Roy Fellows

               Martial Arts: Street stuff

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Street Stuff

Some people will think that’s what this is what its really all about, not kata competitions, kumite, or classic forms, but the real confrontation maybe with three or four of them holding baseball bats.

I am not going on to describe techniques, you learn this at your karate, aikido, krav maga or whatever club. I want to talk attitudes.

Some thoughts from an old fighter.

The Co-op Hall, Bloxwich, Walsall, England, 1964

The room had chairs all around the sides, and every one was full. Some people were standing. I was 19 at the time and was there in a response to an advert in the local rag for a karate club that was starting up, “The Spartan School of Karate”. I looked around the room at the faces, some uncertain, some smirking, the local hard lads who thought they knew it all.

A smallish guy with a black beard strode into the room, stood in the middle and looked around, noting the many smirks.

“Right” he called. Silence around the room.

“We all know why we are all here. We’ll get this out of the way for starters then we can all move on. If anyone here thinks that they can take me, then come out here and we’ll get it done with”

The guys name was Jack Clarkson and there were no takers.

I trained at that club for a year or two, the karate was rubbish on technique, but we learned fighting spirit. If you haven’t got fighting spirit then this game is not for you, try Morris dancing or table tennis.

Basic Ergonomics

There are only three ways you can be attacked, Tzuki (straight punch or jab), Shomen (a vertical downward chop) or Yokomen ( a swinging blow from the side). It matters not whether its fists, feet, sword, knife, bottle, or baseball bat.


There is no best martial art, just best martial artists and whatever you train at you are only going to be as good as the speed of your reactions.

The thing to remember is that we not fighting like we would in a karate tournament or a boxing ring, we are defending ourselves; this is a whole different game.

Crowds are potentially dangerous by weight of numbers, pub affrays are deadly because you will get glasses and chairs flying through the air. If you find yourself in that kind of situation then try to get the hell out. If you get hit, don’t stop and fight, try to keep going. Get out into the street and get clear before it inevitably spills out onto the street.

A lot of the 'one to ones' will start with the antagonist testing the water, basically, sounding you out. If he gets away with shouting at you his next will probably be shoving you, after that its his fist. Nip it in the bud to start with. "Don't shout at me", if its gets to the shoving a bit of aikido hand work should have him down on his knees.

You might have two or three onto you at one time, if you know for sure its going to go down go for guy who's doing the talking, he is the leader who the others follow. Don't give him a chance to finish what he is saying, that's the surprise element. Remember SAS, Speed, Aggression and Surprise? Do real job on him and others will have second thoughts.

Most of what you will see on You tube, the American guys in black tee-shirts etc is pure bollocks. Forget it. Forget the DVDs they sell as well, if you want to be a good fighter, join a club or whatever and train with partners. Forget the "reasons why you should not punch" routine as well, if your fists are any good you should be able to punch a brick wall. Build a makiwara and play with it.

Back kicks are useful and good anywhere. Lean to use the flat of the foot in the training hall or dojo, but the heel on the street, its deadly. Same goes for elbow strikes, lot of force in a small hard area. Ladies, why do we never see 'stiletto heel through the foot' in martial arts films. You wana carry a rice flail!


The Unacceptable Truth

If you are attacked its odds on that it will be someone you know, a spouse or partner, a friend or acquaintance or similar.

This is from a government website:

Relationship between victims and perpetrators of violence

In addition to the type of incident and level of injury sustained, information is available to look at the relationship between victims of violence and their perpetrators.

 Findings from the 2013/14 Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) show that 42% of offences were perpetrated by a stranger, 37% by an acquaintance, and the remaining 21% were categorised as domestic violence. Domestic violence refers to incidents reported through the face-to-face interview questions, however it is important to bear in mind that domestic violence measured this way is prone to under-reporting; therefore the figure mentioned above is likely to be an underestimation. The separate self-completion section of the survey, collected on a comparable basis since 2004/05 and presented in the ‘Intimate Personal Violence and Serious Sexual Assault’ chapter, reveals higher levels of victimisation, and provides a greater level of detail.

 Figure 1.4 (reproduced below) shows that incidents of CSEW domestic violence peaked in 1993 (1.1 million offences) and have since fallen by 75% to 280,000 offences in the 2013/14 survey; Incidents of stranger violence have fallen by 45% from the peak in 1995 (1 million offences) to 553,000 offences in the 2013/14 survey; and CSEW acquaintance violence fell by 73% from the peak in 1995 (1.8 million offences) to 2013/14 (0.5 million offences). Acquaintance violence in particular is a large-volume offence, and its substantial changes seen since the mid 1990s have been an important driver of changes in overall violence, and to some extent in overall CSEW crime.

