The Lane

Dear WTW editor,

I have done kickboxing for several years and started WingTsun about 4 months ago because despite good general fitness and average success in competitions, the self-defence aspect was simply not catered for enough. In a number of conflict situations "on the street" – and although I was attending "fight" training with enthusiasm – I found that I was not quite sure what to do for the best. More by luck than judgement I always managed to come away unscathed, but this uncertainty made me think. How could I specifically prepare for these exceptional circumstances? Then a friend recommended the book "BlitzDefence" by GM Kernspecht, which discussed precisely the topic that was preoccupying me. Naturally it immediately made me want to start learning the BlitzDefence programme. It appears that I started my training at just the right time, as the following happened to me recently:

I was visiting my girlfriend Sandra over the weekend, who is currently studying in X. On the Saturday night we went dancing in a club and were having a really good evening. At some point I had just returned from the bar with fresh drinks when Sandra complained about some fellow who was constantly leering at her. She was visibly relieved that I had returned. I turned round to take a look, but all I saw was a fellow turning away and carrying on a conversation with his mates. I only wanted to take a closer look at him and his friends, but suddenly found that they were all staring at me. I reacted immediately and called my Blitzdefence lessons to mind. "You look at somebody for just a second too long and he immediately feels threatened or provoked!", our Si-Hing was always telling us.

I grabbed Sandra and we immediately found somewhere else to sit, leaving the other guys to stare elsewhere. I did not find the situation in any way remarkable, as I have often found that Sandra is stared at whenever we are together in public (seems to be compulsive for many men!). The situation had been satisfactorily resolved and I exposed myself to no further conflict or risk. I had no idea that the situation that evening was the cause of what was to happen to us next day ...

On Sunday we took a stroll through the old town to enjoy the fine weather. We were just walking down a narrow alley when we noticed three fellows coming from the other end who were approaching quite briskly. Having seen them we went to one side to let them pass. Suddenly something changed, when I recognised the nearest one as the fellow who had made Sandra uncomfortable with his stares the evening before and then turned away when I looked at him. He recognised us at just about the same time and we both stopped talking. A moment later his two companions also stopped their conversation, as we were about to collide because the fellow would not make way. And so the inevitable happened.

"Hey! Can't you watch where you're going, you fucker?" he growled at me. I was not quite sure how to answer (to the extent that this was intended as a serious question in the first place) and simply responded, "Ok, ok, just stay cool, birdbrain!". Now the trouble really started, as one of the others turned to confront me. The one who had barged into me now struck me on the right shoulder, saying "Looking for trouble?". I could sense how he was becoming more and more brave, and then the third fellow got involved, saying "Who the hell's this joker?".

Now I could no longer leave things be, I had to act. I took a step back, knocked the fellow's arm aside and shouted, "That's enough, leave me alone!!", at the same time pushing Sandra back a little for safety. As soon as I briefly turned my head to make sure she was alright I felt a blow to the head as the fellow next to me attacked me, shoved my head against the wall behind me and pushed me along it for some distance. On regaining my balance I was somehow able to free myself and shove him away, at the same time kicking him in the knee and landing a punch on his lower back. Fortunately he stumbled against one of the others in falling, so I was just able to avoid a fist that came in from the side, briefly controlled the arm, rammed my knee into the attacker's stomach and felled him with an elbow to the head.

Now the third one, who wearing camouflage trousers, came running at me. He lifted his arms and was just about to throw a punch when I kicked him between the legs. He screamed loudly and fell forward, so I dragged him to the ground. The fellow in the camouflage trousers was making strange whining noises and rolling around in pain, while the other two lay there showing no signs of fight. I looked round at my girlfriend and there was no question in our minds: "Let's get out of here as quickly as possible, before they get up again." We ran to the nearest taxi rank and made for home at once.

It was only in the taxi that I noticed the adrenalin coursing through my body, and that Sandra was sitting next to me totally upset and trembling slightly. It took us quite a while to get over all this stress. I was in inner turmoil all the rest of that Sunday, but somehow I felt well-balanced and glad to have come out of this nasty situation well.

During the fight itself I was completely focused and felt somehow remote from it all. Afterwards Sandra told me she had been screaming all the time, but I didn't hear a sound (I suppose that must have been the adrenalin).

In any event I was really glad that I had already learned something from my WingTsun or Blitzdefence classes. It was particularly the role-playing exercises we conscientiously carry out during training that caused me to act during this incident. At a certain point I was no longer the victim, but instead became the one who dictated events (I can still hear my instructor saying: "You must seize the initiative from the aggressor and dictate the events yourself – forward defence!"). The short, direct paths of WingTsun allowed me to emerge from this confrontation as the winner. My only injury was a slightly sprained wrist, though this may have been due to many years of kickboxing during which we always worked with large gloves and a completely different punching technique.

Even though I was unable to do everything we are taught during our Blitzdefence training, I am relieved at how things went because it could have turned out very differently. I have since held a post mortem about the entire incident with my instructor, during which we went through various scenarios together to establish what else could have happened, and also when and how I could have done things differently.

Perhaps the situation would not have escalated as it did if I had simply apologised sincerely for unintentionally knocking into the other fellow.