by Andy Dominey on February 22nd, 2016

I know this is a cliché but 'with power comes responsibility’. Just because you ‘can’ hurt someone, doesn’t mean you should. In fact, the more power one possesses, the more respect they should have for the affects that power can have.

So you’ve been attacked, you’ve broken the freeze and you have assaulted the persons body and mind. They are stumbling backwards as you rain blows upon them becoming more confident and more powerful with each blow. What separates you from them? Attacker from victim? Simple…respect for life.

When someone attacks you (I’m speaking here of a proper attack and not someone shoving you in a rock concert) they are doing so for a reason. That reason may be that you have something they want or they may simply be attacking you for their own perverted pleasure. Either way, you are not a human being to them. You are an obstacle that stands between them and their end goal. As such, you are treated no differently than a tree standing in the way of the creation of a road, you are crushed then rolled over.

However, being the initial victim and acting to reverse the situation, put’s you in a unique (and powerful) position. YOU get to choose whether this person lives or dies. It’s YOU that makes the call. If you are a martial artist, you’ll already have the weapons in your possession to cause serious injury or even death, in the form of your hands and feet. It’s what you choose to do with them that ultimately defines you as an individual and as a member of the human race.

What right do we have as martial artists…scratch that…what right do we have as human beings to choose whether someone lives or dies? With power, comes responsibility.

That said, there are many different circumstances during which violence may ensue and many different ways to act. We should, however, ensure we act appropriately in these circumstances. For example, if someone hits you from behind with a bare fist, in most cases, it would not be appropriate to smash them across the face with a bar stool then jump on their head when they fall to the floor. This is the choice you have to make. This is the power you have to control, his is the life you must respect. Him, the attacker… the man who you just put in the hospital. He was a nice, quiet guy until someone he knew spiked his drink with whiskey. Now he’s going to the Emergency Room instead of home to his wife and kids…he might not make it…with power, comes responsibility.

‘But how do I know what is appropriate'?’ If you have trained for many years and you are proficient in techniques that can maim and kill…you’ll know. You’ll know because along with showing you the killing techniques, your teacher has been guiding you along a path of self improvement and discipline that will manifest itself when you need it most.

by Sensei Andy Dominey on June 29th, 2011

Unless you have been living underground for the past year, you will have noticed that the world is in a pretty sorry state right now. We have the usual problems in the Middle East, British MP’s using public money as their personal ‘piggy bank’ and don’t even get me started on the global economy (or lack thereof).

This got me thinking about the way people deal with difficult situations. I’m not a religious man, but I know that a lot of people will pray in times like these; asking for help from a higher being who may or may not choose to listen. These people look outwardly for help in times of need. I, however, am the opposite. I have discovered through years of hard choices and hard knocks that looking outwardly for someone to help simply doesn’t work for me. I have learned that there is only one person I can rely on in this world and all I have to do to speak to him is look in the mirror and start talking.

The first time I realized this was when my father died. I was 17 and he left for work just as he always did…but he never came home. Instead, two police officers arrived at the door to break the news to my mother and I that my father had died suddenly at work. At that moment, my world changed forever. My mother and I were never very close, it was always ‘me and my Dad’ and now he was gone. At that moment, I could have fallen apart, but I didn’t. I never cried in front of my family. I didn’t cry at the funeral, nor since. I cried once, the day after he died, in the car alone for about 30 seconds before I pulled myself together and told myself I would become the man my father always saw me as. I could have chosen to spend the next few months and years dwelling on the past, wishing for what might have been but instead I decided to make the most of the time that I had left, forge a relationship with my mother and spend more time on the important things in life. I looked inwardly and found the courage to move on and I have looked inwardly ever since.

The fact that I’m not religious doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God, it simply means that I know my place in the world and I know that right now, if He exists, He can’t help me. In fact, I know He wants me to help myself. That’s why I don’t pray. I’m not trying to say people shouldn’t pray, in fact, praying often serves to change peoples circumstances, not necessarily because God directly intervenes in a persons life but because the belief that someone is out there and is listening gives people the strength to carry on.

