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Thursday, 12 September 2013

Self defence... part 3

So this will be the last post on this subject (for the foreseeable future anyway) and I'm going to, as promised, look back at the only real fight I've ever had as an adult.

A quick background first... at the time I was a purple belt and was training probably 3-4 times a week. I'd done a bit of training for a no-head-shots MMA type competition but other than that nothing other than what would be considered sport jiu-jitsu. Previous to this incident the only altercation I'd had as an adult was getting headbutted (and a broken nose) while trying to stop a mate getting attacked. I typed up this story as soon as I got to a computer (maybe 5 mins after the incident)...

Ok, so we all know how deadly the streets are... no rules, lava, needles etc. Luckily, there is no lava or needles in my car. I had a road rage incident (not my fault, a guy cut me up and all I did was beep my horn) earlier tonight on the way home from training. It turned into a proper fight too.

Basically, he pulled in front of me, slammed his brakes on and immediately jumped out of his car. I managed to stop about 10 cms from his bumper and had put my hazards on (safety first!!). Sadly, the doors on Micras are huge so I couldn't get out quickly (there was a central reserve on the road) and he got to my car pretty swift.

He opened my door so I just scooted back on to the passenger seat (over the handbrake!) as he lunged toward me. I grabbed both his wrists, put my left foot on his biceps and said something like "You're going to be in trouble now mate". He said he was going to stab me but I wasn't worried as I had control of both his wrists (I have no idea whether he had a knife on him).

So, I then locked a triangle on (hard) and he immediately started to panic. I let it off slightly (still choking, not enough to put him out quickly) and he said sorry and that his daughter was in the car. He started saying he had just split up from his wife and was having a really bad day, pleaded for me to let him go. I said I didn't trust him to let him go. He pleaded more so I thought I may as well let him go but do it carefully. We were in the middle of a busy road, so choking him out and leaving a small girl wandering around wouldn't have been a good idea.

I backed him out of my car, with the triangle still on and still gripping both his wrists. Then I let it off and it was obvious he was feeling the effects of the choke. He scarpered back to his car and drove off... sadly I was more concerned with possible damage to my car door at this time so I didn't get his reg. Oh well.

That's it.

A few members of my girlfriend's family are police officers and they said it would be best to report it, just in case someone else did and I ended up looking like I was hiding something. So I rang the police... when they came around to take a statement I had to explain that all the marks (currently have a slightly swollen ear, bruising on my cheek and various graises) on my face weren't from the incident but from training. I didn't think they would know what a triangle choke was so I just said "I choked him with my legs".

Sport BJJ works as self-defence, fact! 

Now it's worth noting three things quickly:-  1) plenty of people online have felt the need to strongly proclaim they do not believe the story  2) I don't care  3) it did happen.

Reviewing the story, the first thing I think is the grammar and structure is pretty bad... but I was writing it immediately after the incident and the adrenaline was still flowing (more on that later). One omission which people have asked about was how did I use spider guard to triangle? Usefully for me he had a longsleeve shirt on. I think it was a denim shirt but may have just been a heavy cotton type thing, either way it was great for grips. Then something else which people picked up on (as an apparent obvious sign it's a lie) was the bit saying "I backed him out of my car, with the triangle still on and still gripping both his wrists.". Now, I'm pretty sure this was accurate at the time but it's impossible to know now as it was so long ago. I would only have had to push him back a small amount (he was still standing outside the car) and it's easy to use elbows and ass to shuffle forward while keeping a triangle locked on, but I may have let go of his hands which would definitely have been a mistake (considering the knife threat).

Looking back at the incident now gives me a lot of thinking points...

- He said he was going to stab me -
I know that at the time this didn't register as a real threat at all (as I already had control of both his wrists/hands at that point) and I still think it was a bluff, but what if it wasn't? Maybe a much better course of action would have been to just lock my car doors and not get involved in any violent situation. At the time I remember I was worried about damage to my car, which is a stupid reason to risk my life. However, I'm still happy with what I did because I think a lot of people get away with being assholes and I'm glad I was able to give the guy the scare he deserved (more on this later). If I was giving someone advice though, I'd say lock your doors.

- What a bizarre environment to have a fight -
When most people think of real fights they think of alleyways or inside/outside nightclubs, but this happened across the front seats of my car! I guess this shows the randomness of events and it brings to the fore how useful the skills jiu-jitsu gives you are. I can't really think of any situation/environment where jiu-jitsu wouldn't be usable, whereas striking or throwing arts always need some room to work.

- Adrenaline is hard to overcome -
I had competed a fair few times before this incident and had got to the point that adrenaline was no longer a big factor in competitions. However, after the fight was over my hands were shaking... not badly but it wasn't minor either. Now adrenaline has it's advantages, boosting speed and strength, but I think for someone with a good level of fighting ability it is much more of a negative (tunnel vision, lack of clarity of thought, a risk of burning yourself out etc). The only way to overcome this would be to get used to it, meaning you'd need to regularly be involved in real fights... not something I would suggest. An important issue arising from this is how many self defence instructors teach people without having experience of adrenaline in a real situation themselves? I think that without experiencing it, it's hard to advise people on how to deal with it.

