Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Looking the Fool

The Road Not Taken - by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear

Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.


I’ve started my article with this poem because I think, one of the views of this poem ties in with the theme for this article.
Some have said that, one point Robert Frost was trying to make with this poem was that, when he chose to take the path that was less trodden (more grassy and wanted wear) he was simply taking the decision not to follow the crowd. To not worry what everyone else would say, suggest or think about his decision to go in a different direction to them.

As I sat in the gym the other day, gasping for air after my first set of Push-up – Burpee – Shoulder Press combinations, I glanced at a whiteboard that had been erected in a corner of the gym to record times and scores for a variety of challenges.
As someone had cleverly removed all oxygen from the gym at that time, I was able to spend quite a few minutes whilst gulping in chest aching amounts of in-effective air, to make some observations on the times that had been posted for one particular endurance concept rower challenge.
What impressed me was that there was a wide range of times posted on the board, by various individuals in the gym and, quite clearly, those with the relatively poor times were still prepared to post their names for all to see.

It was quite a refreshing sight and one that made me pay more attention to other activities around the gym.

I point out that this pondering and musing wasn’t just to gain more valuable minutes of recovery time before my next set of killer burpees, honestly!

My observations then moved on to spotting certain individuals who I have noted, return to the gym to carry out the same exercises day in and day out, never varying their routine and only performing the weight lifting feats that are obviously their favourite and the ones that they can impress the other gym-goers with.

I’m sure we’ve all fallen into the trap at one time or another where we avoid the pull-up bar when the gym is busy as we know we can only heave out a disappointing and possibly embarrassing two or three complete reps. Or we favour the benchpress that we’ve been mastering for years and wow the onlookers by lifting up weights that are heavier than small planets.

These two observations couldn’t be farther apart.

On one hand we have people prepared to post their name against a time for all to see, that is most likely the best they can do but in a different league to their competition. Then we have the individuals who will only experiment with their least favourite exercises when no-one else is watching.

I would suggest that the issue here is something of an ego battle that doesn’t want us to look the fool.
“Looking the fool” may be a bit harsh I agree, but my point is this.
The moment we become concerned with what others may think of us in the gym, is the moment we stop learning and stop growing.

I have written in the past about going back to being a white belt in a new martial art and the message is the same. The moment the 5th Dan is not prepared to don a crisp new white belt and get on the mat in a completely new club, with a completely new system and then get thrown around, tapping more times than Michael Flatley, is the moment we stop learning.

If you are terrible at pull-ups and you worry about what people will think of you when you try and fail, then you will never jump up and grab the bar. If you never grab the bar you’ll never get good at it and this applies to everything.

In order to learn, we have to be prepared to fail, and in addition, we have to be prepared to allow others to watch us fail.
NB: I will write more about this in the future as Failure doesn’t actually play a part in the learning process in my opinion

I think this message can be carried – assuming you can lift the weight of course – out of the gym and into every other aspect of our lives.

The moment you worry about what other people think is the moment you will stop doing anything for yourself. You will stop trying new things, you will stop living your own life and you will become a puppet of those around you.

Gertrude Stein said, "let me listen to me and not to them."

The irony is that those around you are too busy getting on with their own lives and worrying what others are thinking of them to really be caring about what you are doing and looking like anyway.
So I say, jump up, grab the bar and give it a go. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be reaching the reps, the times, the scores you aspire to. Letting your perception of what others may think of your initial attempts is just as bad as having them hanging on your legs and stopping you from reaching your dreams.

So if you ever get the feeling that you might look the fool, or you won’t live up to what people expect of you, that is the time to do it. That is the best challenge you can find as the progress in the given exercise will be a mere by-product. The real benefit will be the battle for self-control won over your own ego that was the only real thing standing in your way in the first place.

Thank you for reading
Stay Safe and Have Fun

Al x

Invest in the Process

Q. Why do we train?
“To be able to lead safer lives”

Q. Why do we want that?
“So we can do the things we want without fear or threats, or at least, with an understanding and an ability to deal with these threats”

Q. What is the benefit of this?
“So we can be happy”


Q. Why do we train?
“So we can get good at something we enjoy”

Q. Why do we want that?
“So we can become great at something and excel”

Q. What is the benefit of this?
“So we can be happy”


Q. Why do we train?
“So we can compete and test ourselves”

Q. Why do we want to do that?
“So we can massage our ego and gain more confidence in ourselves”

Q. What is the benefit of this?
“So we can be happy”

I would guess that, whatever your reason for wanting to study martial arts, your ultimate goal is to be happy.
Regardless of whether you want to be able to protect yourself, be great at a fighting art, win competitions, gather skills to a level where you can share this with others and teach, get fit so you can have more energy and enjoy a full life, join you’re your children in a hobby you can all share, etc etc, all of these reasons ultimately lead you back to wanting to be happy.
And it doesn’t have to be Martial Arts, I would suggest you can apply these same questions and direction of thought to anything you do, or choose to do.
We all want to be happy; the key is understanding what it is that makes us happy, or rather, what it is we should focus on to make us happy.

This article has been inspired by the following clip by Srikumar S. Rao, and this gentleman explains it far more eloquently and intelligently than I ever could, so please invest the next 10 minutes and enjoy this clip.

In this clip, Srikumar explains that we should invest in the Process and not the outcome. It’s about enjoying the journey rather than the destination, something I wrote about a long time ago – linked here…
For me, this mirrors directly back to my martial arts and the journey I have gone through and still continue to go through.
The destination is merely something to give a general direction and goal to instil ambition. But it’s the journey and the process that delivers the instant rewards, the fun and the ingredients for happiness.

This works at whatever level you want to look.
If we consider the overall picture of studying martial arts and the journey of studying different arts, gaining skills, learning new processes and principals, discovering new things, the end goal is achieving a high level of proficiency in those arts, but the process is the learning and practising and drilling of techniques on a daily basis.

If you have fun drilling techniques, if you enjoy training each day, hitting the bag or rolling with a friend, your ultimate success in the arts doesn’t really matter, because you’re having fun anyway.

If we consider the other end of the spectrum where we take it down to a single fight with an opponent on the mat. The end goal and destination being the victory in the fight, but the process, the fun bit, being each and every move at any moment in time. Again, if we find fun in the process of rolling from one technique to the next or pitting our skills at any moment in time against a resisting opponent, we don’t really care about the end result of the fight as we’ve had fun along the way.
We write a lot about being in the Now, investing in the moment or the particular move and position at this exact time. Not looking too far ahead into the future or wasting time reviewing what just happened in the previous move.

By being in the Now, you can enjoy exactly what you are currently doing.

By enjoying the process and gaining pleasure from performing each single move to your best ability, you will never have to worry about the result of the fight. Win or lose you will have had fun along the way as you hadn’t invested in the outcome, just the process.

The real twist here though, is that when you invest in the process; when you spend your time enjoying and having fun in each single move or position or technique, you will start to find a lot more end results go in your favour too.

As a friend of mine recently said, "there are only winners and learners", so enjoy the moment, invest in the process and you’ll have a better recipe for fun and happiness, which is always our ultimate goal.

Thank you for reading
Stay Safe and Have Fun

Al x

Thursday, 31 March 2011

CSP Masterclass - Month 2 Review

Saturday saw the second instalment of our CSP Masterclass “The Arts” Seminar Series

This is a 6 month journey, consisting of one seminar per month, with each month focusing on a specific theme or range of martial arts.

