I have fond memories of my first gang attack back in the 5th grade. Me and a friend got tired of of the crowed swing sets and before the 3rd graders came to recess – we decided to take over their play ground. We were under the delusion that the two bigger fifth graders would be intimidated into letting us take over their play ground. Well as I recall we had no such luck. We took over two of their swings and told them to go away – this was our play ground now. The little munchkins responded by attacking us! We were only able to hold them off for maybe 15 seconds or so… I mean they came at us from all angles and soon we were rolling round in the sand and had to crawl to safety! We learned a hard lesson that day – never, I mean never get between the entire third grade and their play ground!!!
So you see my first experience with a mass/gang attack did not go quite as I had expected. Later on in the sixth grade I was able to escape two twins that had a hold of each arm – running me into a pole. I remember a cartoon where the character tripped both attackers right before they reached the pole and banged their heads together! I tried that and it worked like a charm! I had another experience in sixth grade where two twins thought they could out wrestle me. They were a year older and on the wrestling team. I told them I could pin them both and it was on… after about five minutes I managed to pin on of the twins with my hands to his shoulders as my shin pinned the other by his throat!
So I knew it was possible to defeat a gang of attackers – but I knew you had to have an edge – that I assumed had to be better fighting technique. Before I launch on what you can do if you are attacked by a gang of thugs, first watch this video of what not do do. I have fond memories of that third grade class kicking my butt as I watch this video.
[Disclaimer: This post is speaking specifically about older men or women that find themselves being threatened with lethal force by younger men or women – so a true fight or flight, if fight… it is for your life – so no holds barred defense including is the ultimate response. I am not endorsing mayhem or killing in the course of a normal lower-threat self-defense scenario.]
Sadly I was disappointed while searching videos of old men (or women) fighting in perceived self-defense situations. Youtube is full of that kind of stuff nowadays due to cell phone cameras. So the real question, “Can older aged men (women implied also) train effectively for fighting?” really came to mind and spurred this post. I intend to frame this argument from the perspective of an old man trained as fighter in his youth (my situation) in the martial arts of some kind. While my art is Kenpo – you could interchange almost any striking art with the same issues to overcome.
As a young man karate students are taught to avoid fights, walk away, deescalate and maybe even run away! This is all an attempt to avoid needless carnage for perceived slights and needless fights over quarters at the pool table (I don’t know where that came from). As a young man – hormones surge through ones body and everyone (men and women) are preening for each other. No one wanted to look weak and many did not let challenges to their man or woman hood go. They defended their honor! Even most martial artists ignored the advice to walk away and digressed to fisticuffs at the drop of a hat.
Well fast forward to late middle ages to the elderly and you will find many that the mind is still willing but the body does not respond so well. Even among martial artists (the subject of this article) you will find old men that will fight a younger man at the drop of the hat. I will argue that older men cannot fall prey to their youthful horrormones [misspelling intended] and actually have to use some of their fast dissipating grey matter and fight smarter at old age if they expect to win. It does not matter your rank or how many fight stories you can tell your children (grandchildren?) about what you could do in your youth! Them times is not now!!!
So please review the first part of this video about some common sense deescalation techniques that while all should consider – old men have to do in order to put up a reasonable defense!
It was the mid-1980’s and I was having a conversation with an old guy I knew from another business. He owned a metal shop and the conversation got to fighting. He knew I used to own a karate school and thought I could take care of myself. He told me that he knew karate and was good at street fighting. We went back and forth for a while with our experience and I assumed since I outranked him I could win easily in any kind of fight. Well as you know in a street fight there are no rules. I squared off with Henry and as I was getting ready into my stance – he jabbed an eye-poke at my forehead!!! My ego was great and my counter punch caught him in his gut and I declared myself the winner!
It reminded me of my childhood cap-gun fights arguing who got who first. You see in a real fight it only matters who wins and winning most often is taking an early advantage and keeping it. Fights only last seconds if someone knows how to fight. I could not accept that a man in his 50’s could get one over on me (a fighter in his 20’s). But looking back on that incident the way a real fight would have gone is me temporarily unable to see while the old guy had his way with me.
I bring this up because of today’s topic, “Are the martial arts effective in a fight?” Save yourself some reading and I’ll tell you the answer now… maybe.
