Fight scenes are tricky to write. It’s hard to pack clear description into few words and keep that sense of speed and surprise one gets in a real fight – It helps if you know what you are doing.
I really didn’t want to write: “She bounced him off the wall.” I wanted to write how she bounced him off the wall.
In order to find out, I enrolled in a self-defense class that was supposed to last ten weeks. I figured that would give me a feel for it. It not only gave me a feel for it, it gave me real hunger to learn more.
It turned out my instructor taught defense skills to several police constabularies in England and in Wales, and I ended up the only non-police officer permitted into those classes, clocking up an extra 18 months of training before returning home to Australia, where I then taught Atemi-Jutsu for five years in Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Victoria.
The training I undertook was an amalgamation of martial art skills. Because the police at that time (in the 1980s) began with a very basic six weeks of fighting/defense training, the skill couldn’t be something like Karate that took five years to perfect. In such disciplines, each hit or block is perfected before it is ever put into context, before they ever train to use it in a fight.
Atemi-Jutsu was all about utilizing pressure points, holds, leverage, stick-fighting and vacating-the-space in many forms. We practiced one-on-one, two-on-one, three-on-one (such as two holding you with a third attacking with a punch or knife). We practiced the art from the perspective of being attacked and dealing with it. We dealt with punches, knives, with strangle holds, bear hugs, neck locks, fighting from down, even working with limited use of limbs.
I learned to use my opponent’s energy, balance and force, conserving my own energy in case twenty of my opponent’s mates were around the corner. I learnt to recognize a trouble situation and vacate-that-space before an issue began.
I also had call to put it into real use when I was attacked in broad daylight at a shopping center in Western Australia shortly after my arrival back home.
The man was after my purse. He attacked me from behind as I walked along. I had noted him watching me as I walked by, but more importantly, I noted peripherally his swift and sudden approach. I turned to face him, instincts taking over.
His arm was already swinging towards my head. I ducked. I remember noting that the whole of his right ribcage was exposed for a good elbow smack as his arm sailed over my head – yet I did not deliver. I was more interested in vacating-the-space and keeping out of harm’s way than in bringing him down, although if I needed to I would. As I turned to face him again, he broke into a run, vanishing around the corner up ahead.
Was it over? No it was not. I walked on, then turned the corner and found him waiting for me, this time further away. Again I passed by, again he came in – he must have been stupid or desperate – again I faced him, full on this time, falling into a natural position to take on anything he cared to try. I refused to drop my shopping. I seriously didn’t feel the need to. Besides there was a bottle of wine in one of those bags and I wasn’t going to waste it. I felt perfectly fine taking him on, literally singlehanded.
He stopped before reaching me, hesitating, probably because I was not acting according to plan. I seemed too ready for him, perhaps, certainly he was smart enough to know that something was not going right for him.
I gave him a slight frown (“Are you a fool?”), and I shook my head (“Don’t try it.”).
He didn’t like that I was not scared. We never touched, we never spoke. He turned and ran away again and that was the end of that.
Okay, not outstanding. I didn’t get to break his arm or drag him into a police station (wish I’d thought to). Nor do I get to write a crash-hot-super-hero story here today about how fantastically I can fight. Yet without a doubt I would have been physically knocked down and robbed that day had I not had those skills at my disposal. You don’t have to actually bring someone down to defend yourself.
My response in that incident taught me something about myself. It showed me that I am a defensive fighter, not an offensive one. I didn’t use the opportunity as a justification to harm someone or to show off what I could do. It also taught me that attitude and awareness has as much to do with self-defense as the actual moves.
So that one’s done me well. Initially, though, it was pure research. I learned to fight in order to give my characters skills.
I’m glad I did. 🙂