Your first duty of care is to yourself, lets be clear about that. A bit later I will recount a real life experience, if you are expecting Steven Seagall, forget it, we are talking real life here. Of course, you could find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time, "Allahu Akbar" and all that, but odds are thankfully millions to one.

Reading the above a word that springs out is "victim". Some people are natural victims, and without being sexist will probably be a lady. If you perceive yourself as possibly falling into this category, then my advice, join a good karate club. Preferably one affiliated to a National organisation such as the Karate Union of Great Britain.

You will develop a new self confidence and become remarkably fit. There is nothing like karate for developing physical fitness.

Of course we all know that karate can be quite deadly. There are lots of documented cases of people being killed with it. I have yet to hear of anyone being killed with Kung Fu or whatever. Take a look at people breaking paving stones etc on YouTube, imagine being hit like that. This is where aikido can be useful, a means of defending oneself against someone who you might well have known for some time but has developed a drink or drugs habit. BEWARE OF A CLOSE FRIEND OR PARTNER WHO HAS DEVELOPED A ALCOHOL ABUSE AND SHOWS SIGNS OF MOOD CHANGE..

But remember, first duty of care is to yourself.

OK, so now 'It happened to me'

I had been warned about an old friend who had developed an alcohol habit and was, as it was put to me, "going funny". He was an engineer and had a small workshop which opened onto a road near a corner, cars were in the habit of coming round that corner a bit to fast and I was aware of this hazard as I owned premises over the road.

I was in my friend workshop when he became argumentative. The argument became confrontational and developed to the stage were he attempted to throw a right hook punch to my face. This was easily stopped by the side of my left hand against his triceps (muscle of the upper arm). Rather than attempting something different he tried continuously to to force his attach, unsuccessfully. All the while in a rage with bulging eyes and reddening face, typical of alcohol abuse induced personality change. The fact that he never even thought to try something different shows how blind a rage can be, this is what you may find yourself up against.

Eventually, he did get round to trying something else, this was also successfully blocked but in a way which was unpleasant to him.

Eventually, he calmed a bit, and very tentatively put his hand against my chest and said "I just want you out, get out" or something similar.

I was foolish enough to think that this would be the best way to defuse the situation and allowed him to push me to the door. Then without warning he suddenly gave me an enormous shove and sent me staggering out into the road where I nearly fell over. If a car had been coming then it would have been sayonara Roy.

Of course, nowadays I would simply tenkan out of it or more likely not let it develop to that stage, but at the time I hadn't trained for about 15 years.

To continue:

If one considers the above one is faced with a moral dilemma. Your first duty of care is to yourself, but, do you really want to use say karate on someone you have known for years as is possibly going through a bad time?

If one looks at murder statistics, relationship of killer to victim the picture will become more disturbing, same goes for rape.

Aikido can provide a lot of the answers here where it is possible not only successfully defend yourself against someone who you don't really want to put in a wheelchair, but can also successfully nip the altercation in the bud. But there are no absolute answers.

Best Self Defence Moves

One of the best self defence moves I have ever heard of comes from a book by the famous fighter and movie star Chuck Norris.

Guy in a vehicle has an altercation through his drivers side window with someone standing outside, the person became threatening and offered the driver out.

"OK if you want a fight, I am alright with that. But first you will to help me get out of the vehicle as I have a bad back"

The antagonist thought for a moment then walked away.

In real life the best way to win a fight is no fight, but if you do have to fight your wasting your time if you have no fighting spirit.

Aikido work with the jo staff is useful because when you get old you may need a stick which could be put to good use.

Reality time, and some basic truths

Way back at the Spartan, one thing that Jack Clarkson instilled into his students was fighting spirit, without it karate isn't karate and you wont last 5 minutes on the street.

Consider a young man who wants to be able to defend himself. If he has fighting spirit, in other words preparedness to stand his ground and put up a fight even if attacked by a superior foe, then he has a head start from the beginning. If he starts karate within a few months however good he could throw a punch to start with, he will be able to do it better. He will also be into effective body movement, blocking and parrying techniques, and possibly developing some good kicks.

