He passed closer to me than I wanted. He made eye contact and said, “Hey man” and moved on. That’s what I thought anyway…
Suddenly the same guy who had spoken to me quickly reversed direction, forced me sideways and had two massive hands on my throat. His eyes were fierce and his teeth were clinched. I knew I was in trouble but for the life of me, in the first stunned second, I didn’t know what to do. I was shocked that I didn’t see the attack coming. My intuition and training screamed at me to do what I knew to do. Finally, I plucked his hands trapping them against my clavicle as executed a groin kick. I backed off slightly and got both of my hands on the back of his neck in clinch. From there I forced his face downward and began to strike with my knee to his face.
Thank goodness this was just a class and he wasn't trying to kill me.
Sensei Mac and I posing for a two handed choke escape.
For a long time I desired to take a personal defense class. I believe that as a father it is my job to protect myself and my family. But I’m a guy. Guy’s don’t take defense classes. Online I found several free personal defense classes for women in my area. None for men. But hey, I’m a guy. I totally know how to fight someone who attacks me and my family. I’ve seen most of the Die Hard movies so I’m good, right? I’ll just let my guy intuition kick in and suddenly I’ll become John McClain. Yippie Ki Yay!
"Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."
- Mike Tyson
I knew learning personal defense is what I wanted/needed to do, but I was very apprehensive about calling up a martial arts studio and starting. I had to get over this whole “all guys know how to fight” stereotype. To clarify, I knew I could land some punches if I had to, but I wasn’t sure I could repel an attacker quickly. So this was my starting point when I reached out to Sensei Mac at a nearby martial arts studio.
Sensei Mac agreed to teach me one-on-one Krav Maga for personal defense. He is an expert in several practices of martial arts including the popular Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I chose to learn Krav Maga based on my own research. I figured if Israel could teach their average population Krav Maga effectively then surely I could do it. After our first session it mentally clicked what Krav Maga was about and how to move, strike and block. I really enjoy it.
For one hour a week I began to learn the ropes of Krav Maga for personal defense. I was not trying to learn Krav Maga to master it. I only had the time and money to learn the basics of the discipline for self defense purposes. Since this was a one-on-one private lesson there was plenty of time to discuss technique and theory. This also meant I was his only sparing partner and only student to run drills. There were a few times I felt I was going to vomit all over the mat. It was all part of the process and I’m glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone.
I needed that moment. I needed to be frightened. I needed to see how my brain would react in a stressful situation with no time to prepare.
It was week four when I really starting to gain a lot of confidence. Then the two handed choke hold lesson I mentioned before brought me back to reality. Sensi Mac and I had gone over the move about four times before we ran it at full speed. He moved toward me and I unconsciously countered by stepping back. He laughed and told me that I needed to be in a passive stance, not moving, since this was not training for fighting, but rather personal defense. I pointed out to him that I don’t let people get that close to me. Then he reminded me that on the street, in a parking lot or in a store we let people get closer to us than we normally would.
He began a scenario where we were just two guys passing each other on a narrow sidewalk. He made eye contact and said, “Hey man.” Then he continued past me. I thought for a moment about his poin- ARG! That’s when Sensi Mac closed the short distance between us and showed me how quickly and violently attacks can occur. My brain locked up. I was in shock even though we had just practiced the move. The sheer violence of the situation blanked my thoughts. I tried to think about what to do and that was the wrong thing. My training came back to me after that long few seconds and I countered his attack. As I learned the hard way, you only have time to react in an attack and when you do - you better make it count.
I needed that moment. I needed to be frightened. I needed to see how my brain would react in a stressful situation with no time to prepare. When you are in a fight for your life, you don’t have time to think about why it’s happening. You just have to address the danger and fall back on your training. Thinking takes longer and therefore can get you hurt. Knowing what to do gives you the opportunity defend yourself and escape if necessary.
You just have to address the danger and fall back on your training. Thinking takes longer and therefore can get you hurt.
While I learned ton of great Krav Maga skills during my training like throwing combinations and escaping holds, that frightening moment taught me the most. I learned a lot about myself and how to overcome the initial shock of an attack. I know what to mentally focus on so that I can strike back. Now that my training has ended, for now, I still know to avoid physical confrontations at all costs, but if there is no other way out, I’m ready.
There are a few false securities about personal defense that I need you to understand. First, don’t think that just because you’ve seen a lot of movies that you know how to fight. Likewise don’t assume that since you could beat up your little brother that you can take on a 215 lb attacker at night. The violence and uncertainty of a real life attack is much different than movies and sibling rivalry.
Second, don’t think that because you have a gun that you automatically win. While a gun trumps fists, if your attacker closes the gap on you or strikes without warning, you could lose that gun and have it used against you. Reaching for your firearm **first** is not the wisest move. Address the danger of the attacker first, then draw your weapon if you feel it is necessary. Create some distance before you reach for it.
Don’t think that just because you’ve seen a lot of movies that you know how to fight.
Finally don’t sit back in your recliner and dream up fight scenarios that you could win. Don’t plan out some uneducated fight moves you’ve never practiced. You don’t know that your personal personal defense situation is going to look like and if you don’t have any training to go with it, you are in trouble. As Mike Tyson so eloquently put it, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” I can attest that Mr. Tyson is correct.
I strongly recommend that everyone, men and women, invest in personal defense training. Defending yourself from an attacker is vital to our survival. Your life is worth fighting for. While personal defense training is a lot of fun, you also learn valuable, real life skills that you may need to protect yourself and your family. Don’t kid yourself about your ability to defend yourself. If there’s any doubt about your ability to protect yourself, then pick up the phone and call your local martial arts studio, they’ll be happy to help you.
Sensei Mac and I are all smiles.