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    Hitting or not hitting first

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    Dennis jones

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    Hitting or not hitting first

    Post by Dennis jones on Mon Dec 08, 2008 4:41 pm

    The following was an article I wrote for MAI: Samurai on the door' This is my take on the Pre-emptive!

    Lately Steve I’ve been getting a number of emails from people wanting to know more about pre-emptive striking. Their concerns centred on when is the right moment, when someone is starting on you, to hit them? Another question that also came up was about my.... In the ... I take a small step with my left foot, stepping slightly to my opponent’s right side. I would take a little shuffle just before I powered my big right hander into the target! A few people wondered if this slight pre-emptive left leg movement would give the game away. But before I answer the questions, I want to talk about self defence on the street. (In the home if you are in fear of an intruder the law generally does not require you to wait to be attacked before using defensive force yourself.)

    Now there are two things that worry decent people when they think about having to defend themselves out in the street. The first is how they will react when frightened, and the second is about the unnerving situation of having to justify their action in court. Facing a lengthy jail sentence or a big fine and probation is a major concern that the majority of law abiding citizens carry, like a millstone around their neck, for all their adult life.
    As far as self defence is concerned a court appearance is in my experience rarely a cut and dried event. Just because most of us are familiar with the simple definition of self defence it don’t mean-even if you believe and everyone else believes your actions were in harmony with the definition-that you won’t end up in the dock. However, it does go without saying that if you are physically attacked you can-if you want to-defend yourself.

    Fighting back when the odds are not ‘Too heavily stacked against you’ is quite natural. And if you are attacked by someone armed with a weapon most people would think it reasonable to defend yourself using a weapon as well. In the interest of self preservation anything can happen in a street fight but if you go too far, like giving someone a few extra digs and a good kicking for starting the trouble, you can easily put yourself in court. Each fight is different and often requires a lot of unraveling by the experts to get to the bottom of what actually occurred. Having each action and moment pulled apart in court, it’s not long before the ‘Judge and Jury’ will be able to determine if you acted lawfully, that is, lawfully according to English law. For example if a ten year old child attacked you with a flurry of punches I am sure the courts would not consider your action reasonable if you replied with a few adult punches of your own! I know that’s an extreme example but I feel it does help highlight the problem of reasonableness, which as an issue goes far beyond, ‘Well officer, he hit me so I hit him back’ type of statement.

    I have a law book. It was published with the layman in mind and in it is written the following statement:
    "It is both good law and good sense that a man who is attacked may defend himself. It is both good law and good sense that he may do, but only do, what is reasonably necessary."
    Now I’m no lawyer but two words stand out for me. The first is ‘…who is attacked…’ the second ‘…reasonably necessary.’ So I reckon the generally held belief in self defence of hitting first or first strike can cause a lot of legal problems in the cold light of day. Hitting first means you are not reacting to an attack but simple stopping a perceived attack. However, because it has not occurred, how can you prove you were about to be attacked! It might be that you were verbally threatened but that does not mean that a physical attack is imminent. Most threats of violence are mostly empty words and striking out because you’re in fear of getting beaten up by a couple of scumbags who are giving you grief in the street…well if you get arrested don’t assume ‘because you thought they were going to attack you’ that the law is automatically on your side. If you are put in that unenviable position of having to defend yourself out on the street, its good legal sense to make sure that the force you use is justified and that you apply it just as you’re being attacked!

    However, it must be remembered that the vast majority of verbals on the street do not lead to violence. For example, I’ve had youths giving me a hard time on the door, telling me that I’m a **** or whatever, and for the last 10 or so years I’ve known that the chances of not getting arrested if you punched their lights out is pretty slim. Now I’ve been in countless situations like that and generally ‘You can safely ignore most idiots.’ I’ve always been happy to leave them to their own devices but only as long as they don’t put a hand on me! Quite truthfully anybody that’s a nasty piece of work, you know the ones Steve, the sort that have no respect for anyone else, well in the end, and I’ve seen this happen countless times through my life, usually get what they truly deserve-you reap what you sow as the Bible says!
    In the early days when I first started bouncing that’s what happened, they reaped what they sowed; mouthy thugs would get slapped for gobbing off! Often one of the older bouncers or occasionally a member of the public (usually an ex-soldier) would administer the discipline. Back then the police were as keen as we were to keep good order around our nightclubs and on our streets. Times have changed but irrespective of the risk of getting arrested for defending yourself, it has never been more important than it is now-a-days to train hard so that you can fight if you have to. Quite simply our society does not seem to have the ability to moderate the behaviour of the countless ‘nasty violent thugs’ that ruin our lives. And developing the right mindset and fighting ability might be the only thing that prevents you and the people you love from getting a good hiding or even worse.

