Thursday, 19 November 2009

When to Get Physical?

When should we become physical in a confrontational situation?

eaching on a recent Geoff Thompson masterclass, I was explaining my own interpretation of the Fence Concepts and clarifying each stage of these principals using my own Fence Flowchart.

I explained how the Fence must be natural and invisible to those around. I then moved onto the Controlling Fence, explaining how this should be a momentary position, not something which is static and prolonged as taught by most instructors it would seem.

I then moved onto the important Decision Making stage which is where we have to decide how we’re going to deal with the situation in hand, assuming we’ve let it get that far and haven’t been able to employ an effective avoidance strategy.

I simplified the process with my chart to show how, ultimately, we only have one of two routes to take.
We can become submissive and feign weakness to our attacker, or we can flip this coin and become totally aggressive and enraged.

The submissive option, I would suggest, through many years of personal experience is highly likely to result in physical conflict, either from your pre-emptive strike or from your attacker’s onslaught.
To tell your would-be assailant that you don’t want trouble and to beg “please – I don’t want to fight” is a great way to tell your attacker that he/she has just picked the right victim.
This is great if you then intend to follow up this action with a pre-emptive strike, as your attacker will have momentarily relaxed in the thought that they now have an easy target. The result will be a more likely chance of success with your first shot.

It’s worth nothing that in all my time working the doors of Coventry, I cannot recall one incident where I have told an aggressive assailant that “I didn’t want trouble” and to “please not hurt me” only to have them respond with “Oh – ok mate – really sorry”.

So, as I state more clearly, and in more, detail in my Fence Concepts book, going Submissive is usually going to be followed by physical action and I would highly recommend that this action is yours in the form of a solid pre-emptive strike.

The alternative to this is to become massively aggressive. To explode in a rage of fury. And to balloon and posture like a rabid animal ready to lash out at anyone or anything stupid enough to get in your way.
The intention is to totally shock your assailant and make them completely believe that they have picked the wrong victim and that now they are the prey instead.
Trust me – this works!

The upshot of this action is that it can give you a far better chance of surviving this encounter without even having to resort to physical action such as fighting. By inducing this “adrenalin filled” state in your attacker, you can at the very least buy yourself a few seconds to escape, and at the best you can totally bottle-out your attacker and have them back away from you.

The reason for this article was a result of an innocent question from one of the students on the course and that was...
“How do you know which of these routes to take, Submissive or Aggressive?”

A simple question but quite a complex answer if I’m totally honest.

Firstly, I emphasise again that to have let a situation get to this point, means you’ve most likely missed warning signs earlier on that would have helped you to spot this potential encounter ahead of time and take the appropriate steps to avoid confrontation in the first place. Good awareness skills are vital and if performed well, this decision will be required far fewer times than you think.

However, we are where we are and so we must make the right decision.

In a confrontation we really have 4 options on how we can proceed.

Comply – Give the attacker everything they ask for.

Diffuse – Talk the situation down or perhaps talk your way out of the situation rationally and calmly.

Escape – Run away at the first opportunity – possibly after employing an aggressive fence.

Physical – Start hitting – possibly after employing a submissive fence, asking a question, engaging the attackers brain (what there is of it) and then knocking him out.

Which of the latter two options we take will depend on a variety of factors and logical decisions such as:-

Your legal position and what you are allowed to do in the situation that fits within the law.
Your own ability and being honestly aware of what you are capable of physically.
Your environment, who is around who can help or hinder your chances of success.
The level of threat you are facing.
What you stand to lose, who or what are you protecting.

The list could go on, and in another article I will elaborate more on how we can deal with a lot of these issues ahead of time so that we have less decisions to make should the time arise and more clarity of thought when we need it most.

These are all logical questions and decisions that all have a bearing on how you should act and the route you should take when choosing Submissive or Aggressive.

One thing which often gets missed however is this...

When we talk about being pre-emptive, we mean being first with our physical punch. Hitting first in order to defend ourselves as efficiently as possible.
The danger is, that if I stand in front of someone who is about to attack me and I decide to hit first for any reason other than it being my absolute last resort, then I am in danger of becoming the bully that I am trying to protect myself from.

To choose to hit first before employing every other option is to make the assumption that the person in front of you is less skilled than you and going to be vulnerable to your punch.

If, for example, I was to stand in front of a group of attackers, knowing full well that I don’t stand a chance if the fight kicks off, you can rest assured I’m going to try every tactic under the sun to avoid physical confrontation with this crowd. Using an Aggressive Fence could afford me the option to defeat or escape this crowd without having to go physical.

I would only become physical as an absolute last resort. If I thought that no other course of action was going to have the desired effect.

It is with this same mentality that I would argue you should approach a lone attacker.
To hit first before you have exhausted the other options, or before you have reconciled that none of those options are going to work, is to become the bully.

