Legality Vs. Survival: The Problem

When it comes to violence or being attacked many legal authorities will tell you how to not get into legal trouble, unfortunately, they have no idea how you can do this and stay alive. My wife and I were once attacked by someone who was probably high on crack. We had never seen him before that dark morning. He attacked my wife as soon as she started to leave our house. She was smart enough to come back inside and to come and get me. I ran the attacker off of our property but I scared him in the process. He went home and called the police. Since he called 911 first and reported that I had attacked him I was the one who got in trouble. At the time of the incident I was 33 and I had never been arrested before.

The attacker had spent time in prison had a thick criminal rap sheet and a bad mental health history. His problems were almost all about abuse against women & drugs. They did not even site him for the assault he committed on my wife and I on our property. He then sued us for mental damages that he said that he sustained because I caused him to have flashbacks to Viet Nam. To make matters worse he only lived about 4 houses away at the corner of our block. He began to present himself as a physical threat every time he saw me out. This guy was over 200 pounds and very solid and at one point when I was driving to work, when I stopped at the stop sign at the corner, this guy was swinging a large tire iron from hand to hand and trying to get me to fight. I kept on driving.

I asked my lawyer what I should do if the guy cornered me and attacked me again as I didn’t want to get into anymore legal trouble but I would defend myself before I would let this guy kill me. My lawyer said the words, “Don’t do it.” I explained myself and I asked the lawyer again what I should do if I were to find myself in a position where it was him or me. The lawyer said, “Don’t do it.” He kept repeating these words. No matter what I said, even if I was getting beat to death the lawyer said “don’t do it.”

The reason the lawyer gave this answer was to protect himself in case something happened. The problem with this was that I supposedly paid the lawyer to protect me and the only way that he knew to stop me from going to jail was if I had no contact with the attacker even though he had attacked my wife and I in the first place and was continuing to try to attack me. So, instead of giving me a way to defend myself the lawyer simply protected himself so that he couldn’t be held accountable if this guy attacked me and I hurt or killed him. The lawyer would not even address my question regarding what I should do if the attacker forced contact and I had no way out. He just continually said “don’t do it.”

After the situation was completely over I realized that the lawyer didn’t give any other answer for two reasons. The first reason was to cover himself and the second reason was even worse. He simply didn’t know any way that I could defend myself without going to jail.

To Be Continued in “Legality VS Survival: The Solution”

How I Came to be Attacked so many times

In response to one of my recent articles I was recently sent a nice note and an inquiry from a gentleman named John from the UK who has been involved in martial arts for over 60 years. I took his indirect question/statement to be an inquiry regarding how I had come to be attacked so many times that involved really bad life and death circumstances. I have been attacked in a life and death way a little over 15 times. I think his is a very fair question and I sent him an answer and after thinking about it I thought others might benefit or want to know the same information. So, I have copied the answer here with some Politically Correct editing and a little additional info.

I have been an avid student of the martial arts for over 30 years and got my start out of necessity because I lived in the absolute worst inner city neighborhoods. I was a lilly white skinned and reasonably good kid that stood out like a sore thumb in my neighborhoods in the 1970’s. At that time in the areas I lived in there were entire families dealing drugs and if you got into a disagreement or an altercation with any one of their family members then they would all come gunning for you. Also, instead of finding a detox and rehab centre, druggies would look to do whatever it took to get a couple of dollars so that they could buy more drugs and they would attack other people in the neighbourhood (if their intended victim was alone) while they were high or coming off of the drugs and geeking for more. It did not matter to the addicts if they really hurt you and they were only interested in getting high again as soon as possible.

The first time I was seriously attacked I was only nine years old. I was walking up and down the street in broad daylight selling school booster candy and had an envelope that I put the money in. Two teenage boys (who were each noticeably larger than me) walked up acting like they wanted to buy some candy. When they got close to me they each stood in a way so that we looked like we were having a private conversation between the three of us and someone from the outside trying to look in could only see our backs and not see what was happening in the middle between us. One of the guys pulled out a knife, pointed it at my throat and told me to hand over the candy and the money or he would stab me. I handed them the stuff and they told me to turn around and walk away as they backed off and quickly went the other direction down the street.