The Masterclass is a closed-door affair, one which I am making sure we enforce in order that the students, who have sacrificed money and a lot of their time to attend, gain the full benefit.

However, I felt compelled to write a short blog on last weekend’s event and share them with you as it was a fantastic session and one which I know has left the 20 or so attendees of the Masterclass, buzzing, enthused and feeling like winners.

Each month we invite a special guest instructor to come along and join the instructor team to share their own area of expertise with the group. This month we were privileged to have our friends Simon Squires and Peter Wilson travel all the way down from Liverpool and Manchester.

Simon, not one to court publicity or celebrity instructor status, has been quietly studying a wide variety of arts for many many years, and amassing a wealth of knowledge in various areas, the most impressive of which is Combatives.

Simon, an instructor under the legendary Dennis Martin, has been teaching Combatives to some of the most impressive professional groups in the world for many years.

This month’s theme was “Reality” and so we wanted to cover a host of arts with the main focus being on the “reality” elements and what works for the street. Simon brought with him his trusted paddy assailant suit, heavily modified to take the beatings of seriously determined defendants.

Whilst I cannot go into the process or the finite details of what we covered during the day’s session, the culmination was each of our students who were fit and healthy to do so, entered into a violent confrontation with Simon in his padded suit. The students were all put under pressure, exposed to real adrenalin and fear, and then allowed to do whatever they needed to in order to survive and overcome the assailant.

Simon, with years of experience and mastery of this type of training, carefully brought the best out of each and every student.

As we later discussed, it’s a very fine line, putting your students through stressful and high pressure training scenarios in order to expose them to the feelings and realities of violent encounters, whilst not going too far and breaking them, physically or mentally. It takes great care, compassion and skill to push a student farther than they think they can go, and yet not too far as to damage them or set them back on their journey of self discovery and self belief.

What I like about Simon more than anything else, is his honesty towards Martial Arts and Self Defence – the two being linked but separate at the same time. From my own Animal Day experiences, this training was a great reminder of what we all need to include in our Martial Arts if we dare to promote what we teach as a form of Self Defence.

There needs to be pressure, there needs to be a threat of danger or injury or pain. There needs to be physical adversity and there needs to be consequence for not performing to your best. However, at the same time, there needs to be an underlying safety, a caring and controlling instructor who can encourage and facilitate growth, and a feeling of success and self-belief at the end.

This is what we did many years ago with our Animal Day Sessions, the only difference being both sides of the encounter were undergoing the same pressure and fear as we didn’t have the benefit of the passes suits. It was basically a fight with little protection, without rounds, and only stopping when one party was unconscious, unable to continue due to injury or submitting. It was brutal, honest and exposed our weaknesses in technique, fighting strategy and mental toughness.

Once you expose weakness, then you can repair it, and strengthen it, and this is exactly what Animal Days did.

As I cannot show you any of the fight footage from the Masterclass, I thought I’d share a few snippets of some very old Animal Day footage. It’s quite primitive, quite basic, lacks a lot of technique…….. and is Honest and Real and very commensurate with the reality of a fight on the street that has gone on past the first couple of punches.

It also shows self control, cognitive thinking under extreme pressure, and a respect for a partner who you are still trying to beat.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Simon and Peter, once again, for their support and contribution to the Masterclass series and also their time and support of everything we are doing at CSP.

I would also like to congratulate everyone who attended both the Masterclass and the CSP Sunday Morning class in Coventry. We were all extremely impressed with every single person’s efforts and abilities. The determination, the courage and the heart of everyone who entered the arena was outstanding – you should all be very proud of yourselves – Well Done

And to quote Mr Tully…. “Now tell me Martial Arts doesn’t change lives for the better!”

Stay Safe and Have Fun

Al Peasland Personal Safety Expert

Sian O'Callaghan - Lessons for us all

On Saturday 18th March, 22 year old Sian O’Callaghan goes out for a night out with friends

On Sunday 19th March at 2:52 am, Sian is filmed on CCTV leaving the nightclub to walk the half mile route home.

Sian was not seen again until 24th March, when her body was found after a suspect, who had been arrested, offered information as to her whereabouts.

At the point of writing this article, facts about what happened to Sian are still very limited and so we can only surmise as to what happened after she left the nightclub. However, having spent many years working on the front line of nightclub security, and having witnessed countless lone females leaving the various clubs and pubs that I worked, on their own, late at night and accepting lifts from waiting taxis and cabs, this incident highlights parallels of events that happen almost every weekend at almost every nightclub.

Below are some basic self defence tips that I offer to women and men when we’re talking about personal security / self defence when travelling on public transport or in taxis, cabs, etc

- Walk facing traffic – help prevent vehicles from slowly approaching from behind

- If a car stops, don’t approach – use your voice - Never accept lifts from strangers or those professing to be taxi drivers

- Only use pre-booked taxi drivers

- If taken home at night, ask driver to watch until you are inside

- Most taxi companies will text you the colour, make, model of the taxi you should expect – they can even give you the registration and name of the driver

- If a different taxi arrives, call the head office, don’t just assume it was an innocent change of driver and vehicle

It’s worth noting at this point though that we generally have the premise that taxi drivers are safe, honest and trustworthy, and especially if you are a lone female, helpful and considerate in ensuring you feel comfortable in their car and arrive home safely. Sadly, it would seem, judging by the limited facts published at the time of writing this article, this is not the case in the story of Sian O’Callaghan, who went missing on her way home from a night out, and was found murdered the days later, with a taxi driver being the primary suspect.

If we are to make some assumptions at this time, it is looking highly likely that Sian, who was last seen walking away from the nightclub, only about half a mile from her home, either chose to get into the taxi or was abducted by the taxi driver.

If she accepted the lift willingly from the taxi then we must use this as an opportunity to remind people that it is firstly illegal to flag down private hire cabs, and secondly, that it is not good personal security to accept lifts from taxis and cabs that you have not pre-booked. If Sian was more forcibly abducted by the driver then some of the other basic points about personal security on foot are more important.

Those of being aware of your surroundings, ensuring you walk facing the traffic, you don’t accept lifts and you don’t allow yourself to be goaded and drawn near to the vehicle. Often attackers will use dialogue and questions to attract your attention, asking you for directions to draw you closer to the vehicle so that they can grab hold of you.

Vehicles may actually drive past you several times in order to assess your awareness and how alert you are to their presence, in order that they maintain the element of surprise when the make their move.

It’s with a heavy heart that I have used this very real, very sad, and very current case to highlight these points and it is wrong to criticise poor Sian in her actions that evening. However, we can all learn from these events and we can all work harder and take more precautions with our own personal security so that we do not make it easy for these vicious murderers to carry out their despicable actions.

- When on a night out, ensure you are in familiar, and sensible company.