What’s important is not how we find strength but the fact that we find it. The strength to carry on, the strength to support someone experiencing a moment of weakness, the strength to face adversity. We all experience things in life which are tough. What defines us is not how those events ultimately unfold but how we choose to face them. Do we fold? Or do we dig in, grit our teeth and tackle them head on…

by Sensei Andy Dominey on January 14th, 2011

So…you have been attacked and you have managed to break the freeze, but what next? You must act decisively but effectively. No point in flailing your arms and landing a grand-total of zero blows only to be back to square one. No, you must assault their body and mind leaving them vulnerable to your counter-attack. Notice how I have separated the assault and the counter-attack. There is a reason for this which I’ll explain.

I believe the word ‘assault’ describes something very primal. There is very little finesse, very little flair, but it’s brutally effective all the same. A counter-attack, however, is much more precise, striking at vital areas or applying a painful arm lock on your opponent. Counter attacks can also be very brutal but herein lies the difference; assaults are very often the result of muscle memory and can occur before the brain is even engaged into the situation. Counter-attacks, however, whilst still being primarily body driven, DO involve conscious thought.

Look at any fight on YouTube and you’ll spot it. The prepared person will pick their target and execute a well-timed and usually effective strike whereas the unprepared person’s strikes will often appear far less coordinated. This is the body trying to survive – a defense mechanism. A moving target is much harder to hit than a static one and someone waving their arms about coming at you is far harder to defend against (or attack for that matter) than someone standing still. Lizards drop their tails, we flail.

Don’t get me wrong, there are worse things to do in an attack than flail – like stand still and accept your fate. But there are far better things too. Martial arts help to develop muscle memory which, in a violent encounter, allow the flailing action to become a far more effective fighting tool. Imagine, instead of the arms waving wildly, each movement is a strike to the opponents body or head. Sure, your fists may not be hitting the best targets but if you are delivering one blow after another, it’s not going to matter; your opponent, in this case, the would-be attacker, will be overwhelmed.

The really effective part of this initial assault is the fact that at the same time you are overwhelming the would-be attacker, you are gaining in confidence yourself. Adrenaline is now working FOR you rather than against. It’s raising your pain threshold, making you faster, helping you hit harder. At the same time, the attackers confidence has been shattered, he is struggling to regain a handle on the situation and fighting to stay on his feet. This is the reversal, this is the assault before the counter-attack.

To train yourself in this way though, is easier said than done. As humans and especially as martial artists, most of us gain a profound respect for human life and assaulting someone in this way, even if they are threatening our existence, is contrary to everything we have been taught.

In nature, animals truly fight (I’m not referring to play-fighting or roughhousing here) only when they have to to protect their land, their family or their food. But when they do fight, they fight without fear of consequence, without conscience and without pity or respect. These things cloud judgment in a fight and can lead to only one thing…death. We must fight only if there is no other alternative, but if we must fight it should be ‘in the moment’ without regard to what remains after the dust settles…

by Sensei Andy Dominey on October 31st, 2010

In the previous posts, I’ve spent time talking about the basics of conflict and the fact that one should avoid so called ‘self-defense’ wherever possible to protect both oneself and others. But what if the worst happens? What if you accidentally wander into the wrong part of town and someone decides you have something they want?

There are usually two types of attacker, opportunistic and prepared. The opportunistic attacker is more easily spooked and an encounter with this type of person is often one that can be turned to your favor. An encounter with a prepared attacked however, is a different story. These types of attackers will have done their homework and will be ready for most things you can throw at them. These encounters are far more difficult to walk away from.

Opportunistic attackers may have attacked many times before but their attacks are random targets, planned and executed at a moments notice. These attackers will do their best to catch you ‘by surprise’ and by that I mean, they’ll most likely attack you from outside your field of vision or try and distract you in some way. Asking for the time, for example. In this case, you will most likely get hit. There is not a lot you can do about it, just accept it. This is where the conditioning of martial arts comes in to help you shake off the strike.