To make matters worse, my family bought a house in what started out as an okay section of town that transformed to an inner city crime area within a few years from the time we bought. When the neighborhood changed we could not sell and move because the property value had been destroyed so much that we could not afford the financial loss. The neighborhood got so bad that within 4 square blocks there were more than a few murders committed over the years and my dad kept a handgun for home security that he had to use more than once. At this point we were a definite racial minority in the area and several of the attacks I experienced were most likely racially motivated where literally a car full of people who had a different skin color than me saw what they probably thought was an easy opportunity to commit a hate crime and get back at a perceived racial enemy for injustices that have occurred in America over the last 200 hundred years. One of these attacks happened while I was on the job at a movie theater where I worked. I was walking beside the building from the front to the back and the attackers pulled up in a car and called out the window to me asking if I had a dollar. I told them “No, I didn’t have any money on me” and they said “I can hear that change rattling” and stopped the car and began piling out. There were four or five of them. I can still hear the crunch of the impacted snow as the car came to a stop. One of the assailants was so large that he had to duck to get out of the car. Anyway, I had been studying the martial arts for over 8 years at this point and I seriously and quickly considered stomping the closest door and trying to injure or take some of them out before they could really get moving out of the car and then I could run for it if I needed to but instead I decided to try an exit door that the theater employees sometimes propped open so that we could get into the theater faster from the back. Fortunately, the door was propped open. I stepped inside, popped the latch back into place and ran and told the theater security guard. The security guard was standing in his usual place inside the lobby all warm and cozy talking to the concession stand girls. We could hear the attackers pounding on the exit door as I hurriedly explained to him what had just happened. By the time I explained everything the pounding had stopped and the security guard ran out the front door and around hoping to get behind them (or so he said). By the time he got to the exit door the attackers were busy speeding off in their car.

Of course, some of the attacks I have experienced were in what most people would call obviously bad places at obviously bad times. It is easy for this to happen when you are in your late teens and live in a crime ridden area. Anyway, fortunately I grew up, graduated from college and got out of those neighborhoods and it has been quite a long time since I have had to physically fight for my life.

The fortunate benefit to me and my students is that whenever I look at self defense and martial arts techniques I look at how effective a method is based on some of the scarier situations I have experienced. If the technique or method would probably fail the reality test then I simply do not study it for self defense reasons. I do study various arts and methods for other reasons than self defense but I try to do so with very open eyes about my objectives and rationale for what I am doing and always with at least some aspect of what I am doing adding to my ability as a true self defense practitioner.


Why MMA is not Street Self Defense

The rise in popularity of MMA and Jiu-Jitsu has increased public awareness of martial arts and created a current wave of martial arts enthusiasts. However, an unfortunate side effect of this popular martial arts movement is that the average person sees tournaments such as the UFC and thinks that self defense works like the fights that occur in the ring or octagon. Nothing could be further from the truth.

By street self defense I am not referring to a school yard fist fight whereby the loser gets a black eye and the winner gets to be the school champion or bully for a few days. By real street self defense I am referring to situations where there is no ring, no referees, no friends around to help you and to stop the situation before it gets to far out of control and no one to stop the attacker from beating you to death after you have been knocked down half unconscious. In fact in real street self defense the attacker may be armed with a knife or gun and the friends who are around may be his accomplices who are helping him to beat you to death. Also, in real street situations attacks happen without warning or provocation. Just being in the wrong place at the wrong time and having something that a criminal wants is enough to draw a vicious and unrelenting attack from someone who is experienced and who is larger, stronger, younger, faster, better armed and more ready for a conflict at this moment than you. As a teacher I always imagine one of my students who is female about 5’2 and weighs about 105 pounds and is over 45 years old (but looks 10 years younger than she is) being attacked by a 19 -23 year old, 250 lb male who is muscle bound and freshly out of prison with rape and killing on his mind. His legs are nearly as big as her whole body. Is she going to out box him? When he begins attacking her is she going to be able to grapple with him in a realistic way that will allow her any advantage before he pounds her into submission? If he has a weapon or friends will boxing, MMA or Jiu-jitsu give her any skills that will really help her deal with this attack? The sports mentality is one of “Get in there and fight!”. Does this sound like her smartest strategy in this situation? A ring/cage/octagon fighter may train some awareness skills but not the kind that is designed to help you recognize potential attackers in real life because in the ring it is very obvious who you are fighting, where they are before the fight begins and that they are there to fight you. The nice benefit for you in a ring fight is that at almost anytime you want you can simply yell, “I quit” and leave and the fight is over. Obviously this is quite different from a real street attack.
Please see our article “Attacks Vs Fist Fights and Posturing.

