I was fit, strong, young, trained and I was a centimetre away from being stabbed in the eye.
This is the reality of what turned out to be one of the most dangerous nights of my life.
In this article, I am going to go back in time and take you through some key learning points of what could have changed my life.
Let’s do this;
What Went Down
I was a young police officer in the UK, around 22 years of age and I was very active. I had been a police officer for four years, boxed since I was 14, I was training in Judo and also Vale Tudo.
So I had seen my fair share of violence.
Then late one Saturday night I was walking up the stairs of our empty police station when ‘bang’.
I looked out to see a car ramming another car in the dark and empty street (it was about 11 pm).
I ran out where one driver got out and shouted “he’s a maniac, he just rammed me”, and at that second a six ft 5 inches tall, well-built male came running at me.
No warning, no provocation.
Now let us get on the same page, this was the days before stab vests, the days before tasers. I had CS spray of which I am so prone to I could not use it (If I used it I would be out of the game in seconds due to cross contamination)
What Happened Next
As the guy ran at me I threw him with the one Judo throw, I had been working on for the last three weeks ‘Uchimata.’
I was an orange belt, but my muscle memory kicked in and boom, this much larger attacker went over.
But as can happen with that throw my supporting leg collapsed, and my knee smashed on the kerb.
At this second I was in what Eddie Bravo calls the ‘Dog Fight’ position.
We were side by side on our knees, but at this point, the other driver literally pushed me from behind to get a better position.
Now, this was my world, and I quickly moved to the Judo scarf hold where I locked it up tight.
But wait, I was wearing my glasses still (which I needed then for driving, these days I am as blind as a bat) and I felt his hand on my face where in a split second he grabbed my glasses and with one hand crushed them into my face.
I felt the glasses snap at the same time I felt my nose break.
Then I felt the snapped bar of my glasses being dragged into my flesh just under the eye.
He was using the broken glasses to try and put it into my eyeball!
It was all happening in split seconds, not minutes or hours.
I took his free arm and locked it up with my legs; it was a move I had learned from a police instructor I had (a crafty technique that is no longer taught).
I had him all locked up yet he still was trying to get my face, and it was at this moment I launched my punches!
Short left-hand strikes to his completely unguarded face and jaw.
First, the strikes cut him open just above the eye, and then blood poured everywhere, and in a few seconds, he was out cold.
My colleagues arrived at this point, and they picked me up, I jumped up and was high off adrenaline.
But I looked at myself; my entire left arm looked as if I had worked in the butchers and my blue shirt was covered.
My eye was swollen, and my knee was hurt.
But I was still here and with my eyeballs intact.
So what did I learn?
You Can’t Always Reason
We see this a lot, the interview stage of a fight:
“What’s your problem” etc. etc
But this is not always the case; sometimes stuff just goes down. It did here, and I have seen that happen a lot.
The guy who just decides to attack you for no reason and you have to deal with him. This is reflex self-defence.
I had no time to talk him down at all.
In this and every other encounter I have been in, size does matter.
If you are bigger it is easier and no matter what people tell you this is the case.
Now that is not to say that a smaller person cannot defeat a bigger person because they can and do, it is just size counts.
If your attacker is bigger than you, then you need to be faster, and make sure your strikes are biomechanically efficient.
You Fight How You Train
I used an Uchimata in this fight, and I barely pulled it off, smashing my knee on the concrete in the process.
I was an Orange belt in Judo and had no business using the technique, but there I was.
Weeks of training this ‘sport’ technique’ had caused me to embed this in my muscle memory and when he ran onto me, he ran into the technique.
On paper, it worked. I took a far bigger man to the floor and ended up in a half decent position.
In reality, I was a complete dumbass for using it, but my body did what I had been teaching it. I was not thinking, my body was, and this is a key learning point.
You fight how you train!
Sport martial arts are great, and there is a huge cross over into regular self-defence, but you also need to have one foot firmly in the real world.
Grappling On The Street is Different Than The Gym
It hurts, and it is designed to last forever, it is not soft, and you can’t move on your back quickly when you are on it.
That being said I won this encounter through grappling skill.
So what was the key?
The old BJJ saying is ‘position before submission.’
In the street, it is position before anything.
My position of the scarf hold allowed me to lock up his arm and have total control.
From the arm lock, I could have easily broken his arm and shoulder. Yes, he grabbed my eyes and nearly stabbed my broken glasses into my eyeball.
This is a fight folks, no one says you get out without injuries, the idea is to reduce them and inflict more on the other guy.
When you hit the ground, you need to have the muscle memory in place to do what you train. In my case, I had been doing that scarf hold for about six years and tapped out loads of people, it was my bread and butter move at the time, so I went straight to it.
There were hardly any strikes, but I learned that short, sharp shots could be devastating.
What makes them devastating is the accuracy. Right now take out your hand and punch the palm as hard as you can with the other hand.
Now ask yourself if you would want that on your nose?
Doubt it, and this is something I learned that night (and used again and again). There is no point being able to hit like Tyson if you miss the target!
So there you have it, a self-defence true story and the learning points.
It is through the experience of others you can learn a lot, not only from those with martial arts experience but also via witness accounts, YouTube footage and your own eyes.