02 August 2014

Failure of footwork


In the past I have mentioned that folks watching some MCS videos, looking to find something they don't like have commented on our lack of footwork.  Most footwork done in training are techniques, and under stress techniques often fail.  We teach principles.  We harp on two things when it comes to footwork, don't back peddle, and don't cross your feet.  We say it in the beginning of of every class and mention it every time someone busts their ass, which is early and often.

Most when discussing footwork, are referring to moving your body while standing in an attempt to better position yourself in relation to your attacker.  When we discuss footwork, we are talking about making sure you stay off the ground.

The primary reason for staying off the ground is to avoid falling on hard surfaces, primarily because few people have ongoing training in arts like Judo, Ju Jitsu, and Aikido, which require lots of falls.  Falls are very dangerous because they often result in head and spinal cord injury.  Some in temporary and some is permanent.  This of course is in addition to smashed elbows, hips, and hands.  Children should start learning how to fall correctly as soon as they can walk and continue all through school.  The injuries it would prevent are immeasurable.  But the reality is that most people panic as soon as they begin to fall and tense up making it much, much worse.

In MCS one of our primary principles is to use a combination of Central Nervous System and Structural System Disruption to stop the attack.  When you or your attacker falls to the ground, especially backwards both of these systems are affected.  From my personal experience, both in situations I have been involved in and witnessed, more people wind up on the ground by accident then on purpose.  They are always caused by back peddling  and crossing their feet as they do.

The secondary reason for staying off the ground is that it could cause you to have to use a higher level of force than if you were standing.  One of the common reasons force may be justified is someone that is disabled fighting off someone that is able.  The thing that makes someone in a wheelchair disabled is that they are unable to stand walk, so if you you hit your head or tailbone and are physically unable to get up, or the attacker follows the ground preventing you from getting up you are in great jeopardy.  It does not really matter whether you fall backwards trying to get away or your attacker pushes you there, you are there.  This was what what lead George Zimmerman to shoot Travon Martin.

For the last year I have been working working with adults with intellectual disabilities.  Many of the individuals cannot verbalize their needs and when anxious and misunderstood understandably become angry and sometimes violent.  These folks lack self preservation and don't care if they are injured when they attack you and they have no fear or understanding of consequences.

The particular fella I have been working with most is 25 years old, 6'3, 205 lbs, and very intense.  He is Autistic and relatively non verbal.  He has attacked me a few times, mostly with nail digging and attempted biting.

When I first began to work for the company I had to attend there training program which included their system for defending against and controlling violent individuals.  Not unlike police defensive tactics, what they called "principles" were complicated techniques of the do this, then this, then this, and then this ilk.  Until attending this course I never thought I would find individuals less interested in training than in-service police.  I would have to say that the retention of any of the material covered would be zero within a week.  Like most of these programs for police and otherwise it was about having something written down on paper, with your name listed as attending, so your employer could distance themselves if you ever used anything else and it became a liability.

Fast forward a year, I was off a few days working a security detail in Baltimore, when I get a text from a coworker that my guy had sent three people to the hospital.  Two with bites, and one with a serious bite and head injury.

Turns out my guy had a bad day and people not being thoroughly familiar with his behaviors and a change in his schedule led to the attacks.  The first two people were bitten in the upper forearm.  The last and most serious attack was on the director of the program, who is also a trainer in the training program I described above.  When he rushed her she tried to get away by running, when she realized how close he was she tried to turn into a defensive posture, in doing so she crossed her feet, twisting her foot out of her shoe, and causing her to fall backwards.  Witnesses state that as she hit the ground, there was a very audible "smack" as here head bounced off the cement floor.  This caused a concussion and injury to the back of her head requiring four stitches to close.  My guy followed her to the ground and attacked her in what was described as  looking like a scene from the Walking Dead.  He sunk his teeth into her forearm, people who attempted to pull him off could not see this, and as they pulled him up they actually pulled her up off the ground because his mouth was still closed on her arm.  He stopped because he was ready to stop and seeing him minutes later gave no indication of the attack, he was calm as can be.

One of first things we teach is Vertical Stabilization, which  is a tactikewl was of saying get your back up against a wall or vehicle to stay on your feet.  In the training the company offers falling is not covered.  She is a good boss not a "scaredy cat" by any means.  She was just overwhelmed and shocked, even before she went down.  Two of her staff had already been bit.  Fight or flight took over and she tried to get away.  People have a phobic response to being bitten, not unlike being attacked by bees, very primal.    Once on the ground the bite defense she learned and taught were worthless.  She was never taught what to do if pinned to the floor.

Given the totality of the circumstances, had she been a police officer and this happened in the street she would have been justified in shooting him.  Luckily there were tons of people around that were able to take advantage of his fixation on her and pull him off.

Biting during attacks happens more than you might think, and like I said evokes an extreme stress response.  So consider how ready are you to staff off the ground and how your would defend against a bite, especially to the face or neck.  In the video below the officer was knocked to to ground, in a tight space, and had a bite taken out of his face before shooting the suspect, killing him and ending the attack.




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