T Nation

Just An Observation


(Strictly sports/competition guys might find this useless.)

At my school the instructors like to sneak attack each other. Yesterday afternoon my friend Matt & I were walking back to my car in the parking lot of a grocery store when suddenly he was grabbed from behind & the bag he was carrying was also grabbed.

I did a double take & saw that the attacker was the owner of our school & thought, "Oh, thank god, its only Jeff...OH SHIT, IT'S JEFF!!" Because Jeff would happily take my groceries & drive off if he thought we didn't put up a decent fight.

I was moving to help Matt (& stupidly not checking behind me first) when I was slammed from behind & my purse was grabbed by this other guy we work with. I mean that purse was off my shoulder & gone & he was too far away to catch before I even realized what had happened. Once I realized I might not catch him I thought, "Screw it, Matt's more important" & turned to help him, but it was already over.

The whole thing took maybe 3 seconds.

The thing I observed about myself was that my immediate reaction wasn't fear or anger or aggression, it was confusion. First confusion about what the hell was happening to us, then when I realized who the attackers were, confusion about how to respond since I couldn't really go straight to total destruction like I've been taught. 3 seconds of confusion, & by the time I decided how to attack Jeff it was too late.

Not how I thought I'd respond. Don't know if you can put this to use in your classes, but I thought I'd share just in case.


Um, that's just dangerous. I carry a backup knife that I can reach with either hand while grappling, that's a good way to catch it in the ribs.


I agree, its dangerous.




With all respect it seems a little questionable to launch a full speed attack like that in a non-secure, open mode environment. As devildog mentioned EDC knives or whatever may very well be in play not to mention hard surfaces etc. I'm sure your instructor has his reasons and I follow the logic, up to a point, as real attacks usually happen from ambush. However it seems like an extremely high risk exercise for all those concerned.


Your instructor sounds like a loose cannon and should have whatever creds he has revoked. Since you know who they are, and where they live, I'd personally file charges. You'd be saving them from themselves in the long run. That was just some ignorant shit to do.


Nah. Maybe I overstated how hard they hit us. Hard enough to shock us & make us go WTF, but not hard enough to knock us down, injure us, etc.

When I say it was over, I mean they were already laughing. As I said, we all sneak up on each other all the time, its just not that often that we happen to see another instructor out in public when they don't also see you, too.

I also value this kind of stuff, because I tend to be less successful away from the mat when my guard is completely down - as I said, I failed to look behind me to check for more attackers, I was unable to react as quickly as I would have liked. That's what I took away from it. I train a LOT, but I'm a long way from where I believe I need to be.


Easy killer. Parker is an instructor herself, and she knows whats up as far as what the line is.

One thing I will say to Devildog- the thing about the knives is true- it does sound like a good way to get a knife between your ribs, but once again, she's an instructor and so are they, I assume they know each other well enough to know who they can do what with without getting stabbed.

And Parker, that tends to be the nature of a fight...more confusion that anything else, and by the time you realize its happening it's over.

It's very hard to get yourself in the mental state when you can just turn it on and go, and honestly, seeing that it was your instructor may have shut you off subconciously before that could happen. Being as I have heard most attacks on women tend to come from someone they know, this might be a bad thing.

It's difficult to keep that OODA loop from catching and replaying, but you gotta do it.


Wow, you're absolutely right about attacks on women, I never thought of it that way.

If I didn't trust these guys completely I wouldn't play, but the fact that I saw a familiar face in general would make me pause - the thought makes me shudder.


I wouldnt worry about being stabbed as they knew you and I am guessing you dont run around with weapons. But they were asking for some serious eye gouge and nut ripping.

If I get jumped from behind and have a shot I am ripping your sack clean off. Dont care if it is dirty I am not dying. Same with going to the eyes or throat. I would never jump someone who does any kind of self defense just to see how they would react just in case they react like I would.

I get the drill but it is better done in an environment where people dont know when it coming but that it will come. Wouldnt they feel great if they were in the hospital because you or the other guy that got jumped reacted the way you were supposed to?

