Regarding the recent spate of shootings in the USA, I was watching the public response to the London terror attacks where some people took to fighting back in the only way left open to them. Thirty years ago things would have been different as British and American men (and women) were far more accustomed to fighting with their fists and feet. Indeed, within some neighbourhoods and social groups this still happens. Especially in parts of London, where the 2018 murder rate recently topped that of New York. Although still nowhere near that of Los Cabos, Mexico, where the murder rate per 100,000 was 111.33 (Total 365). But that’s by the by. London and New York don’t even register in the top 50 of murder capitals.
Thirty plus years ago in the UK, a more usual response to a man with a knife wildly slashing out and stabbing random people, at least in the circles I once moved in, would have been them immediately getting bashed over the head or in the face with the nearest handy object like a chair, pool cue, beer glass, or bottle (Broken or not). Usually after being partially blinded by getting someone’s drink in their face. It’s amazing how quickly that can stop an assailant in their tracks.
Now you can take this at face value for what it’s worth, but in my late teens I was told by a snooker playing boon companion who others described as an ex “rough house barman” who had done this sort of thing and got away unscathed on more than one occasion (But not when four attackers got him down and beat him so hard they burst his left eye, so his story went), the only way for an unarmed combatant to take down any armed assailant is to throw a heavy or blinding object at their eyes, following through immediately with something else heavier and to keep hitting their face, eyes and ears until they drop their weapon and run, or it is safe for the defender to do so, like if their assailant is down and definitively out.
Now I have to stress that this sort of tactic is last ditch, do or die, but if you’ve no other protection, it seems the only immediate way to survive an armed assailant is to attack your assailants eyes and keep on attacking. Literally to blind the bastard. A kick in the unmentionables can also disable, but God help you if you miss. Better to blind, knock them down, then kick them in their tender parts just to make sure they stay down. Then run. Apparently this is a well known special forces tactic. Blind or blindside your attacker(s), close the distance, get inside their swing and keep at their tender parts with whatever comes to hand until they’re hors de combat. Use them as shields against their fellow assailants if need be. Just keep them so busy trying to keep their eyesight that they don’t have time to focus on using any weapon(s). Disarm if you can, kick their weapon well out of reach and don’t muck about.
Personal anecdote here, I was actually forced to fight this way once, in sheer terror I might add, against two other guys, one with a large knife, one with a large adjustable wrench, and blow me down it works. All really that matters is speed, aggression and surprise. The guy with the weapon always expects others to back down. My particular assailants ran from a complete headbanger with an apparent kamikaze complex (L’l old bookish me) swinging a chair and screaming blue murder. Which probably saved me a trip to hospital or worse. All I know is that they ran like hell and never came my way again. Which is lucky for me because I generally abhor violence and will walk ten miles to avoid a possible fight.
Secondary anecdote; I once had nine types of crap beaten out of me when I went into a scrap half-heartedly. Two guys. One baited, the other one drop kicked me in the back from behind. Next thing I know is I’m on my knees taking a kicking to the head and shoulders. All because I thought it was a stupid drunken fight that wouldn’t come to anything. Now I was lucky to get out of it with just a broken nose and without a fractured skull. Which served me right. After that I always asked a mate to ‘watch my back’ when going to places where trouble might lurk. On the proviso that I would do the same for them and never, ever get into a fight unless I was prepared to go all in. Must have worked, because I never caught another beating like that again.
Lets face it, if some nutter is yelling “Allar akbar!” or similar and trying to stick a bloody great knife in you, last resort tactics like spitting in their eyes and at the same time whacking at their faces and eyes with the nearest relatively heavy object or even your fingernails in their eyeballs may just stop them cold. Which sort of dirty tactic may be all that stand between you and bloody oblivion. The idea is that they will be so busy trying to defend their sight that they won’t have time to use their weapon. Then once the attacker is disabled or distracted long enough, get out of there, fast. Leg it. Put as much distance as you can between you and them, and preferably some big, heavy and above all, lockable doors. It may just save your life and the lives of others around you because chummy may still have their weapon but is now easier pickings for the Police, when they eventually arrive. The Police in turn may thank you, but they probably won’t. Indeed, in the UK and Australia they’re likely to arrest the victim and let their assailants off. Why, I have no idea.
Personally, I wouldn’t hang around to find out. Getting clear relatively unscathed should be the only reward you will ever need. You may even get a little hurt in the process, from bruises or a scratch to a wound needing stitches, been there, done that, but it’s way better than getting very dead indeed.
This is also the secret behind why a hundred pound, five foot four woman can take down a six foot four body builder with a black belt in Martial Arts. And I’ve actually seen that happen. Mind you, she was an ex-Greenfinch, a female ex-squaddie who’d actually seen active service in Ulster, and the guy was a Dojo only fighter, so maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised. He certainly was.
Now I know this is purely for one on one situations, because two nasty bastards with knives or guns can ruin anyone’s entire weekend. But the cardinal rule is this; don’t cry, don’t scream, just disable your immediate assailant, put them down hard, kick them hard while they’re down if you can (In the side ribs works nicely -nice big target area – very sensitive), then get the hell out of the way if you can, and for fucks sake don’t hang around to film the fun with your rinky-dinky little smartphone. Terrorism or serious bar fights are not a spectator sport. One of life’s simple truths is that you cannot upload to your playlist of funny cat video’s on YouTube if you are languishing in hospital or worse, seriously dead. Also remember, anything can be turned into a weapon, even the spine of a paperback book or a tightly rolled up newspaper (The notorious ‘Brummie Brick’). I’ve even seen a lightweight folding aluminium table pushed corner first into an attackers face making both an adequate shield and weapon. The trick is not to let them back you into a corner.
