One of the best benefits of the information age is that we no longer have to settle for “old wives’ tales” or “war stories” as the only proof of the validity of a given martial art or self-defense method/tactic. Up until even 10 years ago, it was not easy to counter unverifiable anecdotes with documented facts. I remember around 1999 getting into an online debate with a minor martial artist about whether grappling joint locks actually broke bones. I ran rings around his arguments and he looked really bad (which I think contributed to his leaving of the martial art world and his move to finding other ways of making a fast buck), but it took awhile because the internet was not as omnipresent or as vast as it is today. If that argument took place today it would be about five minutes of Google search to have tons of documented evidence.
So we get to see things easily that we had to take on faith for decades. For example, watch the following video clip and think about what is there and, more importantly, is NOT there.
What do we see?
First, it is certainly a “streetfight”. It is obviously not two guys in a schoolyard pushing match. The one person is extremely aggressive and clearly wants to inflict pain and/or damage to the other person. Even as the other person tries to de-escalate and escape from the situation, the larger man continues to pursue in an attempt to hurt the other.
Second, there is an imbalance in the physical comparison. The aggressor is much larger than the person trying to move away. This is the classic mean and bigger bully picking on the small guy – right out of the old Charles Atlas ads.
Third, they are not in a gym on nice padded mats. Nor are they in an MMA cage or ring. The setting is similar to almost any urban area on the planet.
Fourth, there is no referee present. There is no third party to stop the use of foul tactics, nor is there anyone there to enforce a rule set or to keep outside influences to come into play.
Fifth, the defender uses a pure combat sport methodolgy to defend himself. It is incredibly clear that the he is a boxer, and uses the exact same tactics in the street that he would use in the ring.
So what do we NOT see?
One, we do not see multiple attackers. This is man versus man. This, according to many self-defense people, never happens. And yet it does. Why is this significant? Well, because if there are times when a fight/assault is one against one, then ignoring methods/tactics/techniques that are optimized for that in the hope that other, lesser methods work better against multiple opponents ( a very dubious and unproven hope, at best), only to never encounter an assault from multiple opponents is not a particularly useful idea. I have been conducting a research project over the past year or so, using huge databases with literally thousands of incidents, to try to quantify exactly the likelihood of that. While I am still working on it, the preliminary results are showing that, at best, the percentage of multiple attackers is 40%. So why should we ignore proven methods that work best in 60% or incidents, and still work, with only slight modifications in the other percent? It makes no sense. We should want best case answers as much as possible across the board.
Second, we don’t see weapons involved. Again, something that many experts claim will always be involved. And again using the same databases for my research project is showing somewhere in the area or the high 30s as a percentage of incidents where weapons are used. And many times those weapons are more opportunistic than purpose carried. Items such as tire irons/crow bars, steak knives, baseball bats, etc. This is absolutely not an argument to ignore the possibility. In point of fact, I think it is critical that we specifically train for that eventuality in part of our defensive preparations. However, that again does not mean we ignore high percentage answers for the vast majority of real world situations.
Third, we see no injury to the defender’s hands. He clearly hits the aggressor with a closed fist, and hits the bad guy on the head, including hard bony parts of the head. And yet, it causes him no problems at all, contrary to what many Self-defense instructors say (“never hit with the closed fist to the head”). Is the potential for injury there? Of course, just as it is if the defender had hit the bad guy with a chin jab and takes the risk of a devastating wrist or finger injury.
To sum up, this is not a call to ignore the dangers of multiple opponents or weapons. Those things must be trained for. In my own training, as well as when I teach, I always make it a point to include those principles. But, we need to be realistic about the odds, and stop making dogmatic pronouncements that a street assault will always go a certain way. The world is a big place, with lots of different people doing different things, all in a very chaotic manner. Let us deal with the variables and the chaos, and not try to impose our own wants and beliefs on the chaos.