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Hard Reality:

How One Barroom Encounter Changed One Cop's Views On Fighting

By Robin Martin

(Editor's Note: This article discusses the pivotal encounter that forever changed the author's views on how to handle fights. Articles to follow will discuss the techniques he now teaches based on what he learned that day.)

Thirty years of martial arts training and instruction along with 18 years of police work have brought me to the profound conclusion that I just ain't the baddest dude around. I venture to say there are a few of you out there who have come to the same conclusion. In our twenties and thirties our skill level may have been phenomenal, but time eventually takes its toll. Old injuries, a thickening waist, slower reflexes and a mellowing of attitude all work against us until eventually we have to admit we just can't do what we did twenty thirty or maybe even ten years ago. A golfer factors this in to keep his game at par. A runner compensates by slowing the pace. A martial artist is no different and usually makes the transition from "GO" (hard) to "JU" (soft). I started my transition twenty years ago, in order to beat the crowd and keep myself alive. So far it's worked and hopefully by sharing it with you it'll work for you, too.

The soft arts, judo, jujutsu, aikijujutsu, aikido, hapkido and t'ai chi chuan, use a theory of redirection of an attacker's force to deal with an assault instead of the harder arts, which meet force with greater force. It was once explained to me that my Karate was like a game of "Chicken," because I would rush head long at an opponent. Unless he swerved, I crashed into him. In my youth I believed my skill, stamina and pain threshold were greater than anyone's, so I would always be the winner. Reality bites!

When you have a life-changing event you want it to be in a suitably dramatic setting, and I wish it had been a more exciting night, something dark and stormy, when I learned my lesson. Instead, it was a typical Louisiana hot, humid summer night. In the Deep South, in the 1970's, air conditioning was still considered a luxury in many homes and businesses. So when a man wanted to cool off after a long hot day of back breaking manual labor, he did so in the "refrigerated air" of one of our local saloons. There, cool air or not, when you mixed alcohol with men, tired of life's struggles, you ended up with short tempers, busted knuckles and occasionally death. As a police officer it was my job to keep the peace. Generally, this meant breaking up the fights and arresting the survivors.

In those days I was 6 foot 3 inches and 220 pounds of over-confidence. Eight years of shotokan karate and two of a combat judo made me absolutely certain I was up to handling anything the world could throw at me. Ah, but those were the days! So it was no surprise that late one summer night, when a local waterhole called in a fight, cocksure of myself I sauntered into this den of inequity, primed to settle anyone's hash.

The fight had been one of those epic barroom brawls right out of a John Wayne movie. Broken glass, furniture and people lay about, testimony that no one had been spared the chance to participate. In the middle of it all stood a giant fighting with three other only slightly smaller behemoths. Toss in some spandex tights and it would have looked like a TV wrestling match.

As the last of his three opponents found a place to lay his unconscious head, the giant, a Samoan sailor, turned a pair of the widest and meanest eyes on me I had seen this side of a Brahma bull. All that confidence I'd felt walking in almost ran down my thigh when he charged me at a clip fast enough to make a bull jealous. For perhaps five seconds I stood toe to toe with this monster. As he repeatedly punched me, I tried to fend him off by using my hickory baton against his head. He punched me silly. That thankfully brief trouncing led me to think two thoughts. First, "there has got to be an easier way to make a living," and second, "how do I survive long enough to find a cushy job?"

The bartender saved me by hitting the big sailor with a baseball bat. Momentarily distracted, the Samoan left me to ponder my future while he beat the stuffing out of the bartender. Whether it was a renewed confidence in my fighting ability (because I'd survived his initial assault), a flash of amnesia or a streak of HERO, simply way too wide, I jumped between sailor and bartender.

This time when he started throwing punches, remembering how much they hurt, I ducked and slipped to one side grabbing his shirtsleeve. With a quick pull I spun him away from me and jumped on his back. Wrapping an arm around a neck only slightly smaller than a tree trunk I slid my forearm around his throat. Then with my legs wrapped around his waist I applied Judo's "Sleeper Hold" (a vascular restraint that is sometimes called a "choke hold") with everything I had. After perhaps the longest thirty seconds of choking someone in my life the giant sailor slowly dropped to his knees then fell over on his side. It took the bartender and two police officers to pull the guy off me. At booking he weighed in at 350 pounds and was 6 feet 8 inches tall. Like many drunks and druggies after a choke out he was relaxed and non-combative. So much so that he slapped me on the back and congratulated me on winning the tussle.

This event, the fight not his backslapping, changed my view of fighting. I had spent eight years learning to go through my opponents and now had discovered that this didn't work in every scenario. Unhappily, I had discovered that bigger men, perhaps even those of equal skill and stamina could hold me off or even worse beat me. So like some guy in a bad Hong Kong movie I went in search of a martial art that would give me the "edge". That wasn't easy because Louisiana just isn't a Mecca for martial artists. For many years I was forced to confine myself to judo and jujitsu. Later I would work with Bruce Siddell's PPCT, aikido, t'ai chi chuan, savate, jeet kune do and ninpo. Each of these systems would give me yet another piece of the puzzle and ultimately bring me back to the beginning, jujutsu.

Jujutsu, like judo and aikido, rely heavily on robbing an opponent's "Kazushi" (balance). Digging through the system I knew best, kodenkan or danzan ryu jujutsu, I took several basic and effective techniques of un-balancing an opponent and modified them for my police work. Eventually, I taught these techniques to several hundred private security and police officers who became my "Testers." An obliging criminal element supplied an endless number of subjects for the research. I will share a few of the most effective and useful in following articles. I found them easy for martial artists, police and private security of any level to learn. And even with limited practice they remain effective, something to keep in mind if you train for public safety.

About The Author:

Robin Martin is a former Police Officer with 18 years of service. Currently he maintains a Deputy Sheriffís Commission and is the Executive Director of E-911 for Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana. During his law enforcement career Martin taught hundreds of law enforcement and private security personnel self-defense and survival skills. As the former owner of Defense Technologies he trained in excess of 2,000 men, women and children in self-defense and rape prevention.

A student of the martial arts since 1969 Martin holds a 5th degree black belt in both shotokan karate and Hoshin Roshi Ryu Jutaijutsu (Jujustsu). He is also a certified instructor in Hoshin Tao Chi Kung and Tai Chi Chuan as well as a coach of Savate. After a decade of research Shihan Martin has founded his own Aikjujutsu system, "Goshin-Do" that combines elements of Shotokan Karate, Danzan Ryu Jujutsu and Chi Kung.

Related Story: The Study of Kuzushi

To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

spinning techniques, judo choke, Kazushi, unbalancing

Read more articles by Robin Martin

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