How many times have you heard someone remark
“That won’t work!”
about a particular tactic or training method?
Here are my top ten reasons why your tactics or training methods won’t work:
- You’re too close!
- You’re too far away!
- The angle of entry/application is wrong.
- This technique relies on a particular attack.
- You’re not unbalancing them enough.
- You’re unbalancing them too much.
- You’re training it too fast (for your skill level).
- You’re training too slow (to be effective).
- There’s no resistance.
- There’s too much resistance!
(11. Because (insert name here) said that (insert advice taken out of context here).)
When it comes to looking at training and tactics, everyone’s got an opinion. Criticism can be a great tool when applied correctly, but before we indulge in its use, we should look at whether we understand what is being done and why. Different training methods and tactics exist because different problems create different solutions. There is no single perfect solution for every problem. (with the possible exception of Chuck Norris)
So before we armchair criticise something from a different system, we should perhaps ask ourselves whether we’ve really understood what it is they’re trying to achieve. I’ll hold my hands up and admit that in the past I’ve criticised something because it didn’t fit the context of my approach, without acknowledging that it was designed for something else. It’s not something of which I’m proud. Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make ours any brighter.
Criticising my own training is a different matter. When it comes to examining why your own training or tactics aren’t working, the list of ten above is a good check-list for why we might not be getting the results we want.
Train safely, criticise yourself regularly, and frame your solutions to the criticism positively using SMART approaches.
Written in 2004, this article was first published by Traditional Karate Magazine in the UK in August 2005 as part of my ‘Practical Techniques’ series.
There are many different elements that can combine to make a martial arts technique ‘practical’. Here ‘practical technique’ is defined as something that you would be able to use to defend yourself in a genuine time of need rather than in a sports competition. This is not to say that the techniques that serve well in martial art competitions are unsuitable for the street (since many are very effective), but rather to recognise that the two environments differ. Each short article in this series will look at a training principle that forms the roots of practical technique.
Habitual Acts of Violence
One of the most important factors that all martial arts training aimed at practical self- defence should address is its relevance to the habitual acts of violence (HAOV) common to its locale. The value of having acquired an excellent defence against all the front kicks that your training partners in the dojo attempt to connect with you is diminished by the fact that it is a form of attack you are unlikely to have to defend yourself against in a bar or on the street. Even in this martial arts film-fueled age, most people don’t use effective kicks until their victim is already lying prone on the ground.
The term HAOV is a commonly used derivative of a term introduced by Patrick McCarthy, HAPV – habitual acts of physical violence. Both terms are interchangeable but I prefer the use of HAOV since it accommodates certain actions that many would not regard as physical violence such as pre-fight physical posturing and verbal threats.
If our martial arts training is to have any validity from a self defence perspective then it must address the HAOV that we are likely to face in a conflict situation. It is important here to address the real situation and not the media and film induced perceptions. While it is possible to gain a reasonable idea of pre-fight patterns in your locale by reading the brief assault descriptions (and police appeals for witnesses) in your local newspapers, the best sources overall are probably the statistics compiled by the Home Office. These are usually available through the easy access of the Internet.
A study made by Mike Maguire and Hilary Nettleton, (Home Office Research Study 265 – March 2003), Reducing alcohol-related violence and disorder – an evaluation of the ‘TASC’ project, contains information of direct relevance to all those who would address their training to the threat of alcohol related crime.
Location of incidents leading to hospital visits:
40% of all incidents occurred inside Licensed premises, a further 20% took place just outside. Only 24% of the incidents recorded took place elsewhere in the street.
Assaults: Type of violence Used:
The majority of attacks (46%) involved punches or kicks, while pushes accounted for 12%. Despite the majority of incidents taking place inside, only 10% involved the use of a bottle or a glass. These figures are slightly misleading since they refer to the end product of the event. The statistics do not show whether attacks involving punches and kicks were preceded by pushes. It is likely that punches tended to follow pushes while kicks tended to follow attacks that had already displaced the victim to the ground. According to the British Crime Survey (see below) punching or slapping occurred in 64% of incidents between strangers, grabbing/pushing in 43% (note the overlap percentage) and kicking in 24%. Incidentally these statistics suggest that you are more likely to be kicked by acquaintances (30% versus 24%) than strangers.
