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


  1. Interesting read. I like your analysis of the event and I think it was poignant.

  2. Nice work..it was great reading your perspective on this issue and analysis on self defense, drawing parallels from this incident.

  3. "The first bit is self defence, but the finishing blows can then become assault."

    devil's advocate: Wouldn't the scoop/grapple be self-defense and the dangerous looking Bodyslam still be assault? Casey is very lucky, he couldve killed the little bully.

  4. Thank you for a very complete and unbiased analysis of this situation. As the mom of two young boys, one of which has been repeatedly bullied for years, this video and review will be a great educational piece. Not that we think our son should retaliate violently, but as this article points out, sometimes the only way to end repetative bullying is to show the bullies what you are capable of. Both of my sons attend Muay Thai classes to increase their knowledge of self defense, and to insure that they know they can do what is necessary, if it becomes unavoidable. Kudos to Casey for standing up for himself. I hope the bully learned a good lesson that "what goes around, comes around."

  5. Sadly at http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/blogs/blunt-instrument/kudos-to-the-kid-but-that-could-have-been-tragic/20110316-1bx55.html they are stating he didn't show any self-control, and shouldn't go without punishment.

    You should weigh-in there as well!

  6. Great view on the situation! I do not agree with Casey being suspended from school because he took a strong defensive approach and I do not blame him for his harsh actions. As a mom, I think that it is important to teach our kids to defend themselves from harm and that is just what Casey did! We see so many cases in law which show victims using agressive approaches to defend themselves who do not get punished. Casey RE-ACTED to what was going on and I can only wonder what he had been going through that led him to being so aggressive.

  7. Well said.

    With myself being bullied as a child and never fighting back, I at first found the video exhilarating, living vicariously through Casey's actions and wishing I'd done the same when I was a child (there was no point however as my bullies were bigger than I). However in the following days as the video has gone viral I have become concerned about what will happen to Casey when he returns to school.

    When I was in school we had a tall very skinny kid who was mercilessly bullied, until one day - just like Casey - he snapped and fought back. Though he won the fight, news spread and other kids wanted to fight him, and over the following weeks he became embroiled in about 4 physical fights as other kids in the grade wanted to see how they fared against him. It was incredibly upsetting for him, and for other kids who were bullied, as they witnessed the fact that the victim fighting back landed him in even more dangerous situations than if he'd simply kept tolerating it.

    Chifley College - the school where this incident in the video happened is known for incidents like this and I myself went to school two towns from where this happened, it's a rough area out that way and I only hope the intense media and internet attention finally makes this school begin addressing the issue of violence and bullying in schools in that part of New South Wales.

    As for Casey, I myself would send him to self defence lessons PRONTO, this incident may bring on many reprisals and though he shouldn't be taught to outwardly fight, he needs to know how to protect himself should the original bullies friends try and take revenge. We all know teachers can be very good at turning a blind eye to schoolyard violence, and the general public in Australia sometimes see being bullied as some kind of 'rite of passage' that simply must be tolerated. It's sickening as I can say myself, due to being bullied as a child I have many emotional scars and have suffered low self esteem and severe shyness through my life even up to my mid 30's when I finally got a handle on it.

    Casey's father has been in the media saying he's worried for Casey and potential schoolyard reprisals, while the mother of the bully was on the Australian news last night demanding an apology from Casey and is saying she's taught her kids to always 'walk away from fights' so obviously refuses to see her son for the violent bully that he is.Since the mother is going to be so blind to her son's violent side (and sorry - he didn't look like a virgin bully from the video - he was very square on with his punches) then it seems the bully and his friends will continue on as before terrorising kids without repercussions.

    It's all very sad.

  8. I second that. There is a take on this that can only be appreciated by those of us who were bullied as children.
    I think we keep the clearest heads in this debate.

  9. Casey getting ABUSED AND BULLIED by the young low life who got what was coming to him and those kids that were recording it on there phones should be charged !!!! what part of bulling becomes acceptable ........ IT DOESNT !!!!!!!!!!! the only bully here is that stupid boy and what does casey get for defending himself ??? suspended .

    he put up with it for 3 years and decided enough is enough he is a inspiration to all the kids that get bullied and don't have the guts to stick up for themselves i hope all the bullies realise there is only so much 1 can take and you better be prepared to get dished what they have been given to others !!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Thanks for taking the time to produce such a well written commentary.

  11. Great read thanks for your well thought out input.

  12. Hi Al, Another excellent analysis. I hope this is the end of it, however I fear that further reprisals may be forthcoming, especially with the "wounded pride" of the bully who has now been shown on millions of computers around the world, getting slammed into the concrete.

