[Street Combat – This Ain’t No Game is a Survivalblog exclusive.]
With a few exceptions, it takes years and years of training to become proficient at defending yourself with nothing but your bare hands and feet. The “average” person on the street isn’t prepared to undertake this sort of lengthy and time-consuming training process. So, what are the options?
I’ve been involved in the martial arts for close to 30 years, now. If there are any shortcuts or secrets, I sure haven’t discovered them. I’m continually amazed at the number of people who come to me for self-defense training with the same question: “How long will it take for me to get my Black Belt?” I wish I had a dollar for every person that asked me that question. I’d be sitting on Easy Street.
First of all, if you’re determined to train in any of the martial arts, be advised that they are not all the same. Many styles are geared toward competition; I have no problem with that, as long as the instructor is presenting it that way. Trophies are nice and look impressive, but try carrying one down the street and using it to defend yourself.
If you run across an instructor who guarantees you’ll get your Black Belt in 100 easy lessons, steer clear of him. There are many unethical instructors out there who will “sell” you a Black Belt after just a short period of training. My fellow martial artist and friend, Tom Saviano, knows of one such school just down the street from him. For $1,500.00 this so-called “instructor” will guarantee you that you’ll become a Black Belt within a year or so.
Saviano runs the White Tiger Kenpo Karate School, 823 South Rt. 53, Addison, IL 60101. Tom has been involved in the martial arts for more years than I have, and he runs a legitimate martial arts school. He and I both teach many of the techniques– American Kenpo Karate– developed by our friend and fellow martial artist, Master John McSweeney! This is a no non-sense type of self-defense, not competition techniques!
Neither Saviano, McSweeney, nor I teach a flashy or fancy style of self-defense. We leave that to the Hollywood Masters. What you will learn is honest, street-proven techniques that work. Is the style we teach the “best” or the “only” style? No, not by a long shot. No reputable martial artist claims they have the “best” or “only” style. Again, if you run across such a person, look else where for your training. If you’re looking for any shortcuts or secrets, you’d better checkout another training hall. The only thing we know about is hard training, long hours, dedication, and continued improvement to time proven methods.
Like most kids, I was a bit on the skinny side growing up. I didn’t fill out until I enlisted in the military at age 17. I did learn a valuable lesson during my earlier school yard “thrashing”; if at all possible, you should pick the time and place for your street combat.
Marshall had recently moved to the neighborhood from Tennessee or Kentucky. I can’t remember which, and it’s not all that important at this point. Marshall was a big kid for his age, much bigger than the rest of the nine year olds, including me.
It was Marshall’s habit to pick on everyone who was smaller than him. Isn’t that what bullies normally do? Marshall wasn’t the brightest kid in Bridgeport (the area of Chicago where I grew up). As a matter of fact, if I recall correctly, Marshall had been held back in school a year or two.
It was Marshall’s habit to come up behind kids, get one in a “bear hug”, and squeeze the living daylight out of them. I knew, even at the age of nine, that I was no match for this back hills kid’s brute strength. I had to pick my place and time!
During Christmas break, we found ourselves in waist deep snow, building “forts” of snow in the school yard. Marshall was there, too. As usual, he was picking on everyone and soundly defeating us all in snowball fights. I saw my opportunity.
While Marshall was busy hurling snowballs at some of the other kids, I approached him from the rear. With all my might, I got Marshall into a strangle hold that he couldn’t break. The hold was so devastating that Marshall almost lost consciousness. The only thing that stopped the world from going dark on Marshall was some of our friends pulling me off Marshall.
There was never, ever, again, a problem with Marshall bullying another kid in the neighborhood. Marshall and I became great friends after that incident.
Pick your time and place for Street Combat, if at all possible. Don’t let the aggressor take control of the situation. Wait for your window of opportunity.
Now, in retrospect, it wasn’t the nicest thing to attack Marshall from behind, but I had won a victory for myself and every other nine year old on the block. I had taken a giant step forward in my lifelong learning process. This was my first “victory” over a much larger and stronger opponent.
When you first start training in any self-defense techniques, much of what you learn is of the physical aspect. As you progress, you start developing your mental training abilities. A true martial artist will readily admit that winning a battle is 80-90 percent mental and only 10-20 percent physical.
You must be aware of what is going on around you at all times! Many shooting instructors (myself included) have a color code we teach our students.
- White is the condition you’re in when you’re completely oblivious to everything around. This is a day dreaming state.
- Yellow is the condition you should be in during all your waking hours. You are aware of everything going on around you.
- Red means you have sensed trouble or something out of the ordinary, and you are preparing to take appropriate action.