- Never walk home alone, even when it is only a short distance away (we often allow our guard to drop the closer we are to our home as the surroundings become more and more familiar)

- Never accept lifts from strangers, taxis or cabs that you have not pre-booked

- Never allow a stranger to befriend and accompany you on your journey, even if they seem like a good Samaritan

- Always pre-arrange your transport home

- Ask the driver to wait until you are safely in your home

- If you are in a cab and feeling nervous or uncomfortable, then ask them to stop at the next well populated area, or somewhere you know you can gain attention from others (asking to stop at a petrol station for money or cigarettes is a good ploy)

- Make sure someone knows where you are going, when to expect you back and how to contact you while you are out

- Have emergency numbers set to speed dial on your mobile – ensure it is well charged

- If you are being followed, walk more confidently and try to gain more distance between them and yourself, (only run when out of sight as it can indicate you are panicked and scared and will encourage them they have found the right victim)

- Know you limits – Alcohol can impair your judgement and rational thinking and is the most common date rape drug

Sadly, whilst we should be able to trust taxi drivers and others in positions of responsibility, we are ultimately still responsible for our own personal security and must always remain aware and alert to anything which could pose a threat to our safety. Whilst the taxi company in question have commented that they do their very best to ensure their passengers are safe, with all the good measures such as texting the car reg, etc – perhaps more should still be done in vetting their drivers.

But even that may not be enough if the person responsible for this crime has a clean record or has never been caught of any previous criminal activity.

And this is even more reason that we should always take the very best, the very safest, and the most sensible care ofourselves. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sian O’Callaghan’s friends, family and loved ones.

RIP Sian.

Stay Safe

Al Peasland

Personal Safety Expert

What They Don't Know

“Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.”

Sometimes we may not know we have received a gift until much later on!

A short while ago, Lou and I were enjoying a wonderful meal with a couple of friends, and for some reason we got round to a lovely, heart warming subject.

We were talking about going out as teenagers, the things we used to get up to and the times we would come home a little later than promised. Our friend said she never realised it at the time but whenever she arrived home in the early ours of the morning, her father would just ‘happen to be up’, and in the kitchen, making himself a drink.

You know how it is in the middle of the night, when you wake up with a thirst and you can’t wait until the morning so you take yourself downstairs to the kitchen for a glass of water or something a little warmer.

And just by pure coincidence, this would happen whenever his daughter was arriving home, so that he would just happen to be in the kitchen when she came through the door. Nothing particularly would be said, just a “Hi Dad, I’m home” “Hi hun, did you have a nice time?” And then off to bed.

Obviously, looking back on this as we chatted, it was clear to see that her father was just making sure his precious daughter was ok and home safe and sound, but without all the fuss of “where have you been until this time”, or “how did you get home”. The usual, and understandable, worried parent questions.

It was a lovely story that made you feel warm inside that our friend had never realised during her teenage years that this is what her father was doing. Almost a secret act that his daughter never realised, but one day would and when she did, she too felt warm inside and very loved. So we sat there and I’m sure we all started to think at the other things our parents had done for us, consciously or without thought, that would only become apparent many years later. A kind of secret treasure that we would unearth as our own knowledge and wisdom grew to give us the right tools to dig up this bounty.

Now, this isn’t an article on parenting, and so I won’t end the article here by asking you to look at what you are doing now that you can leave as pure gold for your offspring to find in later years. I am a martial arts instructor and so for me, this lesson draws a huge parallel with my job and role as an instructor to my own students and those I train with.

When I look back on my early years in the world of martial arts, I trained in a fiercely tough Karate club run by the legendary Geoff Thompson. As a young and impressionable 12 year old I had no idea that this was anything different to your run of the mill clubs, and so the hard sparring, the broken bones, the nose bleeds, the blistered feet and the continual ache in your gut from fear and anxiety of the next session, just seemed par for the course. However, as the first few years passed by, the toughness of the training I was undergoing didn’t cease. In fact it grew more and more as the years passed up to the age of 15/16, the training, quite literally, became brutal. We would fight for hours and most sessions wouldn’t pass without someone being knocked out, and usually that was me and often at the hands of my instructor. Sometimes it felt like I was being bullied or that I had done something wrong, but only partially. There was always something deep inside that kept the trust with my mentor and my guide, and the faith that this would all be worthwhile. The hard sparring, the punishing rounds, the leg crumbling workouts, all seemed like “extra special treatment”.

And then, without actually realising it, there became a shift in my training. A step change that saw me going from the one being knocked out continually, to the one holding his own with grown men, far stronger than me. I became hardy, robust and battle hardened. Handling my fears became a fun challenge and no longer something that crippled me and held me back. I became confident and self-aware, an understanding of myself that allowed me to take on anything. I was starting to unearth the treasure!

It was years later, working as a nightclub doorman on the troublesome doors of Coventry City pubs and clubs that several punches in the head from an 18 stone, 400lb bench-pressing goliath finally brought to the surface my beautiful bounty. The fact that I remained on my feet, weathered the storm and turned the altercation around to a victorious conclusion, unlocked the box to my sparkling secret treasure that had been carefully, intelligently and lovingly imparted and hidden away those years before. What I didn’t know at the time, my instructor knew completely.

What I struggled to accept and questioned at the time, my instructor proceeded regardless, confident and certain of the value of the gold he was offering and with faith that one day I would unearth it. Unearth it I certainly did, and so I continue to do so, almost every day. A secret gift that has carried me through many situations, both physical and mental and a bottomless well of treasure that I trust will be there whenever I have to dip my pale to draw out some more “tough” currency.

So now, as an instructor myself, it is my turn to hand over some secret treasure. Something that my students may not appreciate or grasp until they are further down their own path. As I’ve mentioned in many articles before. It is no accident that I teach classes early on Saturday and Sunday mornings and it is no accident that I don’t divulge everything we are going to be doing on an approaching grading. Nor is it an oversight that I only ask my students to do what I’ve done and can do and it should be no shock that I am always honest with my own beliefs and opinions on what I teach, the arts and self defence. It would however, be wrong of me, and perhaps a “Marty McFly” moment, in danger of altering the future, if I was to highlight all of the things I now do for my own students What They, perhaps, Don’t Know. But rest assured, I am doing them and they will become apparent in years to come and I hope they remember to look back on this article then!

Stay Safe and Have Fun

Al x

Monday, 21 March 2011

Casey Heynes - Bullied Fights Back - PART 3

If you find the following blog of interest - why not take a look at my website. Lots of articles, and information about Personal Safety and Self Defence - Al Peasland, 5th Dan British Combat Association

As a final follow up to my previous two blogs on the Casey Heynes bullying story, I wanted to highlight a few of the points that Casey, so articulately put in his recent interview.

I’ve also posted a video blog of the event, pulling out a couple of points around the act of Self Defence in this situation and how the bullying has most likely gone on for some time leading up to this event. It would seem, judging by Casey’s comments, that we were correct in making that assumption.

So, here goes….

Casey says the bullying has been going on for several years, on a daily basis (at least 4 years during his high school). This was also corroborated by a friend of Casey’s family who kindly took the time to message me via Facebook.

This just confirms our initial assumption that these types of event don’t just happen, there will be lots of bullying and intimidation that will lead up to physical confrontation such as this, usually escalating in magnitude and severity.

The particular bully in the clip had allegedly been involved for the past couple of weeks, starting with teasing and some slapping, until it reached this level of violence.

This is classic “Target Selection” that happens, not only in bullying, but in the vast majority of violent crime, assaults, muggings, street robbery, etc.
Muggers, attackers and bullies are usually quite cowardly and won’t attack someone who they think will retaliate or has the ability to beat them. That wouldn’t make sense and wouldn’t be good for ‘business’. So instead, they “test” their potential victim. In street crime this can be simply to walk past their victim several times to assess if they are switched on or day dreaming and unaware that they are being observed.
Sometimes this can be to ask questions and conduct ‘interviews’ in the street in order to assess their victim’s reactions and state of awareness.
In bullying it starts at a lower level, verbal abuse or psychological intimidation, in order to test whether they have found a suitable victim to continue bullying.
This is why it really helps to be assertive, and take a stand early on before it escalates to a situation where your options are limited and possibly only left with using a violent response.

