Martial Arts: Street Stories, Self Defense,
Momentary Loss of Awareness: A True Life Consequence
By Christopher Caile
On the street 99 percent of self-defense is awareness. If you actually have to defend yourself, it usually means that someplace you were caught unaware, leaving yourself vulnerable to attack, robbery or assault. This is an account of one such real life situation. Hopefully you will learn from it.
Recently I was told that another student, Sara (not her real name), had been mugged the day before. Later when I saw her I expressed my concern and then asked, "What happened?" After all, she was a karate-ka and with her training she would not present herself as a typical easy target. She obviously was still a little shaken up, and as witness there was a large dark bruise on her cheekbone testifying to the event. But she was eager to talk about what happened.
"Well," she said, "it was after work and I was walking toward my apartment." She had been on one side of the street, and she noticed four youngsters walking in the same direction on the sidewalk across the street. "They crossed over in front of me," she said. "I could hear them talking and giggling." She saw them go past her apartment entrance and then she turned her attention to getting out her apartment keys. Unnoticed they had turned back toward her.
She had momentary lost her situational awareness that allowed opportunity for assault. "The next thing I remember," she said," one of them, a girl, pulled my pony tail and head backwards while another moved in to trip me."
After that it was all down hill. On the ground she was struck and kicked as another stripped away her purse. While not severely injured, she was bruised and sore. After a little discussion I showed her a simple self-defense move to counter a hair grab. But I also I emphasized that her real failure was letting her mental guard down, something about which she was well aware.
I briefly mentioned examples of personal awareness and how it is part of karate training. I mentioned Gichen Funakoshi (founder of Shotokan karate who had first pioneered the Okinawan art of karate on mainland Japan) who was always on mental guard even in the orderly and peaceful Japanese society. Even when sleeping, he had some form of awareness present. And when walking he would always carefully scrutinize his path, often peeking around corners before proceeding.
When you practice kata, I said, do you know why at the end you keep in position, not moving? "It's Zanshin" I said - continued awareness, readiness to react when needed - the same awareness also practiced at the start of kata when you prepare yourself for action if needed. It is the awareness that seasoned soldiers and law enforcement personnel develop - it keeps them safe and alive. It warns them, keeps them away from imminent danger, and personal assault and to sense potential criminal activity around them. In short, they can sense when things are just not right. It is the same sense that our Samurai forbearers sought to develop and the same sense that we as martial artists should always seek to have. But unless we are exposed to danger on a continuing basis it is hard to keep up. "We re often not aware of its important until it is too late," I said.
So what did you learn from this?" I finally asked. Sara replied, "That in the future I will be much more aware. Really aware. I was so lucky. I could have been really hurt."
For Sara this was a critical lesson. It should be so with you too. If you keep constantly aware and on guard when in public, avoiding danger when possible and changing position or location when suddenly confronted with danger, you can avoid attack, robbery and physical confrontation. If it can't be avoided then you can rely on the physical part of your martial arts training.
About The Author:
Christopher Caile is founder and Editor of FightingArts.com