Real life experiences on the street & in
Dutch KLM Daitoryu
A martial encounter at 40,000 feet
By Gary Gabelhouse
I was so much looking forward to reading my novel while enjoying an
adult beverage—or three. It had been a long week—business
presentations in Sweden, the United Kingdom and France—traveling
at night, high-level sales presentations all day. I took my seat on the
Dutch KLM flight from Amsterdam’s Schipol airport, bound for JFK.
I looked forward to the long flight as a respite and a leaving behind
of business matters. On the off-chance the flight was light, I was sitting
in a G-seat—on the aisle of the internal section of the wide body.
Seated kitty-corner from me in the H and I seats forward of me and to
my right was an old, German couple. They sat there without talking, the
old man nervously paging through a copy of a German newspaper—the
old woman looking straight ahead, focusing on the seat in front of her.
Two loud Norwegians took their seats kitty-corner to my right and behind
me. They appeared to have imbibed a bit too much, but weren’t all
that disruptive. With the plane loaded we took off for the six or seven
hour flight to New York.
The Norwegians passed on the meal and doubled up on vodka martinis.
After a couple of hours, I was surprised that the attendants kept selling
them alcohol. The volume of their voices increased and I could tell,
even though I didn’t know Norwegian, that their speech was also
Suddenly, the drunk on the aisle stood up and stared intently and drunkenly
at the old, German couple sitting in front of him. I could see his eyes
reflecting a sort of agitation as he shouted in broken English, “This
man is Nazi!” He continued to taunt the old couple, shouting, “Zieg
Heil! Zieg Heil!” giving the Nazi salute. The old woman began to
cry. The old man (who could have been a Nazi, given his age) sat silently,
It was a very uncomfortable situation. I put my novel in the seat pocket
and watched the drama play itself out—distinctly feeling that there
would be no good ending.
The drunk was working himself into a frenzy as he shouted, “I
must KILL all Nazis!”
I watched the drunk pull up his right fist and lean over the back of
the seat back, poised to strike the old man. I knew the assault of the
old man was imminent. Utilizing a little Sen practice (taking the initiative
in a combat situation) and kazushi (off balancing), I reached across
the aisle and shoved his left shoulder, throwing him off balance. He
caught the back of the chair and then launched his right fist at my head.
Without thinking, I executed Sankajo (third control technique) from
my Daitoryu Aikijujitsu training. I double blocked the punch, grabbed
his wrist with both hands and cranked it up—his elbow pointing
up (wrist down), twisting his wrist painfully as I stepped out into the
aisle. I had the technique on well and could control him with one hand.
Executing the technique, the pain coaxed him out into the aisle with
me. I continued to tweak his joints, as he did that characteristic Sankajo
boogey dance—up on his toes trying to get away from the pain. I
directed the drunk, still in Sankajo hell, into the seat next to mine.
I sat down in my seat and he sat down with me, his elbow pointed high
in the air, grimacing in pain.
He tried to hit me with his left hand, but the pain of my application
of the technique chased away all of those thoughts. There we sat, everyone
just staring at us with open-mouthed surprise. A Frenchman two rows back
saw it as an opportunity to mock the drunk Norwegian.
From the safety of two rows behind me, he taunted the drunk and said
in broken English, “How do you like that you _ss-hole?”
The Norwegian glared at the Frenchman yelling, “After I kill him
(me) I’m going to kill you, too!”
I told the Frenchman to please be quiet, since he was not helping matters.
The Purser and Captain came back and assessed the situation. As this
was pre-9/11, there were no Sky Marshals or any law enforcement officials
on the flight, nor were there any of the plastic strip handcuffs to be
found. The captain vacated a section of First Class and I escorted the
Norwegian, still in Sankajo, to his new seat. I kept Sankajo on him for
nearly an hour before he started to get emotional and morose. He started
crying and in sobbing, broken English he told me he was sorry and he
was just miserable with his life.
I released the Sankajo and was guarded and on full alert. The rest of
the flight was uneventful. The Purser took statements from people sitting
in the same area of the plane with me, then took my statement, asking
for all of my contact information.
Upon landing at JFK, the plane taxied to the gate. Passengers were asked
to stay seated until notified. Two detectives and three of New York’s
finest came down the aisle and led off the cuffed and now sobering Norwegian
down the aisle in the quiet plane.
I remember the Norwegian looking at me, sadly smiling as he said, “Bye–bye.”
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About the Author:
Gary Gabelhouse is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Fairfield
Research, Inc. , a market research and consulting firm in the entertainment
and media industries. Prior to his acquisition of Fairfield, Gabelhouse
was Executive Vice President and a member of the Fairfield Board of Directors.
Prior to his involvement with Fairfield, Gabelhouse was Senior Vice President
and member of the Board of Directors for SRI Research, SRI/Gallup, Gallup
of Canada, and what is now the Gallup Organization. Gabelhouse trains
Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate-do under John Roseberry, Hanshi and is the Business
Director for his teacher’s Shobu-Kan Martial Arts Center in Lincoln,
Nebraska. He is also a student of Daito-Ryu Aikijujutsu. Gabelhouse's
interests outside of the martial arts and business include mountaineering,
bonsai cultivation, fishing and fly tying, oil painting, landscape gardening,
writing and watching his 21 year old daughter play rugby. Gabelhouse
has been married to his wife Cindy since 1975. He is a frequent contributor