Group Violence (Part 1)

(Gershon Ben Keren - Sun 25th Sep)

Whilst most of our personal models of violence probably involve single assailants, the reality of modern violence is that we are just as likely to be assaulted by more than one person. If we look at the social settings where violence occurs, such as in bars, pubs, and clubs, etc., it is likely that an aggressor will not be alone, but will be part of a group. It is also true that many predatory criminals work together, such as muggers, who find strength in numbers, and can use members of the group to act as lookouts, as well as to help locate and identify potential victims/targets. Because of this it is worth looking at group dynamics, and how these effect our solutions to violence.

A group can consist of two or more individuals, where there is some form of common bond and possible interdependence e.g. friends, who share a history of experiences together (common bond), and also watch each other’s backs/take responsibility for each other’s safety (interdependence) i.e. the group has a social relationship. When people come together as a group, they will often act and behave not as individuals, but as a single unit, adopting a certain set of characteristics across its members. If we are to be successful in dealing with group aggression and violence, we need to understand these dynamics.

The term “Groupthink” was first coined by William H Whyte Jr, in 1952, but was adopted by Irving Janis, who conducted many studies on the way that an individual’s critical thinking diminishes when they identify themselves as part of a group. Imagine a situation, in a bar or a club, where you accidentally bump into someone who is drinking with a group of friends, and as a consequence, they turn around and start threatening and shouting at you. Other members of the group may think that their friend’s behavior is over the top and an extreme reaction to what has just happened. However, if all of the individuals, strongly identify themselves as part of the group, it is likely that nobody will voice their own opinion, as this could possibly see them going against the group.

Irving Janis, identified three main characteristics of groups, these are:


  1. Overestimations of the group
  2. Close-mindedness
  3. Pressures towards uniformity


When we understand these things, we will be better positioned to find solutions to group aggression and violence. Groups tend to make overestimations about their invulnerability, with members believing that they are less likely to get hurt, which means that they are more likely to take risks e.g. a normally reserved and cautious member of a group, may be emboldened to act in ways they wouldn’t – such as making threats, and/or acting violently – because they feel that they enjoy the protection of the group, etc. Groups also tend to suppress an individual’s possible criticisms of the group’s actions, as no one wants to be seen to be offering an opinion contrary to other members of the group (a member’s silence will often be taken by members of the group to signify agreement). There is also the pressure of uniformity that makes members see any non-members of the group as an outsider. Just as groups join people together, they can also cause members to look on non-members as a potential threat or challenge to the group; when you are dealing with one member of the group, you are in fact dealing with them all.

Not all members of a group are the same as each other. There are basically three roles that a member of a group can assume when we are addressing a group’s violent behavior (identifying who plays which role is important when you are dealing with group aggression):


  1. Leaders
  2. Agitators


Leaders and Agitators, can be difficult to distinguish between: a Leader is somebody who’s decision-making process, influences and directs the group, whilst an Agitator is somebody who tries to influence the way in which the group acts and behaves e.g. possibly acting as a “Mindguard” suppressing any dissent within the group, and vocally encouraging certain actions – “You’re not going to let him get away with that”, “Hit him!”, etc. A Follower, is somebody who will go along with whatever activities the group thinks is appropriate, but will not initiate or encourage.

When you are dealing with a member of the group, you should look to isolate them from the group in some way – when I worked in bar security, we used to refer to this as “sheep dogging”, where you – like a sheepdog - try to separate one individual from the group/flock. One way to do this is by relative positioning. By taking a step backwards, you may be able to draw the individual you are talking with away from the group (which will also give you more time to deal with them, if the situation becomes violent, before the rest of the group become involved); without the relative close proximity of the group, they may not feel as sure of themselves, and so be less likely to act violently towards you. If you are able to identify the Leaders of the group, you may want to step back, and at an angle, so the rest of the group and/or the person you are dealing with, are lined up, this puts the Leader (one person) between you and the group, slowing down the others’ route to you – if things do become violent, it is the primary aggressor(s) who will be the first individual(s) to try to get involved, so it is better to deal with them as an individual, rather than as one of several members of the group. If it looks as though they are already getting into position, it is worth moving yourself towards them, as if you can pre-emptively take them out of the game, it can cause hesitancy on the part of the group (exposing vulnerabilities), which may allow you a good disengagement opportunity.

