How to learn self-defense from video footage

With cellphones and cameras so prevalent nowadays, a large number of altercations and fights are captured on video. This footage is often shared online, it goes viral and everybody and their brother have an opinion on it. That’s fine, of course, but so what? Having an opinion isn’t difficult and not particularly useful. A more interesting approach is to look for ways you can learn from that footage and improve your self-defense skills. I mentioned this in passing in my previous webcast, but wanted to expand on it a bit more, hence this article.

Learning, by definition, means you search for information and knowledge you don’t currently have. That means keeping an open mind and is in direct conflict with holding on to your opinion and only looking for information to confirm it. The first step of the learning process is to start with the right mindset:

Check your bias before you begin.

We all have a bias, one way or the other. We all have filters the information in the video has to pass through. Be cognizant of them and try to remain objective. Focus on learning, not on confirming your moral or political beliefs, which technique you think is perfect for self-defense and which one sucks, etc. Instead, look at the elements as they present themselves as opposed to how you would want them to be. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time.

This can be hard, as we live in an age where having an opinion is valued more than having an informed opinion. But it can be done if your desire to make progress in your training is bigger than your ego. In this article, I’ll give you some tools to use for that goal. View them as filters through which you pass the information in the video, so you can distill information out of it.

Let’s start with the first one, context.

Learn self-defense from video footage

Context

Context means the circumstances surrounding the event, the facts and factors that influence how it happened and how it is perceived. Think of when you say “you took my words out of context” when somebody distorts your words to fit their agenda. The exact same thing applies when you watch footage of a fight.

There is always a context, so your first step is:

Try to figure out what it is.

Some questions to ask:

  • What happened beforehand?
  • What happened afterwards?
  • Who else was involved?
  • Where did it happen?
  • Who made this video?
  • Etc.

Sometimes you can’t find out all those things. Be cautious then and assume your conclusions will be of limited accuracy, at best. When I review such footage, I generally write the caveat “I wasn’t there and neither were you.” That’s a reminder that we often only have limited or even faulty information to work with.  Only an idiot claims his conclusions are absolute truth when working with information he isn’t 100% sure about…

Another contextual issue is one of presentation.

In today’s world of click-bait articles and videos, presentation is often used to create a narrative or promote an agenda. This makes it harder to learn something because the presentation distorts the facts and sets you up to come to specific conclusions. Some points on this:

  • Is the video edited or not? Creative editing can easily force you to come to a conclusion that is 100% false.
  • Disregard the title of the video and the text written along with it. Look at the video first  and only then read additional information. That way it can’t influence you beforehand.
  • Disregard opinions of and comments by others. Make up your own mind before letting somebody else do it for you.
  • Disregard commentary by bystanders and others in the footage. They might also be biased and as you lack context for them as well, look only at the facts as you see them.
  • Now, watch the video, think it through and form a preliminary opinion.
  • Then and only then, look at all that information you previously ignored to check for elements you might have missed.

This sounds like a lot of work, but it isn’t. It’s mostly tuning out those other sources first and only then allowing them back in. If you think I’m exaggerating, read this and remember how the narrative that Zimmerman was a racist gun-toting lunatic was established so quickly early on. If I recall correctly, NBC settled the lawsuit out of court…

Also read this and watch both videos in order. Then go read the comments on my blog and on Youtube. Notice how many people fail to follow the instructions to get more context and how many argue about everything except the point I was making. If you want to learn self-defense, setting your ego aside is a good first step…

 

Legal

The title of this article is “How to learn self-defense from video footage.” Self-defense is not the same thing as fighting, street-fighting, dueling or beating somebody up. Self-defense is defined by the laws of your country and state. These can and will vary wildly. What is valid in San Francisco, California might not be so in Brussels, Belgium. The only way to know what the laws say where you are is to study them. [Read more…]

The brutal consequences of a street fight

Something that tends to be overlooked, in particular by young and fit men, is the potential brutal consequences of a street fight and just how extreme these can get. They’ve all seen videos of how a guy gets knocked out and then a few people step in before things get worse, thinking that’s how it goes. For sure, this happens. It happens a lot actually, in particular when you look at the typical dominance display and puff-up-your-chest fighting young, inexperienced men tend to gravitate towards. The critical mistake is thinking this is the only kind of street fight or violence that exists.

There are others.

Here is one such example. As always, a caveat:

  • We weren’t there. All observations on this video are nothing but an opinion, not a fact.
  • We don’t know what caused this. There is no way of knowing what was said, done or threatened to make this street fight happen.
  • I’m not making any judgements on who is right or wrong. I don’t have enough facts to decide on that. My comments pertain only to the incident itself.