If someone steals your car (or any other personal possession) and they start driving it away right in front of you what is your best response. For a ring trained fighter the answer all to often has been to chase the criminal down. This has resulted in well known, respected and loved people being shot down by a criminal who was playing by street rules instead of sport rules. If someone commits road rage against you and after some sign language tries to get you to pull over and fight do you stop the car and jump out to go fight? There are famous ring fighters who have and even wrote about it like teaching the other person a lesson is the thing to do. This is all well and good if everyone is playing by ring rules. There are MMA fighters who have been shot to death when they thought they were about to engage in a lesson teaching street fight of this nature. In street/bar fights there are MMA and Jiu-jitsu stylists who have been stomped, gutted and shot because they made the mistake of confusing ring rules and sports with real street situations. Sports and street are not the same thing.

Street attacks involve brutal realities and call for intelligent responses starting with proper awareness, avoidance and deterrence skills and if all of this is appropriately applied in a situation and a physical answer is called for then the physical answer needs to be a response that will match the lethal nature of the situation and where safely exiting / leaving / getting away (ideally before force is needed) is always on the top of the list of priorities. Real street self defense is not as glamorous or exciting as the UFC and other sporting type events and I for one am glad they are not. Rape, murder, kidnapping etc are awful nasty and terrible (usually life changing) events for anyone and should not be acceptable under any circumstances. In real street oriented martial arts the training is geared around real street scenarios where avoiding and exiting at the first real opportunity is a critical and required part of the practice. In MMA and Jiu-jitsu sports training the critical part of practice is to work within a set of rules to pin or knockout the other person who is empty handed and fighting by themselves and whose only defense is that they have been training MMA, boxing and Jiu-jitsu so that they can have a match with / against another competitor. In real street attacks physical responses are mostly going to involve techniques that are brutal and illegal even in extreme sports competitions. The goal is to hurt them and get away. Some people call this an improper or inhumane response. I disagree. The criminal attacker is the one who committed the heinous act and is improper and inhumane and deserves anything they get.

One of the difficulties in demonstrating arts that teach real self defense skills is in demonstrating the techniques without really harming anyone. On our website we have a video that we made of a student defending himself against a surprise attack by multiple attackers armed with baseball bats. We told the attackers to go as fast as they could without risking their own safety. As it was, two of the attackers were mildly clipped with baseball bats and nearly injured. You can see it if you look close. It would have been nice for the scenario to have been performed faster and harder. The defender in the video (one of our students) actually asked for them to attack faster. None of the bat wielding assailants were willing and stated that they were afraid they would really get injured as much or more by each other than they would by the defender. Essentially, with proper strategy and movement it is relatively easy to make baseball bat swinging attackers get in their own way. The defender escaped as soon as he was in a good position to do so and in reality may have pulled back in towards the camera to escape if it was possible. Although you can not see it in the film, we had that side of the area completely blocked off with people and camera equipment. Also, the defender would have struck some of the attackers much harder and or in the eyes but he also was being careful not to actually damage his fellow friends and students. The saving grace of this is that we have students who have defended themselves against serious multiple attackers and in other real situations who have reported to us that our training methods made the difference to them in surviving and escaping from the situation(s). A lot of the reason for this is that we work scenarios utilizing our self defense skills and learning how to make the right kind of smart decision under the real stress that comes with scenarios and we work on the attacker producing weapons, friends and other realistic situations that are a true reality in bad street situations.