It is worth noting, when you are dealing with an aggressor who is part of a group, the reactions and responses of the other members e.g. who appears vocal and nervous, but doesn’t move into a position where they could do something (possibly an Agitator), and who looks like they want to get actively involved, (a Leader). It is often easy to get a feel for whether the person you are dealing with is confident in themselves, or seems to be seeking the direction and support of the group.

You should be aware that peer pressure also plays a part in any group and an individual may feel pressure to act violently towards you, if they feel that this is what the group expects. If it feels like the person you are dealing with is forcing themselves to become emotional and aggressive towards you, it is likely that you are dealing with somebody who feels that they have to act violently.

In any group situation where the incident occurred spontaneously and was not premeditated, you should first attempt to de-escalate the situation (if you have an easy disengagement opportunity, take it). If it’s a pre-meditated situation, where all the group wants of you are your possessions, you should acquiesce, if they want you, then the fight is about survival, and you should act pre-emptively. In a spontaneous situation, where there is no chance of de-escalating or disengaging from the situation, you should also look to act pre-emptively. Your goal in acting pre-emptively is to get the members of the group to question their invulnerability; to demonstrate that they may get hurt and seriously injured. Your goal is to work with extreme violence against the Leader, or one of the Leaders of the group, causing them extreme pain, so that the rest of the group witness it, and start to have doubts about their invulnerability – that they start to question what might happen to them rather than trust in the invincibility of the group.

If you are unable to dissuade other members of the group from getting involved, and you are involved in a group fracas, your goal should be to exit the scene as soon as possible. It is unlikely you will have the opportunity to spend any length of time dealing with each individual, unless you can line everybody up (which becomes extremely difficult if you are dealing with more than two people, or are not in a situation where the environment prevents access to you). In such instances, disrupting strikes to the groin and eyes, rather than power shots which are hard to perform when moving in certain directions, should be used to help you clear a path/route which will allow you to disengage safely.

In a prolonged fight, where disengagement isn’t an option, you will need to look at nullifying each member of the group, and taking each member of the group out of action, one at a time. There will come a point in a multiple assailant assault where you will need to focus your efforts on one individual, rather than having your attention divided by the group, and after dealing with them, moving on to the next, etc. This approach realistically is the only way to successfully conclude the fight, as otherwise you run the risk of prolonging the altercation by only doing enough to disrupt each member of the group, rather than taking any of them out of the picture. This approach will mean that you have to take punches and strikes, and can’t retaliate to every attack made. This is where pain management, and an understanding of pain versus danger really comes in.

One of the strange phenomena of group violence is that it is often the Followers and Agitators who inflict the most pain and injury during group violence. Primary aggressors have a fairly distinct role that they play, and a very clear goal to fulfill, which is to prevent the person they are dealing with from being able to threaten them and members of the group, whilst at the same time confirming their social status within the group. This often means that once they have, for example, put somebody on the ground, they will walk away. In many instances, it is the Followers and Agitators who will continue the assault, beating and assaulting their victim, as they try to demonstrate their allegiance and value to the group. Because of this, it is important to keep fighting, however convinced you may be that the main aggressor will back away if you capitulate. Once, when I was working the door (bar security), I came across two guys in a bathroom who were kicking an unconscious man, lying on the floor. At first glance, it looked like they were the primary aggressors, however when we replayed the CCTV footage, it came to light that there had initially been three attackers – the one who had knocked the man unconscious had left after throwing a couple of punches, leaving his two accomplices who then set about kicking and stomping the victim.

Group violence is never pretty and always volatile and unpredictable, this is why it is best dealt with through de-escalation, even if this means taking a hit to your ego. If violence seems inevitable, it is normally best to go pre-emptive, and look to disrupt the group, before they are ready to fight. In my next article, I will look at how groups operate in pre-meditated acts of violence, such as muggings, and coordinated and planned “beatdowns“ of victims.