Please keep this in mind when you read the rest of this article.

If the video starts from the beginning, skip ahead to 2min. 7sec. That’s where the incident begins.

Here goes:

Some observations about this video:

  • It looks like “No-shirt” wants to de-escalate things. We don’t know what he says, but he seems to want to avoid a fight and get away. He goes to grab his jacket and then attempts to leave.
  • The other guy escalates it. He gets in the way and blocks No-shirt in his tracks. He also closes into striking distance. No-shirt pushes him away and tries to keep going.
  • He strikes first. The other guy opens the fight with a backhand slap to the face and then it’s on.
  • Everything goes downhill from there. No-shirt quickly takes the upper hand and things devolve into the brutal consequences I want to talk about here below.

Some lessons we can learn from all of this: [Read more…]

Hit me, I dare you.

There’s those times when you give self-defense advice and everybody looks at you with a “Well, duh!” expression on their faces. Because they think nobody could ever be that stupid to not heed that advice. Very often, those who look at me with the most arrogant look on their faces are the ones who need to listen the most. But alas, sometimes you simply cannot get through to people and they prefer to be in their own world where they know everything and you know nothing. Which is fine; it’s not my blood being spilled. But I digress…

 

One example of such a piece of advice is that you don’t deescalate a fight by saying things like:

  • Fuck you!
  • What the fuck are you looking at?
  • You don’t know who you’re fucking with.
  • You don’t have the fucking balls.
  • And the crowd-pleasing favorite: Hit me, I fucking dare you!

If you need an easy way to remember this list: any sentence with the word “Fuck” in it is a no-no. (Yes, I’m being sarcastic here.)

However much you might think this advice is redundant because it is nothing but common sense, I humbly submit that you are wrong and present to you Exhibit A:

There is so much wrong with this video that I could write a whole book about it but let’s just cover the most important points:

The Walking Dead and Self-Defense

As most of you know, I’m a big fan of vampire books and movies. Given as how the last couple years Hollywood has been cranking out bloodsucker flicks more than ever before, I’m a happy camper. I also used to like horror movies a lot when I was a teenager but grew out of it because the genre seemed to become stale: the same old cliches were repeated over and over;  few directors did anything new and exciting. One of the exceptions to that was George Romero.

The Walking Dead Season 1 and Self defense

Click the image to buy The Walking Dead, Season 1

The first movie I saw of him was Day of the Dead, which I still enjoy today even though many people think this one isn’t his best work. Since then, I’ve watched a number of zombie movies but eventually also stopped watching them.

And then came The Walking Dead.

Before you read on, there are minor spoilers up ahead. I tried to give away as little as possible but that’s impossible if I want to point out certain things.

Here goes: When I first heard about the series, I was a bit skeptical because just the title alone sounded like a bad TV-movie. But after several friends recommended it, I started watching and got hooked right away. I think it’s one of the best series on TV right now. Even if you’re not a fan of the horror genre, give it a try because the zombies are just an excuse to place the protagonists in difficult situations. And the gory scenes are actually relatively limited in comparison to all the rest.

 

 

So what’s the relevance to self-defense in all this?

It’s pretty simple:

The Walking Dead describes a world where our society has broken down because of extreme external circumstances. The protagonists have to adapt to this new reality or die. Their daily lives depend solely on their self-defense skills, in the largest sense of the term.

 

Pretty much every hairy situation you see in the show is something that can (and actually does) happen in reality, in a different context than a zombie apocalypse of course: [Read more…]

New CrossFit training?

I propose to make this one an official new CrossFit training exercise and call it “Girl Pick-Ups.”  You need to do at least 5 reps with a girl weighing at least 2/3rd of your body weight. The grunting and yelling is mandatory, or it doesn’t count. Gotta be “intense”, like the girl says at the end of this video…

I have to admit to having done similar things in the past: I bench pressed pretty much every woman I’ve been involved with in the last ten years. Why? Because they eventually always insist on asking me how strong I am and could I lift this or pick up that. Which always feels like a weird question to me as I’m long past the stage of trying to impress a woman for her to like me. But I guess it’s just one of those things.

So instead of picking up something really heavy (which I already do plenty of in my conditioning training), I offer to squat or bench press her if she absolutely needs to know how strong I am. Which has the added benefit of always resulting in the two of us lying on the floor bodies intertwined. There are worse things in life…

And no, I never dropped any of those women like the guy in the video does. Though as a friend of mine would say: given how some of those relationships turned out, maybe I should have tried to throw them as far away as possible. (Some of my friends are a bit… Offbeat.)