Aikido requires patience and dedication, one will lean how to fight a darn sight quicker training at karate than aikido. However with patience a mastery of aikido technique will enable one to defeat a foe of far superior size and strength by using the attackers own strength against the attacker while expending a minimum of effort.

A good question is whether any martial art can turn a non fighter into a fighter.

Well obviously developing the fighting skill while sparring with others will give a person confidence, gaining confidence can generate a degree of fighting spirit. But its all go good if the first time a person gets hurt they just fold, that is when they will get their head kicked in. Adrenalin can carry you forward even when injured, it happens regularly in competition fighting and in combat.

Anger is a funny one. It can generate fighting spirit but can also work against you, In competition some fighters will try deliberately to wind their opponents up in hope that it will lead to mistakes. Anger will also put a stop on one inner power coming through. The inner power? Well in the words of one of my favourite sensei's, "ki is something you open a door with". Well it doesn't matter what you call it, all I know is that its there if you know how to generate it.

Fighting or Self defence

Two different things. Fighting involves attacking and defending such as one would do in competition. Self defence is what you may need to do the street. If you go out looking for trouble on the street you have no business in the Dojo, full stop. Aikido can only be used in self defence which comes out well if you have to tell how it happened in court.

You actually have some advantage on the street a bit better than in competition in one respect. Its up to the aggressor to mount the attack, you don't want, or should not want, to fight. Defending is always advantageous over attacking, you can choose the ground, use aikido or whatever, or force the opponent to make a 'committed' attack rather than prancing about boxing him.

There is a tale about a chap who was challenged by a far superior fighter. The challenge was a master of kicking to a degree that the challenged party could not hope to match, but as the challenged party had the right to choose the place to fight. There were issues whereby the challenged party could not get out of it, he simply had to accept the challenge. So where would he choose to defend himself against such a superior opponent who could kick like lightening with devastating effect.

Inside a phone box.

Body language

If you have a face off with someone you feel is out for trouble, ignore anything that comes out of their mouth. Its all rubbish. look at their body language.

If a guy is walking towards you and has his arms outstretched palms facing you, "I don't want to fight you mate, I don't want any trouble". Its total tripe. he is going to have a go.

If a guy is telling you he is going to smash your face in or whatever, but backing away from you, you got nothing to worry about, he is all talk. Body language as I said.

Watch out for the guy with a hand behind his back, he probably got something there, a bottle or whatever.

Kicking, a reality check

In a dojo, or training halls we train at out karate or aikido in bare feet. A lot of good streetfighters have never done this or even trained in dojo, everything they know has been learnt on the street, the hard way. They will probably be wearing Doc Martin boots or similar, and kicking to them is shins and kneecaps. You cant even block a kick to this area.

Food for thought.

Worth Watching

Some CCTV footage on the BBC website where a man is attacked by car jackers on his own drive. See how the first attacker comes in, he grabs the victim with his left and throws a hook punch with his right. Any martial arts practitioner who is any good would have had him for breakfast. At least one of his mates after seeing this would do a runner rather than fight.

CCTV footage is very widely available and I would strongly recommend that anyone who is interested in self defence watch as much real life incidents as possible.


My Qualifications

Anyone reading this will be wondering about me, "What qualifies this guy to be giving advice about self defence", well here I attempt to answer this.

But first, a warning, beware of the Walts. Walter Mitty's come in all shapes and sizes. There are guys out there who style themselves as 'Lieutenant Colonel' or similar and have never been in the army. There are guys who post long pages on websites about how they handled the most deadly situations and its all dreamt up in their heads.

Me, I have never been in a real street fight in my entire life. Yes, I have been around, read my bio, and as I write this I am a week away from my 72 birthday, but in all the potential 'situations' I have been able to talk my way out of it or whatever and walk away.

Man, am I good.

Multiple Attackers

If your unlucky enough to be surrounded by a gang, and a lot of them carry knives these days, it can be very intimidating

Mindset is important, it can loose you a fight before it even starts. Fighting spirit is all important. So what about a gang, three or four of them.

Well if it were not you they had surrounded, but an unexploded bomb, if would be all different for them now wouldn't it.

So think of yourself as a bomb, primed and ready to go as soon as it starts to go down, and the shit is all going in their direction.

Full kiai if you do karate, full speed and power, shock and awe, the whole works.

All for now, bye.

This page is being constantly updated as I have the time, last addition January 2017