- Black means you have engaged the threat or problem, and there’s no turning back. You must bring this situation to a peaceful (if possible) and reasonable end.
Modified Japanese Strangle Hold. If your attacker can’t breath, he’ll have a difficult time attacking you. Cut off his source of oxygen, and he’ll quickly stop his attack against you.
If you can get around behind your attacker, you can easily get him into this deadly strangle hold. Place the bone of your lower right arm against the wind pipe of your attacker. Then, bring your left arm behind your attackers neck. Lock your arms together by using your hands as “locks” in the crook of your arm. Take a single step backwards, pulling your attacker off-balance all the while exerting pressure on his wind pipe. In short order, your attacker will lose consciousness and cease being a threat. Keep in mind, that continued use of the Japanese Strangle Hold will cause death (to your attacker) in short order if you don’t release him.
Like every kid in the neighborhood, I wanted a Cabretta black leather jacket. I don’t know if they still make this sort of jacket style, but they used to be a sort of status symbol. For the most part, they kind of looked like a black leather suit jacket with an imitation fur lining for warmth (that didn’t work as intended).
My folks searched high and low to find a Cabretta black leather jacket for me. Unfortunately, the only one they could find was about two sizes too big for me. It didn’t matter; I wore it anyway with the bottom of the sleeves turned under. I looked good, or at least I think I did!
I was 13 years old and was traveling on a CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) bus with two friends. We were headed to the Museum of Science and Industry, along South Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. The only problem was that we had to transfer buses in a rapidly (racially) changing neighborhood. We had traveled this route numerous times over the years and had never previously encountered any problems, until that day!
Several stops before we were to change from one bus route to another, five black youths got on the bus. They were all about our age or a year or so older. The black youths immediately started checking out my Cabretta black leather jacket. The leader of the bunch asked if he could try it on. Of course, my response was a resounding “No.” I knew there was going to be trouble at this point.
As we approached our stop, my two friends and I exited the front door of the bus. Before we knew it, the five black youths had exited the rear door. They rapidly were upon us, and the leader attempted to pull my Cabretta off my back. I wasn’t about to have any of that and pulled away from him. I was met with his fist on the side of my face.
Outnumbered, in an African-American neighborhood, our plan was to . . . run! At least in this incident, I was aware that there was trouble brewing, and I wasn’t really too surprised when I got “hit upside the head.” As a matter of fact, I didn’t feel any pain until much later.
My one friend managed to make it across the busy boulevard and hopped on the bus heading toward the museum. As for myself and my other friend, we retreated to the safety of a Walgreen’s Drug Store. At least we thought we would be safe once inside.
Three of the black youths followed right behind us. No one, neither black nor white, would come to our aid. Thanks, Chicago! We made our way to the rear of the drug store and were cornered in two phone booths. We fought off the three attackers by kicking, kicking, and kicking them.
By this time, someone had called the Chicago Police Department, who came to our rescue. We updated the cops when they arrived, and they took us in their patrol car to the museum. It was there that we found our other friend fending off the last two black youths in the public restroom. Again, no one made any attempt to come to our friend’s rescue. Thanks (again), Chicago!
Mental awareness is the number one key to staying alive on the mean streets of America (or any city or country). Had I not already been involved in a theft of clothing (remember my new winter gloves?), I probably wouldn’t have been tipped off to the impending attempted theft of my Cabretta jacket.
Luckily, my friends and I knew the area where we were to transfer buses. Had we not been familiar with the area, we might have run from our attackers and headed deeper into their terf. Instead, two of us ran inside a public building. The third jumped on a CTA bus and headed for the safety of the museum.
When you don’t have any weapons, except those you brought with you (in our case, our hands and feet), make good use of them. Rapid kicks to a person’s legs will probably give them an excuse to be some place else.
Lastly, don’t be stupid, like I was! I was wearing a hard-to-find and expensive Cabretta black leather jacket. This was an item of clothing best reserved for my own neighborhood, not for a racially-changing area that was known for trouble. Hey, I never said I was the smartest person in the world. My only excuse was that I was 13 years old and wanted to show off my new jacket.
Low Kicks to the Knee and Lower Legs. If your attacker can’t walk, he’ll have a difficult time hurting you. Two of the most effective kicks any martial artist can master is the front snap kick and the side kick.
Unlike “Hollywood” martial artist, we teach only low kicks– kicks usually below the waist and more often to the knee and lower leg area. These kicks are extremely difficult to defend against and are devastating!