Casey says in his interview that he didn’t react to the teasing and intimidation, and he believes this is why it continued.

Casey also says that his friends had slowly dissociated themselves from him when the bullying started. A sad fact but one which is worth noting as, his friends will have acted in order to protect themselves from being bullied too. I say “friends” in the loosest possible way, as good friends would stick together, but it shows how groups of individuals can often still think as individuals and take any threats of bullying personally, without being able to step back and consider that sticking together will create safety in numbers and possibly prevent bullying from continuing in the first place.
This is another good course of action during the initial stages of bullying. When it starts, stick together and it will help to prevent it from escalating.

Casey also confirmed that, it was probably because he was now alone, that they continued to pick on him. The bullies had effectively separated out their prey, isolated the one who was proven to ‘not retaliate’ and removed all chances of support and back-up for their victim.

What I have also talked about in my video blog is the act of Self Defence.
Casey states that he acted in Self Defence, and this is something that others have questioned.
I agree, looking at the video from the comfort of our safe homes, we can see other, less aggressive, courses of action that Casey could have taken. Equally, as we have a legal duty to escape at the earliest opportunity if we wish to claim self defence, we could argue that Casey should have run away, pushed his bully back to create some space, or shouted for help; anything rather than picking him up and slamming him to the ground.
However, we have to consider a few things here.

Casey will have been extremely scared, and with adrenalin comes fear and irrational thinking. He may not have even realised there were other options open to him, and we have to take this into account when we sit and judge his actions.
He actually states that “he snapped”, indicating he was no longer acting rationally.
Also, we have to consider Context, as I have mentioned before. Context means, not only do we have to look at the situation played out in the video, but the surrounding factors such as Casey may be acting to prevent further assault or increased severity of violence in the future.
We’ve already seen how, by not retaliating in early, less violent, events, Casey has confirmed to his bullies he is a good choice of victim, and so their bullying campaign continued and escalated. So, Casey knew that, unless he did something different, things would only continue to get worse. This, in my opinion, is good self defence!

What’s also interesting is that Casey says, it all happened really quickly. “He came out of nowhere”
This is a classic statement made by victims of muggings, and street crime the world over. All too often we let our guard down and our awareness slips to allow attackers the opportunity to strike. The element of surprise works in both war and on the street in violent crime. And, when an attacker does surprise you and “comes out of nowhere” you are often then left in a momentary “freeze” state, unable to logically process the situation and your options, and always, your options will be drastically reduced to what they would have been had you noticed the event sooner.

Staying aware means you spot potential attack earlier, leaving you more options on how to react and avoid the confrontation.

What was saddest of all was that Casey says he had contemplated suicide when the bullying was at its worst. To hear that from any child is awful and means we need to look at ALL options on how we can stamp out bullying and not just the views of those at either end of the spectrum.

I’d like to thank Casey and his bullies for giving us all this video to bring to the fore the world of bullying, and highlighting this as an issue that needs to be addressed.
I’d like to congratulate Casey on handling the situation extremely well and also for the way in which he has handled this explosion of media interest.
I thought he interviewed brilliantly and came across as very articulate, intelligent and a gentle human being.

I’ll end my blog with his final comments that
“School won’t last forever”
Everything will end, just stick at it and it will end, even if it feels like it won’t.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have found something of interest in my blogs and look forward to posting more on these and many other subjects around personal safety and self defence in the very near future.

Stay Safe and Have Fun


Personal Safety Expert

As a footnote to this and to keep a balance, I thought I'd include the interview of Ritchard Gale (Casey's bully)

Fence Concepts DVD - the most effective self defence tool to manage confrontation!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Casey Heynes - Bullied Fights Back - PART2

If you find this blog of interest, feel free to take a look at my website where I have lots more articles, products and information on Personal Safety and Self Defence. Al Peasland - 5th Dan British Combat Association.

Following alot of feedback from my latest blog around the viral video of Casey Heynes and his bully, Richard Gale, I thought I’d post a brief follow-up to answer a few comments, and give some more analysis on the event.
Also, as it’s National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence tomorrow, I thought It’d be a good opportunity to create a Part 2 of the blog post


Jeremy Vine Show – 17th March – BBC Radio 2 – listen to it here...

Listening to the Jeremy Vine show today on BBC Radio 2, I was a little bemused by the comments of Christine Pratt, who had been brought onto the show as an “expert” on anti-bullying and founder of the National Bullying Helpline.

A very worthy cause, and one which I am happy to link here...

One comment she made however, is something I’d like to challenge
During the interview she said something to the effect of “not advocating any type of violence as a response to bullying”.

When pressed, she offered the following suggestions as to how Casey should have responded and acted in the situation we have all seen on the video.

This has been taken from the National Bullying helpline website and I will happily remove it from my blog if permission to include it here is denied.
If you believe you are being bullied, it's Cool to CRI
1. Confront the Bully. Tell the Bully to stop. Tell the Bully how you feel. Remember, Bullies bully because they can – so don't let them.
2. Record the Bullying. Keep a log of the Bullying. Start a diary. Keep a record.
3. Inform someone. Tell a responsible person. Tell a Teacher. Tell an adult.
Basically ,she said Casey should have followed the strategies of CRI, which firstly requires him to Confront and then Record. However, Confront does not mean body slam his bully to the floor.

Whilst I agree with this advice during the on-set of bullying behaviour, I think we can all see that this particular situation has gone way past the, discussion and reasoning phase.

Encouraging the bullies to see the error of their ways through rational discussion and statements that inform them of just how the bullying makes you feel, is hardly going to stop the kid from punching the bullied in the face.

These steps need to happen very early on, after all, most bullying is systematic, prolonged and progressive.

She did say that there is one condition that could allow the use of violence as a response and that is a self defence situation. However, having read something that my good friend Marc MacYoung has written, I have to suggest that this wasn’t a full blown self defence situation.

Ok, so let me clarify all of this.

Firstly, when I teach self defence, the primary option of the defendant is to escape, and the sooner they can do this the better.

Based on this fact, Casey could have pushed his aggressor away and ran off, making his escape and staying safe.


However, one huge factor in “Self Defence” is CONTEXT

Context means to look at not only the threat, and the environment, but also the context in which it is all happening.

If this had been an incident between two individuals who had only just bumped into each other and were highly likely to never meet again, then the context would allow for the likes of Casey to make a sharp exit.

However, as we can all see, the context here is that of a school, where the kids involved most likely all go to the same school. They are going to see each other every day, the aggressor is most likely to have a large following, the victim is highly likely to have had a prolonged period of bullying that has slowly escalated to events of this magnitude.

This context means that, whilst Casey running away would solve his immediate self defence problem, it would most definitely not do anything to halt the bullying. In fact, based on my own experience, actions such as this are only going to help escalate the levels of bullying in the future. ‘Casey is now a victim, he won’t fight back and is easy pickings for any bully.’

Of course, Casey could have then gone to get help, reported to an adult, and got the support from his parents. I doubt this would have made much difference!