    I wonder too if the presence of cameras will always help to inflame a situation and never help to calm one down. I've thought this for a while with regard to protest marches and the like, when the worlds media turn up, they wouldnt be happy with no "news" to sell us, so conflict ensues.

  13. Very nicely written Al, and it clearly shows that one can learn so much from such a video.. great job!


  14. Excellent analysis, it's difficult to keep calm and level-headed about an incident like this, but this was thought-provoking and insightful

  15. OP: do you believe it is right that Mr. Heynes, as presented through the media, got suspended for four days? And do you believe that he should fear any judicial repercussions?

  16. I have been following this story since the event was published to YouTube and posted my own blog entry regarding my opinion of the injustice of Casey’s suspension (http://leosaumure.blogspot.com/2011/03/actions-have-consequences.html). Out of almost every news article and blog posting I have come across, your post was virtually the only one to actually give an in depth analysis of what happened. You discuss that some of the analysis was based on assumptions due to the short video length, you discussed that we can not know what was going through Casey’s mind during the incident: “[chosen] course of action that would stop the attacker without really hurting him, or whether this was pure luck during his instinctive reaction.”
    Finally, I thought your inclusion of the post-attack fallout (“adrenaline” and “post fight fear”) was spot on.

    Like many commenter's regarding this story, I have been in Casey’s shoes; I’ve been backed into a corner, and the only option available is to fighting your way out. If Casey’s attack was anything like my experiences, and Casey did indeed “snap” as many reports state, then what he did (in my opinion) was well out of his control. I don’t think the average reader knows what it means to “snap” and what is happening in the victims mind leading up to that point. They call it fight or flight instinct for a reason; it isn’t a debate in one’s mind weighing one option against the other, it is a reflex. In this case, Casey’s reflex was simply to attack.

    I agree with you that Casey’s is to be commended for somehow having the ability to step back after throwing the bully to the ground. To somehow rise above the adrenaline rush and not continue the assault on the attacker is outstanding. I don’t know how he managed it, but I’d like to believe that his it was a reflection of Casey’s character.

    I think what is extremely important in the aftermath of this event is to discuss how it escalated to this this point in the first place. How can we intervene in this kind of cruelty long before it comes to blows? Look, I am no Pollyanna, I know what the real world is like, and I realize that sometimes, bad things happen to people, the strong often prey on the weak; bottom line is sometimes people are just jerks. But as a society, is there any way to reduce incidents such as this?

    Thanks for the article and analysis. I found it much more balanced than all of the media outlets that have discussed it. Well done!

  17. Casey only got suspended, because under Australian (NSW) school policy - any high school student that hits another student has to be suspended for a minimum of 4 days, regardless of if it was in self defense or not.

    The little punk, got the maximum suspension of 21 days. (I assume this was his first suspension - or else he could have been expelled from the school for instigating the fight)

    The School was only following procedures when Casey got suspended.

    That doesn't excuse them from their earlier duty of care to provide a safe environment however, but hopefully this helps people from outside of Australia understand WHY Casey got suspended as well.

  18. Can you believe the bully's mother is now demanding an apology? How screwed up have we become? The bully got what he deserved and as stated above, was lucky not to receive worse.

  19. This was great to read. Where Casey went next is into the Principals Office, this is located where Casey went, he went straight in and reported what had happened. The School are doing the best they can with the policies they are made to adhere too. I live in the neighborhood of this school and the bullying is out of control.
    Maybe you should come and visit the School out here in the West?

  20. I have a blog up about this on my Hero HQ Blogspot.

    Nice to see a neutral analysis of the situation. I hope all involved can somehow move on from this and get on with the rest of thier lives.

  21. Great read.
    I was also bullied right upto 15, by one of my parents (apparently) by virtually all the kids at my school and also a minority of the teachers.
    I am know obviously savagely anti bullying and if such actions ever occur with any of my now 3 young children, it ends BAD!
    That's all I have to say about that, and to all the "yes bit if's" live 1 day in a victims shoes then run for your shrink.

  22. Great text, very focused. Special note to the fact that Casey stopped the fight as soon as Richard suffered the KO.

  23. Child... school... bullying... baffled... I was never bullied at school.

    I was an obvious target, but it never happened to me.

    Fighting is cool. It has a reason.

    I feel sorry for the newer generation. They have no idea how much fun we had in the 70s.

  24. Excellent analysis. If there's one thing we can take out of this unfortunate incident it is that schools could be doing so much more!

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