The front snap kick is executed by raising the (kicking) leg straight up until the upper part of your leg is horizontal to the ground. You then kick straight out toward your attacker’s groin area with your lower leg (keeping your foot and toes pointed toward the ground). The instep of your foot should make contact with his groin area. This kick is very fast and powerful. If delivered correctly, to the groin area, your opponent will be down for the count.
The side kick is delivered in much the same manner, with the exception being you are kicking out to the right or left side of your body. Your target area is the front or side of the knee. In this case, the side kick is delivered with the side of your foot. If your attacker can’t walk or stand, he’ll no longer be a threat!
One of the best combat techniques was used in this attack. I picked the site for the final battle– inside of a drug store– to be a very public place, where eventually someone called the local police. I refused to allow our attackers the advantage of continuing their attack on the street corner. To allow this, the odds were pretty good that our attackers would have had back-up in pretty short order.
Lastly, I used the best weapon I had– my brain! I was mentally aware of my surroundings and the impending threat (for the most part). I knew there was going to be trouble with these black youths within seconds of their boarding the bus. I also knew that to stay on the bus any longer would have brought us deeper into their terf.
I’ve often wondered about the aspect of asking the bus driver for some type of aid. Upon reflection, I seriously doubt he would have interfered in the upcoming battle. I’ve often watched CTA bus drivers throw both offending parties off their bus, not caring what would happen to either or both parties.
Being unarmed against a knife is a deadly situation that no self-respecting person wants to face. Unfortunately, I was unlucky enough to encounter a knife-wielding assailant on one cool fall day.
By the age of 15, I was fortunate enough to engage in some judo training with my long-time friend, Andy Silva. (Thanks, Andy.) Andy had been training in judo and karate (at the same time) for about a year and had become pretty efficient at it. It was a regular routine for Andy and I to practice in my grandmother’s living room. Andy had mastered several throws and kicks, and I learned everything I could from our training sessions. I mastered the side kick and the front snap kick in these training sessions.
School was back in session, though I didn’t attend a public high school back in Chicago. Instead, I was fortunate enough to get some of my high education at a private Lutheran high school. However, good luck doesn’t always follow good fortune! I had to travel on two and sometimes three CTA buses to get to school. In good weather, it took about a hour and a half to get to school. In bad weather, well, let’s just say it took longer.
I had to transfer from one bus route to another. Unfortunately, the first bus route took me through an all-black area of southside Chicago. My transfer point was (then) in a racially-mixed area!
While waiting to transfer bus routes (at the end-of-the-line), I used to stand in the outside alcove area of a doctor’s office (just in front of the building). This afforded me some protection from the biting wind, and I could watch for my approaching bus. This gave me plenty of time to get to the corner to board the bus.
On one particular day, I was approached by two black youths. Both were probably 15 or 16 years old. One pulled out a folding knife from his jacket pocket and demanded my money. I had made up my mind long ago that I wasn’t going to be a victim any more, so I refused his demands!
The youth started slashing at me. I was trapped in the alcove, with my only means of escape through my attackers! My shirt had been cut in several places by one of the slashing attacks, but I remained unscathed. I kicked out at both youths with a combination of front snap kicks and side kicks, until I saw an opening. I ran toward and around the corner and got on one of the waiting buses (at the end of the route). I took the bus home and decided not to attend school that day.
Don’t be stupid! It would have been better to stand in front of the restaurant (on the corner) instead of waiting in an alcove. It was early morning and the doctor’s office wasn’t open, so there was no means of escape or retreat. I had cornered myself in what could have been my last day on the face of this earth.
There was an alternate bus route I could have taken. Unfortunately, it would have added at least an hour to my travel time. Eventually, I learned to take a later bus to school, allowing me to travel with several other students from my neighborhood; there is strength in numbers!
I should have been mentally prepared for the attack, but I wasn’t! I observed the two black youths approaching from down the street. I should have left the “safety” of the alcove and gone to the true safety of the restaurant on the corner, but I didn’t!
Low, front snap kicks to the groin (missed) and side kicks to the lower legs and knee areas of my attackers. My kicks were more effective at this stage of my life. While I didn’t put my attackers down, it did allow me to escape. Kicks to the upper and lower legs are effective against a knife-wielding suspect. They are too busy defending themselves to put much effort in their attack.
“Luck” just seems to follow some people, every place they go. Such is the story of my life.
While living with a relative on the near southwest side of Chicago, I once again had the misfortune of facing a knife-wielding suspect. However, this attack was completely different than the first one. This attack was launched furiously, without warning, and viciously! To this day, I still don’t know why I was attacked.