To clarify. If I believed that becoming aggressive and posturing and ballooning against a single attacker would actually work, but I choose not to use this strategy and instead start punching, then I am the bully.

Don’t get me wrong, I am totally in favour and in fact, a massive advocate of hitting first. To employ anything less in your physical strategy is to open the door for personal attack and possible defeat.
However, what I am also saying is that this strategy must still be your last resort.

So in a nutshell, your decision to choose either a Submissive or Aggressive Fence should be governed by a whole host of logical factors. It should also be a gut instinct and an intuitive decision based on the situation as it happens.

And remember, not only are you answerable to the law, you also have to answer to yourself.

Stay Safe & Have Fun
Al x

Thursday, 5 November 2009


When I started my martial arts journey in Shotokan Karate, at the age of 12, one of the things I remember being a large part of my training was Balance.
I remember the repetition of front leg kicks whilst standing perfectly still and poised on one leg.
Slowly raising alternate legs until my knee was above waist height and then, with as much control as possible, extending my kicking leg out in front and pushing my hips forward for more reach and powerFinally, holding my leg fully extended for what seemed like a thigh burning eternity, and then retracting at the same steady speed and finally coming to rest, both feet together.
This simple and basic, static drill, developed many attributes. It broke the kicking technique down to it’s constituent parts so that I could hone each stage of the kicking process and then smoothly blend those stages back together once perfected.It increased my strength and muscular control, and aided my flexibility so that I could perform all of those high flashy kicks I so desperately wanted to be able to show off.
What it also taught was Balance. The ability to simply stand, stationary, without bouncing or shuffling around whilst I raised, kicked and lowered my other leg.It taught me how to focus and maintain good posture during this balancing act, which is paramount if you than want to take this technique into other aspects of the art.
We repeated this drill many times and worked it with the primary range of kicks the art contained. Front snap kicks, side thrust kicks, reverse thrust kicks, and front roundhouse kicks.
With each technique, balance became the primary goal; to be able to stand there completely still and in perfect balance whilst delivering and demonstrating each kick.
However, Balance has a much bigger part to play in Martial Arts and in life, than simply being able to physically balance yourself on one leg.
At the next stage we can look at how well we balance our training, with a well proportioned mix of heavy sparring, pressure testing, soft training, fitness training, technique and art training, solitary training, partner training, the list goes on.
In addition, we can also strive to achieve a balance with our training that incorporates research, reading, watching instructional DVDs, training with different instructors, seminar and class training.
From this we can start to cross train and get a balance with various sports and activities that all come together to supplement our ultimate goal. Mixing activities such as weight training, or gymnastic training with our martial arts, all geared towards improving our overall game.
And yet, the application for balance goes even further than this.
A book I read recently talks about having a Life Balance. In it, the author explained how we should all have a balance in our lives of Work, Rest, Play, Family/Relationships and Charity.
We should put back into society what we take out and at the same time have a balance of personal time and time for friends and family and relationships.
How you balance that is a personal journey.
Some people may be able to combine some of these so that perhaps your work is actually your personal fun/hobby time. Perhaps you work is also your charity and your route for tithing and giving something back.
Getting a good life balance is crucial if you want to be both successful but also be healthy and leading a full life.
A life that affords you the successes you desire without being detrimental to you or anyone else .
It’s interesting how this requirement for balance also then applies into our Personal Security strategies.
On the Women’s Self Defence days that I hold around the country, I talk a lot about awareness and assessment. The main emphasis however, is not just being aware of the bad things. When I show someone how to become more switched on, I teach them how to look for good as well as bad, safe as well as dangerous and places to move towards as well as places to avoid.It’s very important to keep a balanced approach to your personal security.
When I’m walking around I’m making note of people who might be a threat and also people who may be able to help me. I look for places that I should avoid, such as dark alleyways and lonely footpaths, and places that I could run to, such as busy shops.
By keeping this balanced outlook, not only do I afford myself a complete and comprehensive personal security strategy, I also stop seeing the world as completely negative. I find that I can spot far more positive, good things in my awareness drills than I do bad.
This balanced approach also then means that my level of security is more balanced and more appropriate for whatever situation I am in. The result is I am less likely to be paranoid, locking myself away in order to keep myself safe, but also less likely to be caught off-guard and unaware. I can lead a more fulfilling life with a more balanced outlook and approach.

Switched Off!!! A Little Too Overcautious???

So, from a basic martial arts drill that saw me standing steadily on one foot, I have been able to take that concept and apply it at many levels. A quite simple notion of balance can have massive effect on my martial arts training, my personal security and in fact, my whole life.
A final thought.

"When you are balanced, you are more difficult to knock over. This applies to attacks from your training partner and the kicks and punches that life can throw at you."
Al Peasland
So - Get In Balance!

Stay Safe and Have Fun
Al x