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Wednesday, 11 August 2010


We always share real-life experiences in class - they either come out during the training or in the circle-up at the end. It's a very important part of the process as it means we can draw on the collective experiences of everyone in the session - not just for "fighting", but so much information also comes back on awareness, fitness and general "life experience".

Normally these experiences stay in the session, but one of the lads had was involved in an incident a couple of weeks back that I thought should be shared with a wider audience. It raises a number of interesting points and, most importanlty, the only person who got hurt, short and long term, was the guy who instigated it.

Our man "X" has been training in the group for around a year and has no previous martial art experience. He is 30-ish in age, just a regular guy. A few weeks ago he was walking through the car park of a large supermarket at 3.30 in the afternoon. He had just finished making a call on his mobile. He heard someone say "give me your f------ phone". He turned to see a young guy approaching. His first reaction was that this was some kind of joke so he aked "What?"

The robber repeated his demand, more aggresively. X laughed and told him to "f----- off". The robber now shouted his demand, put his head down and charged forward. As he did, his right hand dropped to his belt/pocket

X without thinking shot a kick to the knee and as the robber went down, X punched him in the face. The guy was now laying on the some discomfort. Next to him lay an opened knife

People nearby rushed over. X, thinking quickly, loudly said "did you see that, he had a knife! He was going to stab me". He also began acting shaken up and scared. Within seconds all the people were agreeing with him, they all said they saw the knife even though most of them were some distance away

Now the police arrived. X was told off for "talking to witnesses". The robber was claiming he was "just mucking about" . X continued to act scared and unsure of himself and repeatedly pointed out the fact the robber had a knife. The robber was taken to hospital, he had some damage to his kneecap

The police asked X if he wanted to press charges. He said no, as far as he was concerned the thing was over. So the police arrested X. That was the end of the actual incident


A few days later X saw the robber again, this time with a friend. He approached the robber from out of line of sight, then put his arm around him and said "remember me?" The robber was clearly worried and his friend kept saying "we don't want any trouble!". X told him that they shouldn't go out robbing people then and it was left at that
In the meantime X had a two week wait while the CPS decided whether to go ahead with the case against him or not. Eventually it came through that no charges would be pressed

In terms of his actions and re-actions I think X did very well . Perhaps the only thing you could say was he didn't do initially spot the robber - but then again at half three in the afternoon in a busy place you wouldn't expect it (which is perhaps a lesson in itself). His physical response to the threat (and who knows what the guy would have done with the knife) was perfect - delivered naturally, precise, effective and appropriate. It is also worth noting that the knife was unseen until it was dropped onto the floor by the robber

However where I thought X really shone was in his "post-event management". He could have boasted about what he'd done to the witnesses or, even worse mentioned his Systema training! Instead he handled the situation very well, everyone supported him - and rightly so, after all. But I can tell you from my court days how easily events can be twisted in the hands of a good brief. The important thing is what you say - that is what gets noted most. Actions can be interpreted in different ways, if you speak with clear intent it is more difficult to distort

The next interesting thing was the fact that he got arrested, despite all the evidence at the scene. I'm not sure if this is procedure or down to the discretion of the officers on the spot. To be fair they have to make a decision based on only seeing the aftermath of an event.

Finally I thought X handled seeing the robber again very well. He could have gone aggressive on him, or even been scared of him. Instead he gave him some brotherly advice (that will hopefully be heeded). This should curtail any future come-backs or thoughts of revenge on the part of the robber. This is something that's often overlooked in self defence, especially when the emphasis is all on "turning into a wild animal and savaging your opponent". When you come out of that, back into the real world, there can be significant consequences to deal with

Anyway the important things are that no-one was too badly hurt, X kept his phone and is not being charged and a young man has perhaps learnt the error of his ways. Hopefully this will provide some food for thought for all of us and some lessons that can be fed back into our training


  1. Excellent! Reality based. Everything is unpredictable, thus the reason we train for a natural response. I'm glad things didn't escalate to serious harm on either side but yet very thorough.

  2. Found the post-encounter stuff very interesting. Thank you for posting.

  3. A few points-

    1. He should have pressed charges, not doing so would seem suspicious to the police, that may have been why he was arrested.

    2. It is important to tell the police that you were in fear of your life when you responded with force to an attack.

    3. I would imagine that the supermarket probably has CCTV, if the officers attempt to dispute the events a suggestion that the CCTV footage will clear up the matter could help.

    4. The mere fact of being arrested, even if no charges are brought can have repercussions, for example some types of jobs require you to be vetted, having your DNA taken and put on the database, which is riddled with errors can also cause many problems and getting off the database is very difficult.

  4. Good point about the DNA - I believe it is compulsory to give it know when arrested?