I worked as a supervisor for a guard company. I worked all hours of the day and night. I was basically “on call” 24 hours per day. This was an armed position, and I made it a habit of being armed most of the time, because I never knew when the radio would “crackle” and I’d be on-duty.
When leaving home one night, I didn’t have my Smith & Wesson Model 10, .38 Spl. revolver with me. I don’t recall where I was headed, but I was going to take the patrol car the company provided me for my personal and business use. It was unusual for me to leave the house unarmed, especially if I was going to be driving the patrol car rather than my 1969 Pontiac Firebird.
As I left the front door of the apartment building, I was immediately set upon by my attacker. He was all over me, like bees to honey! My left forearm was slashed by his knife, before I knew what had happened. I didn’t have time to worry about my bleeding arm. I had to end this attack!
I used a combination of forearm smashes to my attacker’s chest area, followed by side kicks to his lower leg area. I’m not sure which self-defense techniques worked, but he broke off his attack in fairly short order. I ran back upstairs to retrieve my gun. However, by this time, my attacker was long gone.
A trip to see my local doctor resulted in a quick bandage job. I was told to go to the hospital emergency room for a suturing job. I never did! I still have the scarred left forearm as a reminder.
I should have known better by this stage of my life. I had obtained my first degree black belts in judo and goju-ryu karate by this time. I was an ardent student of the martial arts, training four or five evenings per week for hours at a time. I had recently been introduced to the art of kung fu as well. My mind was obviously elsewhere that evening. I was operating in condition “white”.
Never ever take anything for granted. An attack can take place anytime, any place, and for any reason! I still don’t know the reason for this attack. I can only surmise that I was going to be the victim of a robbery or random murder.
If you’re going to be armed, you should be this way all of the time and not just part of the time or when you “feel” threatened. You can’t possibly predict when an attack will occur. I don’t know if I would have had time to draw my trusty S&W Model 10 and end this mad man’s attack on me. Perhaps or perhaps not! When you’re taken by complete surprise, with your handgun holstered, you’re probably better off fending off your attacker until you can get some time and/or distance to draw your weapon.
Two of the biggest weapons you have with you are your forearms! They can put an attacker down quick, when used correctly. The fighting was so close-in that traditional karate punches couldn’t be used. I had no room to throw a punch. I had to use my forearms to strike my assailant’s chest area.
To execute a strong forearm smash, you must do two things. First of all, you must be close to your attacker; otherwise, you’ll completely miss your target. A forearm smash doesn’t have very much distance.
Secondly, you must put your entire body weight behind your forearm smash. Most traditional karate styles teach a simple forearm smash to the chest or head area. While effective, it can be improved upon. Master John McSweeney has taken the traditional forearm smash to the next highest level.
To perform a bone-breaking, killing, forearm smash, you must use a “looping” movement. You don’t simply strike out with your forearm. In McSweeney’s “Power Strike” methods, you can either “loop” your forearm up and over and strike your opponent in the head, shoulders, or chest area, or you can “swivel” (from side-to-side, left-to-right) and thereby “loop” your forearm onto your opponent. This movement has devastating effects.
Lastly, low front snap kicks and side kicks to the legs and knees also helped end this attack. Never ever underestimate the effectiveness of low kicks to the legs. Leave the flashy, high kicks to the Hollywood martial artists. While they look effective onscreen, they are lacking in real life situations!
In my martial arts classes and seminars, we place great emphasis on keeping our kicks L-O-W! There’s several good reason for this.
- It’s extremely difficult to defend against kicks that are kept at or below knee level.
- Kicks to the front of the knee or the side of the knee can collapse the leg. Remember, if they can’t stand, they’ll have a difficult time causing you any harm.
- As we get older, it’s more difficult to perform those “high” kicks without a warm-up.
- High kicks (those above the waist and up to the head area) are more easily defended against. I’ve proven it time and time again in my classes and seminars. I pick the oldest (and/or slowest person in the class for this demonstration. I can usually place one or two (high) kicks toward their head area. However, even the oldest and/or slowest person can usually catch or grab my leg on the third or fourth attempt. Once they have your leg (captured), you’ll look like a one-legged, Irish step dancer. It’s not a pretty sight, to be sure!
With my comments in mind, this isn’t to say that high kicks are not effective, if delivered with speed and delivered correctly. Many Tae Kwon Do practitioners can routinely kick you “up side your head” all day long. However, this is the exception and not the rule! Try a high kick to someone’s head when your standing on snow- or ice-covered sidewalks. Maybe you’re wearing cowboy boots or sandals when you’re attacked. If you haven’t practiced delivering your high kicks under these circumstances, you’re in trouble!
