Simultaneous techniques: Part 3 - a case study


Following my previous article about late, simultaneous and pre-emptive initiative, I thought I'd examine a real-life civilian defence encounter caught on video between a person obviously trained in boxing facing multiple attackers.

Given the argument that "late initiative isn't as effective/important as simultaneous or pre-emptive initiative", I thought I'd count the number of times the late, simultaneous and pre-emptive initiative were used and also note the circumstances in which the strategies were employed.

If my theory is right, the initial part of an attack is going to occur in what I have called the melee range. It will initially feature late initiative because the defender will, to some extent, be surprised by, and responding to, the aggression (he won't be initiating the aggression). This will be despite the fact that the defender knows from an early stage that a fight is likely; not being the aggressor means he will not launch the first attack, hence he will be "second cab off the rank" and "playing catch-up" - at least initially.

While I wouldn't expect a boxer to use traditional "karate-style blocking", I would expect to see late initiative in the form of evasion and perhaps some parrying (which is how karate blocks should be applied anyway).

As the defender gains some control and puts himself outside the melee range he should then be able deal with his opponents in a more simultaneous or pre-emptive way.

A video of a boxer defending himself against a group of attackers

Attack 1

After an initial push and shove, the defender starts back-pedalling. The first punch is then thrown. At this point the defender and his attackers are still in close quarters - the melee range. The defender evades the punch by moving backwards so that the punch lands relatively harmlessly on his shoulder.

Note that apart from a token pushing action, he is not trying to counter attack at this point: he is simply too overwhelmed.

Comment: This is a case of late initiative and not simultaneous or pre-emptive initiative.

Attack 2

Against the second punch he again uses an evasion - this time a duck or weave. The attacker is clearly in the melee range when the attack commences.

Comment: This is a case of late initiative, not simultaneous or pre-emptive initiative.

Attack 3

A third punch is quickly thrown by a different attacker. Again, the attack starts and ends in the melee range. The defender is unable to much more than move his shoulder into the blow so that it lands there rather than on his face. After that they fall into a clinch or grapple momentarily.

Comment: This is a case of late initiative, not simultaneous or pre-emptive initiative.

Attack 4

After some wild swings by the defender (which largely miss) the first attacker throws a left cross. The defender slips this to the outside and throws his own left which connects.

Comment: This is the first evidence of simultaneous initiative, although it seems to be more a case of wild luck on his part and appalling fighting ability on the part of his opponents.

Attack 5

The defender finally succeeds in putting space between himself and his attackers only to be charged by one of the attackers who throws a straight right. The defender attempts to use simultaneous initiative by throwing a straight left.

However the left does not even come close to connecting. It does however deflect the attacker's punch quite neatly.

Comment: The defender's punch functions here as a deflection - not a counter. Accordingly this is a case of late initiative, not simultaneous or pre-emptive initiative.

Attack 6

The defender back-pedals further, putting sufficient distance between himself and his attackers so that they well out of the melee range. The attackers then start to charge him from out of range. This is the perfect time to use pre-emptive initiative (as per Motobu Udundi). And, given the appalling lack of skill of his attackers, this is precisely what he should have done (and did do).

The first attacker (in the white top) is first felled by a pre-emptive punch as he comes into range.

Comment: This is the first clear case of pre-emptive initiative.

Attack 7

The attacker gets up and charges again, this time with a dreadfully ineffective kick. The defender steps in and punches pre-emptively, knocking the attacker to the ground. This particular attacker remains motionless from then onwards.

Comment: This is the second clear case of pre-emptive initiative.

Attack 8

The final attacker also charges from outside the melee range. Again, the defender can easily see the attack coming and he steps in and punches the attacker pre-emptively.

Comment: This is the third clear case of pre-emptive initiative.


Against the 8 attacks the defender -
  1. used pre-emptive initiative only 3 times, and each of these attacks were charges from outside the melee range;
  2. used simultaneous initiative only once, in the melee range, however the deliberate use of this strategy is doubtful and its success is partly attributable to the totally inept nature of the attack;
  3. used late initiative 4 times, 3 times in the melee range and once outside it.
It is worth noting that the late initiative was exhibited in the early part of the fight when the defender was feeling overwhelmed in the melee. It was only against the highly telegraphed, charging attacks from outside the melee range that he was able to use pre-emptive initiative.

In this analysis I'm not attempting to argue the effectiveness of block/counter combinations; the defender is clearly not trained in deflection but rather exhibits some training in boxing. All I'm trying to do is show that late initiative (in the form of evasion - and in one instance, an unintentional parry/deflection) is not to be dismissed as a strategy that is of lesser importance than simultaneous or pre-emptive initiative. Far from compromising the defender's game plan, the use of late initiative bought the defender valuable time and space so that he could resort to pre-emptive strategies. Furthermore, late initiative was probably his only option at the early stages when facing the chaos of the melee and multiple opponents.

In other words, a trained boxer who, it is clear, was quite used to, and intent on, using simultaneous and pre-emptive initiative, was forced by the pressure of circumstances to default to late initiative exactly half of the time in this fight (the first half).

It is no use arguing that the variables in this case were unique and that otherwise he would have been able to resort to simultaneous and pre-emptive initiative from the beginning: every civilian defence encounter is likely to have its own such variables. I think this underlines the fact that in any civilian defence system, your first priority should be defence - be it in the form of evasion, or evasion with deflection (the traditional martial arts alternative). "Attack as defence" isn't enough.

Copyright © 2010 Dejan Djurdjevic