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Training Vs Reality

(Gershon Ben Keren - Mon 19th Sep)

Students who have little or no experience of violence, will often fall into the trap of believing that real-life violence reflects their training environment; this may also get reinforced by watching combat sports such as MMA, as both the training and sport environments of the martial arts and self-defense share many properties that don’t exist in the real-world e.g. they both occur in uncluttered environments, where there is a good deal of space in which to maneuver (in fact, a cage or ring is designed to allow combatants to demonstrate what they can do – it is designed to enable, not restrict the athletes). In this article, I want to look at some of the ways in which real-life violence, differs from the typical training environment, and how we can better prepare ourselves and our students, for dealing with real-life violence. I readily acknowledge that these components, factors, etc. are based on my firsthand experiences of violence, and that other individuals may have had different and equally valid experiences. I hope that by sharing these, and possibly encouraging debate, those instructors and students who haven’t ever been involved in a fight or confrontation may gain a better idea of what reality actually looks like, and what to expect if they ever have to use that which they have learnt in the studio/dojo. If your expectations are based on wrong assumptions, it is likely that you will be crippled into inaction very quickly when you are confronted with the reality of violence, and suddenly realize how unprepared you are.

The time and distance that you normally have when you practice, is going to be halved and halved again, in a real-life confrontation. In a training environment, partners, even when they come at you fast, will rarely come at you as fast as an attacker in a real-life confrontation. This may be due to the fact that they fear being injured and/or fear injuring you. Also, many training partners don’t know how to attack, like a real-life attacker e.g. they don’t recoil the knife, they don’t attack in a frenzied manner, they don’t close distance at speed, etcetera, etcetera. It is hard in the training environment to convey that in real-life scenarios, assailants don’t attack - they assault. An attacker with a knife, is not going to try to stop you performing a technique, they don’t care, because their intent is simply to cut you and stab you as many times as they can, and this normally sees them moving in to you at a speed, something that is rarely replicated in training – this is why training with resistance, doesn’t always replicate reality; attackers will often not resist, they will be focused and completely concentrated on their attack – and this will be the “resistance” that you meet. This is one of the reasons why it is sometimes necessary to look beyond the attack, and at the attacker.

Violence can be multi-phased. Often in training, when a technique is performed, the scenario or situation ends, however this is often not the case in reality. This is probably most clearly typified in the practice of gun and weapon disarming, where once the assailant has been disarmed the “scenario” ends e.g. a gun is disarmed, the disarmer steps back and mimics “tapping and racking” the weapon; end scene. However, reality may not be that clean or clear-cut. What if the attacker, attempts to get their weapon back? What if they pull a knife and charge you? What if their friend or other third party pulls a gun on you? Always training for one outcome, and always achieving the outcome, is simply choreography, and does not represent real-life. Sometimes, solutions don’t work, or they are temporary. Do you train what to do, when a technique or tactic doesn’t work? I have punched people so hard, that I was sure I’d knocked them out, but I didn’t; I’ve thrown people so hard that it should have ended the fight. In real-life, “that should have worked”, doesn’t cut it, you need to be able to keep going, and going, and going. If you have only ever trained for success, you will have little/nothing to respond with, when you’re not at first successful. I often hear people talk about improvised weapons as if they are a solution in themselves e.g. if somebody has a knife, grab a pipe or piece of scaffolding and start attacking them with it, etc. What do you do when that attacker gets inside the swing of your pipe? What if they aren’t particularly affected by its use? Getting an improvised weapon doesn’t be default end the fight, though this is often the implication in training.  

