Almost fight - me vs. homeless man

I want to share a story with you. I almost got into a scuffle two days ago with a homeless man on the subway in NYC. I was going to work, the car I was in was about a quarter full at 7:30 in the morning. I was sitting and my backpack was on my lap.

Funny thing I preach on the forums about awareness, avoidance, verbal de-escalation, non-violent body postures, etc being influenced from Coach Blauer's PDR manual and reading some of the threads from the Mental Edge forum. When it came right down to it, I didn't do any of it. I know that in big part it's because I don't train it enough. Heck, I don't have much time training due to family and work. When I do have time to train, it's informal in a park. My training partners and I work on "self-perfection", i.e., technique and some conditioning. Through past email discussions with an experienced friend who is big on Coach Blauer's material, he has convinced me that for my goals of self-defense, I should really work on "self-preservation" (awareness, verbal skills, scenario based training, etc). In a streetfight, technique is not that important. He goes on to quote loosely Erik Paulson from a recent MA mag as saying that one streetfight is equal to one year's worth of training.

Back to the "encounter". It's nothing spectacular. A homeless man boards the train with a knapsack and not the usual assortment of "bags". I'm playing chess on my Palm Pilot with my stylus (good impromptu weapon and no worries about deployment, it's already out!). The homeless man gets up and walks over in my general direction. In my peripheral vision I noticed him walking over. I go to code orange. I have already Detected him. He just stands near me and yelling nonsense. His speech was slightly slurred. He did not reek like most homeless people. He did not smell like he was drunk. I put away my Palm in the inside pocket of my jacket (a tactical mistake IMO as I just put away a weapon, the stylus – I attached a monetary value to the Palm Pilot and chose to keep it safe). He sees this and starts mouthing off about something and making hand motions mimicking me like he's reaching for a gun. I look at him and just give him a nod and a smile. I remain calm. My knapsack is in front of me in case he happened to come up with a weapon as this would serve as armor of sorts. His hands were in plain sight. He is pretty much challenging me despite me not understanding what he is saying. I still smile. All throughout I did not experience an adrenal dump. I was ready for a preemptive strike with Closest Weapon/Closest Target – I had a shin kick and a punch/grab to his groin. He had a footstomp and a swing to my head/face.

I chose not to speak to him and tried to ignore him by breaking eye contact. That made it worse. I should've tried to Defuse the situation with choice speech, but I had nothing for this situation. I visualize and sometimes train vs a belligerent mugger type as opposed to a homeless person. He punched the subway car wall behind me about a foot and a half away from me. At this I think my ego kicked in and I would not back down. Stupid me! In hindsight and we know hindsight is 20/20. I punched the wall also to show him I was not intimidated. He continues to mouth off and I did not understand him. I give him a way out to save face, I walk away to a nearby seat. At that moment, the train was at a stop and people walk in. Someone was near his seat and bag and he looked back as if someone was going to take his bag. I saw this and suppressed a chuckle as I could've popped him one but I decided to walk away. He turned back to me and this time I think he said words to the effect, "Yeah, that's right. Run away. You're scared of me." When I heard that, I knew there should be no more problems with him. I gave him a way to save face, despite the people on the train being regular people going to work and they not being his "crew/posse", so in reality, he did not really need to save face.

Throughout this whole "encounter", all eyes on the train were on us, but I'm sure if the crap hit the fan, no one would help me. This is NYC after all. If they are not known to you, they would not risk their lives helping you, and I knew no one on the train. He goes back to sit down protecting his bag. He is still talking loudly, but is a little subdued as there are more people on the train which is about half full. I am still in code orange and I look at the ads that are above. This allowed my peripheral vision to monitor him. About 2 stops later, he leaves the train. I stayed in my seat and craned my neck to check him out. I lost sight of him. I wasn't sure if he got into the next car or made the connection to the express train. I remained alert. I should've sat in the seat opposite of me so I can monitor him and tactically, I should've but I didn't. I do not carry weapons of the traditional kind. I have a few pens and a mini-maglite which I immediately made available by sticking 2 pens in my shirt pocket and sliding the mini-maglite into my sleeve so that I can have it drop into my hand if need be.

For the next few stops, I remained vigilant to see if he got back into my car or not. When it was my stop in midtown to leave to go to work, as I departed, I scanned both directions to be sure he was not around. As I left the station and got into the street, I was pretty sure he was not around and dropped back down into code yellow.

