Would you save a stranger?

Steve Wildash recently wrote a very interesting post on his Systema blog about a program shown on British TV: Would You Save a Stranger? (Reviewed here).

Regular readers may remember that I have actually found myself making this choice – actually, it was almost exactly a year ago today! It was an incident that totally changed my approach to martial arts training, and made me realize that I couldn’t continue with forms-based training that had no practical elements…

What would you do?


  1. Standing at 1.6m and weighing in at about 50kg; and with no sparring / street fighting experience. I don’t think I stand much of a chance against a group of attackers. I’d probably call the police and see how else I can help in the meantime without resorting to fighting….. 😛


  2. Hi Emlyn, I read your previous entry. How did you manage to diffuse the situation then? Never know when your tips might come in useful…. 🙂


  3. Hi Kim,

    Well, I’m a bit taller, and rather a lot heavier, than you – but I also have no street fighting experience! At the time this happened, a year ago, I also hadn’t done any sparring for over ten years…

    As I mentioned in my previous post, there was a strong light above, and some distance to the next light, so the two guys and the girl were in a circle of bright light, which was surrounded by darkness. All I did was to move to the edge of that circle of light and stand still. My aim was to just send the message “I’m not getting involved here, but you need to know that you’re being watched, and there are witnesses”.

    The guys just went into a huddle to hide their faces; it took me a while to realize that they were going to stay that way until I left. That gave me the opportunity to suggest to the girl that she might want to leave, and she did. She went one way, I went the other, never saw any of them again.

    Calling the police wasn’t an option – my Mandarin is minimal, so I couldn’t have explained what was happening, or where I was…

    So, like I said, I got lucky. It may simply have been that fact that I was a foreigner that tipped it towards a peaceful ending. However, it was dumb nonetheless; if they’d decided to use force, I would have been in big trouble. That’s when I realized that I needed to find a kungfu school that actually taught fighting, not just forms….


  4. Hi Emlyn,

    Thank you for sharing. That was very brave.

    You are right about learning how to do actual fighting. Practise till it becomes reflex. I am glad you found a school that teaches that.

    I am going to start a course which I hope would go in that direction, even as I keep up with the Yoga to build my foundation.



  5. Hi Emlyn,

    Thank you for sharing. Not sure if you have my earlier response. But I think it is very brave of you to have gone to her assistance.



  6. Actually, from the facts as described, Emlyn, you handled the situation with just the right degree of intervention, allowing the woman to get away while maintaining a safe distance yourself, with the cover of darkness just a step away [the assailants’ eyes would take a second to adjust in pursuit]. In this case, at least, composure and situational awareness taking advantage of environmental factors were more important than streetfighting experience or knowledge of fighting techniques.

    In fact, having a lot of experience with street fights can indicate a certain lack of existential intelligence just as much as it can indicate rock ’em sock ’em toughness. Acquiring street-fighting experience often cultivates aggressiveness ill-suited either to street survival or well-executed intervention on behalf of others.

    Beijing has some rough neighborhoods. Stay safe out there.


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