One of the things that I sometimes hear about training for real street scenarios regards the idea that most bad street attacks do not happen very often. I have several responses to this. Go to a bad part of town in any big inner city in America and see how long it takes to draw a nasty attack or to at least be confronted with unfriendly and illegal violence. In many places in America this kind of violence happens on a daily basis. Look at how many robberies, murders and other violent crimes happen in the average American city and then see if you feel the same about the possibility that you could be a target at some time or another. By the way, a smart criminal will come to the better part of town to steal your car and rob your home. After all, that is where the money is. Now, as far as the fist fighting and wrestling are concerned. I ask who other than MMA types and kids really get into these kinds of fights. I do not get into these kind of fights and I do not associate with those who do. To be in a fist fight you have to agree to be in it even if it is because you did not say “NO ” and simply pick up your things and walk away when the village idiot was cursing you out and telling you how he wants to kick your butt. Leaving the situation may not seem manly and good sportsman like conduct but it is the more appropriate legal and self defense response. If you are an MMA, Jiu-jitsu guy maybe challenging them to a fight with rules at the local gym is a good response but it is still not the proper self defense response.

May Peace and Safety be with you and yours.

Attacks Vs Fist Fights & Posturing

What Constitutes an Attack

In the Martial Arts you hear and read about people who have used their Martial Art to physically defend themselves in a real situation. Often the defender could very easily have avoided the entire situation but instead due to any number of circumstances they ended up in a fight instead. I recently read an article by Nev Sagiba related to this topic and decided to add my 2 cents worth.

First of all, a physical attack is actually implemented when someone is actually closing the distance towards you or those you care about (or are in some way responsible for) and they are on their way to strike, stab, grab, beat or otherwise immediately hurt them or you Right NOW! For this to actually be a physical attack they also must be close enough that within seconds they can actually begin contact and the physical aspect of the attack is imminent.

A person who throws their fists up and threatens to beat you up is verbally attacking and physically posturing but not yet physically attacking. A person who is upset and yelling is upset or/and threatening and posturing is verbally attacking but not yet physically attacking. A person swearing at you is verbally attacking and posturing but not yet physically attacking. A person who is busting things in the room or kicking your car is posturing and attacking things but is not yet physically attacking you. You get the idea.

When I began learning martial arts a lot of what I learned taught a person how to engage in a fight. Fortunately for me my instructor was also very street-wise and taught me as much about street fighting as he did about the arts. Part of his training included the idea of getting out of there and using any unfair advantage you could get to win a serious physical confrontation. I also found that when I was threatened with a fist fight that I did not just jump in there swinging away like a mad man but that instead I had a tendency to utilize positioning and verbal skills to try to deter my would be attacker. Due to attacks, that I personally experienced, I also found that when I needed to defend myself that techniques that would allow me to quickly end a physical confrontation and get out of there were much more important to me than being able to exchange a lot of punches and kicks. This was partially due to the fact that even in school yard fist fights the average fight involved multiple attackers and if I got tangled up with someone the next thing I knew their buddies were also all over me. My findings and understanding of what happens in real situations eventually led me to Pentjak Silat, Kun Tao and Kun Tao Silat as the arts that I needed to deal with the harsh realities of surviving street encounters.

When a person attacks you verbally (yelling and threatening) or non-verbally (such as waving their fists) then a response of some kind is still called for. Generally speaking the response is fairly simple. Either work to help end and bring an acceptable solution/conclusion to the problem or simply remove yourself from the situation by running or driving away.

Awareness is key. If I have parked my car in a parking space that another driver has perceived as their parking spot and they are cussing me out all I have to do is move my car so that the other person can park there. It is inconvenient but not worth the trouble that would be created by allowing the situation to escalate to a physical confrontation. By the way, to fight with someone about this type of a situation would not be an attack as much as an agreed upon fight. When someone is a victim of “Road Rage” by another driver there are many responses that a person can choose. One of the responses is to pull over and physically fight with them. As soon as you pull over and jump out of your car ready to fist fight this becomes an agreed upon fight and not a physical attack.

The drunk person who grabs your wrist to ask you for money may not be attacking to kill you but they are definitely physically assaulting and attacking you. This does not mean that you need to seriously maim or kill them but it does give you the right to dump them on their tail and disengage yourself from them. If it is obvious that they mean no harm then I generally do not consider this as an attack. If their intentions are unclear in a potentially threatening way or seem threatening then I do consider it an attack and will treat it as such.

