How One Barroom Encounter Changed One Cop's Views On Fighting
By Robin Martin
(Editor's Note: This article discusses the pivotal encounter that
forever changed the author's views on how to handle fights. Articles to
follow will discuss the techniques he now teaches based on what he learned
Thirty years of martial arts training and instruction along with 18 years
of police work have brought me to the profound conclusion that I just
ain't the baddest dude around. I venture to say there are a few of you
out there who have come to the same conclusion. In our twenties and thirties
our skill level may have been phenomenal, but time eventually takes its
toll. Old injuries, a thickening waist, slower reflexes and a mellowing
of attitude all work against us until eventually we have to admit we just
can't do what we did twenty thirty or maybe even ten years ago. A golfer
factors this in to keep his game at par. A runner compensates by slowing
the pace. A martial artist is no different and usually makes the transition
from "GO" (hard) to "JU" (soft). I started my transition
twenty years ago, in order to beat the crowd and keep myself alive. So
far it's worked and hopefully by sharing it with you it'll work for you,
The soft arts, judo, jujutsu, aikijujutsu, aikido, hapkido and t'ai chi
chuan, use a theory of redirection of an attacker's force to deal with
an assault instead of the harder arts, which meet force with greater force.
It was once explained to me that my Karate was like a game of "Chicken,"
because I would rush head long at an opponent. Unless he swerved, I crashed
into him. In my youth I believed my skill, stamina and pain threshold
were greater than anyone's, so I would always be the winner. Reality bites!
When you have a life-changing event you want it to be in a suitably dramatic
setting, and I wish it had been a more exciting night, something dark
and stormy, when I learned my lesson. Instead, it was a typical Louisiana
hot, humid summer night. In the Deep South, in the 1970's, air conditioning
was still considered a luxury in many homes and businesses. So when a
man wanted to cool off after a long hot day of back breaking manual labor,
he did so in the "refrigerated air" of one of our local saloons.
There, cool air or not, when you mixed alcohol with men, tired of life's
struggles, you ended up with short tempers, busted knuckles and occasionally
death. As a police officer it was my job to keep the peace. Generally,
this meant breaking up the fights and arresting the survivors.
In those days I was 6 foot 3 inches and 220 pounds of over-confidence.
Eight years of shotokan karate and two of a combat judo made me absolutely
certain I was up to handling anything the world could throw at me. Ah,
but those were the days! So it was no surprise that late one summer night,
when a local waterhole called in a fight, cocksure of myself I sauntered
into this den of inequity, primed to settle anyone's hash.
The fight had been one of those epic barroom brawls right out of a John
Wayne movie. Broken glass, furniture and people lay about, testimony that
no one had been spared the chance to participate. In the middle of it
all stood a giant fighting with three other only slightly smaller behemoths.
Toss in some spandex tights and it would have looked like a TV wrestling
As the last of his three opponents found a place to lay his unconscious
head, the giant, a Samoan sailor, turned a pair of the widest and meanest
eyes on me I had seen this side of a Brahma bull. All that confidence
I'd felt walking in almost ran down my thigh when he charged me at a clip
fast enough to make a bull jealous. For perhaps five seconds I stood toe
to toe with this monster. As he repeatedly punched me, I tried to fend
him off by using my hickory baton against his head. He punched me silly.
That thankfully brief trouncing led me to think two thoughts. First, "there
has got to be an easier way to make a living," and second, "how
do I survive long enough to find a cushy job?"
The bartender saved me by hitting the big sailor with a baseball bat.
Momentarily distracted, the Samoan left me to ponder my future while he
beat the stuffing out of the bartender. Whether it was a renewed confidence
in my fighting ability (because I'd survived his initial assault), a flash
of amnesia or a streak of HERO, simply way too wide, I jumped between
sailor and bartender.
This time when he started throwing punches, remembering how much they
hurt, I ducked and slipped to one side grabbing his shirtsleeve. With
a quick pull I spun him away from me and jumped on his back. Wrapping
an arm around a neck only slightly smaller than a tree trunk I slid my
forearm around his throat. Then with my legs wrapped around his waist
I applied Judo's "Sleeper Hold" (a vascular restraint that is
sometimes called a "choke hold") with everything I had. After
perhaps the longest thirty seconds of choking someone in my life the giant
sailor slowly dropped to his knees then fell over on his side. It took
the bartender and two police officers to pull the guy off me. At booking
he weighed in at 350 pounds and was 6 feet 8 inches tall. Like many drunks
and druggies after a choke out he was relaxed and non-combative. So much
so that he slapped me on the back and congratulated me on winning the
This event, the fight not his backslapping, changed my view of fighting.
I had spent eight years learning to go through my opponents and now had
discovered that this didn't work in every scenario. Unhappily, I had discovered
that bigger men, perhaps even those of equal skill and stamina could hold
me off or even worse beat me. So like some guy in a bad Hong Kong movie
I went in search of a martial art that would give me the "edge".
That wasn't easy because Louisiana just isn't a Mecca for martial artists.
For many years I was forced to confine myself to judo and jujitsu. Later
I would work with Bruce Siddell's PPCT, aikido, t'ai chi chuan, savate,
jeet kune do and ninpo. Each of these systems would give me yet another
piece of the puzzle and ultimately bring me back to the beginning, jujutsu.
Jujutsu, like judo and aikido, rely heavily on robbing an opponent's
"Kazushi" (balance). Digging through the system I knew best,
kodenkan or danzan ryu jujutsu, I took several basic and effective techniques
of un-balancing an opponent and modified them for my police work. Eventually,
I taught these techniques to several hundred private security and police
officers who became my "Testers." An obliging criminal element
supplied an endless number of subjects for the research. I will share
a few of the most effective and useful in following articles. I found
them easy for martial artists, police and private security of any level
to learn. And even with limited practice they remain effective, something
to keep in mind if you train for public safety.
About The Author:
Robin Martin is a former Police Officer with 18 years of service. Currently
he maintains a Deputy Sheriffís Commission and is the Executive
Director of E-911 for Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana. During his law enforcement
career Martin taught hundreds of law enforcement and private security
personnel self-defense and survival skills. As the former owner of Defense
Technologies he trained in excess of 2,000 men, women and children in
self-defense and rape prevention.
A student of the martial arts since 1969 Martin holds a 5th degree black
belt in both shotokan karate and Hoshin Roshi Ryu Jutaijutsu (Jujustsu).
He is also a certified instructor in Hoshin Tao Chi Kung and Tai Chi Chuan
as well as a coach of Savate. After a decade of research Shihan Martin
has founded his own Aikjujutsu system, "Goshin-Do" that combines
elements of Shotokan Karate, Danzan Ryu Jujutsu and Chi Kung.
Related Story: The
Study of Kuzushi