Sites of injuries sustained:
The majority of injuries sustained by casualties were to the Face/Neck/Head/Teeth (73%), while only 11% of injuries were to the Arms/Legs/Hands and only 3% to the Trunk.
The Home Office Online report (2003) by Tracey Budd into Alcohol related assault and the findings of the British Crime Survey offers further insights by providing useful information into the nature of attackers.
Alcohol-related incidents are more likely to involve multiple offenders than other incidents. Almost half of alcohol-related assaults between strangers involved more than one attacker. 38% of the incidents between acquaintances involved more than one person (In the 1999 survey detailed by Tracey Budd’s report into alcohol related assault 51% involved one offender, 17% two, 12% three, 21% four or more). The majority of alcohol related assaults involve men. In the case of incidents involving strangers, 90% were men only, 5% involved women and 5% a mixed group. The majority of stranger related incidents concerned men aged 16-24 whereas incidents involving acquaintances were more likely to occur in the over 25 group. Approximately one third of alcohol related assaults involved someone the victim considered as a friend.
One element that we have to contend with from a self-defence viewpoint is a confrontation where physical assault is the by-product, rather than perhaps the sole intent, of an attack. The statistics above were taken from alcohol related assaults, but according to Budd’s report these only account for 52% of all assaults. It is possible to gain further awareness of HAOV by studying available data on robberies such as that compiled by Jonathan Smith for the Home Office Research Study 254 (January 2003) into Personal Robbery.
Robberies are more likely to occur at night, although the likelihood of being robbed varies according to the age and sex of the victim. An example of this is that the elderly and young children are more likely to be targeted during the day, since they tend to be ‘available’ more at those times. According to the statistics compiled by Smith, approximately half of all robberies occurred between 1800 and 0200 hours and half of all personal robberies took place at the weekend.
The nature of the Robbery:
In a quarter of all cases (both men and women) the victim was physically attacked prior to any demands or robbery. Men were more likely to be confronted with a demand as the first point of contact than women (41% versus 25%), while women in turn were more likely to be subject to snatch attacks (37% versus 6%). Men were more likely than women to be engaged in conversation first as a con tactic to establish their vulnerability to robbery.
The Location of the Robbery:
We all know areas we believe to be vulnerable and thus try to avoid. This tendency is not unknown to criminals. 50% of all robberies took place in the street against only 2% in subways, 4% in parks and 5% on footpaths.
In 2001, in an article published in the Journal of the Shotokan Research Society International, R. J. Nash presented data that had been gathered from a Home Office study group formed to investigate violence within modern society, based upon evidence taken from Europe and the United Kingdom. This article listed, in frequency order, the most common pattern of attacks that were made on both men and women. These lists are reproduced here by the kind permission of Jeff Nash and the editor of the Journal of the Shotokan Research Society International, Bob McMahon.
Male on Male, Close Quarters:
- One person pushes, hands to chest, which is normally followed by the pushee striking first, to the head.
- A swinging punch to the head.
- A front clothing grab, one handed, followed by punch to the head.
- A front clothing grab, two hands, followed by a head butt.
- A front clothing grab, two hands, followed by a knee to the groin.
- A bottle, glass, or ashtray to the head.
- A lashing kick to groin/lower legs.
- A broken bottle/glass jabbed to face.
- A slash with knife, most commonly a 3 to 4″ lockblade knife or kitchen utility knife. (Apart from muggings, sexual assaults and gang violence, the hunting/combat type knife is seldom used)
- A grappling style head lock.
Only one occasion of a well known boxer, caught on night club cctv, opening the conflict with a hook punch to the body.
Offences against the person, male on female:
This data was gathered from interviews with victims and offenders and from statements. Data only covers robbery/sexual methodology and changes relative to first contact with victim ie., venue/ night/day etc.
Domestic violence is not covered as this is a specific subject of its’ own.
