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Real Life Stories – Douglas Graham

June 10, 2012

When, as I do, you spend your free time studying violence whilst living a fairly safe and incident-free life, it’s easy to start seeing the whole thing as an academic subject, and forget that it’s a reality to hundreds of thousands people all across the world each and every day.

To try and keep this blog relevant and practical, each month I’m going to share with you one of those stories.  We’ll feature a true, personal account of everyday encounters with aggression and violence, submitted by our readers.  Some will be funny, some will be scary, some will be almost non-events – but all can be learned from.  If you have a story you would like to share with the world, email me on our Facebook page, here.

The first of these accounts comes from Douglas Graham:

 “When arriving back at the shop after a removals job. I spotted a guy coming out the 2nd hand shop holding a stereo. As he looked like a junkie out his nut, I asked the shop attendant if anyone had bought the stereo, she replied no. In my non-existent wisdom I pursued the guy and snatched the stereo back off him. He spun round and started mumbling at me. I told him ‘your busted mate, leave it at that and so will I’ I made some distance turned and went back and replaced the stereo.

When I came back out he was near the 2nd hand shop and had produced what I later found out to be keys. The shopkeeper (a pensioner) had also decided to come out and give him a piece of her mind at this point. I warned him to stop as I backed myself into the doorway, blocking his entrance to the shop and positioning the shopkeeper and workmate directly behind me(some wisdom remained thankfully).

He was given one final verbal warning before he came within striking distance. I then took it upon myself to throw a stepping double palm strike to the chest. He staggered backward, fell and struck his cranium on the edge of the kerb. His eyes rolled back in his head and he lost consciousness until the police and ambulance arrived. It was one of the scariest moments in my life.”

You might suspect, reading this. That it’s the voice of someone who knows a thing or two about this kind of thing, and you’d be right.  Douglas works the doors and is a martial artist and self defense instructor.

Douglas did everything right – the police were called, he protected those weaker than himself, he gave the aggressor warnings and when he did strike him, did so in a way that should incapacitate without serious injury – enough to remove the air from him and create some distance.

What I find so frightening about this is how easy it is, even with training and restraint, to come so close to killing someone a man.  I remember similar and tragic story from my youth of a doorman at a local club, who was escorting a drunk out who was causing a bit of trouble.  He got caught in the throat by an elbow, just a glancing blow – and died minutes later on the floor. He doorman was 21 years old.  The guy that caught him with the elbow was just a drunk kid, not an evil murderer.  Imagine what his life is like now, imagine what the doorman’s family are going through – it was just a part time job, some casual pocket money.

Now some of you reading this may have hard the commonly used saying ‘I’d rather be judged by twelve than carried by six’.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard self defense ‘experts’ parrot this, meaning they would rather accept the responsibility for their actions than risk death at the hands of the aggressor.  It is a more elegant way, perhaps, of saying ‘rather me than him’.

This is a straw-man argument, because the actual risk of encountering a situation where you are genuinely faced with the choice of ‘your life or theirs’ is so low as to not realistically factor in to your decision making process in practically every case of self protection.  In almost all circumstances, it is better to explore the path of de-escalation than violence as violence is so unpredictable, so full of risk – even to the experts.

If you are reading this and found yourself nodding in agreement to the ‘judged by twelve than carried by six’ argument, I would ask you this: have you really thought about that?  What, in the confusion of a confrontation, you make a mistake?   What if you exacerbate things, and make your aggressor more violent?  What if in using confrontation you escalate things, force him to raise the stakes and find friends / a weapon?  What if he was going for a phone, not a knife?  What if you catch him at the wrong angle, he falls and hits his head, and dies?

I don’t wish to sound overly dramatic, but these are questions you need to ask yourself if you decide to defend yourself physically.  Physical self defense is there for when you literally have no other choice.  Anything else is not self defense, it’s a fight.  But if you do have no other choice, how far are you prepared to go, and what consequences are you prepared to accept?  No matter how skilled you are at the rough stuff there is always, always, risk.

If you would like your story given the How Not to Get Hit treatment, message us on Facebook here or email me at  Don’t worry if you think your story isn’t dramatic enough, it doesn’t have to be – let us be the judge of whether it can be learned from!

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