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Street Stories

Real life experiences on the street & in the dojo

Dutch KLM Daitoryu
A martial encounter at 40,000 feet

By Gary Gabelhouse

I was so much looking forward to reading my novel while enjoying an adult beverage—or three. It had been a long week—business presentations in Sweden, the United Kingdom and France—traveling at night, high-level sales presentations all day. I took my seat on the Dutch KLM flight from Amsterdam’s Schipol airport, bound for JFK. I looked forward to the long flight as a respite and a leaving behind of business matters. On the off-chance the flight was light, I was sitting in a G-seat—on the aisle of the internal section of the wide body. Seated kitty-corner from me in the H and I seats forward of me and to my right was an old, German couple. They sat there without talking, the old man nervously paging through a copy of a German newspaper—the old woman looking straight ahead, focusing on the seat in front of her.

Two loud Norwegians took their seats kitty-corner to my right and behind me. They appeared to have imbibed a bit too much, but weren’t all that disruptive. With the plane loaded we took off for the six or seven hour flight to New York.

The Norwegians passed on the meal and doubled up on vodka martinis. After a couple of hours, I was surprised that the attendants kept selling them alcohol. The volume of their voices increased and I could tell, even though I didn’t know Norwegian, that their speech was also slurred.

Suddenly, the drunk on the aisle stood up and stared intently and drunkenly at the old, German couple sitting in front of him. I could see his eyes reflecting a sort of agitation as he shouted in broken English, “This man is Nazi!” He continued to taunt the old couple, shouting, “Zieg Heil! Zieg Heil!” giving the Nazi salute. The old woman began to cry. The old man (who could have been a Nazi, given his age) sat silently, unmoving.

It was a very uncomfortable situation. I put my novel in the seat pocket and watched the drama play itself out—distinctly feeling that there would be no good ending.

The drunk was working himself into a frenzy as he shouted, “I must KILL all Nazis!”

I watched the drunk pull up his right fist and lean over the back of the seat back, poised to strike the old man. I knew the assault of the old man was imminent. Utilizing a little Sen practice (taking the initiative in a combat situation) and kazushi (off balancing), I reached across the aisle and shoved his left shoulder, throwing him off balance. He caught the back of the chair and then launched his right fist at my head.

Without thinking, I executed Sankajo (third control technique) from my Daitoryu Aikijujitsu training. I double blocked the punch, grabbed his wrist with both hands and cranked it up—his elbow pointing up (wrist down), twisting his wrist painfully as I stepped out into the aisle. I had the technique on well and could control him with one hand. Executing the technique, the pain coaxed him out into the aisle with me. I continued to tweak his joints, as he did that characteristic Sankajo boogey dance—up on his toes trying to get away from the pain. I directed the drunk, still in Sankajo hell, into the seat next to mine. I sat down in my seat and he sat down with me, his elbow pointed high in the air, grimacing in pain.

He tried to hit me with his left hand, but the pain of my application of the technique chased away all of those thoughts. There we sat, everyone just staring at us with open-mouthed surprise. A Frenchman two rows back saw it as an opportunity to mock the drunk Norwegian.

From the safety of two rows behind me, he taunted the drunk and said in broken English, “How do you like that you _ss-hole?”

The Norwegian glared at the Frenchman yelling, “After I kill him (me) I’m going to kill you, too!”

I told the Frenchman to please be quiet, since he was not helping matters.

The Purser and Captain came back and assessed the situation. As this was pre-9/11, there were no Sky Marshals or any law enforcement officials on the flight, nor were there any of the plastic strip handcuffs to be found. The captain vacated a section of First Class and I escorted the Norwegian, still in Sankajo, to his new seat. I kept Sankajo on him for nearly an hour before he started to get emotional and morose. He started crying and in sobbing, broken English he told me he was sorry and he was just miserable with his life.

I released the Sankajo and was guarded and on full alert. The rest of the flight was uneventful. The Purser took statements from people sitting in the same area of the plane with me, then took my statement, asking for all of my contact information.

Upon landing at JFK, the plane taxied to the gate. Passengers were asked to stay seated until notified. Two detectives and three of New York’s finest came down the aisle and led off the cuffed and now sobering Norwegian down the aisle in the quiet plane.

I remember the Norwegian looking at me, sadly smiling as he said, “Bye–bye.”

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About the Author:

Gary Gabelhouse is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Fairfield Research, Inc. , a market research and consulting firm in the entertainment and media industries. Prior to his acquisition of Fairfield, Gabelhouse was Executive Vice President and a member of the Fairfield Board of Directors. Prior to his involvement with Fairfield, Gabelhouse was Senior Vice President and member of the Board of Directors for SRI Research, SRI/Gallup, Gallup of Canada, and what is now the Gallup Organization. Gabelhouse trains Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate-do under John Roseberry, Hanshi and is the Business Director for his teacher’s Shobu-Kan Martial Arts Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is also a student of Daito-Ryu Aikijujutsu. Gabelhouse's interests outside of the martial arts and business include mountaineering, bonsai cultivation, fishing and fly tying, oil painting, landscape gardening, writing and watching his 21 year old daughter play rugby. Gabelhouse has been married to his wife Cindy since 1975. He is a frequent contributor to

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

Diato-ryu, Sankajo, airline self-defense, self-defense, jujutsu

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