Also ya that would worry me if I was a woman and stopped because I knew who my attacker was. Not a good habit to form.


I would never do this to people from the school I teach.. I understand what they were trying to prove but I do not believe one can really be 100% prepared for things like this, if I have some real bad intentions and you don't know me you'll be more alert but I don't think one can react so fast on a coordinated ambush that it can be 100% stopped..

A little bit dangerous and not showing of responsible use, but seeing as Irish said you're an instructor yourself and you know the people I guess that would have defused the entire "fight".


If you get jumped from behind then the eyes or throat aren't going to be available targets (unless the person jumping you is clueless), and neither is the groin (depending on how they grab you, and again if they know what they're doing). I like your thought process of going after vulnerable/vital targets, but position is going to determine which targets are practical.

In the case of being grabbed from behind, none of those targets are likely going to be accessible (again, assuming that the attacker knows what they're doing). And in the case of being struck from behind, your number 1 priority should be to protect your ability to continue fighting (ability to see, breath, and think) long enough to regain your bearings and launch a counter attack.

Assuming that the instructors are actually skilled though, and are used to training with things like eye attacks, groin attacks, etc... then they would likely be aware of those targets and position themselves to protect them. Sure, they might get a little dinged up, but the student is likely going to realize that it is them and it was just a drill before anyone winds up in the hospital.

I like the drill personally, and (assuming that the students are ready for it, which I think you could argue that Parker is) it is more telling of what the student will actually do in a high stress ambush attack type attack than if they know it's going to happen.

Aside from that, what if the student "knows" that it's going to happen and then actually gets attacked? There is the risk that they'll think that it's just a drill and not fight back 100%. Not a great mindset to instill in someone IMO.


Miss P,

I'm not sure who first said it, but I've heard fighting compared to jumping into a pool of ice cold water. At first you go into shock, your muscles tense up, you are disoriented, confused, unable to think or act like you normally would. But then your body starts to calm down, to deal with the reality of the situation, you start to regain your ability to think and to act more deliberately.

It's that initial "shock/ambush" phase where most good street fighters/attackers/criminals will try to finish you. They know that the longer the fight goes, the more the odds tip towards the more skilled fighter, and they don't want to take the chance that this might be you.

It's also that phase which should be addressed first IMO from a self defense standpoint. If you can't survive that phase and get to the phase where you can actually fight back, then it doesn't matter how good you are at the "active combat" stuff.


Has anyone looked at the SPEAR stuff? It seems this is an example of where those techniques, or mindset or whatever you want to call it, would benefit you in shifting to your actual fighting techniques. Don't they say a fight is won or lost in the first 4 seconds or something like that?


My instructors, Walt Lysak Jr. and Charlie Lysak, are both long time friends/training partners of Tony's and are fully certified instructors in his system. I've done a fair amount of the SPEAR stuff in the past. It's good stuff no doubt, but personally I feel that Rich Ryan's shield defense system is a little more versatile/useful in a larger number of scenarios. Of course, if you can learn both that would be even better.


I've done a little SPEAR training, and like Sento said I think it's a good concept but with limited applications. Haven't tried Rich Ryan's, but it's probably worth a look.


I could see the concept, checking your readiness or whatever, but it just seems like a bad idea in reality. Even beyond the worst case of seriously injuring each other, if someone made me dump an armload of groceries just as a joke/test, I'd be pretty pissed.


Yeah, for me that was definitely the value. I expected to feel fear, then aggression, but just felt shocked & confused, then it was over & I was left with a big zing of adrenaline & nothing to do with it. It was quite an eye-opener.


Miss P,

I'm not sure who first said it, but I've heard fighting compared to jumping into a pool of ice cold water. At first you go into shock, your muscles tense up, you are disoriented, confused, unable to think or act like you normally would. But then your body starts to calm down, to deal with the reality of the situation, you start to regain your ability to think and to act more deliberately. [/quote]

I like this analogy, I've never heard it before.