Most of our training, is conducted in an environment conducive to the practice of our techniques, however in real-life there may simply not be the space in which to execute them. I remember a stabbing in a crowded nightclub, where the victim had hardly any room to move, due to the people around him (many of whom were oblivious to what was actually happening). A friend of mine was mugged on an escalator – his attacker came and stood on the step behind him, and put a knife to his back. If he’d needed to perform a control and/or disarm, he’d have had almost no room to move, and would have been on a different elevation to his assailant. Have you ever trained for such a scenario? Since hearing about it, I’ve always walked up escalators to avoid such a situation. Predatory individuals, understand how to use the environment against their victims, in a way that gives them the greatest advantage. Have you ever tried and tested your groundwork techniques in the backseat of a car, with the child-locks on? What you have found to work on the mats, and which you are confident that you would use, may fail you in a real-life situation because you find you rapidly run out of the space needed to get it to work. 

You can start to combine these things together e.g. maybe you successfully deal with the attacker on the backseat of the car, only to have them pull a knife as you start climbing through the center console to get to the front seat, etc. Is this an extreme scenario? Possibly, but it starts to put some of the real-life components into the training. If we only train the simple scenarios, with “attackers” who give us time and distance, who don’t change their attacks, and are always suitably affected by our techniques, etc., we are not training for real-life; we are simply showcasing our systems, and this should not be our goal.


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Why Scenario Based Training Is Essential For Krav Maga

(Gershon Ben Keren - Mon 12th Sep)

Most Krav Maga students will have had little exposure to actual violence (there are also instructors out there who fall into this category). Because of this, students can fall prey to the idea that the practice of techniques and skills in a classroom setting, accurately reflects the real world. There is also the idea that simply practicing techniques, against committed, realistic attacks, replicates real world violence – in some regards it does, but in many it doesn’t. It trains, and improves, skills and attributes, and technique execution, but it doesn’t actually improve a student’s “understanding” of what violent situations look like, and how they should act and behave in them, whether physically or non-physically. Regular class style training rarely prepares students for the “when” of violence – when should they attempt a physical solution, etc? If we don’t address these issues, of threat recognition, effective decision making, appropriate information gathering and the like, along with de-escalation methods, we are not preparing our students for the real world; we are simply teaching Krav Maga, as we might a traditional martial art, and not as something that should be relevant to those who come and train with us. In this article, my goal is to demonstrate, from some of the scenarios I used in a seminar this weekend, why scenario-based training, needs to be part of our Krav Maga training.

One of the ways I try to get students to think about how they should act and behave in a situation, is to withhold a vital piece of information from them, and see if they recognize that they might not actually understand (at the outset) the situation in which they find themselves. One scenario I use, is that of a man who is wrestling with a girl on the ground, trying to get control of her, whilst her friends stand by, shouting for him to leave her alone. When the student happens upon the situation, the group asks them to help their friend. Most people do. The missing piece of information, is that the man trying to control the women is a plain-clothes policeman, trying to make an arrest. There is subtle information given out on the scenario, such as one of the group, shouting, “leave her alone, she didn’t do anything,” etc. -comments and remarks that should prompt the student to try to inquire as to why the man is trying to control their friend. One of the problems that many Krav Maga students have, is that they are taught to be decisive, and act. This can make them enter “fight” mode too early in a situation, where they don’t actually understand what is going on around them. Being able to understand what information is missing in a situation, allows you to make an appropriate and effective decision, rather than acting at face value. The woman being controlled wasn’t in imminent danger, she wasn’t having her head smashed of the concrete, or even being punched. In some situations, there is time available to get a better understanding of a situation, and if this luxury exists, it should be taken. Not every violent situation may be what it first seems.

