Training Warriors for the 21st Century

Training Warriors for the 21st Century
Joong Do Kwan Traditional Taekwondo cross training with Kidokwan Perth

6 Nov 2017

Things that Make You Go 武 [True Story]

His lanky 6' tall frame hurtled to the lightweight foldable chairs, his arm held fast in a vice grip. His eyes were transfixed, the look on his face somewhere between a cheeky smile and a grimace of shock you'd get before you know something was about to hurt. As he hit the chairs, they clattered apart before his knee gave out and he landed on the wooden decking.

I stood over him. I was still grabbing his right arm with my left, and my hand was wrapped around his neck. I was figuring if he had bear-hugged me just to take the piss, or if he was indeed drunk and trying for more than some rough play. But there was no fire in his eyes. I was looking at them all the way as he fell - it was that vacant look you get when you get TKO'd. There was no fight left - maybe even none to begin with.

A Google search for Tiger Mouth strike to neck produced this winner from https://i.ytimg.com/vi/L25nqXFQY6g/hqdefault.jpg - we don't train the tiger mouth strike to the neck, but this was a perfect application in lieu of the 'Judo hold' where you grab the sleeve of the dobok and then the lapel. In the situation above, the opponent wasn't wearing a dobok - so his thin shirt would not have been an adequate purchase.

Still controlling him, I looked up at one side of the room, then turned around to the other side of the room. Must have been 30 guests in all. But in under three seconds, I had taken down my assailant (aka 'the idiot') and killed their banter. The silence was deafening. I survey their faces and read no other threat, and begin to contend with how this might look. I unlock the limb control. I ease my grip from his neck. In good grace, I also help him up. I keep my movements small and relaxed. Nothing to see here, folks.

That's the BJJ version of the inside leg minor reap from https://i.ytimg.com/vi/kjlpsAXmsrI/maxresdefault.jpg. We practiced this once maybe twice in the last two years, and in fact I can't find the video of it because it doesn't feature that prominently in our training. But it seems the skill is there when push comes to shove ... or bearhug.

The party was a private Christmas drinks and nibbles event held in a nice suburb organised for work colleagues. The threat anyone posed to me was minimal. The biggest risk would be a miss step on the split level. But the truth is - I am always on guard. It's worse in crowds and in public. It's not like I decide to be panicky or all pumped up for a fight, really. In fact, before I was grabbed, I was just standing there, relaxed and I was deep in conversation with my wife and her friend.

Colin training a variation of the outer reap. The outer reap is a basic Judo technique they call an osotogari. It's introduced in our school at white belt level. As you can see I've stretched out the lead arm, and I've gone for the opposite shoulder to rotate him down to the ground. 

The bear hug occurred. It wasn't an intimate cuddle. And I wasn't going to apologise, even if the incident deeply embarrassed my wife in front of all her colleagues. It was her colleague who grabbed me. He grabbed me hard. He knew I was a martial artist. He had a few drinks on board. And he wanted to test me out. We train bear hug defence, and one of the primary counters is a foot stomp to break the top of the assailant's foot. Had I done that I still wouldn't feel guilty nor would I apologise. From that perspective, he is lucky that I chose to instead pinch the inside of his thigh. His yelp of pain registered in my consciousness but the force of being grabbed got me into that state the Japanese call mushin - no mind.

I turned and I could see his face, and I was trying to recognise who he was. My mind was jacked up and time started to flow differently. I had already gone for lead arm control, and then started to stretch him out with the neck grab. And to fell him, I did an inside leg reap - what Judo would call a inside leg minor reap throw. Nothing could stop me - I was in the zone and it was that scene from the Last Samurai.

This is a screenshot of a outside leg minor reap done during a sparring session with Josh. My apologies for the poor resolution - had to zoom in. Josh was trying to do a takedown from neck level, and I reversed body position and went for his outside leg. This was a similar technique to 'Christmas Party Takedown'.

These were not exact moves specifically trained for a situation where idiot-bear-hugs-you-at-a-party. We do go for arm control, and we do go for takedowns. I could even say that the takedown is similar to the leg reap we do for beginners learning Chonji. But it wasn't a prescribed technique that brought him down, it was '精神' (Jīngshén) spirit which did. There is always a psychological element to a fight - in that instant when he slammed into me, my 精神 met and overwhelmed his. Techniques were secondary.

Don't mistake this as an issue of loss of self control or of poor technique. If there was a loss of self control, I would have continued until he was unconscious. I wouldn't have tried to measure his fighting spirit from the look in his eyes. I wouldn't have asked if he was alright as he was pinned on the ground. Self control is as much about honing yourself into a weapon, a precision tool for your art. And in this case, correct self control was used to destroy the opponent's 精神.

As for technique - I took down a six foot tall guy without muscling him. It would not have been smoother had the entire thing been cooked up at the dojang. I owned it.

That's it - found it. Inside leg minor reap. We practiced that once, and I finally found the video dated August 3 2016. The technique was used as a counter toward a failed single leg grab and takedown. As you can see Niaal has got my neck or shoulder locked up and applying downward pressure on my body - the technique cuts his legs out from under him. 

Back to the party. I'm now astutely avoiding the occasional nervous glances from the other guests and trying to ignore the change of mood in the room. I get to talk with my drunk friend, who was sobering up after the cold shock of being manhandled.  I again banter with him, and measuring my breath so I don't shake too much from the adrenaline leaving the body.

It is an unfortunate situation. People in my part of the world are surrounded with the luxury of affluence and peace, and don't understand my particular path nor the practice of martial arts. A 'friend' sought to test out those reflexes. To simply see how I'd react. Unfortunately no one knew it was going to happen, and merely saw what they saw. And what they heard was a loud crash with me standing over a downed colleague of theirs. I had his arm grabbed, and my hand was around his throat. Not a pretty sight. Definitely not appropriate for a social gathering organised at the department head's house.

There were only two people who witnessed the entire thing unfold - my wife and her colleague. And yet, even my wife had to be convinced by the feedback (read 'gossip') from other colleagues over the ensuring months that her husband correctly defended himself.

At the end of the evening, as I readied to leave and said my goodbyes, there was tension in the room with my proximity. They were skitterish. They were wary. And I don't blame them. But that doesn't change my mind about my reaction. Given the same situation, I would happily go for more force not less. Self defence is not about what people think of you, it's ensuring that you respond correctly to your safety. Your family's safety. Get complacent and that could dull your readiness. Second guess yourself and you become imprecise.

Note: This article was titled 'Things that Make You Go 武,' submitted to Totally Taekwondo August 1 2017, and published September 2017 in issue 103. It has been modified and republished on this blog Nov 6  2018.

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