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.
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Multiply your effectiveness with more impact for less effort and where to hit for best effect.
Bonus: Historical look at Bassai Dai, one of Karate’s most pivotal katas