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Urban War Story

as related to Bruce D. Clayton

Editor’s Note: Bruce D. Clayton, PhD, is the author of Shotokan’s Secret: The Hidden Truth Behind Karate’s Fighting Origins, the Black Medicine series, Fallout Survival, Life After Doomsday, Life After Terrorism, and Thinking About Survival.

The goal of this article is to stimulate your thinking as you develop training scenarios and drills.

Picture a male in his 40s with some experience in street fighting and who has trained in karate and jujutsu for the last three years, but not yet a black belt. Here's his account of an incident around Christmas of 2011. The location is a suburb of New York City.

As you read through this story, one line at a time, stop and make a mental note each time you come across something that “sounds like a bad idea”.

It was just about midnight Sunday passed, where my girlfriend and I were doing “drive-by’s” at potential homes to purchase. We had turned north off Jericho Turnpike, a fairly busy throughway when three guys were crossing the street. Two of them went ahead, and one of them had waited at the divider who waved us on. I had held up my hand as thanks and proceeded. Almost immediately, I heard “Bam”, something had hit my Ford Escape.
I backed up, got out and went behind my car and the three were waiting. They were standing in a loose semi-circle, two close to each other, the other a few steps away. From left to right I will call them “1”, “2”, and “3”.

1 started peeling off his jacket muttering something like “you want some”, as he seemed to be stepping forward. He is standing to my left, 2, slightly to my right and 3, a few steps away, again to my right.
Realizing this was going down, I quickly kicked 1 in the stomach. It was a front kick using my right foot. As I kicked 1, 2, almost simultaneously strikes my right temple with his fist. 1 takes the kick well, and moves more to my left. As I’m slightly disoriented, and 1 seemed to be the lead aggressor, I turned my body left as well, following his movement from the sidewalk into the street. I am now surrounded as 1 is in my front, 2 is to my rear right, and 3 is to my rear left.

1 continued his advance forward, and to the best of my recollection, it was like a charge offering no real openings. I was able to get off a right elbow or forearm which hit is forehead as that too was pointing down. 2 simultaneously began hitting me from the right, and now my right began to block that. My right arm did like a windmill type motion, blocking and I went to a loose headlock. At this point, I am defending with my left, and right, I’m backing up slightly, and I trip on the curb behind me.

I go down on my back, with 1 almost on top of me, and 2 just off to the right in a loose headlock. 3 starts kicking me in the head, striking my left temple, and rear of me head. I’m feeling pain now as 2, was also striking my right side. As I’m still defending 1, I felt his face and began sticking my left index finger into his right eye. He screams out in pain, and 2 reacts by scratching at my face around my right eye. I turn me head ever so slightly, to the right, to face 2, and I see an open mouth descending on my face. I instinctively turn left and 2 proceeds to bite my right cheekbone. 3, is punching my head and I’m feeling like I’m about to blackout. The pain of the bite scared me and provided a rush to survive, I was trying to get up, and forcefully thrusted my left index finger two knuckles deep into 1’s eye, and was able to get my right thumb into the eyes of 2, who was still biting me.


My girlfriend was in the car witnessing this and was traumatized by the moment. Cars had also begun to turn the corner, and she told me they began honking horns and yelling and such.

They got up, I got up, staggered.

I was almost in blackout, and got back to my car. I drove away and I don’t know what happened to the three after that.

This all occurred within a minute or so; and as it turns out, it was a fight for survival, not contest.
I took no strikes to the genitals, ribs, or anything else. One shot landed in the upper abdominals, as I can feel it now. In some way it was amateur night, and in some ways these guys had been here before. My first obvious mistake was to get out, my second, was allowing myself to get surrounded. That is obvious. What strikes me most is the simultaneous attacks and the savagery of the biter.

I’m well versed in first aid, and took care of myself well. I’m going to call the doctor, and have him do blood tests.

I’m reaching out this way to you and others, because of some issues that should be addressed by teachers like you and students like myself, and would like your feedback and insight as well.

  1. Simultaneous attacks that are so vicious. I say that because the only “multiples” I’ve seen in any class were quite clean compared to what occurred.
  2. The unexpected.... tripping over the curb changed everything. Also the bite on the face. I had been bitten in the past, but it was on the forearm and hands.
  3. The effectiveness of the vital strikes, (we used to call it dirty street fighting in the old days) and the degree to which an attacker can take some pain. Even though #1 had a finger in his eye, (and I know it because of the scream and the wetness on my finger) he did not get off. #2 also took a thumb, maybe to the first knuckle. And I’m really not sure if it was the honking cars or the combination of both that made them get up.
  4. While on my back, I had no leverage or power. At one point, I had a grip on someone’s esophagus, probably 2, and he pulled out of the grip. The eyes were like a last resort.
  5. Had, I been thinking survival from the outset, which I wasn’t, I may have gone for a genital kick from the beginning as opposed to the front kick to the belly.
  6. I was distracted by my feelings for my girlfriend and the possibility of them busting up my car.
There may be other things to consider as well, but I’m still processing the totality of it all.

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