Blitzdefence project for the prevention of violence

The duties of Dieter Heusel include internal security and mobile youth work, with the emphasis on preventing acts of violence and vandalism by adolescents and working with the local police authority in cases of criminal acts carried out by adolescents and children. Depending on the seriousness of the crime the perpetrator is either prosecuted or ordered to carry out community service. Duties also include personal security in the inner city area, also for women (e.g. night patrols), and project monitoring incl. the direct use of force.

The aim was to give Dieter more self-assurance and presence when dealing with adolescents who are causing trouble and willing to resort to violence, enable him to defuse situations and if necessary allow him to resolve violent situations quickly and confidently in line with the requirements of the law. The course of training was to consist of 10-12 private lessons from Susanne Rösinger followed by a progress check in normal WT training (e.g. under stress during role-playing, behaviour with several potential attackers and similar cases).

Dieter Heusel has successfully carried out these duties for the local authority for more than 2 years and has had several physical confrontations during this time. In his youth he was an amateur wrestler for a short time. 8 years ago he started to learn WT but stopped after obtaining the 4th SG for time and personal reasons. The Blitzdefence book by Si-Gung Kernspecht gave his immediate superior the idea of providing him with additional training for his own safety. The town council then gave Susanne Rösinger the assignment as a group leader at the WT school in Erbach/Michelstadt to teach him Blitzdefence for 10-12 hours.

The project started on 27.10.01 and ended more than one year later on 25.12.02. It consisted of 10 private lessons and two sets of two hours training at the WT school with the other students.

A brief description of the approach they took to the project: When working with Dieter Susanne did not necessarily go through the Blitzdefence programmes in chronological order. Instead they first talked about specific problem areas and came to an appropriate solution on the basis of Blitzdefence and the relevant theoretical aspects such as the adrenalin effect, overcoming fear, ways of defusing the situation. Often Dieter would tell Susanne about a situation he had experienced, how he resolved it, what he felt at the time and how he managed to bring it to a successful end. They examined his approach in terms of technical security aspects, overcoming stress and of course conformity with the law. The latter still presented Dieter with something of a problem at first. Sometimes his reports after night patrols read roughly as follows: having prevented a woman from being pestered by two men there was a verbal confrontation during the course of which one of them fell into the local pond.

In Susannes view it was not necessarily important to show Dieter as many techniques as possible, as he would not be able to learn them in that short time anyway. Instead she built on his basic knowledge from the 1st to 4th SG and taught him the basic techniques from BD programmes 1-4, with particular attention to the pre-fight phase, judging the correct distance, positioning, body language and – very important – ways of defusing situations. Having a calming, conciliatory effect while still communicating "hey fellows, you can't do that, this far and no further". Dieter Heusel was already very well equipped for this by virtue of his previous work with young people – he was very skilled at sensing when a situation was becoming critical, when he might be able to avoid violence and when immediate action was required. He was also somebody who followed his intuition absolutely in such situations.

1st lesson

During their conversations it transpired that Dieter had found that in some situations thugs and potential troublemakers managed to get to close quarters (knee, elbow range) much too quickly. When speaking to people or approaching a group of youths he usually tried to remain beyond kicking range out of respect for high kicks. Several times he had found that certain types walked towards him aggressively with their arms at their sides and chest thrust forward provocatively, occasionally with the intention of head-butting him immediately, i.e. they got far too close too quickly. For this reason they first practiced judging distance: at kicking range immediately place one leg in front and raise the arms in front of the body, adopting a position that allows an immediate defence but with body language that can still calm the other person down. One of his frequent mistakes was to have his arms hanging down when he spoke to people, and Susanne showed him that in this position he had absolutely no chance of parrying an attack in time. With his arms already raised he would be able to give the troublemaker a heavy shove with both palms, or control the upper arms and shoulders to resolve the matter verbally. And if the attacker approached him extremely rapidly he could also make him run into thin air. The important thing was to prevent the attacker from having an opportunity to deliver a head-butt. The 2nd exercise was the correct positioning when somebody with a southpaw stance approaches. He was to try to distract the potential troublemaker verbally and calm him down (witnesses), while taking a position very close to his outer left and control both arms with his left arm, concealing the right punching arm without the attacker knowing what was happening. The problem was once again to push both arms forward in good time and not to stand too frontally. Eventually Dieter realised how important the slightly sideways positioning is, and how easily the opponent's leg can be controlled at the same time. Naturally they also practiced controlling the attacker's right arm with a Pak-Sao and launching an attack if necessary.

Practical conversion

It was very important for Dieter that the matter should already be settled during the first, verbal phase of the encounter. After all physical confrontations were not the aim, but rather to make a troublemaker, hooligan, sprayer or group of youths looking for something to destroy in the town centre come to their senses. For his own protection and feeling of security he was then shown corresponding techniques with an uncompromising attack if he was required to defend himself. In this lesson they covered the Lap-Sao with a pull and simultaneous punch, either to the head or low down to the kidney. He was particularly enthusiastic about the "falling step" for more punching power. His personal opinion was important to Susanne during all these exercises, as he had to have the confidence that things would work just as well in a real situation.
Shortly after the 2nd lesson that Dieter had a situation in which he used what he had learned. When he wanted to have the illegally parked car of a downtown bar-owner towed away, the bar-owner came out accompanied by a number of friends. Encouraged by his friends he approached Dieter with evil intent and tried to grab him by the collar. Dieter prevented this with intelligent positioning (as learned in Blitzdefence), raising his hands and moving to the left of the man, who had a southpaw stance. As far as the witnesses were concerned he adopted a calming attitude and tapped the bar-owner on the arm as a conciliatory gesture, however the latter quickly understood that he was in a less favourable position and could do nothing without getting the worst of it – he was also standing between Dieter and his own friends (which is already a good starting position when fighting several attackers). The situation was then resolved without the need for physical violence. The lesson had been absorbed, the aggressor is controlled before he is even aware of it.