After this personal debriefing and I reflect upon the whole event, I see I need to really train against all types and not fixate on just the mugger. I made some tactical mistakes in my opinion and well, like G.I. Joe used to say, "Knowing is half the battle." so I've learned from this experience. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm easy-going and most of the time, I'm "ego-less". Well, until it's the heat of the battle, I really did not know myself. Sun Tzu in the Art of War said something like, "Know yourself, and one hundred battles you will win." I am learning about myself.


Good introspective analysis of the event... Most importantly, everyone walked aways sans injury, legal trouble, or ethical difficulties. The additional good news is that you had a 'relatively' safe encounter that shined a spotlight on your training and mindset. Tony continually reminds us that while we 'ooh' and 'ahh' at so many of his concepts, drills and tactics - he learned them through contact - not in the classroom. The point being that ultimately, as much as we preach something, we still have to practice it... :-)

Last week I went to visit a friend who runs a number of different DT programs for LEO's, plus trains K-1, MMA, etc. I showed up at the start of their grappling class thinking I would join in. That lasted about 30 seconds before I started tweaking what my partner and I were doing to emphasize groundfighting for the street. It's all about what you choose to focus on... As I was talking to a couple of the guys after the class, I told them that I love to grapple, I love the athletic "chess" component, but I'm married, have a job, three small kids and a life. I don't have time to train for anything other than what I believe makes me and my family safer.

If you are familiar with the Cycle of Behavior from Tony's material, he has an incredible exercise using the COB to debrief a confrontation. Maybe he can comment on that when he gets a chance.

Thanks for the story.


"In combat....only the result counts" TCMS Maxim

First and foremost you got through the confrontation safely and without harming yourself or someone else.

Throughout your post I can see that your personal "de-brief" identifies the desirable and less desirable moments. This is key to building success and competence/confidence, not only in your training but in your evolution as a martial artist.

The Three Golden Rules "Applied"

1) Acceptance - According to your post above, you were never in denial with what was happening. You were always "in-action".

2) Get Challenged – Throughout each progression of your confrontation you created a strategy that supported the most desirable end result, "your safety."

3) Don't Stop Thinking - There were definitive moments where you had to keep a step ahead of your advesary in order to enhance your position. You were analyzing your CWCT in relation to his and vice versa. You were thinking about improvised weapons, escape routes and proximity sense.

The most important part of your story was clearly identifying what went right and what areas you need to work on in training. Also remember to build upon the success and evolve.

A question that Coach Blauer always asks in a training session is " Would you rather be competent or confident?" Ponder that for a moment.

TCMS Maxim "We build substance." The how and why it works.


Where are we attacked first??

Does static training address this reality?


1) The three T's – Tools, Tactics and Targets

2) The three I's – Instincts, Intuition and Intelligence

3) The three Arsenals – Emotional, Psychological, and Physical

4) The three D's – Detect, De-fuse, Defend

This is just a formula for you to look at in relation to your confrontation (I am sure you relaize all of these components existed). Analyze it further and dissect the micro- moments from his intention (pre-contact cues) to the action ( verbal assault and intimidation tactics).
From there Replicate each phase of the confrontation introducing all the possible murphy moments. "By training off balance theoretically we are always on balance." T. Blauer

You can take the BTS L.A.R.D principle as well to formulate the different levels of violence that could have happened given the same circumstances you posted above.

1) NVP – Tac Comm

2) NVP – Tac Comm – to Stun and Run

3) NVP – Tac Comm – to Stun and Control

4) NVP – Tac Comm - to Lethal Force Options

You replicate scenarios that will have the ingredients to allow you to work through each phase of the Live Action Response Drill.

This was an awesome story and one that all of us can learn from. Everything we encounter can always be dissected and analyzed by Coach Blauer's training formulas. Most people do not go through the "de-brief", they would rather move on and not think about it again. I am glad you did.

Robb Finlayson, PDR Team

Coach Cobb,

first, thank you for your reply.