- Most situations can probably be avoided -
The first paragraph of the story is not entirely accurate... he did cut me up and I beeped my horn but then he stuck his fingers up at me and I returned the favour with one finger. Maybe if I had just ignored him and let him drive off in anger nothing would have happened? Plus as I said above, when it did happen I could have just locked my car doors.

- Do I have any regrets/would I do anything differently? -
It will sound really bad to some people I'm sure, but I will be honest... I kind of wish I had choked the guy out cold or given him a couple of elbow strikes inside the triangle. Not because I like being violent but I just think the guy deserved it; he'd been the one driving like an idiot and he'd started the fight. Really though, with him saying he had his daughter with him there was no way I could have done those things.
My biggest regret is that I had my phone in my pocket and could have easily taken it out to take photos or even videos... maybe even a video interview with him in the triangle?! Another problem of adrenaline though, the thought didn't even cross my mind at the time.

- The good points -
I think the obvious one is that I was unharmed. I also managed to avoid having my car damaged, saving myself any repair bills.
Sounds a bit stupid but I was really happy when it was over and I remembered I'd put my hazards on as it shows that I could still think clearly during the lead up.
I didn't get in any trouble from it which was definitely a good result, I think if I had given him a beating I'd have at least been in danger of legal repercussions if not ended up being charged. Not only would that have been bad personally, but from a professional point of view, with jiu-jitsu now being my job, it could have been disastrous.
Jiu-jitsu worked! Beyond anything this proved to me that people who don't know any grappling will have no idea what is happening to them until it's way too late. I used the most basic spider guard triangle set-up and I even got stuck at one point because it was hard to clear my foot across the back of his head as my shoe got stuck against the ceiling of my car. It was easy though, the guy obviously had no idea whatsoever that I was even trying to set something up.

So that's it for my meandering thoughts on the subject of self defence and jiu-jitsu. I've trained a lot of jiu-jitsu and I've had one real fight. I'd recommend doing your best to avoid real fights and training lots of jiu-jitsu! :)


  1. Out of interest, how would you compare your experience to that infamous Renzo altercation from a year ago, where he DOES beat up the guy and indeed take photos?

    As you probably remember, that struck a lot of people at the time as a very unusual thing for a professional BJJ instructor to do, but he doesn't seem to have had any repercussions from it.

  2. I have no problem with people handing out a beating to people who start fights. I think allowing revenge attacks in general would be a bad thing though.

    Obviously any repercussions are the main downside... I guess knowledge of an instructor doing something like that might also put off some potential students. Although I'm guessing Renzo wouldn't care about missing out on them.

    I do think the world/country would be better if victims of crime had the option to have a 5min MMA round with the perpetrator :)

  3. Good post Rob.

    I have had one incident where I used BJJ 'on the cobbles' as it were that was similar in that no-one believed it happened (despite the other party telling his whole family in the pub immediately afterwards) and also that he had NO idea what I was doing. Agree with you on the fact though that 99% of fights can be avoided by general self-awareness and avoidance. I've known plenty of people that claimed 'trouble follows them around' and 'they never start fights' but when there's a drunk lairy guy causing trouble in a pub etc, they don't think to just go drink somewhere else but will happily stay there and eyeball the guy.

    Picking your socialising venues and activities is also the other easiest way to avoid trouble - I've had two incidents that were straight up unheralded attacks and only one of those was what I would describe as truely unavoidable (walking past a random racist smackhead in brixton; where I was living at the time)

    1. Yeah, you're spot on mate. I know people who say "I always get started on, I don't know why" but every night they go out they get absolutely trashed and start abusing random people.

      What happened in your fight? I'm always interested in hearing stories of BJJ used in real fights.

    2. Lol inspired by this topic, I've posted it up on 13yearwhitebelt.wordpress.com (plug, plug). Its funny that people never believe these kind of stories - I think its because like a bit of basic boxing, BJJ vs an untrained drunk guy will make you look like you have super powers

    3. Haha, that's awesome mate, congrats on putting him in his place. Shame that you couldn't tear his shoulder off without worry of legal action ;-)

      Having a fight and then being mates because of it is classic school fight!

  4. Would you arm bar someone in a street fight? Is some of BJJ a bit too brutal?

    I've never had a street fight, always found them easy to avoid.

  5. I think I'd prefer a choke... a lot easier to defend doing that in court. But if I had to, I'd do anything... but then I guess the good thing about the control BJJ gives you over someone who doesn't grapple, is it's highly unlikely you'd be forced to use a specific sub.

  6. Apologies for a comment years after you posted this however here you go

    Recently i was reversing out of my driveway when my neighbour came charging out & in a split second he had my door open and was standing over me yelling angrily. His beef was my in laws were noisy & waking him in the morning (I was literally in the process of taking them to the airport so his beef was gone)

    Fortunately there was no violence involved. Without writing an essay about it I'm just saying that being attacked in your car happens. It's the last place I'd have trained for