    Over the years I’ve seen many pre- emptive strikes used to good effect. Often they’ll end a conflict just a split second after the physicals have started and I’ll finish this months column talking about ‘what I’ve learnt’ over the last two decades.
    Fundamentally, ‘pre-emptive strike’ is all about the street. I have found that in ‘street conflicts’ (but not in boxing matches or in most other types of combative sports) no one is looking out for slight body movements in an attempt to predict an attack. If martial artists are training to look for ‘signs’ like ‘slight body or foot movement’ as a part of a street strategy, well I believe there’re focusing inappropriately.

    Your focus when faced with danger should be on your potential attacker and in a holistic manner. I tend to ignore most of the words that are spoken prior to conflict, preferring instead to work out, and very quickly, whether I’m in danger of getting hurt. My ascertaining is based on the following:

    • Reason/s for the conflict and there is always one. Occasionally it’s so trivial it makes you think it’s something out of ‘Alice in Wonderland.’
    • His emotions
    • His demeanour and intention
    • Predicted outcome (will I be successful)
    • Possible repercussions both legal and otherwise (revenge attack etc.)
    • Disengagement strategy and do you know him or does he know you.
    • Distance from opponent
    • Body position and how is he moving (walking, darting movements, staring etc)

    In a street conflict antagonist always focus on your face, which incidentally is your identity and personality. The only time they look away is if they intend to trick you in an attempt to get you to drop your mental and physical guard. Another tactic street thugs always use is to try and dominate your mind. If he controls your mind, your body will do what he wants. If you succumb to his mind games you’ll be in a lot of trouble! Often in the street (or nightclub etc.) it’s all about getting the advantage. Whether with numbers and/or using weapons, the scumbag will also be tricking and scaring the shit out of you and at the same time he’s always trying to set you up. Remember a common trait of prolific murderers is that they have an incredible skill to deceive potential victims!

    Often in a conflict an antagonist uses extreme emotions-generally because they themselves are unstable. Sometimes they’ll turn anger into friendship and then friendship into anger and so on. Other times they’ll go into a frenzied and highly emotive verbal attack. I have found the following most helpful:

    • Don’t engage in conversation that goes beyond politeness. Keep it simple and try and discreetly disengage and get away.
    • Be pleasant but keep resolved in your heart that your ‘pre emptive strike’ is ready to launch its attack.
    • Keep your emotions hidden, drop your head slightly, breath deeply and through your nose but keep a pleasant non- aggressive face.
    • Constantly gauge distance and be aware of other people and possible weapons that could be used like bricks, stones and bottles etc. that is if the fight goes beyond the initial contact.

    Your focus in training must be on hitting hard, quickly and accurately. Work on three or four blows, right and left and elbows. Remember when you use the pre-emptive strike you have tricked your opponent! Thinking that they are going to do you, they have made the mistake and moved themselves into range-just as they are attacking you. Often because of the mindset of the antagonist they, like a predator, hardly notice any of their victim’s nervous movements. Shaking body limbs, nervous twitches are the order of the day and when you start to make your move, they for a split second instinctively assume (they believe that you are terrified) you’re trying to get away from them. A sideward step is generally seen as an attempt to walk around them-make it look like that!

    Regards Dennis
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    Peter Skillen

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    Re: Hitting or not hitting first

    Post by Peter Skillen on Mon Dec 08, 2008 6:34 pm

    Hidennis nice article.
    I picked out these two from your list of assement as to whether or not, if i have read it rightly, you engage in the pre- emp /altercation
    • Predicted outcome (will I be successful)
    • Possible repercussions both legal and otherwise (revenge attack etc.)

    My question is: Do you think that these two could hinder someones attack/defence in a sitution because of too much enthasis being on what the out come may be and the questioning of their own abillitys, putting doubt where it doesn't belong. Could this not fead your fears making your judgement cloud your capability to defend yourself.

    I can understand this thinking if the actuall confrontation is/has been expected but is it not to much to think about on a snap confrontation like in the street/pub etc..

