I’ve studied martial arts for about 15 years (with Guro Bob Breen since 2010) and too many martial arts stories focus on experiences of getting beaten up or where you’ve managed to defend yourself and become the beater. I thought I’d share something different…
My wife and newborn travelled to Amsterdam to see a good friend. We were staying in a gorgeous 2-bed apartment in the Old South next to the scenic Vondelpark, booked through Airbnb. My wife and I had the master bedroom and there was a small bedroom for my baby girl, perfect for a travel cot.
Temperature was steaming at +25°c so we slept with the windows and juliet balcony open in this safe and tranquil area.
We were all asleep on our second night and at 2am my wife woke me up saying that there was someone in the apartment. I woke slightly hesitantly thinking this was the normal protective mothering instinct after hearing an ordinary background apartment noise, but I was nonetheless ready to investigate to put her mind at ease.
“Look, the light has gone on” she said. With our door slightly ajar (so we could hear our baby), the hallway light was indeed streaming in. As I was getting up, we could see through the gap in our door that the other bedroom door was opening and my wife turned to me shocked, “He’s going into the baby’s room!”
No training in the world can prepare you for the helplessness, despair, anger, fear, adrenaline you feel when you realise a stranger has snuck into your sleeping baby’s bedroom in the middle of the night.
I shot up and as quickly and quietly as I could, moved towards her room. In my head, I knew ‘it was on’ but I had no idea what that meant I would do. I’m not a seasoned street-fighter by any means but I’ve been in enough real fights to know that instinct, reactions and training just all kick into gear at once – you don’t think, your body just goes…
I crept into the room and a man was just standing there looking at the bed where my 4-month-old baby girl was peacefully sleeping. He had his back to me and must’ve been about 6”1’, well built with grey hair – and this stranger was standing in-between me and MY child.
It was a small room with wardrobes blocking either side of him with no option to get around. All I wanted to do was to hurt this man and get to my child.
There was too much risk to just attack – what if he fell forwards onto my baby? What if he had a knife or worse? I can’t see. If I took him via a rear choke and fell back, a bigger guy would be on top of me in an area with no space. I wasn’t consciously thinking these things but I’d hope my brain and instinct did all these calculations and concluded that we just needed to get this intruder away from my child.
Guard up, stance ready I firmly but quietly said, “What – the hell – are you doing?”
The man spun round, startled putting his hands up and responded, “I’m the owner, I’m the owner”
I wasn’t really paying attention to what he said – I was just waiting for that one signal, that one aggressive piece of body language that would force me to launch into him.
“GET – OUT” I said. He gestured that he understood and I started to back out, still facing him and very much still with my guard up.
As I led him into the lounge, my wife darted into the bedroom to see to our baby (who was still sound asleep).
I argued with the man in the lounge for about half an hour, hands were still up, rear heel was still up – ready, albeit in just my boxers.
He managed to prove that he was in fact the owner and just came back to pick up his tennis gear. At 2am!!! These bloody laid-back Dutch!
Transpires that in the small print of my booking, unbeknownst to us, it said that the owner does occasionally come back, and we shouldn’t have had access to that spare room despite the Airbnb host unlocking it and showing it to us.
A lot of what Guru Bob teaches through 4D Combat is deciding when to fight (attack or crash), when to fence / cover (essentially parry / block) or when not to engage if the fight is not on your terms. This situation was certainly not on my terms and my instincts told me not to engage, yet.
People talk about martial arts saving their lives – this usually relates to a physical altercation. This was the exact opposite. Is this instance, the confidence I’d gained from martial arts and subsequently in my own ability allowed me to stay calm and highly focused in the face of chaos, and NOT follow my overwhelming urge to lay into this guy – this definitely saved my life. I just wanted him out of that room and not in-between my baby and me. Had I ripped into him, I could well be serving a heavy jail sentence for smashing a man up in his own home where the small print of my rental agreement allowed him to be there.
Some people say I’m lucky, but when you train with one of the best in the world it’s amazing how much luckier you become.
Train hard, train safe and don’t forget your most powerful weapon – your brain.