Another benefit of scenario-based training is that it teaches students, that there aren’t always “happy path” solutions, and that when you deal with real-life violence you can be caught in a situation, with ever decreasing circles of opportunity. One scenario I use involves the setup of an express kidnapping (obviously the student in the scenario is not aware of this “intent”). An express kidnapping is one where a person is kidnapped, and taken to a series of ATM/cash machines, and forced to withdraw money – sometimes they are kept overnight, so that the kidnappers aren’t restricted by the daily withdrawl limits that most banks place on ATM usage. In South America, a common setup for an express kidnapping, is for a taxi driver to pull over to pick up another passenger (usually explaining that ride-sharing is common in their country), who is an armed accomplice. I use this type of scenario, to demonstrate how options that you may think you had, can easily be taken away from you. When we ran this scenario this weekend, one student participating, offered to pay double if the taxi-driver didn’t pull over – the fact that they were refused was a good indication that there was more to this pick-up, than the driver just making an additional fare. This is a good example of information gathering, which allowed for a better understanding of the situation. The student now had to decide whether to stay in the car or get out, and when they get out whether to try and gather more information, run/disengage or engage with the would-be fare. It is worth pointing out that some scenarios are setup to be benign i.e. nothing happens. So from the student’s perspective, it could just be a taxi-driver picking up an extra fare, who has no malice or harmful intent. In this scenario, I usually have the location be somewhere remote between two towns. The reason I do this is to get the student to question whether disengagement is appropriate. That is, they may avoid this incident, but there is nothing to stop the taxi-driver and his accomplice from turning the car around and driving after you, etc. Sometimes it may be appropriate to disengage from one incident, recognizing that you may have to face another, other times, it’s better to deal with the first incident.

The most valuable part of scenario-based training, that challenges students’ threat-recognition and decision-making, is the debrief, afterwards. After each scenario, we sit down and discuss, what happened, what other options may have been available, and how the situation might have played out differently. Training to deal with violent incidents in the real world has a cerebral component to it. One scenario I used this weekend, involved a road traffic accident, that the student comes across whilst driving late at night on a remote road – the scenario is just that, there is no harmful intent in it. It is, however, a situation that could be a setup for something nefarious, so you have a situation where you may feel compelled to help, but still need to ensure your own safety. Debriefing such a scenario, where nothing bad actually happens, is a great opportunity to talk about every day processes and procedures you can employ to keep yourself safe whilst dealing with seemingly “ordinary” situations. I am a firm believer that because Krav Maga is a reality-based self-defense system, our teaching and training shouldn’t just focus on skills and techniques, but on improving our students’ (as well as our own) understanding of violence.    

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Lessons From Competition That Can Be Applied In Real Life

(Gershon Ben Keren - Mon 5th Sep)

If you’ve ever competed in a martial arts competition, you’ll have likely found that certain things that you could successfully, and repeatedly, pull off in the training environment, didn’t work so well for you, when the stakes were higher. It took me a lot of competition time, when I was practicing Judo, to get to a stage where I was consistently replicating what I could do back in the Dojo – and at times, even perform better. In this article, I want to look at some of the issues that arise when you are put under stress and duress, whether in a competition setting, or when dealing with real life violence.

One of Judo coaches back in the day, used to remind me that, “time exists to stop everything happening at once”. The flip side of this, is that when you panic, you try to do everything at once i.e. you forget the process and the order of doing things. To throw somebody, you first have to break their balance, and then fit in – even seasoned Judokas sometimes forget this when competing, and try to “force” a throw, by moving towards their opponent. When panicked, we seek the outcome the first, and put the process into second place, rather than following the process to get to the outcome. In my early days of competition, when the clock was ticking, I remember the urgency I felt, and the desperation of just needing to get the throw – “how” I got the throw became less important. Invariably, this saw me rush the technique, miss out the crucial steps, and put in more effort than should have been necessary. In this exhausted state, the pressure became greater, and I would repeat the same process again and again, to no avail. I often see this same thing in my Krav Maga classes, when a student is put under stress and duress (and this is class, not real life) and is attempting to perform in an exhausted state; they will rush to the end of a technique, missing out some of the crucial and life-saving components. Understanding the time that you have, and the process that needs to be followed, and committing to it, are key fighting skills for both competition, and survival.