Lets also look at the aggressor in this event. He is younger and much smaller than his victim. This means he will have had to perform an element of target selection and, as he’s not preying on his victim to rob him, the chances are this selection process has gone on for some time.

It would have started with initial “tests”; verbal abuse, monitoring the responses from his victim; making note how his victim behaves when others are doing the bullying, etc etc

All information gathering to bolster his own confidence before he “bravely” steps forward to start his attack.

This is all a case of vying for position and status in the pack, the aggressor looking to show his strength in his group by picking on a much larger and older adversary.

This event, as Marc MacYoung states, is not Self Defence, and more of a fight. Both individuals have engaged in the fight, whether provoked or not, and one person has come out on top.

The aggressor decided to enter and start the fight in order to gain status in his group. To pick on an easy target that he has probably done many times before – hence his courage to get into the fight.

The victim decided to retaliate as, “enough was enough”. He could have run away but this would not have solved his major problem, that of the continued bullying.

The aggressor was still in the fight when he managed to pick himself back up off the floor, until he realised his leg wasn’t performing quite as it should.

Casey didn’t immediately run away after he had dumped the kid on the floor – implying that he was either in a “freeze” state of fear and adrenalin, or more likely, still “in the fight” and actively deciding what action to take next.

What Casey did was enter into a fight in order to solve a bigger problem. He probably did this without rationally thinking it through, as is understandable under the adrenal state he would most likely have been in.

He took action that some are shocked by, but one which I feel he had no other choice but to do. As I said, running away would only have encouraged his aggressors and bolstered their confidence further.

He also responded in a composed way and did not continue his attack once the threat was neutralised, something we see in a lot of “self defence” class drills.

One final thought is this. Our aggressor has already entered into physical confrontation, which means this is a language he understands and respects. He feels that by physically dominating another individual he is better than them and higher up in the status rankings. If this is his language then the best way to communicate and get your own opinion across is to talk in the same language, and unfortunately that means having to become physical yourself.

Casey Heynes vs Bully by kleksiq

Thank you for reading

A brief clip of the forthcoming exclusive interview

Stay Safe and Have Fun

Al Peasland
Personal Safety Expert

NB: I have now posted a final follow-up to this blog, with some more analysis and feedback from recent comments - CLICK HERE to jump straight to the article http://al-peasland.blogspot.com/2011/03/casey-heynes-bullied-fights-back-part-3.html

Fence Concepts DVD - the most effective self defence tool to manage confrontation!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Casey Heynes - Bullied Fights Back

If you find the following blog of interest - why not take a look at my website. Lots of articles, and information about Personal Safety and Self Defence - Al Peasland, 5th Dan British Combat Association

If you have any presence on Facebook, Twitter, the Internet or any other social networking, you can’t help but to have seen this latest viral video, of a school boy who finally snaps and fights back at his bullies.

In order to look at this video in a little more detail, I first have to express a few comments and assumptions.

We only get to see 40 seconds of this event, which means we can only surmise what has happened in the lead-up to this event both in the previous moments and in the days, weeks and months of torment that it has been reported young Casey has been subjected to.

We also only get a limited view of the scene, and so it’s difficult to appreciate what else is happening around the two who are the focus of the video. What support the younger, smaller bully has with him (clearly he has one person who’s helping to film the event) and towards the end of the video, a larger, older lad steps in to confront Casey, and actually starts to follow him as the video ends.

Finally, I also don’t feel comfortable using this video as a way of analysing how our victim could have applied better self defence techniques and better confrontation management strategies to protect himself against the abuse and the assault that he was subjected to. He was clearly feeling intimidated, clearly trying not to fight back and only defend himself and probably in quite a lot of emotion distress.

As a bullied child myself, being bullied all the way up to the age of 15, I can totally understand and relate to how Casey will have felt, both during, in the days, weeks, and months leading up to, and after this event.

We can only speculate that this won’t have been the first time Casey had been confronted in this way, especially for a younger and smaller boy to be doing the intimidating, it’s clear he would not have been doing this unless he thought he would get away with it and wouldn’t receive any retaliation.

Casey Heynes vs Bully by kleksiq

So, lets examine the footage without being critical of what either party have done.

Casey has his back to the wall. Not always a great place to be in terms of options to escape, but if he was faced with several members of a group, and we can assume our attacker isn’t alone here, then putting your back to the wall at least reduces the angles that you can be attacked.

Casey actually has his hands out in front of him, which is as we always recommend with Fence strategies, however, our attacker is still allowed to get close enough to grab hold and then punch.

This illustrates that when you are in a confrontation and you know it is aggressive, your Fence needs to be far more controlling and less passive if it is going to have any effect.

What this also shows me is just how, regardless of size, strength or ability, we can all adopt a victim and passive mindset when we allow feelings of intimidation and fear to take control. Again, this is no criticism of Casey, just a statement of how we should all understand that the most effective part of our self defence strategy starts with our mind-set, not our physical prowess.

After the first punch has landed, Casey then becomes more pro-active in stopping further assaults.
The point to note here is that Casey manages to block the next attempted right hook to his face, and some may use this as justification for using blocks as effective self defence. Unfortunately, whilst the block may have prevented further attacks, it did nothing to stop the assault from continuing. It did not remove the threat, nor did it improve the safety of the victim. Blocks don’t work when we are dealing with real self defence, at best, they merely reduce the damage you may receive at any moment in time, but will very rarely remove the threat. Attack is the best way to take control of a confrontation and fighting back is the only way to prevent further attack, when you have exhausted all other options such as escape, or verbal dissuasion, etc.

What happens next is a fantastic show of superior strength from Casey, who simply charges in, grabs our attacker, picks him up and slams him on the ground.

Whilst this may look quite violent and extreme, lets consider for a moment that Casey didn’t hit back, nor did he slam the attacker onto the low wall behind him or dump him on his head. These and many other options could have resulted in far worse injury for our attacker. Whether this was a conscious decision by Casey, displaying a cool presence of mind to choose a course of action that would stop the attacker without really hurting him, or whether this was pure luck during his instinctive reaction, we shall probably never know. Either way, our attacker here was very luck not to receive far worse injury.

Casey then steps back away and monitors the situation.

Something to be applauded and a lesson for anyone who teaches self defence with combinations that show the victim throwing an assailant to the ground and then finishing them off with blows or kicks to the head. The first bit is self defence, but the finishing blows can then become assault.

When I teach self defence I always talk about escaping at the earliest opportunity, so if the situation progressed to this stage, the defendant should have ran away the moment the aggressor was on the ground.

However, situations such as these can become complicated, especially when you know your attackers and may have to face them again on a daily basis. Sometimes, when you turn the tables such as this, you have to stand your ground and remain at the scene to back up your actions with lots of verbal and posturing to ensure anyone else thinking of taking the bullying helm, are deterred and left to ponder how it will feel if the same things happens to them.

What we see here though is the victim still being in a state of fear, adrenal dump and shock. He is focused on the attacker who is now climbing back to his wobbly feet, and not really paying much attention to the rest of his surroundings, including the taller lad who then steps forward to face him.

This, again, is a classic case of in-fight fear and adrenalin. Casey has not yet got to the stage where the fight is over, and so is still in a heightened state of awareness but has become target focused.

Fortunately another bystander pushes the taller lad back, but as we see, at the end of this video, the taller lad moves around her and follows Casey down the corridor.