The Prepared attacker will also sometimes attack from out of your field of vision or distract you, but only if it forms part of his plan. You see, these types of attacker are either habitual criminals or have been meticulously planning an assault on you or someone for some time. These attackers will not run at the first sign of danger and will be expecting you to shout, scream and struggle and therefore, they will often attack outside of audible range of other people so keep that in mind when you are walking home at night.

Regardless of your attacker though, there is one common factor to consider in any violent encounter… The Freeze. The freeze sounds like a bad movie about Antarctica but in fact it’s a state of mind and body which WILL affect all of us in a surprise attack. I don’t care who you are, you WILL be affected by this. What defines you is how you deal with it. The freeze is basically information overload. You are attacked when you are not expecting to be and the body and mind try to process what is happening.

Firstly, the pain receptors will fire in response to the strike that caught you unawares, then your eyes and ears will try and establish a hold on what is going on, all the time your brain is desperately trying to process all this information coming in to work out an effective response. Adrenaline is dumped into the bloodstream overloading the muscles and the nervous system causing the brain to crash even harder. All alone, blows are raining down on you… are dead.

You see now that breaking the freeze should be the most important aspect of any ‘self'-defense’ training. Since the freeze is actually partially chemical based, there is no way to stop it happening. However, we can train the body to act (not re-act) before the freeze occurs. I say ‘act’ because there is an important distinction to be made that an action is always faster than a re-action. Training the body in this way can be done through various martial arts drills and training techniques. The body can be trained to the point where the muscles act before the brain even registers the pain from the initial strike. How do I know this, because this is how I fight.

Once the freeze is broken, we need to train ourselves to act in a way that assaults the senses of the attacker effectively turning the situation upside down. His pain receptors will fire in response to the strike you landed, his eyes and ears will try and establish a hold on what is going on, all the time his brain is trying to process what is happening…you get the idea.

Breaking the freeze is critical for all forms of attack but what varies from one attack to another, is what comes next…

by Sensei Andy Dominey on October 31st, 2010

It’s a strange phrase isn’t it; self defense? The act of defending oneself. Seems simple enough. Unfortunately, over the years it has been both over-complicated and made into a Hollywood movie.

I read something recently that I’m going to quote here because I think it is the best description for self defense I have ever read. ‘Self defense is the act of recovering from bad luck or poor judgment’. Absolutely true. If you are using a so-called self defense technique you are in a position that you really shouldn’t be in for one of the aforementioned reasons. Let’s look at the reasons in more detail.

Bad luck is really out of ones control and would involve such situations as a woman being targeted for sexual assault or something as simple as a guy in a bar choosing you to help make him feel like more of a man. These situations are, for the most part, unavoidable, hence, ‘bad luck’. In this situation, the best you can hope for is that the attack is either a) sloppy or unprepared or b) the attack is over quickly; since you are really not going to get much of a chance to act. I say ‘act’ rather than ‘react’ for reasons I’ll get into later.

Poor judgment covers everything else….any I mean everything. Stumbling into a fight between two people and getting hit does not count as bad luck since you made a choice (either conscious or unconscious) to put yourself in that place at that time…..poor judgment. Fortunately, this one can be avoided by training. Martial arts training specifically, since it teaches you the most important skill you can ever learn, awareness. Being aware of not only oneself but also of everything going on in ones vicinity and beyond, to the advanced level of predicting what is likely to happen if events continue to play out.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that learning how to defend oneself is worthless, it’s absolutely not. I’ve spent the last 13 years of my life studying the means on defending myself and I can tell you, it’s has not been wasted time. What I am saying, however, is that most typical situations in which self defense techniques are typically thought of can and should be avoided in the first place.

If, however, a situation cannot be avoided, we must fight…not fight to win since ‘winning’ means nothing…no, we don’t fight to win, we fight to survive. It’s better to avoid than to run, it’s better to run than to fight and it’s better to fight than to die.



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