- The victim was approached from the rear/side/front, a threat was made with a weapon, and then the weapon was hidden. Then the victim’s right upper arm was held by the attacker’s left hand and the victim was led away.
- A silent or rushing approach was made from the victim’s rear, and then a rear neck/head lock applied and the victim dragged away.
- The same approach as in #2, with a rear waist grab. The victim was carried/dragged away, normally into bushes/alley etc.
- The victim was pinned to a wall with a throat grab with the attacker’s left hand. A weapon-shown threat was made, and then the weapon hidden, and the victim led away.
- The victim was approached from rear/ front/side. The attacker grabbed the victim’s hair with his left hand, and then she was dragged away.
The Most Common Wrist Grips, Male On Female:
- The attacker’s left hand, thumb uppermost, gripping the victim’s raised right wrist. The attacker threatens/ gesticulates with his right hand.
- With the victim’s right arm down, the attacker grips the victim’s right upper arm with his left hand and her right wrist with his right hand.
- The victim raises both arms, with both of her wrists gripped. The attacker’s hands are vertical with the attacker’s thumbs uppermost.
- With the victim’s arms down, the attacker grabs both upper arms.
- With the victim’s right arm down, the attacker’s left hand grabs just below the right elbow, and his right hand grabs her wrist.
These studies are by no means exhaustive and I would recommend that anyone interested in this subject engage in further research of their own. What these studies can do is provide us with important information as to the nature of the attacks that we are likely to face. The techniques we choose to drill should be aimed at countering HAOV:
We should train predominantly to fight an attacker under the influence of alcohol. We must therefore expect a higher pain threshold and select techniques accordingly.
We should consider that attacks are as likely to occur in the confines of indoor spaces as outside and thus not rely on defences that require large leg movements.
We should train to expect 70% of the strikes to be aimed at head height.
We should expect to be grabbed or pushed prior to a physical blow.
We should expect to be attacked by a man in his physical prime.
We should expect a 50% likelihood of being engaged by more than one assailant. Training in percussive techniques should take priority over locks. If your health allows – practice running.
This August 2005 Traditional Karate Magazine article was a condensed version of a chapter in my first book: Heian Flow System: effective karate kata bunkai. The information presented related to research on violent crime conducted between 1999 and 2004. I first heard of the HAPV and HAOV terms while reading Bill Burgar’s work on Gojushiho (Five Years: One Kata) and meeting and training with Bill and Rick Clark. Before that I had focused on researching violent crime and not used an acronym. There are a number of different terms in use in the martial arts and professional confrontation management communities to describe aggressive and violent behaviour patterns. The memorable term ‘Monkey Dance’, coined by Rory Miller, is now commonly used to describe pre- fight behaviours (where humans have much in common with other primates). Some use the term PIA (Primary Initiation Attack) to describe the initial means of physical assault. I prefer the more widely used HAOV since it highlights the inclusion of certain actions that many would not regard as physical violence such as pre-fight physical posturing and verbal threats (what I might call Primate Posturing and Rory Miller calls Monkey Dancing). These are the point where avoidance training, the acknowledgement of flinch responses when caught ‘off-guard’ and your own personal protection strategies should come into play – before any physical violence begins. I continue to use HAOV as in my experience it is now the most common term for the subject matter in the international Anglophone martial arts community. The term HAV is a recognised abbreviation for a medical condition, a form of aircraft and a form of media among other things. HAPV is normally associated with Hamster Polyoma Virus. As a result HAOV is useful for disambiguation.
I’ve been continuing to collate and analyse information since the above article was written, and I may publish that at a future date as it has guided my training and teaching. In the meantime I hope this old data (still statistically on par with modern percentages) on crime in England and Wales is of interest.
It’s not what you think…
When I say ‘bend over and take it’ I’m envisaging the difference between form and function in combative posture.
In many of my application pictures there is a noticeable difference between my posture in paired work and that in the solo form of the kata.