    I have always thought it is better two be judged by twelve than carried by six. your thoughts please.

    thanks for your time.
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    Al Peasland
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    Re: Hitting or not hitting first

    Post by Al Peasland on Mon Dec 08, 2008 7:37 pm

    Hi Dennis

    Great article. Has pretty much the same message that I have always said - and have outlined Pre-emptive striking and the law in my book out this week (sorry - no plug intended - honest)

    One thing I did find with the law is that it has changed slightly so that, you only have to show that YOU felt under threat. It's not for the Jury to decide if they would have felt threatened under the same circumstances.
    Basicaly, what I mean is, the Jury have to take into consideration that, at the time, with all the factors involved in a "real" event, your decision making process may be affected, resulting in you pre-emptively striking to end, what was perceived by you as a life threatening situation. Whether they they consider it to have been life threatening whilst sat in the safety of a court room now has less impact.
    Simply put, you are allowed, to some degree at least, to make honest mistakes in your judgement as a result of the fear and stresses of a real situation.

    Obviously, as a guy who's been in this type of situation for many year, many many times, the jury may not be quite so accomodating for a man like me, and would expect me to have the clarity of thought and composure to make the right decisions. But for the average Joe who is about to be attacked, they are now more lenient.

    Peter,

    For me, as I mention in my new book, Dennis is absolutely correct that part of the decision making proces includes factors such as, Will I be successful, What will the outcome be, How will I stand with the law, etc

    But what I do is try to remove these decision from the time when I need to act and deal with them in advance, ie. Deal with them NOW.

    If I take time out to understand the law fully now, then I will be less likely to be worried about it when the event actually happens. I've already sorted it in my own mind.

    Try to remove as many decisions as possible - including reducing a cast array of techniques down to only a few.

    In addition, work on those techniques so much that it becomes so natural that you eliminate yet another worry - "Will it work"
    You are then in a better position to deal with the really important decisions at hand which are

    Can I avoid this conflict?
    NO
    Can I escape?
    NO
    Has he done enough to need hitting?
    YES
    BANG!

    To be honest, even if I don't have answers to all the possible decisions, the least I can do is to get set in my own mind which of all this list are the priority decisions. Then, when the time comes I know which ones to deal with first

    Sorry to hijack this thread

    Again, great post Dennis - nice work mate Wink

    Respect as always

    Al
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    Mick Tully
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    Re: Hitting or not hitting first

    Post by Mick Tully on Mon Dec 08, 2008 8:30 pm

    Great post dennis
    mick x
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    Jonny Figgis

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    Re: Hitting or not hitting first

    Post by Jonny Figgis on Tue Dec 09, 2008 9:14 pm

    Just wanted to pick up on a point that Al made...

    "But what I do is try to remove these decision from the time when I need to act and deal with them in advance, ie. Deal with them NOW."

    That makes a lot of sense to me...working on these questions/emotions during training so that you are not questioning yourself too much when it's about to kick off. Knowing the law, knowing your own skill level and pressure-testing a small number of solid techniques will eliminate a lot of questions that could be floating around your mind in the heat of the moment. In essence, it comes down to having a confidence in what you're doing..mentally and physically.

    Obviously I'm more of a novice at this game than a lot of you lads so please correct me if I'm wrong. The more solid information I have the better! :-)
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    kaarl

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    Re: Hitting or not hitting first

    Post by kaarl on Wed Dec 10, 2008 1:36 am

    great article dennis,

    In essence, it comes down to having a confidence in what you're doing..mentally and physically.

    i think you hit the nail on the head jonny
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    Jonny Figgis

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    Re: Hitting or not hitting first

    Post by Jonny Figgis on Wed Dec 10, 2008 12:35 pm

    Thanks man, I've unfortunately had to resort to using my hands a few times and I can remember the first time I really felt threatened (dealing with a local drug dealer) I was with my girlfriend so was worried about her, was not so sure of my ability and well I ended up, shall we say, 'over-doing' it a bit. I struck him pre-emptively and repeatedly and caught him with a knee to the face as he fell but I think he was out before he hit the pavement. He was covered in blood (which was scary for me as I couldn't really assess the damage I had caused), was out cold with a broken nose and teeth and I broke my hand in the process. To make matters worse, a couple came over and said that they saw what I did...that I attacked him! I then had weeks of worrying about whether I was going to face repercussions; either a court case or revenge from this person. Neither happened and he called me and actually apologised to me for his behaviour.

    The moral of this story is that if I had things more clear in my head, if I had more confidence in what I was doing, I would have been better equipped to assess the situation more clearly and respond with appropriate force...or as the lawbook says 'reasonable force'. This is why looking at pre-fight and post-fight is crucial and working through this in your mind while training; discussing it with more experienced people and getting as much information as possible. It's both pre and post that I find the hardest to deal with; you have to deal with your emotions. Whereas 'in-fight' you just have to deal with and do what you can.

    Anyway, rant over! Laughing

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