I have trained martial arts for the vast majority of my life, and I have seen a lot of real violence.
Yet there is one aspect of self-defence that virtually no one ever talks about, the street kerb!
I am not sure why people never speak about one of the most sneaky and destructive elements of self-defence but it simply never comes up. I have seen street kerbs fell the biggest of fighters, change the entire complexity of a fight and also cause life changing injury.
So in this article, we will look at how you can train for the dreaded street kerb in self-defence situations.
Why Kerbs Hurt and Catch Us Out
Ok, who hasn’t tripped on a kerb and then tried to look cool afterwards, I know I have. The reason is that these little blocks of concrete are usually out of our visual field and if we are distracted we can easily be caught out
Tripping on a kerb is pretty harmless in everyday life, but in a self-defence situation, it can be a game changer. So this is an example of what can happen.
You are attacked in the street by a less skilled opponent. After he swings and misses, he grabs onto your chest and pushes you backwards.
He is drunk, overweight and has an attitude problem and simply due to his weight he manages to push you back slightly.
Suddenly your heel gets caught on the kerb, and you fall banging your head on the concrete, dazed and with blood coming out of your head the next thing you feel is the impact of the drunk guy’s size 10 in your face!
You were not defeated by a better fighter but by a tiny piece of concrete!
Ok I know that is quite a dramatic tale but the danger of street kerbs is rarely appreciated because so few attribute them as having any factor in the success or failure of self-defence situations.
However having viewed numerous real assaults and seen even more on CCTV footage I can tell you that they do play a major part in turning the tide of an altercation, especially when alcohol is involved.
Of course tripping over them is just one area, Kerbs present a serious issue as a secondary danger.
If you are knocked over anywhere near a kerb, your body can receive a serious injury to the head or body if you land badly.
Simply put those little pieces of concrete we see every day can be dangerous!
So how can you train for this?
Going Old School
In Judo and many other contact martial arts, stepping out of the combat zone will receive a penalty, and this is something you can train for.
Training for this develops environmental awareness as no one wants to lose on penalty points.
But in self-defence situations we do not worry about penalty points so how can you start to develop environmental awareness in a location such as a church hall?
There are a few ways to do this and here are the simple ways.
1. Create Matted Training Areas
Rather than have people train on mats, instead lay them in the outline of a square so that the middle is the floor of the training location and the mats create a square outline.
The mats are the raised payment, and the edge is the kerb. By trying this, the coach can start to look at where your feet are during the drills and if you get caught out, let you know.
With some effort, you can start to use what boxers call ‘ring craft’ to make sure you are never near the kerb.
2. Focus Pad Throw Down
This is another sneaky low-cost way to improve environmental training. When you are training simply place focus pads down and a line, try and have no more than 10 in a line.
The great thing about this drill is that if the students knock into the pads and move the line, we can safely say their feet would have clipped the kerb.
3. The Line of Belts
If you have any karate or Judo belts, you can train the same concept by tying the belts together.
What Does This Achieve?
The aim of this is not really to tell a student ‘you would have fallen over’. We do not know this for sure.
The real aim of this is to teach a student that there are environmental hazards in a self-defence situation and they need not only to be aware of multiple opponents and weapons but also where they are standing.
No one said self-defence was going to be easy!
So what other dangers does this exercise help with?
Imagine you are fighting in a subway station. Clearly, the tracks/ drop down onto the track is a risk area you need to focus on.
If you get attacked on pavement, you need to think about the road. People do get run over while fighting!
Also, what if you are a security officer and end up tackling someone on a walkway or roof, one wrong step and you could fall off the roof.
The list can go on!
When you are training at a gym or dojo it is really easy to be removed from the dangers of an environment; however, you still need to try and teach students about the risks (without exposing them to any).
With a little imagination, you can start to develop awareness of dangers that are well out of your visual field.