As karateka gain experience they learn that stances naturally adjust according to need, and as a result they may become longer, higher or deeper as circumstances dictate. Different applications or variables will cause shifts between what we recognise as stances, so while a form might illustrate a movement in a front stance or a cat stance, circumstances may dictate something more akin to a rooted stance, a back stance or a straddle stance.
Eagle eyed readers of my blog or my books might have noticed that invariably, when I am in tactile contact with a training partner, or following through, I never hold my back at a right angle to the ground. This is not accidental ‘bad posture’ nor is it the result of an injury. Often this is the case when the level of tactile contact shown in the photo is minimal, because at the start of the movement a fair degree of weight was actively driving against me.
No matter how good your stance or footwork is, having a straight back while resisting physical force from another person is biomechanically unsound.
The greater the level of force you are resisting, the more necessary it is to brace appropriately to take the load properly without placing undue stress in the small of the back, or compromising your balance, and in general the greater the angle of back (and depth of stance and thus angle of shin) required.
There is a difference between lifting an object and exerting or resisting force along other planes of movement.
You may be able to push a car with a straight back once you have got it moving, but to initiate the push the optimum position is to lean forward. You would not see a rugby scrum lock together bolt upright.
So, if you are engaging in force on force close quarter karate against resisting training partners I offer this small piece of advice:
bend over and take it.
If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
Isaac Newton, 1676.
Isaac Newton was not the first man to recognize that while he had achieved much, he owed it to those who had gone before him. In 1159 John of Salisbury wrote that
Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to [puny] dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.
Today Isaac Newton is recognized as a great figure for his work in furthering our understanding of the laws of physics. His work paved the way for further research, discovery and refinement in diverse fields by other great scientists such as Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, some of which is known to (and partially understood) by laymen. The basic elements of Newton’s work are commonly taught in schools to children, and we owe a debt of gratitude not just to him but to the huge numbers of nameless teachers that have themselves gone no further for the majority of their academic careers, but stand teaching in his shadow and the shadow of his successors, creating the environment where others may climb on the shoulders of the giants, or grow to be giants themselves – whether standing on their own or on another’s shoulders.
There is nothing wrong with studying the work of Newton. It is a building block for later scientific research.
There does come a point however where studying Newton’s work becomes less a study of physics, and less about improving your knowledge of physics, than it becomes an exercise in historical research: a worthwhile and rewarding endeavour, but one of a different nature.
The world of Karate is filled with giants. It is an honour to stand in their shadow and teach what we believe they taught.
Those that do this perpetuate and further the art; they create an environment where others may grow to become giants or benefit from re-treading the steps of others. In some respects they are like the modern physics teachers in schools who give a good grounding in physics.
Both in the present and the past these karateka have created the environment where others can choose to follow the footsteps in the sand, and become great karateka teaching approximately the same material they learned, or stand on the shoulders of others.
Those karateka who choose to move on, to stand on the shoulders of others (to explore and develop other ideas gained through introspection or cross training), gain a different perspective. Through those differing perspectives and different pedagogies new karate styles have been born throughout the last century and will continue to be born in the future. This happens not because of an egotistical desire to create something new, but the very natural desire to pass on a personal perspective based on the lessons learned: it is why there is so much diversity not only in karate but in the martial arts as a whole. Those that have cross-trained know that the finer principles or ‘in depth study secrets’ of some arts are the bread and butter basics of others, taught immediately to beginners.
I am not saying that all those who have begun to teach new karate styles in the last century or more are giants, nor am I saying that those upon whom they built their study were giants: many of them are or were simply good karateka. They see differently because they stand on the shoulders of those that went before, rather than walk in the same footsteps. Like Einstein and Hawking they have the opportunity to go in a different direction because of the groundwork laid for them.
Karate is comprised of many different styles. My perspective is that different does not necessarily mean better, nor does it mean worse.
For me the descriptors of old, modern, classical, Okinawan, Japanese, western, practical or traditional do not equate to higher or lower standards, or greater or lesser worth.
Whatever our chosen karate discipline we may not all be giants, but we can all choose where we stand and what we wish to study, and we can all become better karateka.
