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Martial Arts: Street Stories

Beware the Ambush

By Christopher Caile

Michael was on the way home walking through a park in New York City at dusk. Most people had left by that time.

As he walked down a little depression he hardly noticed two guys, each sitting on a park bench on either side of his walkway. Each was looking down, their thumbs working cell phones. There was a third man too. He had been standing alone about 50 feet before. He seemed to be watching him as he passed by. That was a little strange, but Michael really didn't think too much about it. He was thinking of home, his wife and dinner.

It didn't register either that others weren't around, except for three men congregated in the same isolated area.

That was the mistake. It was an ambush.

Bang. He didn't see it coming, a fist to the face. It came from behind and it was heavy. His nose exploding into blood and mangled cartilage. Instant pain, eyes watering,  he staggered back. Then a violent push, his upper body forced down, bent over the top of the bench. He felt hands in his pockets, then his wallet slip away.

Later there were police, then an emergency room and doctors, followed days later with an operation - his nose being surgically repaired -- only the first of months of medical attention, not to mention the physical and emotional impact of this frightening episode.

The lessons here are several. The first is that muggers don't play fair. Their attacks can be sudden, unprovoked and vicious.  In this case they attacked from behind (out of the field of vision).  Other times someone may just distract you with a question, or ask you to point something out -- anything to take your attention away.

The next lesson here is to be aware at all times when on the street or out in public -- sometimes hyper aware. Be aware of your surroundings, of people around you, across the street or ahead of you, groups and conditions of isolation , the time of day, dangerous places, etc.  Recognition and avoidance are your greatest self-defense not some effort at physical reaction when it is too late.  

If something seems strange, don't ignore it. Your sixth sense might be telling you something. If Michael had said to himself, "that man standing there is strange, what is he doing?" he might have stopped, taken a different path, or waited until others were walking his way and joined them. Of course, it is easy to game plan after the fact, but added awareness and a keen sense of avoidance is always useful. It might just have saved his nose, pain and dignity. It could also save your life someday.

It wasn't the first time this trio would acted. The police later reported that the same muggers later had used the same tactics to rob six or seven others in the same neighborhood.

Michael's wife told me the story while we watched our sons play baseball together (they are on the same Little League team). In retrospect they figured out that the lone man was probably the look out and most likely texted the two others that the coast was clear and to attack this person. They kept reliving the episode which had occurred last summer. "What could he have done? What would you have done?" she asked.

From a self defense perspective, there was nothing more he could have done once he became the victim. But if he had been more situationally aware, more attentive and sensitive to dangerous potential he might have been able to avoid the situation before it happened.

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About The Author:

Christopher Caile is the founder and Editor of

To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

street attacks, mugging, assaults, street awareness, self defense

Read more articles by Christopher Caile

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