And you don’t need a gun. Just looking at my desk I can see at least four items within arms reach that can be used to stop and possibly kill an assailant. A 30oz glass paperweight (Heavy enough to crack a skull), pens (One pushed into the eye socket can ruin anyone’s day), a paperknife (Likewise or into any soft tissue; eyes, neck, belly or groin), a small tray (Swung hard edge-first into the larynx or across the bridge of the nose). A hardback book likewise. Even the spine of a heavy paperback systems manual, providing it’s held and swung right, can fracture a skull. My kitchen by contrast is full of lethally sharp bladed and heavy objects that can ruin any home invaders day. From my expensive German and French bladed cooking knives to either of my heavy cast iron skillets. Not that I want either my knives or skillets damaged – they’re too valuable.
The simple truth is that anything that can be thrown or made solid enough to be held and swung hard enough to blind. Dirt in the face, pepper (Cayenne especially), even squirted ketchup (Chilli sauce or tabasco works best) will do and you don’t even need to be a black belt in Asemi-detached, Deja-foo-jong with fried rice or any other martial art to do it. If your attacker is bigger and stronger than you, anything in the soft parts should be considered fair game. Survival is all that counts.
Now I know as a society in the West we have generally become more peaceful, less prone to settle our differences with fists than in the days of my youth. Indeed, civil society nowadays runs on this principle. Overall this is a good thing. But if we are being attacked by people with bloody murder in their hearts and hands and the Police are minutes (and longer) away, what else are ordinary members of the public to do? We are not important, well apart from to ourselves. We the public have no armed bodyguards like politicians or the elites.
And like it or not, the everyday forces of law and order are no more superhuman than anyone else. In the UK, all they have are batons and maybe pepper sprays if they’re bloody lucky, and we expect them to cope with fanatics bent on mass murder? Seriously?
Indeed, if some crazy pulls a big knife or a gun then gets a drink thrown in their face, or spit in their eyes followed by a swung chair over the head and a few more people join in, kicking and punching. How do you think the would-be killers are going to react?
Answer; they will go down.
Remember John Smeaton, a Glasgow Airport baggage handler? Or Newsagent Mohammed Afzah? Chef Florin Morariu? Other ordinary, nameless people who bombarded the London Bridge attackers last year with bottles, tables and glasses. They saved the lives of others. No-one can calculate how many. Five? Ten? Fifty? All we know is that without their intervention, the body count would have been higher. Like with those guys who took down a gun toting crazy on that train to Amsterdam.
The examples are all out there. Given the attitude of the certain powers that be to favour a certain religious group in case the officers in question are seen as ‘racist’ or ‘phobic’ or they’ve been given orders to ‘wait for backup’ to tackle a weaponised, off his meds nutcase. Meaning you may have to fight for your life alone. Why? Because you may be the only one who can. As an observation I’d say that in general, people have forgotten how to fight hand to hand. Perhaps these are skills that the populace at large may have to relearn. Or at least turn their own desperation around and use their fear to fight back when occasion demands.
On the other hand you could rely on this one simple rule, which I’ve found is an absolute life saver; whatever you do, don’t get into a fracas unless there is absolutely no other alternative. Keep your eyes open and don’t escalate, because as I have found to my own cost; you have to watch your back because no-one else will.
I’m not talking they’re-all-out-to-get-you paranoia here, just a little everyday situational awareness. Like looking left and right before you cross a road. Being aware of your surroundings and actions. Staying clear of trouble. Maybe taking a martial arts class or three to learn a little close up and personal self defence. Doesn’t take much. I prefer Judo and Atemi-Jitsu myself. Far more relaxed. And they work. They also teach confidence and self discipline which is a plus. Not like all those flashy jumps, punches and kicks some places teach. A block, hip throw or wrist-lock will still work, even if you mis-time it. Not so a punch or kick. Besides, punching and kicking, if you don’t know what you’re doing (or in the heat of battle, do it wrong) can actually hurt you more than the object of your attention. As I know to my own cost. Floating bone splinter in left hand still not healed right after three decades.
One last thing; if forced to fight this way in self defence, accept you will get hurt when you go all in, but getting hurt on your feet fighting for survival is far preferable (At least to me) to the shame of cowering and dying on your knees like some animal in a slaughterhouse. When there is no other alternative. Especially if you’re terrified. Fear is useful. The adrenaline boost it brings will give you speed and strength in an emergency. Which may just be enough. Don’t think, just do. Like they tell you in this handy little book. If you’re too cheap to buy a copy, there’s a good online version here or a copy of the hand to hand fighting manual ‘Get Tough’ here. Dated or not, these are the only manuals on self defence you will ever need.
Authors note; if you’ve seen it in the movies, it probably won’t work. Screen fighting is not real fighting. Even Jet Li fakes it.
This is where the line between survivor or victim lies. Choosing to play dirty for your life. Because when push comes to shove, yours is the only one that matters. May you, gentle reader, never have to make that choice for real.
Have a listen to Geoff Thompson (Thanks Bucko) on violence.