As mentioned at the onset of this chapter, my good friend and fellow martial artist, Tom Saviano, runs a terrific martial arts school. His school is devoted to real-life, self-defense techniques. Many of the techniques that Saviano teaches were developed by our mutual friend, Master John McSweeney. One such technique is the “Leopard Palm”.
Saviano trains one of the best all-around “street” fighters I’ve seen– Keith Hackney. Hackney is a former Navy SEAL with arms like boulders. He is a strong kicker (low kicks) and stands about 5′ 11” weighing in at around 200lbs.
Hackney has competed in several “Ultimate Fighting Challenges” over the years. These fights are advertised as real-life scenarios. Well, not exactly! There are certain rules that must be followed when fighting your opponent in these fights. However, keep in mind that there are NO rules on the street, and in a street fight there is no second place winner.
It was Hackney’s good fortune to draw a Sumo Wrestler as his opponent. This walking refrigerator stood 6′ 8” tall and weighed-in at over 640lbs. He was billed as the “world’s largest athlete”. If you saw his size, you wouldn’t have much argument with this claim.
At the start of the fight, Hackney attempted a combination of front snap kicks and side kicks to the monster’s knees and legs, all to no avail! It was a feeble attempt, one better reserved for a lesser opponent. The only real target that Hackney could possibly attack was the head area.
The monster Sumo Wrestler came at Hackney; Hackney hit him with a Leopard Palm to the forehead. The monster reeled and went down like a ton of bricks, only to rise again. Had this been a mere mortal who Hackney was fighting, he would have stayed down!
In 1 minute and 59 seconds, Hackney had beaten the giant, but not without injury. Hackney had broken his right hand as a result of numerous Leopard Palm, Hammer Fist, and Upswing strikes to the Sumo Wrestler.
In an interview after the fight, the giant Sumo Wrestler said he had “never been hit ‘flush’ before.” Hackney gave the monster a lesson he would not soon forget.
Obviously, the bigger they are, the harder they fall! Hackney, against the advice of his trainer– Tom Saviano, had decided to launch an attack against the Sumo wrestler’s legs, but it was all without any effect.
The sheer size and build of the Sumo Wrestler didn’t allow for any other vulnerable targets, except for the head and face area. Hackney took advantage of his one and only target, and he gave it everything he had. His ferocious attack yielded a victory.
This was a real “David vs. Goliath” battle, one I wouldn’t have wanted to fight. The sheer size, weight, and mass of the Sumo Wrestler could have proven deadly. Having this man simply fall on top of you might have resulted in serious injuries or even death.
John McSweeney’s “Leopard Palm”. This is one of the strongest (if not the strongest) blow you can deliver with your hands. This is basically a kung-fu type of strike, with the added benefit of McSweeney’s further refinement and development.
To perform a Leopard Palm strike, you have several target areas– the bridge of the nose, upper skull, and jaw. Curl your fingers and bend your hand back. The striking surface is the base of the palm. Power comes from the circular movement of your hand, pulled by the shoulder and back muscles and augmented by turning the waist and moving the body center down in conjunction with the strike. The hand loops up, over, and down, smashing right through the target. This is basically the same strike as former world heavyweight boxing champion, (1952-1955) Rocky Marciano used in many of his knockouts. Marciano normally hit the skull or jawbone, and occasionally he broke his thumb because as a boxer he hit with a clenched fist.
You must condition yourself to be constantly alert! Stay in condition “yellow” during all your waking hours. Don’t allow yourself to lapse into condition “white” for any reason. You’ll know when you’re in condition “white.” This is when you find flashing red and blue lights behind your car, because the police caught you doing something wrong! Condition “white” is when you find yourself running a red light, smacking into the rear end of another car, and so forth. Your everyday routine should find you in condition “yellow” at all times. Make sure no one sneaks up on you or startles you. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Make sure you know where you are at all times. Don’t allow yourself to day dream. Be prepared to defend yourself at all times!
The techniques used in all of the above case studies are easy to learn, effective, and devastating. There are no “secrets” in any martial art style; there are only things not yet revealed! Any self-defense instructors who claim to know the hidden “secrets” of the Orient are fooling themselves or you.
In the next chapter, we’ll discuss some “dirty fighting” techniques. Remember, as legendary gunman Bill Jordan said in his book of the same title, there is “No Second Place Winner” in street combat. In real-life street combat, you either win or you lose. If you lose, odds are pretty good that you’ll end up seriously hurt, crippled for life (physically and/or emotionally), or dead! You have to do whatever it takes to win.
Remember, this is: Street Combat – This Ain’t No Game!