"The point being that ultimately, as much as we preach something, we still have to practice it... :-) "

LOL @ myself for being hypocritical of others and yet i don't practice what i preach :-)

"I'm married, have a job, three small kids and a life. I don't have time to train for anything other than what I believe makes me and my family safer. "

i, like you, have 2 kids, oldest is 4 yrs old mid-march i will have a 3rd child. i know what you mean. i don't have time to train as training opportunities are harder to come by for me. i have to maximize my time and streamline my training towards real-world self defense. but unlike you, i don't have the experience/skills you have under Guro Plinck and Coach Blauer. i'm but a beginner.

Coach Finlayson,

i thank you for your reply. i have much to ponder and mull over from it. regarding the components of the confrontation, i do know the components but do not have the "names" and "formulas" to explain them. i am glad Coach Blauer is able to share his research with us. funny thing, when he first came on this forum, i've lurked here religiously (and when i first found out he was on Mousel's), then i got busy with "life" (marriage, kids, work, etc) and stopped coming by. lately, i am rethinking my training and gearing it towards real-world self defense and trying to maximize my training time. so, i'm back :-)



I think it takes real experience, like what you just went through; to really appreciate what Tony calls the Emotional and Psychological Arsenals.

He states that the first fight is always you and you. A subtle yet very important point.

Just yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who has owns a Karate and Jeet Kune Do school, has worked as a professional bodyguard with DeBecker Inc. and has faced guns, knives and multiple attackers in the street. His comment was, "I'm just as scared today as I was when I first started training."

Even with all his formal training he has never had formulas for dealing with fear or learned specific methods for developing the emotional, psychological and verbal arsenals, which are cornerstones of Mr. Blauer's research and teaching.

Thanks to Tony, we have that knowledge.

I think you handled yourself quite admirably. You were certainly dealing with F.E.A.R. and thinking tactically. It seems to me like you have learned quite a bit about the TCMS system and more importantly, were able to employ much of what you have learned.

The end result?

1.Both you and your attacker walked away unharmed.
2.You have some real insight as to what you need to train for.
3.Your Palm Pilot is still intact.

Thanks for the story Stick. And thanks Tony for helping us all deal with realities of the street.

Take Care,

Mike Suyematsu/PDR Coach


What are you doing picking fights w/ the homeless!!! Fie on you! ;-)

I'm glad you made it out OK and that noone had to get hurt. If he was genuinely homeless and you got in a row with him something infectious could have been transmitted to you.

I would just like to clarify that the Technical aspect of a street thug is not high, but he makes up for it in his overall strategy and EFFECTIVE tactics. Technique IS important.

It just should not gobble up your training time if your only goal is Civilian Preparedness and NOT MMA, where the technical training is a must and SHOULD gobble up lots of your training time.

When I quoted Paulson, it was to emphasize that the experience and feedback that you gain in self-evaluation in a full-contact experience (streetfight, training, etc.) is condensed.

Coach Blauer's material should help you re-focus on your priorities and address those tactics and strategies encountered out of the gym environment. His equipment (High Gear) will allow you to get as close as possible to that "Street Fight" and "condensed" feedback and experience as you can without actually being in a violent & life threatening encounter.

This is my opinion, taking my training experience w/ his equipment, going over his material w/ partners tempered w/ my real life encounters.

All the best & stop picking on the homeless!

GOod thoughts all around.


Coach Suyematsu,

thank you for the reply.

"He states that the first fight is always you and you."

this is very profound for me and relates to the oft-quoted Dan Millman one and it relates for me to the Sun Tzu quote of know oneself.

i whole-heartedly agree we all have to thank Coach Blauer for his sharing of his research/experience.


LOL well you know i don't have much time to devote to training, so kill 2 birds with one stone: go to work and pick a fight with someone for training :-)

seriously, i do not go around looking for fights, but this incident found me and luckily we both got out in one piece.

"I would just like to clarify that the Technical aspect of a street thug is not high, but he makes up for it in his overall strategy and EFFECTIVE tactics. Technique IS important.

It just should not gobble up your training time if your only goal is Civilian Preparedness and NOT MMA, where the technical training is a must and SHOULD gobble up lots of your training time.

When I quoted Paulson, it was to emphasize that the experience and feedback that you gain in self-evaluation in a full-contact experience (streetfight, training, etc.) is condensed."

sorry for misquoting you in my original posts. you know how memory is. had a chance to watch MEMENTO and one of the messages of that movie is that memory can be unreliable. again, my sincerest apologies for misquoting you.