Monday, May 14, 2007

Covering up in a streetfight

I've been meaning to post for a while on the subject of covering up, after Patrick at Moruken Dojo asked for my thoughts on his post on a non-violent technique, and George at Boot to the Head posted on an example of someone covering up in the ring (see video after reading his post).

In both cases, the authors are right - covering up is a horrible tactic. In the Moruken example, the young lady is being taught a technique for protecting herself while on the ground, though it's obvious from the context that it's being used for shielding herself from kicks or blows from above while she lays prone, and that it's either for a civil rights or other protest context. In Boot's example, one fighter is pinned in a corner and, as George says, hoping that the bad man will go away! What are the merits and drawbacks of this common ploy?

In the "Nonviolent self-defense" context, it may not be a bad idea. Throughout recent history, consciences around the world have been stirred by the sight of the powerful victimizing the powerless. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. helped bring an end to empire and racial injustice by highlighting the moral injustice of their respective causes. Those effects were brought about by their eschewing of violence to achieve their goals, leaving that to their adversaries. Amazing! For this reason, I actually think that the tactic employed in training this young woman to "take it" may have been the right one - it achieved it's aims. For self-defense, however, it's piss-poor. A better alternative is the grounded defensive position pictured in this post.

If you find yourself on the ground, whether man or woman, in a self-defense situation, your legs aimed at a standing attackers knees and shins are your best weapon. Don't try to get up without making sure you have room and time. Believe me, this is not an ideal tactic, but it's serviceable, and, in fact, one of the best tactics for a child or smaller person if you have to strike. Train this, no matter what your size or skill level.

In George's post, however, ring competition versus a larger or otherwise superior fighter, covering up is a good way to get beaten down! If you are cornered by a superior fighter, you become target practice. I often tell my students that any fighter, mediocre or not, can slip, parry, duck, or block a punch, and that a decent fighter can stop a two-punch combo without a problem. A three (or more) punch barrage by a superior fighter means that everything past number two is probably going to hit you. Tactically, your best advice is to run - in the ring, that means keep moving laterally and avoid mixing it up. On the street, it may mean running away like your life depends on it, and it probably does! In the ring, you can use that side to side and angled movement, and when the better fighter traps you by cutting off the ring and pinning you in a corner, clinch and hold for dear life; check him and tie him up! On the street, you have no idea if it's a fist or buck knife coming at you. If you cover up versus a punch from an opponent without wearing gloves, you'll get hit (there's not enough coverage by your arms and fists), but against a knife, you will probably die. George also advises us to learn "how to move in the ring. Practice controlling the center. Practice footwork. Practice fighting while moving backward as well as forward. Practice rotating out of corner. Practice those sneaky kicks to the ankle of your foe (you know, the ones that kick the leg out under him). We do a lot of defensive corner drills in Savate training, because a practical fight strategy has to allow for blocking and shifting out of danger until you can control the fight again.

Let's sum this up for posterity...

In civil disobedience:

  • Make your point without getting hurt. Covering up should be done as long as you're in view of cameras. If out of camera shot, use the grounded defensive position to hold off an attacker and get to your feet, then away.

In the ring:

  • Covering up is suicide (figuratively) against a superior adversary. Don't use it unless you have to.

  • Move laterally and at angles away from the strong hand (or foot) to take away the power. Stay at the distance that you can counter when your superior opponent punches himself out, a la "rope a dope," just without the rope!

  • Tie up your opponent when he's close enough to unload, by using the clinch, trap, check, bump, and the offensive hug!

On the street :

  • Your best bet is to keep your distance. Use natural obstacles to keep something between you and an attacker.

  • Take whatever opportunity that presents itself to escape, including running, if possible. When entering any area or room, always note possible threats and escape routes.

  • Never cover up - if you need to, attack to create openings, turn the tables on the predator and become the hunter in turn. Attack the weapons of your attacker - the arms and legs to "defang the snake" as we say in the Filipino martial arts.

  • Or, if you see it, go for the KO, and Joe Lewis and Geoff Thomson agree, the right cross to the jaw will change anyone's attitude in a hurry.

Finally, you will see that in all of these cases, proper and consistent training is critical. The non-violent protestor must learn to make a point without being maimed. The sport competitor must develop the skill and conditioning to become the superior fighter, not succumb to one. The rest of us, including law enforcement, security, and the military infantryman must train as if our very lives depend on it, because they do...


Patrick Parker said...

Hey, I like it. All good points. I'd not thought of it from the perspective of sacrificing yourself to end an evil regime of injustice.

There are other situations I can think of in which it may not be appropriate to use force to defend oneself - for instance, I was hired as a security guard at an alternative school in college. The previous guard had been a college football player - so he had considerable force to apply, but a group of students attacked him and, not feeling that he was allowed to smite a teenager to save himself was taking a beating. He got one of the attackers in a rear choke and shrimped himself backward into a bookshelf where he could use the kid as a shield till help arrived.

This type of defensive situation may also be appropriate for employees at health care facilities.

Thanks for the additional insight and commentary.

DvD said...

Good points for the ring and the street. Whats important is knowing whats appropriate for the situation. So obviously, if you have experience then you would know, if not seek the training. HooYah!!

J Hines