When we have fights with people we know or in environments where we frequent or have no option to return to, such as school, places of work, streets near our homes, etc, fights such as this are never over just because this single altercation has ended.

What happens next is our victim (and I still call him the victim as he was the one being bullied to begin with), will now have massive post fight fear and adrenalin. The fear of what will happen next, the fear of comebacks and retaliation from the bully and his supporters and the fear of punishment from authorities. Often these fears, along with the pre-fight fears that lead up to these events, are far worse, far more damaging and far more personality destroying than the fear you experience during the fight. Often, when pushed to the limit, the body switches into autopilot and it just gets on with the task in hand, not leaving much time to consider the consequences, the dangers, the unknowns.

It’s only when we have time to stop and think that our minds can run away with us and start to create stories that will conjure far greater fears.

I think finally, this also shows how few people are prepared to step in and help in situations such as these. I wonder what our comments would have been if we’d only caught the tail end of this video with the much large lad picking up and throwing a smaller, younger boy. Thankfully we’ve seen more of the story, but we can also wonder if even what we’ve seen here is the full picture!!!

I congratulate Casey in turning this event around and I hope that everyone involved can move forwards, learn from this and lead better lives as a result.

I don’t think we should be watching this kind of thing for enjoyment, but I do think videos such as this are a source of education, not only for school children and teenage bullies, but for us all, as a parallel to more serious violence and self defence principles.

Thank you for reading

NB: I have now posted a follow-up to this blog, with some more analysis and feedback from recent comments - CLICK HERE to jump straight to the article http://al-peasland.blogspot.com/2011/03/casey-heynes-bullied-fights-back-part2.html

Stay Safe and Have Fun

Al Peasland
Personal Safety Expert

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Dedication Requires a Why!

Is there anything you do that you would love to be World Class at?

When you look at others who are clearly at the top of their game, does it make wish you could achieve the same dizzying heights in an arena of your own?

Are you someone who is inspired by others who are in a league of their own at their chosen specialism or does it expose your own feelings of inadequacy, leaving you deflated and unfulfilled?

If you are one of the latter, then I suggest the knowledge of this simple formula will change your perceptions of others who are clearly experts in their own class.
Passion + Dedication = Awesome
Quite simple really, but those three little words, when formed in this way can lead to World Class results and it works like this...

To get good at anything, and I mean really good, then you need to spend a lot of time doing it. Repetition is the key and the magic number of 10,000 hours, or 10,000 repetitions comes into effect if you want to get to a high standard at one particular skill.
However, this effort and this training has to be functional and not just a case of going through the motions. You have to be fully engaged to make every single repetition valuable and of benefit to your overall progress.
The problem is, this takes massive dedication. Huge amounts of selfless commitment and focus in order to stick at it when your mind wanders and your body tires.

Dedication to the task in hand and the ultimate end destination is crucial if you are to aim for expertise and jaw dropping Awesomeness in whatever field you choose.

Dedication isn’t just something you turn on, it’s something that has to be driven from within. The kind of dedication that a World Class level of expertise requires simply cannot be manufactured or falsely engineered, it has to be an internal desire and a limitless will to reach this dream elevation.

Viktor Frankl in “Mans Search for Meaning” says you can suffer any number of How’s if you have one reason Why.

What he meant was, if you have a good enough reason to do something, you will overcome any hurdle that is thrown in your way. Ask a mother who will brave an inferno to race back into a house to save her child. Once you have a big enough reason to do anything, you will be able to push yourself through any hardship to get there; nothing will stand in your way.
Dedication requires a Why!
In this case, the best reason why is to have something that you are passionate about. As an example, take something that you ordinarily do for a hobby. Often, we do hobby’s in our spare time, time which is valuable and which we can choose to spend doing anything we want, and so we choose to do a hobby that is what we would consider the best use of that time.
In addition, we often spend our hard earned money on our hobby, buying equipment or kit, paying for club memberships or licenses, possibly evening travelling far and wide to study and practice our hobby.

This is your passion and this is your reason Why.

So choosing something you are passionate about, such as your favourite hobby, pastime, or sport. These are the most likely areas that you will find a big enough reason Why to dedicate yourself to a level where you can reach expertise and awesomeness.
Passion + Dedication = Awesome
However, I’ll let you into a little secret. I got the formula slighty wrong. It’s not Passion PLUS Dedication, it’s actually Passion TIMES Dedication
Passion x Dedication = Awesome
Once you find something you are truly passionate about and have a dream and an internal desire to be world class at it, then your dedication will be repaid in multiples. You will want to practice your chosen specialism more than there are hours in the day. You will want to live, eat, sleep and breathe your field of expertise.
And with this kind of dedication, you simply cannot fail to get good.

The two clips linked in this article demonstrate my formula in the most impressive of ways.
Both of these professionals are simply at the very top of their game, performing feats that are both awesome and majestic to watch. Things we could only dream of being able to accomplish.
But the key here is, we all CAN accomplish these extremes of skill, if we too share their passion and their dedication to become World Class.

So choose what you want to excel in, and dedicate yourself to it, you’ll be surprised at the results when this little formula starts to kick in.

Thank you for reading
Stay Safe and Have Fun

Al Peasland
Personal Safety Expert

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Gattuso versus Jordan - Fight Analysis

Following some interesting responses to a short video I posted to youtube, I thought I’d add a few more notes in this blog to support the clip.

For those who missed this story in the press a few days ago, the situation basically revolves around a footballer losing his temper with his coach, culminating in a confrontation at the end of the game where the footballer lands a head-butt on his coach’s nose before being pulled away.

What I wanted to do with my clip was not to go into the details of this actual event, who was at fault, the integrity of those involved, etc etc. For one, I am not a massive football fan and so don’t really know any background on anyone pictured in the clips let alone the main two protagonists in the altercation.

My aim is to use this footage merely to highlight some parallels between this incident and the types of violent confrontation that seems to becoming more and more commonplace on UK streets.

So lets get straight into it...

The main situation was preceded by an incident earlier on in the match where Gattuso came face to face with Jordan, and finished by pushing Jordan away by the throat. Again, I don’t know what led up to this incident or who was to blame, but what we can learn from this is as follows:-

Gattuso pushed Jordan away by the throat and then immediately turned and walked away. He did not hang around long enough to risk taking any retaliation from Jordan and he did not back up this single action with further acts of aggression. He was very animated and loud as he walked away, but in my experience, a lot of this is to hide an underlying nerves and lack of willing to continue a fracas that he has just instigated.

What we have to remember in incidents such as these is, often, the player knows he is surrounded by other guys who are likely to jump in and stop any fight before it really gets going. You can even seen a player from the opposing team walk over to Gattuso and try to calm him down. The fact that this player was able to place a hand on Gattuso’s face without him lashing out or knocking the hand away shows that gattuso wasn’t actually in a blind rage or fighting frame of mind, but was already happy to allow others to calm him down.

In addition, because nothing was really done about this action, and certainly nothing physical in return. Psychologically, Gattuso has now gotten away with it, which instills a few values in Gattuso at this point.

1. That Jordan is not likely to fight back and so vulnerable to further abuse – a safe target

2. That the it’s likely no one is going to step in a fight on Jordan’s behalf – he doesn’t have any dangerous backup

3. That those around are more likely to try to step in and calm things down rather than be additional threat – supports a feeling that others are also scared of him

Now we get onto the later incident.

