until 14:00.
Adults £15.00, Juniors £12.00.
The Venue is the Sports Centre, Wells Blue School, Wells, Somerset, UK (please bring a packed lunch).
To book your place please e mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01749 670105
The following video clip is taken from the Practical Shotokan: Beginner to Black Belt Course taught by Sensei Paul Mitchell, Chief Instructor of the Wells Traditional Shotokan Karate Club earlier on today. Sensei Mitchell is talking about stand alone karate kata bunkai which could be fight finishers by themselves. As Shotokan Karate puts a lot of emphasis on multiple assailants, there are many techniques which can incapacitate an opponent very quickly, although they are not always obvious and have been dumbed down a lot over the years for many social and political reasons.
Kaki Waki Uke (Reverse Wedge Block) is usually seen as breaking somebody’s grip when they try to strangle you. However, if they have both of their hands on you, why not just punch/strike them? It is much quicker, they have nothing to defend themselves with (as they’ve committed both of their hands to your neck) and it could finish the fight then and there. If you use Kaki Waki Uke to separate their arms and release their grip, then you can both continue the fight on an even basis.
So what is Kaki Waki Uke more useful for? Well one of the most common street attacks of all is a swinging haymaker, which as Sensei Mitchell demonstrates here can be easily stopped with one side of the Kaki Waki Uke. Note that when he does this, that his opponent head is jerked slightly downwards and onto the other arm with is attacking to the neck.
In this instance Sensei Mitchell quite lightly attacks a specific point on the opponent neck causing him to almost pass out straight away. Had the blow been delivered with any real force, the opponent would have out cold.
Now if you’re thinking multiple opponents, you want techniques which give instant results and doesn’t waste a lot of your own energy (which you’ll need for fighting the others). Sensei Mitchell demonstrates how this can be done very simply using a common technique which most people happily overlook on a regular basis.
Sorry for short notice, but this course is being run my very own Sensei, Paul Mitchell, 4th Dan. Any course by Paul is always worth attending. Sadly, I’m not going to be able to make this on myself due to work commitments, but I highly recommend it if you can.
The course will be held on Sunday 29th January from 11:15am to 2:15pm.
As usual with Sensei Mitchell, this course will teach Karate bunkai including practical locks, take-downs and throws as well as the more obvious strikes and kicks. These defences will be geared against ordinary everyday street attacks, rather than traditional Karate Lunge Punches and Front Kicks. The techniques and principles taught will come from basic techniques through to complex kata.
All Karateka of any style and grade are welcome, though there is a minimum age of 12 for anybody below 4th Kyu.
As always this course is open to all other martial artists from other styles, whether they be from other internal styles looking to improve their knowledge, or from external styles looking to introduce more internal practices into their own martial art.
Paul is an excellent choice of instructor for this wide mix of needs, having had many years of experience in Shotokan Karate (4th Dan), Yang Tai Chi (A grade instructor with the Tai Chi Union) and Qi Gong (Qi Gong therapist). A number of his senior Karate students (and other martial artist including Wing Chun and Tae Kwon Do black belts) regularly train Tai Chi with Paul as well, so he is very adapt and understanding the needs and abilities of people from different martial arts backgrounds.
Within the Traditional Shotokan Karate Association, Paul is respected as a leading authority on Bunkai (applications). This approach is reflected in his Tai Chi which is taught both for health and well-being as well as for the martial applications of the art.
You can find out a bit more about Paul at this recently shot short film about him:
The course will cover (depending on background and experience) Qi Gong, empty handed forms to weapons forms, pushing hands and applications. It will be taught over two days in the Somerset village of Henton (two miles from Wells).
The Course starts at 9.30 am on Saturday morning and finishes at 4.30 pm on Sunday. The cost of the course is: £90 with a deposit of £30 required to secure a place. Cost includes the two days training and lunch on Saturday and Sunday.
Many people do online classes, but these are usually pre-recorded videos. If you have questions, you have to type them in on your key board and wait on the teacher getting back to you. And if you don’t fully understand their answer, you have to send another question and wait again.
Furthermore, the teacher can’t actually see how you are doing things yourself, so can’t pick up on fine details that you may not even know to ask about.
This is why I was quite intrigued when I heard about Shihan Kousaku Yokota’s idea for an Interactive Cyber Dojo.
So what is an Interactive Cyber Dojo?
I’m glad you asked me that!
Basically, it’s a lesson over Skype with video, one on one with Shihan Yokota himself. A private lesson with a genuine Japanese 8th Dan, author and direct student of Asai (10th Dan) himself . . . . . well I just had to give this a go.
My first hiccup was that I did not have a webcam on my PC. No problem, I borrowed my daughters Apple Mac, and we were off.
The lesson was on the kata, Junro Shodan. This is a kata created by Master Asai and is part of Asai Ryu version of Shotokan Karate. It is not in other versions of Shotokan, so this was of particular interest to me.