Utilize Awareness to the extent that you see the drunk person before they are close enough to put a hand on you and you simply do not allow them to touch you and when you are parking your car see where other traffic is so that you know if someone else thought the spot was theirs before you are in the parking spot properly lining up your car between the lines. Also and very importantly, if someone is approaching so they can physically attack you then awareness can make all the difference. You see the person approaching and remove yourself completely by driving or jogging away. If the attacker is attacking you at random then this generally ends the situation. Getting away is our first line of defense and the easiest to use with the least consequences after the fact. Good awareness skills are vital and properly utilizing them will stop most situations from becoming a physical attack.

I have been attacked about 15 times in the street. Two of the attacks were at gunpoint and fortunately for me were primarily verbal attacks and only one became physical when I grabbed the guy. The other one gun assault ended with no physical altercation as I simply talked to the guy and literally calmed him down. About six of the attacks were from multiple attackers and most of them involved a situation where the physical aspect of the attack was fairly immediate without warning or provocation. An example is a car screeched to a stop and out poured 4-5 guys running to attack me. I was in the wrong part of town and stood out like a sore thumb. The attack was most likely racially motivated but could have easily happened for other reasons as well as I was leaving a job where I was dressed very nicely in a suit in a very poor and financially depressed area of town in a large inner city area. I have had a knife pulled on me about 5 times. Fortunately, only one of these were a direct physical assault and most of them were what I like to call “show and tell” verbal assaults. The interesting thing is that in most of the knife assaults were multiple attacker situations where one person held the knife and threatened while others with them watched and backed them up. The bad news is that fairly common street tactic is for the group to hold you down while the person with the knife stabs you to death. By being aware of my surroundings only in the first of these attacks (which happened when I was 12 years old) did the attackers actually get within reach of me. Fortunately, it was only a robbery and I gave them my money and stuff and they were satisfied. For me this event was pivotal in my personal development of awareness and I was not ever caught that unaware or unprepared again. Eventually I grew up, graduated from college and moved away from the bad neighborhoods I grew up in but then for many years I lived and worked in Tampa Florida while it was the number 4 worst crime city in America. Eventually, I moved to a rural area with less crime and less people. Not a luxury everyone can afford and if they could then, of course, eventually the crime would follow them.

I realized at a very young age that if attacked by someone who would kill me in order to get a few dollars for drug money I would have to be willing to fight for my life and that it might mean seriously injuring or killing them to stop them. A person who is high might be seriously wounded and have a life ending injury and yet keep attacking without any realization of how seriously bad off they are. If you assume they will stop and they don’t it is possible that the attacker just might take you to the grave with them. In our style of martial arts Clear’s Silat based on Pentjak Silat, Kun Tao and Kun Tao Silat we work very hard to avoid and non-violently end confrontations but when lethal force is necessary against violent street lethal attackers we do not pretend that there is some humane way to end the situation. We try to get away as fast and early as possible. If it is not possible to get away then we do the maximum amount of damage in the absolute shortest amount of time possible with the goal being to get away and in our style of martial arts we practice exiting and getting away after any serious technique as the escape is the goal and the damage we inflict is simply one very serious tool in our arsenal to accomplish this end. This is the only way to survive against serious multiple attackers who will kill you and beat you to death without hesitation and then laugh about it later over Malt Liquor or shots of whiskey/tequila while smoking some crack. Criminals do not believe in a fair fight and they hope the intended victim does as it is an incredible advantage to them in a real situation. Hopefully you will be good at awareness and avoiding bad situations but if you are seriously attacked play to survive not to be friendly or fair to a hardened criminal who would think nothing of killing you or your loved ones.

Clear’s Silat is the personal mix of Street Tactics, Pentjak Silat, Kun Tao and Kun Tao Silat devised by Richard Clear a practitioner of the arts for over 30 years. The art is based around surprise attacks by multiple attackers who are armed with weapons particularly blades and sticks such as baseball bats and utilizes avoidance and awareness techniques as well as physical tactics that are designed to immediately end a physical assault.