At the end of the match, Gattuso is already spoiling for the argument and it’s no surprises that he heads back towards Jordan, the guy who he got away with being physical with earlier.

Obviously, I point out that I did not watch the match and so am not able to comment on other events that have happened or played a factor in how this final altercation came about.

Once the two guys are face to face we can see a lot of ballooning and posturing by both men, but certainly by Gattuso. This is a classic animalistic approach to try to scare your opponent in order that you can make him back down without actually having to fight him.
Sometimes this is because the aggressor doesn’t want to hurt his victim, but often it’s because the aggressor is actually a little afraid of instigating the physical attack, possibly a result of some self doubt.

I’ve seen this countless times where guys will act tough and aggressive and hope that it is sufficient to scare their target without having to get physical, and usually this is because they are actually afraid that if it does get physical, they may not have the tools to back up their threats.

My next comment is more of an assumption, and that is Gattuso, now surrounded by his teammates, is secretly hoping some of them step in to drag him away before it gets to the stage where he actually has to do something. Unfortunately, they are not as quick as he had hoped and so the situation very quickly moves to a stage where he has to act. The result is a very half hearted head-butt to Jordan’s nose. One which clearly doesn’t cause any harm or damage other than to surprise Jordan a little.

At this stage, we can identify a few areas where Jordan could have done better to protect himself, such as using more of a Fence position to maintain his personal safe space and monitor Gattuso before he threw the head-butt. It shows how vulnerable he was with his hands down by his side, and unable to react quickly enough to defend against this head-butt.

It also shows how fast situations can escalate from initial verbal confrontation, through to posturing and finally through to initial attack. It all happens in just a couple of seconds, leaving very little time to prepare, and defend unless you are observant and able to take necessary steps and precautions earlier in the preceedings.

What also happens next is classic of an aggressive individual who doesn’t really want to fight. The head-butt is delivered, and Gattuso steps back rather than forwards to continue the attack. As soon as the other players grab hold of Gattuso and he knows he is being held away from his target, he then launches into a violent “let me at im” rage.

Again, from personal experience on many occasions, I am fairly confident that if the guys holding Gattuso back suddenly released him, he would have remained there as if held back by an invisible barrier. I’ve seen many a “tough” guy being held back from fighting me and others by their girlfriends who are half their size.

It’s a classic case of the aggressor looking for a way out and an excuse not to have to fight, but still maintain face and appear to be the tough guy.
In both parties, Adrenalin is also running high. Gattuso will have built up his adrenalin in the minutes leading up to this event. Slowly growing the anger, the rage and the courage to start this course of action, which is very similar to attackers on the street who have to build themselves up, often egg’d on by their friends, before they instigate the attack.

Jordan, on the other hand, had a big dump of adrenalin the moment the head-butt landed. It wasn’t hard and certainly wouldn’t have stopped him from fighting back but the rush of adrenalin had more of an effect than the head-butt did. For a second you can see him freeze, with the realisation this had actually happened. Shocked, if you will, before he gathering his thoughts or simply reverted back to instinct and came back at Gattuso.

This is also confirmed by the statements following the event, once everyone had had chance to calm down and assess the career limiting actions that they had taken during the confrontation.
Adrenalin can play funny games with the mind, not least of which, the ability to shut down and bypass cognitive and rational/logical thought processes and revert back to instinctive and primitive decision making. The conscious decision of whether or not this is a good idea, can often be clouded or bypassed completely once Adrenalin has been invited to the party.

Situations such as these can be seen up and down the country on any Friday and Saturday night. Especially with the inclusion of excessive alcohol, we see scenarios played out on every nightclub door across the land.

However, once you start to look below the surface you can start to understand the processes that are at play. The psychology that is happening, even without the knowledge of those involved.
It’s primitive, it’s basic and understanding it can make a difference on how you should act in order to stay safer.

Joe’s first option should have been to avoid the incident completely. Especially after the first incident, he should have removed himself from the situation or had the player removed.

If this wasn’t possible, his next step should have been to notice the build up of aggression in his player and prepare himself for this.

Finally, by positioning himself more safely during the confrontation, by preparing for some kind of attack and having a safer “Fence” position with his own hands and body, he would have been able to take control over the fight without necessarily having to fight or strike back.

Worst case, he could have got the first shot in and ended the confrontation quickly and decisively. After all, if the head-butt had done it’s job, Joe could have been rendered unconscious and so all chances of protecting himself and using self defence would have been made redundant.

I hope this article has been of interest
Thank you for reading

Stay Safe and Have Fun

Al Peasland
Personal Safety Expert

Monday, 21 February 2011

Hero versus Gunman

The Hero versus The Gunman

I read with great interest the latest story of a “have-a-go” hero, thinking nothing of his personal safety, tackling an armed jewellery thief and then slipping away into anonymity before anyone could praise him for his actions.
A great headline story from many aspects, not least because the robber was armed with a handgun and also with an accomplice.

I’m writing this, as an author and self defence specialist, having only read a few newspaper and internet articles and looking at a handful of photographs snapped by an Evening Telegraph reporter who happened to be there at the scene on another job.

Risking Own Safety
Obviously, the main issue is the risk, to his own safety, that this “hero” (lets call him the vigilante for the sake of this article) put himself in, in comparison with the perceived value of the crime he tried to prevent.

Perception of Level of Crime Affects Decision to Intervene
It’s possible the vigilante had no idea what level of crime had been committed, so whilst it’s easy to say he should have not intervened, as risking your life over a handful of gold chains isn’t worth the risk. It’s highly possible that he thought something more serious had taken place, and in fact, this could well have been the case having also heard that the jewellery shop owner also tackled the gunman too.

Perception of Level of Threat (armed or not?)
It’s also quite probably that he had not spotted the weapon held in the gunman’s hand, in which case, he may have considered it more of an even fight between himself and the thief, with a good chance of a successful outcome.

Adrenalin Clouds Rational Thought Process
In addition, as other witnesses have attested to with comments such as “it all happened in seconds”, the vigilante will have been thrust into a self defence situation he may never have been involved in the likes of before, triggering adrenal dump which will have limited his cognitive thought process and resulted in him acting on instincts.

What, to the readers of the subsequent reports may have seen as a dangerous and foolhardy course of action, from their comfortable breakfast tables with coffee in hand, may have seemed perfectly logical and sensible to the vigilante with mass adrenalin coursing through his body.
So, lets assume the vigilante was acting on instinct, under the affects of adrenalin, trying to do his bit to prevent a crime of magnitude that he considered more than just that of theft of a handful of gold, with a thief who he perhaps considered unarmed…. What else could he have done differently?

Well, there are lots of martial arts out there who will show you self defence techniques to disarm gunmen, but sadly, when you go from a safe environment of a sports hall with plastic and wooden handgun replicas and assailants who are compliant and happy to let you practice your technique, to the real world with an aggressive, armed robber who’s in possession of a “real” firearm, those techniques are massively less effective.

Whilst the mechanics of those techniques taught may be perfectly viable, performing them under extreme stress, with the real danger of instant death should you make the slightest mistake, will make them far less effective. And let’s not forget, you only need to mess up once with these types of self defence techniques and you could be dead.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?
So, moving away from any fancy Martial Arts techniques to disarm this robber, what could our vigilante have done better?