Master Asai introduced the Junro series for a couple of reasons. One reason being to put more emphasis on the Neko Ashi Dachi (Cat Stance). This stance was widely used in Shorin Ryu which was the main forerunner to Shotokan, but has been almost completely replaced in most Shotokan Katas by the longer Kokutsu Dachi (Back Stance). Master Asai felt that we should bring it back as it is a very practical stance from a combat point of view which we have nearly lost due to standardisation of Katas, largely for competition purposes.
Master Asai also felt that when it comes to spinning techniques, most Shotokan katas have a heavy bias to only spinning clockwise and wanted to address this imbalance. You can check out the Junro Shodan for yourself below:-
Master Asai is considered by many to be the greatest Shotokan teacher and practitioner that ever lived. This is why very many Shotokan Karateka from other organisations and lineage’s have been interested in learning his katas. Unfortunately many of these people do not have access to a dojo which practices the Asai Ryu version of Shotokan.
After a student in New York persuaded Shihan Yokota to try to teach him over Skype from California, Shihan Yokota realised that he could use this method to reach and help many other Shotokan Karateka (and other styles if interested) from all over the world. Those interested in learning Asai Ryu Shotokan and the Junro series of katas no longer had to be limited by physical location.
So having made the appointment, Shihan Yokota, he sent me the Youtube link to Junro Shodan (above) along with a step by step pictorial schematic so that I could prepare myself in advance. For a few hours before my class, I went through the kata, learning it from the video. By the time it came to the class, I was still far from perfect, but more or less had the sequence of movements. Throughout the class, Shihan Yokota corrected my stances and movements and picked up details that I would never have got from following the video alone.
As I reflected afterwards, this was a fantastic way to learn. Had I attended a seminar to learn this kata, firstly I would not have received the link to the video and step by step guide. OK, I could have used my initiative and Googled it, or searched it on Youtube, but you can never be quite sure how truly authentic the version displayed will actually be.
Had I gone to a seminar, I might have had to travel for several hours to get there and back. This time was much better spent pre-learning the kata from Youtube.
Furthermore, had I been at a seminar, I would have been one of many, moving at the pace of the rest of the class; rather than having one on one attention for an hour from an 8th Dan and the class moving at the right pace for me and me only.
Being at home, I was a bit limited for space and often had to shuffle around a bit to fit in all the movements. However, I felt that all the other advantages far out-weighed this minor disadvantage. As far as I’m aware, nobody else is doing this. I’m sure many will follow, but for now I believe that it is unique.
So how much does this one-on-one with an 8th Dan actually cost?
Well if you were meeting face to face, then the standard rate would be $150 per hour. However, through Shihan Yokota’s Interactive Cyber Dojo, it is a very reasonable $29.99. When you consider that sometimes you can pay almost as much to attend seminar and be one of about 50 or more people with no one on one, this is a really good deal. Plus you have no travel costs, no parking charges, no food or drink to buy while you’re out and being via Skype there are no extra computer/telephone costs either. For many people, this is actually cheaper all round then going to a seminar. I personally think that Shihan Yokota is being a bit cautious and setting his rate a bit low, so I’d recommend that anybody who is interested should book in quickly before he catches on and puts his rate up.
My Sensei, Paul Mitchell, 4th Dan, is running a Karate Bunkai Jutsu Course which is of course not to be missed. The following details are taken from the club website:-
Bunkai Jutsu Course
Practical Karate for Beginner to Black Belt 2nd October 2011 11:00 – 2:30
This course takes the principles & techniques of Karate and applies them to realistic self defence.
Locks, takedowns and throws are included in this traditional Martial Art alongside the more obvious strikes and kicks. Sensei Mitchell will be teaching practical uses of the everyday moves within Karate from basic techniques through to the more complex kata moves.
Open to all Karateka from Beginner to Black belt, all welcome.
Taught by Sensei Paul Mitchell 4th Dan, Wells Traditional Shotokan Karate Group Instructor.
Wells Traditional Shotokan Karate Club is a very friendly and open club. Not only does Sensei Mitchell teach extremely good bunkai, but he also teaches in an open, friendly and humorous manner; so his courses are enjoyable on several different levels.
To find out more about how and what Sensei Mitchell teaches, please visit the Wells Traditional Shotokan Karate Youtube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/user/wellskarate, then book yourself in for the course.
My Sensei, Paul Mitchell, 4th Dan will be hosting a special Karate bunkai course looking at the principles & techniques of Shotokan Karate and applying them to realistic self defence. Along with the more obvious punches and kicks, this will include locks throws and takedowns utilising moves from both basics and kata.
The course is open to all Karateka regardless of grade – Beginner to Black belt. However, there is a minimum age of 12 for anybody under 4th Kyu
Basic details are:
When – Sunday 3rd April 2011, 11:00 – 2:30pm.
Where – Wells Blue Sports Centre, Kennion Road, Wells, Somerset, BA5 2NR