Martial Arts is a bit of a paradox; you study self defense hoping you’ll never have to use it. And for most of us, we will never have to use our training in a life and death situation. However, sometimes confronting great violence – and even death – is unavoidable. Such is true for one of our former students.
The person who shared this story with me gave me permission to share it. However, I will only use his first name to protect their identity: Andy.
Andy trained with us for a few years. He had previous training in Kung Fu and was very enthusiastic in class. He was one of those who had a sense of intensity in his training: he listened intently and always did his best to learn what was being taught. He also was friendly, humble and had a great sense of humor. He also loved motorcycles, and guns – no wonder he fit in so well.
Unfortunately for us, he had to move away to find work. It was couple years later when I received a phone call from him.
“Hey Shidoshi, it’s me Andy. I have to tell you something. Call me back.”
I gave Andy a call and he relayed the following story to me.
Andy Walks into a Bar…
He was at a bar in Montana, and carrying his sidearm. Montana is an open carry state, and Andy is a big believer in the second amendment. Apparently, someone at the bar took issue with him.
So rather than get sucked into a bar fight, Andy made the responsible choice to leave the bar and call it a night.
He went to his bike, pulled on his helmet, and sat on it to start it up. That’s when the individual from the bar walked up to him.
“Get your gun out” he said.
Andy, somewhat confused, replied “uhhh…no”.
The stranger pulled out a gun and held it to Andy’s head and repeated his command: “GET YOUR GUN OUT”. Andy raised his hands. The crowd outside the bar gasped.
He motioned away from the crowd, over the gunman’s shoulder: “What about the cops over there?”
The gunman glanced for a split second. That’s all Andy needed. He quickly grabbed the gun and executed an omote gyaku (a wrist lock technique), taking the assailant to the ground, breaking his arm, and removing his gun. Disarmed, bewildered and in shock, the assailant jumped up and ran into the night.
Check out this excellent video from Andrew Dendariarena in NY explaining how to classically perform Omote Gyaku.
Not long after, the police came. After taking everyone’s statements, they thank Andy. They thank him for not shooting the guy, or anyone else there.
Andy wasn’t entirely sure why he wanted him to get his gun out. But he thinks maybe the gun the person had was unloaded. “Maybe his wasn’t loaded so he wanted mine to shoot me with.” Andy still doesn’t know why the guy tried to start a fight with him. Nor if he was ever arrested.
Self Defense Principles in Real Life
This simple, yet dramatic, story is a great illustration of key principles for self defense:
- Avoiding confrontation: Andy attempted to leave the bar in order to avoid the situation escalating. It also lessened the odds of their being collateral damage.
- Maintaining Awareness: Although the attacker got the drop on Andy enough to get his gun out, Andy was aware of this situation, especially where bystanders were.
- Staying Calm: Andy was able to keep calm and think in the situation, and put together a game plan.
- Using Distraction: Andy used a simple yet effective method to distract his attacker, giving him the necessary opportunity to attack.
- Proper technique: Andy executed the omote gyaku technique effectively enough to break the arm of his attacker. Not only was it effective in disabling the opponent, but it was appropriate for the situation: it kept the gun in a safe direction by not pointing it the bystanders near him.
I’m sure we could nitpick the situation and identify Andy’s mistakes or what he could have done better. However, the most important thing were the results:
- Andy is alive and not injured
- Bystanders are alive and not injured
- The bad guy was injured.
Those are pretty darn good results.
Giving Credit where Credit is Due
Hearing a story like that from one of your students is…well…kind of weird. Part of you is thinking “that’s awesome!” Part of you feels validated in what you teach. But mostly, you feel relief that someone you know wasn’t killed.
Andy was very gracious: “I did exactly what you taught me Shidoshi.” That definitely will make you feel proud. But really, the credit goes to Andy. He put in the work, he stayed calm, and he showed courage.
Sorry Andy, but you get all the credit. Just pick a different bar to go to next time.