Another issue I faced when competing, was trying to attack, when my opponent was in a strong position, and not first positioning them in a disadvantaged one (a situation that usually arose out of panic), where the attack stood a chance of working. One of the things I used to see a lot of with junior belts who competed in BJJ, was trying to apply arm-bars that were meant to be applied when in mount, when they were in somebody’s guard; the more the technique didn’t work, the harder they tried. What had happened was that they’d see an opening, such as an outstretched arm, and seize the “opportunity”, forgetting that the position they were in wasn’t one from which the technique could be applied i.e. their opponent wasn’t in a disadvantaged position. Being able to recognize the position you are in, relative to your opponent/assailant, and how to reposition both of you, so that they are in a disadvantaged positon, is a key fighting skill. This is also why it is important to understand all the phases involved in a fight, including the pre-conflict phase, as it is often during the verbal exchange, that precedes most fights, where you have the best chance of altering the positioning.

Under stress and duress, when adrenalized, your movements shrink and become smaller. This can see your techniques lack the “commitment” that is necessary for them to work e.g. the punch becomes shorter, the drag on the arm becomes less, etc. One of the things that we used to do leading up towards a competition was exaggerate our movements in randori (Judo sparring), making them much larger than was actually necessary, understanding that they would “shrink” to normal size, on the day. This is a method of training I still employ when teaching Krav Maga. There is a benefit to training big and with exaggerated movement, especially on certain techniques where there is a tendency to naturally shorten the movements, such as with hammer-fist strikes.

Sometimes when you look at novices compete, it is hard to understand why they are exhausted so quickly, having done very little actual physical work – certainly not enough to warrant their level of fatigue. The two reasons I put down to this (and learnt to manage during my competition days), was 1. Not breathing properly, and 2. Not managing adrenaline. When I first started competing, I’d take a deep breath, and hold it, and I know I am not alone in this. This would then upset my entire breathing rhythm, and put me at a disadvantage throughout the bout. Learning to regulate your breathing in order to avoid exhaustion is as relevant in real-life as it is in competition. Being able to set a regular, steady, aerobic breathing rate when fighting is an essential skill, and it is something that has to be worked on in training. Next time you spar, roll, etc., consciously work on your breathing; this also has the added benefit of giving your techniques their own timing and rhythm. Competition, is adrenalizing, and it should be, but it is important to control and manage your adrenaline, because whilst it does equip you with some major benefits, it can also impede you e.g. giving you tunnel vision, shortening your movements, etc. Also, if you don’t control it, and your adrenaline “dumps” on you (within about 15 seconds), when it wears off you will be exhausted, and your body will be wanting to go into recovery mode. The best way to regulate adrenaline is through regular, aerobic breathing (breathe in for a count, hold for a count, breathe out for a count).

Although competition will never reflect reality e.g. there are rules, the environment is controlled, there are designated outcomes, a referee manages the contest, etc., there are certain parallels, and certain lessons that can be drawn. Many of the problems that competitors face and have to deal with, are experienced in real-life encounters, and learning how these problems are dealt with in competition can guide us in our training for reality.    

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Prescriptive Solutions Vs Situational Solutions

(Gershon Ben Keren - Sat 3rd Sep)

When dealing with armed assailants (whether with a knife, gun, etc.), there are a number of approaches that you can take; which you select depends on certain situational factors – do you have an easy disengagement route, are there third parties with you, does your assailant look conversant with the weapon they are using, are there objects (improvised weapons, obstacles, etc.) in the environment that you could use to your advantage? The various combinations of such factors and components, means that only having one approach to dealing with an armed assailant, such as controlling and disarming, is extremely restrictive and limiting, and could see you trying to employ a tactic that in a particular situation is sub-optimal and potentially dangerous. It should always be remembered that it is the situation that ultimately determines the solution, rather than a rigid set of rules. A system of self-defense should empower us, rather than restrict us. If you find yourself in a real-life assault, you are not there to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding to your assailant, but rather deal with them in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