The beginning of the new year is a time when many of us set ourselves a list of targets. Among this list many people include a series of goals relating to their health and fitness. These are worthy endeavours, but ones that can fall prey to the pitfalls of inadequate planning.
Most new year’s resolutions fail not because a lack of resolve, but because of an inadequately prepared recognition and reward strategy to support the path that must be taken to achieve the target.
The health and fitness targets we set ourselves depend very much on the problem we believe that we are trying to solve.
The most important thing is that we understand precisely what we are trying to do, so that we can break each target down into clearly defined steps that we can visualise ourselves reaching.
We may not be able to see all the steps required, which is why a review, reassessment and fresh step setting process should by part of the plan. The first steps should be realistic and easily achievable.
Our targets should always be SMART, that is: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Rewarding and Time limited.
Specific: We must make clear and unambiguous statements about what it is we are going to achieve.
Measurable: There must be some way to determine when the target has been met. We therefore make a statement that describes how we will measure success or failure of the objective.
Achievable: It must be possible to reach the target. It is important to understand in advance whether or not the target is achievable. It is important to remember, however, that many tasks when first approached seem insurmountable, so it is important to be optimistic and to take on a challenge.
Rewarding: The target should bring sufficient reward that it is worth undertaking. There is always a cost / benefit ratio to consider. It is always important to consider what the cost and benefit will be before initiating a task.
Time limited: There should be a clear time frame set out for when the objective will be met. Many things of worth are not achieved quickly and it is important to approach tasks consistently rather than sporadically. Breaking the task down into sub-tasks and estimating time frames is essential if we are to understand the cost of the task.
I have a plan for the new year. It builds on the successes of the years beforehand and takes valuable lessons from the failures of the past.
My smart steps are in place – are yours?
So farewell 2014… At first glance it has not been a good year.
On New Year’s Eve 2013 I cancelled my plans to go out because of a sore throat. A week later, while training with a visiting guest from Argentina, I felt tired, sloppy and without focus.
A few days later still I was admitted to hospital with an unshakeable fever and swollen throat for the first of what would become several unplanned stays over the course of the year.
The initial diagnosis was epiglottitis and lingual tonsillitis. The treatment: two months of rest and a long course of antibiotics.
I’m not used to taking a long time away from training.
When my kidneys first failed I was still attending two 2 hour Aikido classes a week alongside personal karate training while my blood creatinine levels were so high that the renal registrar was astonished to see me walk into hospital for a pre dialysis operation. I carried on training with a temporary haemodialysis catheter hanging from my chest that was plugged directly into my subclavian vein. When that was removed I continued to train with a peritoneal dialysis catheter sticking out the side of my abdomen (actually I wouldn’t recommend that for an art as rough as Aikido – the catheter moved in my abdomen so much it took a three hour long operation to remove and judging by the clean up and investigation required it had probably perforated my intestines at some point in time). After both my renal transplants I have been on the training floor within 5 weeks of the operation.
The months dragged by. An attempt to return to training and teaching at the end of the ‘recovery period’ brought another fever and another stay in hospital. After another break, and making the decision to fully resume all my training and teaching to correct severe training flaws creeping in among my students, the pattern repeated itself and I found myself back in hospital only a week before a planned biopsy of the swollen tissue.
The good news was the biopsy was clear. The PET scans were clear.
The bad news was that my throat was still swollen, still painful, and only continual antibiotics would keep the fevers (and swelling so extreme it would require hospitalisation) at bay.
It was time to press on with teaching and training until I could schedule an operation to remove the offending infected tissue with minimal impact on my classes and my students.
All this medical attention has had some positive effects.
The attempts to rid my body of this (probable viral) infection in my throat has resulted in a sustainable experimental lower immunosuppressant regime which is better for my overall health as well as the transplant’s longevity, and my red blood cell count has increased, leading to increased energy and more sustainable aerobic activity.
Taking a step back has been useful both for me as a martial artist and as a teacher.
In terms of my own training it has helped me see what aspects were deeply ingrained and what I needed to work on more.