First I would like to mention that the martial arts I am speaking of include Eastern and Western martial arts. I am not discriminating here. I have always said fighting is fighting is fighting. No matter what techniques you choose to accomplish fighting – there are only so many ways to do it and everything is known. So I include karate, kung fu, wrestling, boxing, muay thai, jiu-jitsu (Japanese and Brazilian), judo, savate and so forth… any martial art you can think of I am including in this list.
Check out this short video from a school owner I found on youtube, Fred Mergen, about will MMA work in a street fight to frame the arguments.
15 Mar 2015
Back in the mid-1970’s, my instructor, Dick Willett, urged me to go to open karate tournaments to supplement my fighting skill set. You see at open tourneys, they allowed full contact to the body and kiss contact to the head (in Brown and Black Belt levels). It was more realistic back then since groin shots were also open. That meant that a karateka could not stand in a open boxing stance that would be unrealistic in a real fight – but rather had to be aware that they were vulnerable to attacks low, mid-level and high.
I started sparring in the school in the white belt divisions (orange, purple, blue, and green) as a blue belt. The cool thing was there were no head shots – so one had to become good at body strikes (a valuable learning tool). I then went to tourneys in white, brown and eventually black belt levels. I was also bouncing at a local bar when I turned 21 (brown belt level for me). This was way before I learned boxing, kick boxing, or dabbled in BJJ – but I had wrestled in jr. high school.
So meandering to the premise of this article, I thought that the school sparring, and later tournament sparring put me in a good position for the many real fights I encountered working two years as a bouncer. At that time tournament point sparring (continuous sparring was only done at schools – not at open tournaments yet) put me in a perfect position to transition to a real fight for reasons that I will go into in this article, but alas I fear that karate tournaments of today, this is no longer the case.
I am not picking on any one organization but here are the rules for the World Karate Federation Tournaments.
And here is one match I found.
Kind of an interesting title, “What is Karate…” for this article. I used to be the guy that sold dreams to people wanting to learn karate. To most Americans in the 1970’s and 1980’s, karate was a mysterious way of fighting. Perhaps they had seen movies and TV shows how a smaller man/woman/child could best a bigger, stronger opponent. So when people waked in to my studio I would tell them what was possible for them or their children.
The thing is there was no single idea of what karate was to people. Many wanted self defense at first but then sought to attain, rank, trophy in sport kumite and kata. Some wanted to learn some good street fighting techniques (most for self defense). The thing is as a salesman – I changed my presentation to suit each person individually. I told them whatever reasonable goal they had for karate – I would help them achieve that as well as teach then the Kenpo Karate system of self defense.
Before I give you my answer of what I think karate is, watch this catchy karate rap video of the period for a good idea of what people thought of karate back in the day.
I have been doing karate for years and have not really thought about this from a beginning students perspective recently. I had a buddy ask me my take on teaching students how to kick the groin as beginners can miss the mark at first. Also (understandably) guys do not want to volunteer their family jewels as target practice!
Ok – one of the first kicks a student learns is the front snap kick in most styles. You bring the knee up, snap the kick out (kicking with the ball of the foot or instep), bring the kick back and land it. This method fast becomes second nature but before a student learns actual sparring (if they style they are learning does that), how is a student to know their kick is going to be a real ball buster? That is the question I’ll deal with in this post.
First for some comic relief Master Ken is going to demonstrate some ways to create more sopranos in the choir.
I want to learn karate so I can protected myself against “any” attack! How often do you hear people saying that they can protect themselves because they know how to fight? I’ve heard it all of my life and bought into it sometimes. For instance if you have muscles – no one will want to fight you on the beach because you are not an easy mark (assuming muscles equate to fighting ability). Or you are a prize fighter superstar and become a jerk in a bar… thinking no one “can” get the best of you.
This over or sometimes no confidence is common among karate students. Students take lessons to learn how to protect themselves after all. In this post I’ll go over what karate can and cannot do for you as part of your self-defense strategy.
Once when I was working restaurant for a living (a long time ago), one of the cooks wanted to know how to win a fight with a karate guy. I was honest with him and told him his he had better sucker punch first and hard because if he did not get a fast advantage – he was going to pay dearly. More this story later but please read on if you want to hear my thoughts about karate protecting you from an assassin’s attack.