In a violent encounter, you need to be able to act decisively, and this means being able to reach decisions quickly – the faster, the better. Unfortunately, you don’t have time to consider the best option (using a rationalistic decision making model that sees you compare the relative merits and demerits of each available option) and instead must select the first effective option available to you. At the very top of your decision tree, should be disengagement – if you’re not there, they can’t harm you. If this option is available and would work as a solution to the situation, you should take it. It may be that you need to create time and distance in order to disengage safely, which could see you throw a pre-emptive strike before you quickly exit the situation (something referred to as “Stun and Run” in the British Military). You may have to clear the weapon in order to do this, such as knocking it to the side, so that you have the opportunity to strike and run. This may also be a strategy you want to employ, if you are in a multiple attacker situation, where you may not have the time to control and disarm your primary assailant, before the others in the group would be able to engage with you (though based on the situation, you may choose to take that risk and disarm your attacker, in order to equip yourself with a weapon, that you can use against the group). Because of such situational factors, it is necessary to look at solutions that don’t require you to spend time “engaging” with your assailant(s).

If you have distance between yourself and an assailant – especially if they are in the process of drawing the weapon – using a forceful push/stomp kick to the torso, to disrupt their movement, and potential attack, so that you have the space and time to disengage safely, may well be an effective option. In a confined space, such as an elevator, such a tactic may be employed to initially keep somebody, armed with a knife, back and “soften” them up, before either disengaging (when the doors open) or controlling them and/or their weapon. To believe there is only one course of action available to you, rather than simplifying your decision making abilities, may turn your models of violence into simplistic ones, where effective solutions are discarded in favor of a prescribed, dogmatic approach. One of the skills I try to equip my students with, is how to quickly interpret the situation they are in, and select an effective solution. My goal is to enhance their creativity and allow them to effectively assess what is actually happening to them. I have found that scenario-based training is the best way to do this, and in the debrief phase where we talk about different ways a situation could have been handled, you start to see people thinking laterally, rather than in a blinkered way. Violence doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and sometimes regular training, can make it seem sterilized.

Sometimes it is not possible to directly control the weapon, and you have to control the weapon-holder instead. It may be due to your position that the assailant is accessible, but their weapon isn’t e.g. you are positioned behind them. In such situations, pickups, throws, and takedowns become an effective way of dealing with an armed assailant. The weapon itself isn’t directly controlled, but the person controlling it is. Would it be better to directly control the weapon? Possibly. However, in an active shooter situation where the barrel of the weapon is hot, after repeated firing, taking control of the weapon may be extremely difficult; something that is exacerbated if the assailant is using a sling or harness. In such instances, it may be difficult to effectively control the weapon (although there are of course ways of doing this), and opting for a solution that requires less skill, especially in such a high stress situation, may be preferable.

The skill level of the practitioner should also be taken into consideration e.g. I can teach somebody how to knock a weapon away and run, in about 30 seconds, and with 5 minutes of practice, they will be fairly confident in their ability to do this. Teaching and practicing effective controls and disarms, takes much more time, and much more practice. Sometimes you don’t have that time with a particular audience, and this limited time means you’re not able to teach them every technique and solution; not everyone will dedicate the time and the practice to make it to Black Belt and beyond, and we have to accept this. An effective system of self-defense should be able to accommodate everyone, and this sometimes means we teach simple approaches, that although not covering every base, equip people with something that can work in a lot of situations, if not every.

I would argue that for a student to have a comprehensive set of solutions, for dealing with armed assailants, they need to be proficient in five basic solutions (I would also argue that they should be proficient in the use of the weapons they face – and be aware of the fact that any weapon they disarm is not their weapon, and may not be truly operable e.g. a gun they disarm may not be loaded or operational, etc.). These five basic approaches are:

1. Disengaging from your attacker

2. Controlling your attacker (rather than the weapon)

3. Combatively assaulting your attacker whilst controlling the weapon

4. Disarming your attacker, after controlling the weapon

5. Using the weapon against your attacker whilst they still hold it, and you control it

Obviously these approaches can be combined e.g. you can combatively assault an assailant and then perform a disarm against them, or use their weapon against them as they still hold it etc. Just as you can control the attacker, before controlling the weapon and disarming it. Different situations, require different solutions, and the principles we use to direct us, must be firm and solid enough to offer a true direction whilst at the same time not restricting us from choosing and deploying the most effective solutions.


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