That has given a clarity to my personal training goals that I have not enjoyed since my last transplant in 2005. As a teacher, looking at my students, my absence made it obvious which elements of my syllabus they had actually absorbed, and where their understanding was merely superficial: like a dance routine or script learned purely for a performance and discarded thereafter. That revelation, with its mix of good and bad news, has led to a degree of introspection of my pedagogy, and a resulting shake up that I know will be beneficial for my students.
This may read like a litany of future successes snatched from the jaws of failure, but that is the nature of progress.
We don’t progress unless we try, and if we don’t try hard enough we won’t experience mistakes and failures.
The important thing is to move on from those failures and remember the lessons they taught you. There is a limited amount of times you can try the same approach before you have to accept that it hasn’t worked, it isn’t going to work, that it is not the right tool for the job or you are trying to change something that cannot be changed, or improve something that is already reached the extent of its limitations.
The year HAS had its share of positive changes…
A new personal dojo has given me a better space in which to train at home and the ability to hang a heavy bag, which I look forward to using to refine elements of my striking skills and improve my kicks (which are definitely weaker than they used to be). Although my two personal forms are designed to be drilled in very limited space the new dojo has also given me the ability to train older forms without continuous changes of position and I’ve already used it to film a short little video.
2014 has also been the year that I’ve finally begun publishing my new series of books on the Pinan / Heian kata, with two books released this year in both paperback and ebook formats.
My last book was written in 2004 and released in 2007 and this new series reflects the changes in the drills that I prefer to teach for the kata, and a wish to share more information in more manageable packages. One of the biggest issues with books is getting the quality of the pictures right to convey the information to the reader, and there’s a big difference between what looks good online, what looks good on a home printer, and what is the right quality for a printing press. It has taken a lot of time and work to come up with a format that I was happy to see published and met the recommendations of my peers.
At this point in time the response to the first two books in the series (covering the first three Pinan / Heian forms) has been very positive and I intend to release the final two books in 2015.
Another big change this year was my decision to open a club where Shotokan karateka could train in addition to my DART karate clubs.
There is a lot of good Shotokan near me, but I wanted to offer a kata based syllabus to students with the kumite consisting of bunkai and the kihon based predominantly around impact and balance training. I didn’t want my new Shotokan clubs to be divisive and I recognised that I would be teaching quite a different syllabus to other local karateka, so I decided to make the club open to any karateka to train by arrangement in addition to their regular training without need to grade with me or leave their current association. So far the club has attracted some great karateka and it’s been a real pleasure to teach the classes.
Going back into full training while tired and ill is an interesting experience. In the late 90s and at the turn of the century I was privileged to train for a week each August for a few summers with the late great Aikidoka Pierre Chassang. Chatting with Pierre (in my poor French) in the canteen or watching him walk about away from training he seemed like a normal small old man shuffling about in a tracksuit.
However, as soon as Pierre stepped onto the mats he grew, seeming to straighten up and draw energy from the ground and the people around him.
I am not the martial artist that Pierre was, but I felt the same when I returned to training after my transplants and this year each time I have stepped tired onto the training area I have felt that same energy, growth and motivation.
This week I’m going under a general anaesthetic yet again to have a lot of swollen tissue cut away from the base of my tongue deep in my throat. The surgeon has promised me at least two weeks of pain. A perfect martial artist’s Christmas and New Year?
I’ll let you know. :)
The essential karate book by Graeme Lund is a working text that I wish had existed 25 years ago. Just under A4 size it is one of the best laid out and clearly presented karate books that I have ever seen, with great line drawings and bright colour pictures illustrating techniques. It is filled with clear examples of the basic techniques, supporting exercises, terminology and physiology as well as a useful guide to refereeing matches, making it a suitable library addition for both beginner and black belt alike.
Karate is of course a generic term that describes a diverse range of martial arts, so to a large degree this book would be a disappointment to many karateka. This is a book about WKF Karate, which means that it will appeal to the adherents of some karate traditions while raising the hackles of others, but we can hardly blame Graeme Lund for that. This is a book devoted to the exercise of karate as a potential Olympic sport.
