Dead or Alive

Having recently read ‘Streetwise’ by Peter Consterdine and finding it to be absolutely fantastic, I believed it was high time to check out ‘Dead or Alive’ by Geoff Thompson, which works alongside Consterdine’s modern classic perfectly.


Now, before I begin let me state that I have been involved in “real” fights, though not hundreds, due to the area I lived in and had trained on and off in a few different martial arts. Whilst in University I decided to take up WTF style Tae Kwon Do and was making good progress. Or so I thought. I was actually busy reprogramming what had always come quite naturally to me. I wasn’t punching as much because they don’t score points in competition. I wasn’t head-butting or grappling because, yes, you’ve guessed it, you can’t do that in competition! I was almost starting to believe that I could pull off a spinning hook kick in a real encounter because I had used them in competitions. A few years ago I was given a massive wake up call. I was quickly forgetting what a real fight was like. There is no referee, there are no rules.


Five years on from starting TKD, with my first Dan grading looming on the horizon, I was out in town for drinks. It was your average Saturday night out in Liverpool city centre, my girlfriend, step-brother and I had met friends, had a few too many drinks and had a good night. Walking to get a taxi we met trouble. We were subjected to a nasty and unprovoked attack involving eight Neanderthals. Needless to say, we didn’t “win.” I managed to get away with a split lip, fending off three of them with my arms forming a barrier (which I later discovered was a form of  ‘the Fence’) my girlfriend was armed with a bag of chips, which she launched at the nearest person (nice one!) and my step-brother, well he was on the floor at this point, after throwing maybe two punches and was unconscious having his head jumped on and kicked into the curb by the remaining cave –dwellers.


I feel a question coming on at this point. Maybe something like, “Well, what did you do when you saw this happening? Did you use your previous TKD training?” The answer quite simply is no. In all honesty, I froze and watched the assault happen in slow motion. After what felt like an actual eternity I ran to help my…what? Unconscious? Dead? Step-brother/best mate. Thankfully he began to regain consciousness, still lying in the middle of the road, with cars driving past. I was so angry at myself. Why did I drink that last pint? Why didn’t I cross the road when I saw a group of drunken lads? Why didn’t I start dropping them as soon as they were in front of me? Why did they pick us? It took me a good while to take control of these feelings. This feeling, which Geoff Thompson refers to as the ‘Black Dog’ in his book, was well and truly chasing me around the park.


Even when the police finally arrived and we identified the culprits, we were then faced with questions such as “Who started it?”(!) I was told to calm down and stop swearing or I would be taken away. I had never experienced this sort of situation before. We were the victims of the assault, yet we still needed to justify this to the ‘second-enemy’, the police. Both Geoff and Peter, remind us that even if you do act in ‘self-defence’ and with ‘reasonable force’, it is what you say after the encounter, that determines the outcome in court. I told the Police that I had ran after two of them chasing them on to a bus. I was asked “why” I had chased them, as the attack was over. If I would have hit one of them following this I could have been charged with assault. This subject matter is explore in great detail in ‘Dead or Alive’ and is something that should be contained in every book on self-protection. No charges were made, as there was no evidence that the people who we identified had attacked us. CCTV, we were informed, was not working that night.


Fortunately, the only damage left, was a severely bruised ego and a lot of pent up anger. I realised that something needed to change. As a child and teenager, growing up in your typical working class area, my Dads’s advice was always, stay away from trouble, but if you can’t, make sure that you get the first shot in! This is basically the crux of ‘Dead or Alive.’ Avoid violence at all costs. Escape a situation if possible. But if you need to protect yourself, hit first and hit hard.


I decided to stop training in TKD as it is unsuitable, in it’s sporting form, for an actual street encounter, in my personal opinion. I was learning techniques that are used in a sport with rules. I had spent no time training in workable bunkai, as you only needed the patterns/forms to pass your grading. I also realised that I, myself, need to take responsibility for what I was doing.


Mo Teague, in the Appendix of ‘Dead or Alive’ reminds us all that alcohol and fighting do not mix well. It can make you aggressive and become the loud, obnoxious ‘Two-can Van Damme’ type, who wants to take on the world, or simply it reduces your perception and decision making skills. I know that I was too drunk when we were attacked, I thought that it happened ‘out of the blue’ because I was not switched on. I was in ‘Code White’, happily munching on my take-away thinking about being home with the missus.


This is not to say that I blame myself or my friends for the attack, rather we/I should have perceived the problem before it was, quite literally on top of us. The people who attacked us did it because they wanted to. It’s that simple. ‘Dead or Alive’ goes into this in far more detail, interviewing “people” who purposely go out to attack random people for enjoyment.


In terms of actual ‘fighting’ there are a couple of chapters in ‘Dead or Alive’, which explore techniques, but it is the other information that is essential in a real situation. Coopers Colour Code system is explained, something that is also recommended in ‘Streetwise’ and is definitely a mind-set which I use now. In addition to this Geoff Thompson covers all of the pre-fight rituals, which must be understood and trained in order to survive a violent encounter.


Having became a member of Peter and Geoff’s brainchild, the British Combat Association three years ago, under the tutelage of Jon Ryley, I have never looked back. The training is realistic and honest. The training can be painful at times. But this is needed. We ‘absorb what is useful’ from the likes of Western Boxing, Kali, Karate Jutsu, JKD, Torite Jutsu and apply them to realistic scenarios.


I have wanted to write this little article for a while now, as I am an avid reader of martial arts books and have read some seriously bad/dangerous books in the past few years. Also having been in a number of dangerous situations, I have a minimal, but actual understanding of what is required to survive a street encounter. ‘Dead or Alive’ is straight to the point and contains some of the most important martial arts information that you can find. This book is an absolute must for anyone interested in the life protection arts and I cannot urge you enough to read this text.

By Kris Mansfield
1st Dan KJA


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