Let’s begin this post by reading some old news.
This happened in 2008.
It’s still relevant:
Female Karate Champion Defeats Mugger
A mugger in Italy got more than he bargained for when the woman he tried to rob turned out to be a national karate champion.
Four times Italian women’s champion Lara Liotta, 29, was on a street in broad daylight in central Rome when the man, a Romanian immigrant of no fixed abode, approached her and asked her for a cigarette.
When she told him she did not smoke he allegedly lunged for her and grabbed her around the neck.
Miss Liotta, who works as prison officer, immediately put her black belt training to good use, delivering two swift jabs to the man’s face which sent him crashing to the ground.
The karate champion was fortunate she could rely on her skills to fight off her attacker because there was no assistance from passersby, despite the attack happening shortly after rush hour on Monday.
“No one helped me or stopped, even though there are lots of people around at that time of the day,” she told an Italian newspaper.
After punching the man to the floor, she ran to the nearby railway station of Termini and alerted police, who caught him before he could run away. He was arrested and detained on charges of assault.
“It could have been much worse. What would have happened if this person, instead of attacking me, a karate champion who knows how to defend herself well, had attacked a young girl?”
“I’m lost for words,” Miss Liotta, who competes in the under 55kg weight category, said.
By Nick Squires in Rome
Published: 2:17PM BST 10 Sep 2008
A success story.
The victim got away safely, and the assailant was put behind bars. That’s success to me.
But I don’t think that’s the most amazing part of this story.
What really is surprising – and what truly makes this a success story – is that a woman who trains Sport Karate managed to convert her skills, and use them successfully in self-defense, against an attack we practically never train against in the dojo.
And I’m not talking about grabs around the neck. That was just the physical part, which I hope everyone trains in the dojo.
No, I’m talking about something else.
The method of approach.
“The method of approach” is a term that refers to an offender’s way of getting close to his victims. In this case, the offender asked for a cigarette, which was his method of approach. But did he really want a cigarette?
It was simply his way of “breaking the ice”.
This method (asking for a cigarette or whatever) is known as the “con”, and is one of three methods of approach that is often spoken about by self-defense experts.
And since Karate is supposed to be all about self-defense, it would be foolish of us Karate people not to investigate these three methods of approach a little further.
First desribed by R.R. Hazelwood and A. W. Burgess in 1999, the three methods of approach are generally divided into the “con”, “surprise” and “blitz”. These may occur singularly, or in conjunction with each other, such as a combination of “blitz/con” or “surprise/blitz” . Though the terms are fairly self explanatory, I want to dig a little deeper.
Because I think we have a problem in Karate here.
And since we’ve already seen a little of the “con” approach, let’s begin there.
1) The “con” describes an offender who deceives or lures a victim into believing an imaginary situation exists. But the true intention is really to get the victim into a more favorable position (for the offender), or simply to lower the victim’s guard, in order to later make the “real” attack easier. This was the exact case with the female Italian Karate Champion, who would have been an easy traget if she was busy searching her handbag for cigarettes, had she smoked.
Other possible examples of this type of “con” behavior might be if an offender is posing as a delivery man, or maintenance man, to gain access to a house or keys. Or maybe posing as a cripple, injured or handicapped, using other peoples feelings of sympathy and compassion against them, before the physical attack is commenced.
2) The “surprise” method is usually characterized by an offender laying in wait for his victim, then swiftly subduing him/her. The offender might wait for certain conditions to be met (like allowing people to pass, or waiting for the victim to fall asleep). An example of the “surprise” approach would be if an offender hides in some bushes near a car park, waiting for a lone female to walk to her car. While she stands near the car, probably looking for her keys, the attacker sneaks up behind her and grabs her without her noticing his approach.
3) The “blitz” describes an approach where the offender quickly and excessively uses force to rapidly overcome the victim’s defenses, to get control of the situation. Most often used by physically stronger, or armed, offenders. The “blitz” method usually results in more extensive physical injury than “surprise” or “con”.
And usually, the “blitz” will be preceded by a “surprise” or “con” approach (as in the example in the beginning).
Okay, so that was a quick overview.
Now where do I think the problem with the majority of Karate schools lie?
I’ll tell you:
Karate, sadly, focuses almost exclusively on defending against the straight on”blitz” attack.
I mean, think about it: You drill defenses against straight punches, haymakers, frontal grabs (wrist, jacket, bear hug, throat) hour upon hour. That’s the “blitz” approach, and that’s what most people imagine when they hear “self-defense”.
But how often do you practise against the “con” or the “surprise” approach?
My guess is…
When was the last time you had somebody sneak up behind you in the dojo, attacking you without warning? When was the last time somebody in the dojo asked you “Excuse me, what time is it?” just to knee you in the gut a moment after? When was the last time your sensei and three senior black belts cornered you in the parking lot with baseball bats and chains?
All jokes aside though, the reality is we are practically ignoring two thirds of the most common approaches by offenders in self-defense situations.
And that’s not a good thing.
Let me tell you another short story to illustrate my point:
A few years ago we had a young man (brown belt) at our dojo who was participating in an advanced instructors course that we held. As a part of the course, he had to show defense against knife (tanto-dori). Okay, nothing too spectacular…
When the time came for him to show what he had learned during the course, he did what nobody else had done before him.
Instead of standing silent in fighting stance, waiting for his opponent to attack him with the knife, he suddenly shouted “HELP! Anybody, help me! What the hell, he’s trying to kill me over here! Somebody HELP ME!” Then he tried to grab a foldable chair to defend himself with, still screaming at the top of his lungs.
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
It was amazing.
If I could, I would have given him a black belt on the spot.
The point I’m trying to make is: When reality comes knocking on the door, our misconceptions about what is, and what isn’t self-defense flies out the window. Only the truth remains. And how well prepared we are to face that truth depends entirely on how open minded (or narrow minded) we have been in our training.
Training for – and therefore expecting – 100% “blitz” style attacks might be the custom, but it’s not the reality.
It is only a part of the reality.
Again, we are reminded that self-defense might be nature’s oldest law, but we still haven’t understood it.