Martial Arts Training Saves A Student’s Life

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I received a call from a good friend in the martial arts, Sifu Robert Brown, who offers martial arts classes in two locations just outside of Detroit, Michigan. He called to tell me that his student, “Sun”, a computer consultant, was ambushed and nearly stabbed to death just after he had arrived at a client’s business location for a morning meeting. Below is an excerpt from a recent Meditation Class talk where I tell Sun’s story as it was described to me:


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Do you think it is important to take self defense classes? Can you imagine what it would be like if this random violent attack ever happened to you, or a loved-one? What would that be like? Would you prefer that you or your loved-one know what to do, or be guessing?


This could have been a terrible story with a very tragic ending. Sun could have become another statistic in Detroit, a city that has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country. And all he was doing is what he does everyday, computer in hand. It was a normal Friday morning, or so he thought.

You may be thinking, “But this is Detroit you’re talking about, right? Detroit is known for high crime rates and the whole state of Michigan has been in economic turmoil for years now. It’s much worse there than it is here.”

Are you sure? When times are toughest people can and will take drastic measures to survive. With the economic turmoil we’ve been going through the last few years crime rates have been rising. Let’s not take the naive route and say, “Well, that’s Detroit. Things like that don’t happen where I live.” Don’t be so sure. Locally, a very similar attack occurred just over a week ago right in Paramus, NJ. See the excerpt below from an article written by Karen Sudo and Monsy Alvarado, of The Record:

“The woman [a 19-year-old Bergen Community College student], who lives in Paramus, was found by a passerby at about 10:45 p.m. near Spring Valley Road and Route 4 in Paramus the night of Jan. 12, according to authorities.

She told police she was approached by a man on the steps leading from a bus stop on Route 4 west to the Spring Valley overpass, [Paramus Police Capt. Kenneth] Ehrenberg said.

The suspect took cash and two electronic devices – that had a total value of more than $200 – from her and stabbed her during the course of the robbery, Ehrenberg said. He then fled down the stairs and headed east on the Route 4 West, police said.”

When people hear about an event such as these there are generally two responses: It won’t happen to me, or it could happen to me.

If your response is the former, I wish you well and hope you’re right. But I have to wonder why you have insurance of any kind (beyond what is required by law)? Why would you waste your hard earned money on some other tragedy that will probably never happen to you either? In fact, the insurance companies bank on it. And they do very well taking the side that they do.

However, if your response was the latter, that you realize it could happen to you (and you buy insurance with that very same thought in mind), then why aren’t you taking self defense classes and/or getting trained in the martial arts to insure you are prepared just in case?

Learning to protect yourself should be a priority, but are all self defense classes created equal? How do you know?

There are those who believe that only self defense classes that teach strictly self defense, with a focus on physical combat and reality-based scenarios with mock attackers dressed up like the Michelin Man, is the only way to actually learn how to defend yourself.

This may or may not be very effective. A well-designed course will teach a student some possible options. Hopefully, the student will be able to recall these options in the moment of truth, if it ever comes. It will give an experience of contact and to keep thinking in the heat of the moment. It can be a very good short-term experience. However, how many attacks happen just like these prearranged scenarios?

Are these kinds of self defense classes a real viable solution? A weekend warrior course approach, be it a few hours to a few weeks worth, while certainly offering possible answers and even physical defenses to immediate danger, over time, how much will you retain? And, what kind of shape will you be in if you ever actually have to physically use it? Would you hurt yourself even trying?

There are others whose focus is combat sport and training to fight, be it for tournaments such as UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) or other full-contact MMA (mixed martial arts) events, or specifically for self protection. It is all about the physical and violent side. The student who takes this approach to training should be very well prepared for violence, and… ready to use aggression with any threat to the ego or to fight at the drop of a hat.

Is this approach to learning how to defend the most practical way to go? Isn’t it the most popular? I’d say that although MMA has been building up quite the fan base, it is primarily fans, who, like their ancient Roman counterparts, love to watch the gladiators go at it… and why no more than 1-1.5% of the U.S. population is ever actually training in the martial arts.

Does it work though, if you ever need it? Well, it should, but one major difference between tournament fighting, any kind of tournament fighting, and the reality of criminal violence is the preparation: you know you are going to fight. Sun didn’t have that benefit. Neither did the 19-year-old woman.

And if you did become a vicious fighting machine, hardened by combat and ready for anything so to speak, consider the following:

Do you remember Maurice Parks, the forty-year-old “muscle-bound jujitsu black belt”, who was attacked by three men in Harlem and is currently serving thirty years for the stabbing murder of Flonarza Byas, the good Samaritan who tried to help him? Parks was hit over the head with a blunt object and stabbed in the stomach himself. He mistook Byas for one of the attackers.

I also know of a well-trained ex-marine who turned the table on a would-be mugger. He killed his attacker and is currently serving twenty years for manslaughter.

Can a human being seriously be held accountable for his actions even in the midst of the chaos of a life-threatening attack? Apparently, yes.

I would argue that those who charged and prosecuted these individuals have never experienced anything close to what these two men faced. They do not understand the most basic physiology of survival or what a dump of adrenaline can do to someone in a life-threatening situation. But I digress…

Can we really be expected to still exhibit restraint? Is it possible to control ourselves during a life-threatening attack? Can we successfully defend ourselves and NOT end up in prison?

Sun did.

The thing is, Sun was not training for tournaments or trophies. He did not take a weekend self defense course. He was, however, realistically prepared because he was training for nine years in real martial arts.

Real martial arts? Isn’t it all real?

Martial arts were created to “stop the violence”: to physically defend IF or WHEN necessary as well as to conquer and perfect the inner self in the process. Real martial arts classes include self defense, but also so much more. A well-designed martial arts curriculum not only teaches practical self defense, it changes lives.

And how do martial arts classes do this? How is real martial arts any different from the combat sports or reality-based self defense classes? Real martial arts must include training for the mental/emotional and spiritual side of the student. It must train the mind as well as the body. Martial arts classes that include awareness training, breathing control and meditation as well as realistic physical technique is what you’ll need for truly practical self defense that protects you before, during and after the attack.

That is how and why Sun was able to not only survive the attack but also not over-react and end up with a legal battle that could end up with him bankrupt and in prison. He used his breath. He kept his mental and emotional state in check. He maintained control in the midst of life-threatening chaos. And he made it home to his 18-month-old son who won’t have to go through life with out his father, because of regularly attending his martial arts classes.

After the attack, Sun said to his teacher, Sifu Brown: “Usually martial arts helps my life, but today it saved my life.” members can access the complete Meditation Class talk, which includes a thorough analysis of the attack, the response, as well as very practical “ABC” advice for personal safety and self defense. Click here to login or get your membership.

Have an opinion on this or experience to share? Let us know by leaving a comment below!




Shifu Ahles
Shifu Raymond Ahles, the owner and Chief Instructor of the Blue Dragon School, is a certified instructor of Ba Gua Zhang Kung Fu & Chi Kung and a 7th Generation Lineage Disciple in the Ch’iang Shan Pa Kua Chang Association. In addition to his 30 years plus teaching experience in the martial arts, Shifu Ahles also holds a B.S. degree in Exercise Physiology, he’s a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and has an extensive background in the healing arts of Oriental Medicine including certifications in Advanced Amma Therapy, Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture. He is a licensed Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist in NJ.




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