Seeing the Unseen -Anticipating the Opponent

Look Out for the Small Guy

I am a school teacher, and I’ve become very good at knowing when students are using cellphones, even though I can’t see them. From the student’s eyes, and the position of his hand and arm, I know that there’s a cellphone under the desk, or on the other side of his leg, even though the cellphone is hidden from my view.

One magician was performing one on one, dressed in a t-shirt, sandals and swim trunks, when he vanished a coin. The spectator replied, “I didn’t see you do it, and I don’t know how you got it there, but the coin has to be under your watch.” He was right.

In the martial arts and in street self-defense you can develop the ability to detect the opponent’s weapon or strategy, even when it isn’t visible. Let me give you some examples, beginning with one from the other day’s post:

  1. A gangster is sitting on one heel, with the other foot on the ground. He is making threatening statements, but since he’s crouching, and you’re towering over him, what could go wrong?
  2. A drug dealer is confronted by a smaller opponent. Because the short guy is wearing tight pants and a mesh shirt, he isn’t carrying a gun. No threat, right?
  3. A friend of mine who was a varsity lineman faces off against a short, skinny guy. The runt has his hands in his pockets. No danger here.

A Street Fight About to Go Down

In scenario number 1, the gangster is hard to hit, because you have to bend over. He’s hard to kick because he is a small target, and his arms and lead leg screen his body and head. His move will be to lunge into a tackle. If you are a cop with a gun, you are now in a struggle for your life, especially if you got overconfident and came in too close.

In scenario number 2, this was a real-life incident. What the drug dealer didn’t know was that his rival had a 9mm automatic at the small of his back. Lulled into complacency by the mesh shirt (“If he had a gun, I’d see it.”), the drug dealer was shot on the order of 8-12 times, and barely survived the shooting.

Scenario number 3 happened to a friend of mine in high school. Once again, he saw the tiny guy with his hands in his pockets, and thought, “No danger here.” I have to admit that my first guess would be that the guy is actually holding a weapon in his pocket, such as a folding knife, a gun, brass knuckles, or a roll of quarters, that he can pull out in an instant.

What actually happened was that the short guy launched a kick right at my friend’s groin, catching him completely off guard. Then he followed with several more kicks to the groin, then topped it all off with punches. My big, strong football-playing friend was beaten by a runt. I don’t even think my friend was able to throw a single punch.

What happened in each scenario was that one person got overconfident, and underestimated an opponent who seemed weak and non-threatening. Each person failed to see the obvious –although hidden– strategy his opponent was about to employ.

Learn to read the signs. Could that cup of coffee be thrown in your face? Could that cigarette be flicked at your eyes? What is behind the coat that’s draped over his arm? Is there a weight or razor blades fastened to his baseball cap that he’s gripping? He’s calling you out –Does he have gangbanger buddies you can’t see waiting to jump in?

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