That shock/freeze is actually something we address very frequently, for the reasons you state, but it really wasn't the same as it feels in the gym, I'm sorry to say. This is the problem - how to make it "real" without sending everyone to the hospital? I do believe training so much to overcome an initial freeze its what permitted me to move to act at all (even though it proved to be too late). A very very advanced guy in our system posted a video of himself screwing up, because he froze when one crucial aspect of something he'd drilled a million times was changed. He didn't do what he was really supposed to do, & instead did the version that he'd drilled so often. So I don't know that I'll ever get to the point where I can bypass that innate initial shock/freeze, so I just have to keep working toward shortening the time it lasts.


Miss Parker, having read your own clarification of the level of aggression with which your instructors attacked as well as some of the other posts, I think the idea behind this drill has grown on me since I first read it. Provided it is conducted responsibly and with students who are "ready" I think it would provide an invaluable learning opportunity and is probably worth the risks. It's often frustrating (I find) trying to train for the reality of "street" violence without anyone getting seriously hurt. Simulation training is great but it only goes so far since you know that you're in a sim hence true surprise attack is impossible and responses must always be pulled for safety.

It would be interesting to see if, over a period of time being sporadically subjected to such a drill, a person's responses would significantly improve due to stress inoculation and/or heightened situational awareness etc, and how many reps it would take to begin to adapt. Kind of reminds me of the old Pink Panther when Kato would randomly jump out and attack Clouseau, only much less ridiculous. Thanks for sharing the idea.


Yikes, please be careful, batman, we don't do this with students. Only the instructors do it with each other as a game.

I actually do some sort of surprise setup in my class on occasion, but I'm extremely picky about who gets sneak attacked and how. It can't be a survivor of violence, a cop, a prison guard, an EMT, or a soldier who's served in the Middle East, and we have all those folks on the mat.

As I said, the instructors have only done it in public a few times. Usually its in the gym's lobby or hallway & its something silly like Matt sneaking up behind me & tightly hooding me with his sweat soaked t-shirt & dragging me around by my head until I can fight him off. These usually last until there's a clear winner. The reason the episode in the parking lot was worth a mention, to me anyway, was that it was more "real", and I was surprised by my own reaction. I'm fascinated by the freeze response, and it was interesting to observe it first hand, so to speak. These public episodes tend to end very quickly because we don't want someone to call the cops, or worse, jump in to try to help.

As far as the consequences of the repetitions, at first it definitely improved my response time. But now we've done it so much, I automatically assume its a friend if I'm grabbed or hit, so that's a downside I seriously need to address.

And yeah, its very much like Kato & Clouseau :).

I will give you one drill we've done with students: I took them all outside & had them work non-stop on basic strikes they all knew already. When my assistant or I would hit them from behind & throw some keys into the grass at their feet they had 3 seconds to get the keys & run to the front door of the school, which was locked, unlock the door & get inside before we could attack them & drag them off. 3 seconds was too long, btw, we should have started chasing them the moment they had the keys in hand. What we learned was that almost everybody panicked & ran away if they couldn't get inside. Nobody just stood there & fought, despite the fact that they had pointy metal keys to stick us with. I put it down to the fact that they were all level 1 students & the natural urge to flee when pursued. They "knew" they could fight, but until you experience something with your body, your brain short circuits. Now that they've experienced it they're more likely to make the right choice. Btw, I know someone who was pursued this way in real life, which is why I designed the drill. She made it into her apartment in time & called the cops, fortunately.


Thanks for the clarification Miss Parker. Don't be alarmed I didn't mean to imply that I was going to put this into practice, only that I saw the potential value for someone at a certain point in their training.

As to the distinction between students and instructors, I see the importance of the separation. By student I really only meant the person subject to the training exercise or in this case "Clouseau".

Regarding the people you refrain from sneak attacking in class (cops, CO's etc), is that primarily out of concern over PTSD issues, the possibility of an excessively violent reaction or both? Also, the "key" drill strikes me as quite valuable. It amazes me how the brain tends to default to freeze or flee for most people in stress situations, regardless of training.

A very interesting point regarding becoming "overly desensitized" and assuming an attacker is a friend. I can see how this would be something that you would want to address asap.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and experience. Sounds like you're doing good stuff.