The book comes with a DVD filled with demonstrations of basic techniques and this is its weakest point. The book is cutting edge in its picture clarity, which only highlights the poor quality of the accompanying short DVD that can only be described as having the picture quality of a 1980s pirate movie combined with echoing sound. Until a new DVD is issued my advice would be to read the book but ignore the DVD.
For those who are beginning a WKF approved form of karate this is an incredibly useful book. In one place it combines a skeleton history of karate, demonstrations and explanations of basic training uses of karate techniques, information on competitions and refereeing, a two way glossary of English and Japanese terminology, a useful section on core conditioning exercises and traditional karate information such as information on the body’s striking surfaces and vital points.
I’m not a WKF competition aficionado but I do like this book. I’ve an extensive library, but this book pulls together in one place some things that otherwise I’d have to search through several books to find. What sets it apart from almost every other book on my shelves is the remarkable quality of the images, which at the current book price ($12.49 US hardback) is unusual.
When I am delivering personal safety training I occasionally get asked whether a car should be parked ‘nose in’ or ‘nose out’. Often the person asking has a preconceived answer based upon what they’ve heard or read. I also have a preconceived answer, but it might not be what you think.
When it comes to the use of our vehicles in self defence, or accessing our vehicles to escape in a self defence situation, there are four key variables that I like people to consider: the context and environment, the vehicle, the personal capabilities and limitations of the person parking, and the likelihood of the car being part of a combative or escape situation.
The context and environment
Why are you parking, why are you making this trip?
If you are shopping for things that require you to access the boot (trunk) of your car then your priority should be to be for that to be easily accessible – in other words it shouldn’t have another car parked up against it. Whether or not that is ‘nose in’ or ‘nose out’ depends on the design of the parking spaces in the vicinity.
Where are you parking, what time are you parking and when will you return to collect your car?
When you park tends to determine how much choice you get as to where you park, when you are returning will tend to determine how many cars are around yours and therefore how easy it is to access the doors or see into the car. Ideally people should choose well lit, overlooked (and possibly CCTV monitored) car parks – but often that choice isn’t fully ours to make.
How many other people have already parked?
The choice of parking space is often determined by the actions of others. That also determines as to whether ‘nose in’ or ‘nose out’ best suits your needs.
How big is the parking space relative to the car?
If you’re parking in Europe or the UK then getting in or out of a car when other cars are parked alongside is generally an exercise in body contortionism. It’s not something that is affected much by how the car is parked. You aren’t going to be able to use an opened door as an effective shield. The position of the nose of the car that gives you the quickest access to the back of the doors from the direction from which you approach the car is the ‘best’ position but by so little it hardly makes a difference.
Does your car have an airbag?
Most modern cars have an airbag safety feature. This means if we bump into something the airbag deploys and hits the driver and obscures the view ahead. Generally speaking the airbag in the steering wheel is more likely to be deployed if the car hits something to the front than to the back. As a result if you do have to ram something to get out of a situation it can often be best to do so using the back of the car unless you are already pre-prepared and ready for an airbag deployment.
Does the car have a crumple zone?
Most modern cars are designed to crumple more at the front than at the rear. The front of the car is therefore the worst thing to hit anything with while driving to escape. As we are more likely to bump into things under pressure an initial reversing out of a spot may be safer than driving nose first. This may apply more to cars built to European safety standards than other standards.
Is your car lower or higher than normal?
This will affect how quickly you can get into your car under pressure.
Does your car have easily operable doors?
This will affect how quickly you can get into your car under pressure.
Is the car closed or open topped?
Trying to escape from someone in by getting into an open topped car may mean you get ‘in’ quicker, but they are more likely to join you.
Does the car have an electronic key or a physical key?
With high adrenaline levels and a resultant lowered fine motor control, inserting a key into a door may take much longer than normal. Opening the car by an electronic key is quicker and more reliable.
Does the car have an automatic internal locking button?
One of my habits on entering a car is to lock the doors if I am on my own. It’s routine. The car will do it anyway as soon as I drive off.
Your personable capabilities
How are you used to parking?