From current cause

For the following reason (report in the local newspaper) they switched to self-defence against an armed opponent:

Three youths aged approx. 17 tried to rob a man of his wallet in a car park in the centre of Michelstadt, one of them threatening him with a knife. The would-be muggers were unlucky though, for they had picked on a martial arts enthusiast (probably from the Jiu-Jitsu club in Erbach) with years of competition experience. He soon took control of the knife and broke the youth's nose, the 2nd attacker was put out of action and the 3rd took to his heels at once. In the Erbach and Michelstadt areas there are frequent conflicts between youths from different social or ethnic groups. They are often armed with concealed knives or other weapons and are relatively quick to use them. Accordingly it was very important for Dieter to react appropriately when threatened with a knife, stick or baseball bat. Naturally it is impossible to learn reliable self-defence against a knife attack in just a few hours, but it was important that Dieter should understand the danger in such a situation, not be overconfident and run into the knife. Susanne also recommended that he might carry a pepper spray (he normally did so, and was trained in its use as an auxiliary police officer). On the other hand Susanne also wanted him to realise that even without a weapon of his own, he had a chance of remaining reasonably unscathed when threatened by unskilled knife users as in the situation described above.

Purchase to the everyday work

They also discussed a conflict situation that had occurred at the Bienenmarkt, the large spring fair in Michelstadt. There had also been fights between youths of different nationalities the year before. Usually it is all over by the time the police arrive, with only the injured remaining behind. Dieter was on duty in the market office (he is always in contact with the police during such events) and another fight was in the air. Two youths came into conflict, each of them backed up by a group of five or six others. In order to calm the situation Dieter approached the youth for whom the others seemed to show the most respect, and as he was standing in a southpaw stance Dieter positioned himself to his right and tried to calm him down by placing both hands on his right arm, however the youth then tried to attack him without warning. Dieter was able to control his right arm with his left and knock him to the ground with a right-hand punch. Fortunately none of the others came to his aid, therefore Dieter was able to take him into custody in the market office. His rapid reaction and uncompromising punch were extremely important in this case, as the other youths were still all around him. It might have been better to position himself as in a fight against several assailants, i.e. not to go into the middle of the group as the danger of being attacked from behind is too great. Also he should perhaps not have touched the youth immediately, as this can make people even more aggressive. Dieter was also able to resolve a second difficult situation with an inebriated acquaintance (who can become very violent in this condition) by using his training to prevent the matter from escalating. The man was angry with Dieter and tried to push him. Dieter immediately slapped him on the shoulders with both hands, controlling both shoulders and arms, then pushed him against a wall. He was then able to calm him down verbally, and since the other was in a less favourable position anyway he became peaceful and the matter was resolved.

Final discussion and conclusions

By keeping a record of the 12 training sessions and the actual conflicts experienced by Dieter, Susanne intended to show that it is possible with very few hours of Blitzdefence training to considerably reduce the danger of working on the street in a position such as Dieter's.

The advantage of Blitzdefence is that it concerns itself in detail with what happens before a fight: body language, non-verbal communication between the antagonists, the influence of one's own ego, the spectators and the friends of those involved. This leads to a much better understanding and timely recognition of potentially violent situations, and therefore to more opportunities for deescalation and avoidance. Many conflicts can be defused by a calm and self-assured, but not aggressive manner, though this self-assurance is only possible if one feels fairly safe, i.e. one must be fairly confident of being able to control the situation even in the event of a physical attack. One of the most important aspects is correct positioning versus a potential attacker. The Blitzdefence book shows very clearly how one can safely bridge the distance within which the potential attacker can kick or punch without him realising what is actually happening. Naturally verbal distraction is also very important, as an auxiliary police officer cannot simply go straight into action with WT's universal solution. As shown by one of the examples it is possible to control a potential attacker without him noticing by positioning oneself to his left or right and keeping the arms in the appropriate position, or at least he will realise that he can no longer attack in the way he planned. This subliminal realisation alone helps to defuse a potentially violent situation, for who would launch an attack if he knows he has already lost (unless he is strongly influenced by drugs or adrenalin, in which case it is useless to try to placate him. But that is no longer Dieter Heusel's area of activity).

Another great advantage of Blitzdefence is that it requires only very few techniques. If the basic position is correct one can always put the attacker out of action with a punch to the head or kidneys, or very easily apply a control and restraint method. The falling step technique is an outstanding way to gain the necessary power for this, even if one is not very big and strong. If somebody already has some measure of basic self-defence knowledge he/she can quickly be trained to proceed with much greater assurance in a potentially violent situation. It was a great advantage in the case of Dieter Heusel that he had trained up to the 4th SG level in WT, though this was more than six years previously. Naturally the person concerned must also be willing to rethink, accept the new ideas, simply try them out and of course be willing to strike uncompromisingly and without delay in a serious incident.