Well – it seems he was able to knock the weapon out of the robber’s hand, according to some reports, but the photographs we have seen show him clearly hanging onto the robber by his empty hand – allowing the robber to wave the firearm around and even point it in the vigilante’s general direction.

Who knows why he wasn’t shot as a result? Perhaps the firearm was only a replica, empty or jammed, or perhaps the robber didn’t want to risk escalating a jewellery heist into a murder. Either way, our vigilante was extremely lucky to get away unscathed. (NB: latest reports do suggest the firearm was real)

Neutralise the Immediate Threat - Knock Out the Assailant
In any incident with a weapon, where you have no option but to fight back, your first priority is to neutralise the most immediate threat which, in this case, is the firearm in the robber’s hand.
This should have been the first thing the vigilante went for, if only to prevent it from being discharged in his direction.

Yes, the robber still has his other hand, feet, head, etc, to attack with but priority one is not to get shot.
Whether the weapon is then removed from the robber’s hand, or put under control, the next step is to render the robber unconscious.
In a one on one altercation against an armed assailant, there is no room for applying a citizen’s arrest, or trying to restrain the individual. The robbers need to get away will be far greater than the vigilantes motivation to restrain him and so, often they will break free and this could result in gunshots.

Knocking out or choking out the robber is the only safe course of action in this type of situation, and therefore, you need to assess your own abilities to perform such actions before you consider becoming a vigilante.

Well Done That Man!!
I say congratulations to the vigilante on this occasion. Through his determination, his honourable course of action and a big chunk of good luck, he was able to hamper the escape of an armed robber, long enough for photographs to be taken and evidence to be gathered. He also managed to escape serious injury himself which is of a priority. I believe we are still surrounded by people who will step up when the situation demands it and perform heroic feats such as this and we should applaud anyone who puts themselves in harms way for the protection of others. I think it’s also important, however, to use these types of cases to study violence and human behaviour as much as we can so that we can all learn for the future and better equip ourselves should we be the next potential hero.

Stay Safe and Have Fun

Al Peasland
Personal Safety Expert

Monday, 7 February 2011

Full Circle

Last weekend saw the first seminar of 2011 for myself and CSP, joined by my ever ready teaching partner, Mick Tully.

We were invited up to teach a group of martial artists in Sheffield, at our friend, Michael Keys, Ronin Self Protection Systems, club.

Unfortunately, as fellow martial arts instructors will be all to familiar with, my vehicle tends to take quite a pounding each week. Carrying lots of kit around from one class to another and doing considerable miles at weekends, driving from one end of the country to another teaching on seminars and workshops.
So, it was only inevitable that at some stage we’d have some car troubles on one such journey and this weekend was the one.
It resulted in me having to call out a very nice AA man, who turned up in quick time and spent the next 40, finger freezing minutes, taking my car apart and repairing the problem. The guy was a legend, and we were obviously most grateful for the help.

Mick and I got chatting to our friendly AA man and I’m not sure how we got onto the subject, but we spoke abit about the history of the AA.
He told us that it was formed in 1905 when motorcars were just beginning to appear on roads around the country.
What was fascinating was that the original purpose of the AA was to have employees stood on the roadside and warn motorists who were displaying the AA emblem on their cars, of police speed traps further down the road. The motorist would slow down from 14mph to something more acceptable, and then pass by the policeman, who was probably timing their speed with a calendar and everyone was happy.

As time went on, the AA obviously branched out into other services for their ever growing client base. However, what was even more interesting (well, to me anyway as I knew it would make for a good theme for an article) was that in 2005, the AA went full circle and posted on-line a map of all speed camera locations so as to warn all of their members where speed traps were placed. Apart from the uproar this caused with the Police, it was a classic example of how you never forget your roots and how things often tend to go full circle.

“So”, I hear you ask, “What on earth has this got to do with Martial Arts”.
Well, let me tell you….

When we’d finished the martial arts, we all sat down and spoke a little about what we had covered and how it was just a small part of what we do. I explained how I was a traditional martial artist by trade and the whole “Reality Based” image I seem to have acquired is just an extract from my real passion and beliefs, which is “The Arts”.

I’m sure most people think I’m just a “Reality Based” instructor when in actual fact, I consider myself a “traditional” martial artist.
I have grown up in the traditional arts, working up through the ranks, marching up and down doing technique drills and repetition, performing the prescribed one step sparring and the dance like patterns we know as kata.
These arts are have formed me and shaped me into who I am today. They have given me my solid foundation, upon which I can build almost anything.
What I didn’t do is then move completely into the world of Reality training, all I actually did was teach and train that aspect as a small part of my syllabus.

If I only taught what works outside, my syllabus would be very short and brief and most of that would probably be taught outside of the dojo.
What I do is teach The Arts, the limited few I have experience with and to the best of my ability. From these arts I will highlight what I have found to work outside but I won’t stop at just teaching those parts.
And this is what we were doing at the seminar. Going full circle and introducing people to the arts, with a touch of what works for real and probably a bigger portion of what doesn’t or most likely won’t work as well.

You see, I see martial arts as a language. OK, brace yourself for another one of my analogies here….

When you learn a language you try to gather as much of the vocabulary as you can. Learning as many words and ways to say things as you can so that you can converse at any level, to anyone and in a manner which fits the situation. More importantly, you dive into the structure of the language, understanding the rules and principals of how words should be strung together in order to make the most sense (my article writing is not the best example of that…. Ah, such irony!).

What I may do is also learn a few swear words, for those moments where only a swear word will do. Something that requires a short sharp response that gets straight to the point and exhibits a little more assertiveness and aggression that any other statement simply could deliver.

To me, the structure of the language is the Basics in Martial Arts. The stances, the balance, the posture, the body mechanics, the art of combining techniques, forming long strings of flowing moves.

The vocabulary is the techniques, the moves we learn from different ranges, some long, some short, some which work best when coupled together, some which are fine on their own.

The swear words are the “Reality Based” techniques, the ones which are more appropriate and most effective in violent confrontation.

Swear words, on their own, would make for quite an assertive language. It’s fair to say that people would be quite sure of your intent and attitude when you spoke, however, it does limit your ability to make friends, to converse in a more rational and welcoming way and also limits you in terms of what you can actually communicate.
And even when you’re only swearing, the structure of the language is still quite pertinent in order for you to make some sense and have some effect, just as the basics in your traditional art are vital when you are delivering your “reality based” techniques.

There are no short cuts, there are no “Reality Based” fast tracks and to kid yourself that there are, or to sell to others that you have some is misleading and wrong, in my humble opinion.
To get good, effective reality based techniques, you need a solid foundation, with great basics. And if I’m going to go to the trouble of learning those basics, then I might as well pick up a few other "words" while I’m there. Get a better grasp on the whole art, where those reality based techniques have come from.
It won’t be time lost, it will be time well spent, as this knowledge will make you a far more rounded and competent player.
And finally, when I want to hone my street based fighting further, I simply need look no further than the basics. By going back and improving my foundation, my techniques, reality or otherwise, can then grow stronger and more powerful as they have the right support beneath them.

So yes, just like the AA and it’s 106 year history that has seen it do a full circle in one of the services it offers, I have done the same. I started in the arts and I continue to train and teach in the arts, it’s just that I’ve learned a few swear words along the way!

Stay Safe and Have Fun

Al Peasland
Personal Safety Expert

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