Awareness Can Save Your Life

Awareness can save your life and is a critical part of your self defense arsenal. First, awareness is critical to knowing well in advance if a situation, place or event is potentially harmful to you or your loved ones. Second, awareness helps you to know what the smartest course of action is to avoid unnecessary conflict and/or to diffuse a situation with the least amount of force.

Often proper use of awareness will allow you to accomplish with a word what otherwise might require a full out savage and bloody fight to the finish. I once diffused a serious street attack from half a dozen guys simply by properly directing an honest and innocent question to the right person (the oldest member of the group) in the right way. My question made him recognize and become aware of what he was doing and he immediately stopped himself and the rest of the group from proceeding. I essentially made him aware of what he was doing and that awareness was enough to help him realize that he did not have any interest in me or my elderly friend who was walking with me.

Awareness will help you to know what a situation is and what the situation involves so that you know if you are an intended target of a criminal act or just happen to be in a bad place at a bad time. If you are really aware then at most times on the street you will know the answers too many questions including;

1. How close or far away is the closest possible combatant and how fast can they reach you if they choose to attack you.

2. How many people are within 50 feet or so of you and what their position is relative to you.

3. When there is a bad situation or potentially conflicting group of people, how many of them are together. Also, in a bad situation with two or more opposing groups, how many potential combatants are there. What are their positions relative to you.

4. How many people are within several hundred feet of you and are they with or independent of people who are much closer to you.

5. What your surroundings are. This includes terrain, weather, cars (parked and traffic), buildings and routes of escape, etc

6. How much time you have to draw any weapons you have, if a bad situation occurs, and are you in a good position to draw and utilize it or them.

7. What improvised weapons are available.

8. If you are in a good position relative to your loved ones or if you need to rearrange your position and/or theirs.

9. What is the time of day and day of the week. After dark and Fridays and Saturdays are statistically much more crime prone than other days and times.

10. How are you feeling? This alone can have quite an affect on potentially bad situations.

If you apply yourself I am sure that you can come up with quite a few more items that are affected by your awareness or lack thereof.

With respect and best regards.


Sigung Clear

Silat’s Superior Positioning

Action Beats Reaction Regarding Position:

“When two opponents are in a fight, the one who gets superior position and attacks first will likely win.  If person 1 is seeking position to attack and person 2 already has an excellent position to attack and attacks then person 2 will defeat person 1 while person 1 is moving into position.”

Regarding positioning between two opponents I will use battleships to make the point.  If battleship X can fire and hit battleship Y and battleship Y can not fire and hit battleship X because it has to turn the ship and aim its guns at battleship X before it can fire a shot that actually stands a chance of hitting battleship X then battleship Y will be full of holes before it can fully turn to fire at battleship X.

Having the superior position to attack is 3/4 of the key to winning in a dangerous situation.  Criminals practice walking up to people and getting close to them while the intended victim is in a in vulnerable or/& bad position and criminals also practice tricking people into getting themselves into bad positions such as looking at a watch for the time or reaching into their pocket for a quarter or turning their back to point out directions.  Criminals seek to get position on people and then they attack because they know that the risk (for the criminal) is very low and that they are very likely to be successful in their criminal activity.  Obviously for self defense purposes work on awareness skills so that you can not easily be caught in such a bad position or tricked into getting into a bad position.

Also, learn to begin your self defense from the position you are in instead of where you would like to be.  Train to attack from as many possible positions as you can.  Also, figure out how to turn bad starting positions into good attack positions.  Learn to be aware of vulnerable areas and adjust quickly and with as little time, effort and motion as possible.  Work on making small movements that immediately change an aggressor’s position from one of strength into one of weakness.  Do it so that at the very least an opponent will have to reposition in order to attack you.

If you can gain superior position and make it so that the opponent must adjust in order to attack you then you can focus on attacking while they are forced to seek a position to attack while having to defend against you.  This is one of the essential trainings in Silat and Kun Tao.  Gain and keep superior position while continually keeping the opponent in a bad position.  Do this while you are attacking so that the opponent spends all of their time trying to get position or trying to defend from a very weak or poor position.  With good awareness skills and practicing of positioning skills this can be developed to the point that you have the advantage from the beginning, before a physical fight actually begins, and then you keep superior position for the duration of the fight which will likely be quite short.

With respect and best regards.

Sigung Clear