How I park depends on what I am doing and the angle of approach available, along with what I am driving. If I’m going to the supermarket or teaching a martial arts class I will always park ‘nose in’ as I want to put things in and out of the boot (trunk). If I’m not using the boot then depending on the angle of approach and where I am parking I’ll go either ‘nose in’ or ‘nose out’. As I’m more accustomed to parking ‘nose in’, under pressure without thinking about it I’d be more likely to put the car into reverse than first gear. Under pressure most of us will do what we have trained to do.
Could you actually run someone down that you could see?
A large number of people that I have met in both the martial arts and non martial arts community are very averse to hitting people, especially hitting people in the face. They can hit pads, but hitting a real person doesn’t come naturally to everyone, especially under pressure. If you are not a particularly violent person then deliberately driving forwards into someone trying to stop your car may be beyond you. Reversing into a person you can’t see clearly may be easier (and safer).
The likelihood of the car being part of a combative or escape situation
Are people attacked by people hiding near or in their cars? Yes. Do people have to run to their cars to escape? Yes. Are these events common? No. Is the likelihood of such an event high? No. If you want to form a better picture and see just how low the odds of it happening are then do some research to see how often it has happened, where it has happened, and from that you might get an idea of why it happened. The risk of having to get into your car at speed to avoid pursuit or attack is so low that it should not outweigh the primary convenience factors of why you are parking in the first place.
I’ve looked at this ‘in’ or ‘out’ question. I’ve probably over analysed it. I’ve done this so that I don’t have to think about it again. In my opinion the key priority that should determine how we park is what we are intending to do. The factors that surround getting into a car under pressure means that when accessing the vehicle it makes very little difference whether you are ‘nose in’ or ‘nose out’. What is better for driving away depends on your personality and the type of vehicle. For me the majority of the time I need to access my boot (trunk) and the environment forces me to park ‘nose in’ to do so. Would I prefer to reverse into a threat than drive head on into a threat – given the nature of my car and its crumple and airbag system I’d prefer to reverse out of a space. Carry on parking whichever way you have been parking for the purpose for which you are parking and where possible choose easily accessible, well lit and overlooked/monitored sites.
I’m extremely excited to be releasing Volume Two of the Pinan Flow System, outlining how I use Pinan / Heian Sandan to teach free movement between striking and controlling strategies along with the ability to adapt to different stimuli. I rate this kata incredibly highly and I hope that by taking the time to record my drills in pictures, this book will ‘open it up’ to far more people than I could possibly reach by seminars and classes alone.
This book, the second in a four volume series, examines the third Pinan / Heian kata. With practical application drills based on both the study of the reactions of students to common forms of aggression and violence in high pressure scenario simulations, and years of research into violent crime, it contains a detailed analysis of the attributes that make techniques effective, along with a discussion of the case for grappling and throwing being an integral part of karate, and a look at some of the myths surrounding the purpose and application of kata.
Volume Two approaches the kata by looking at the common factors that unite effective combative approaches rather than focusing on minor stylistic differences, and as a result provides applications for everyone regardless of style or grade.
The drills have a heavy focus on utilising movements in the kata to move from compromised positions to achieve a control or strike. Rather than offering a single solution the drills recognise the inherent variety provided by tactile situations and offer lots of redundancies, all keeping within the scope of the form. The drills cover responses to habitual acts of violence (HAOV) such as punches, grabs, tackles, leg-lifts, headlocks and clinch like positions. The kata comes alive with punches, open-handed strikes, forearm strikes, unbalancing strategies, knee strikes, arm controls and throws.
The Pinan Flow System refers to the ability to train karateka to move seamlessly between grappling and ballistic responses using techniques and tactics embedded in the kata, and illustrates why the Pinan / Heian set are an essential training tool.
I’ve recently had two experienced Dan grades come to join me for ‘extra’ karate training in addition to their own regular club training, and if their smiles and laughter as the kata has come alive for them in these drills is any measure then I know that a lot of students and instructors will benefit from this book.
The book is available internationally on amazon and the ebook will be released on Kindle before Christmas.