“A wake up call? A moment of enlightenment?” by Jason Bird

As a doorman (Bouncer) in the UK for the past 10 years and Aikido practitioner for 15 years, I have always got by, been able to do my job, never really had many conflicts. By my own nature, I am known in my home town as being the calmest, nicest, polite but firm, non swearing and understanding doorman in the nightclub circuit. So I am able to get things done, ask people to leave, refuse entry, etc., purely by being me. Quite good I think. Anyway, sometimes it does go as they say “a bit pear shaped ” so variations of Nikyo, Sankyo, Yonkyo, Shihonage, Irminage are employed, not to their full effect I add, I would lose my job!! but purely to control the situation or enable me to carry out unruly, unwanted guests of the nightclub as a last resort when the talking has broke down and they really dont want to leave or they, without warning, attack me, or my colleagues or another guest.

So finally to my point, I have been over the last 2 weeks been updating my grading syllabus’, admin, help guides for students, welfare policies, the constitution and the list goes on. So being, only human after all, it has taken a lot out of me. Too much coffee, no real sleep, long training/teaching sessions, 6 nights a week as a doorman, not eating properly. Basically, 2 weeks at the computer. Well, you can imagine. To be honest, I do try and live healthy, my father was diabetic and with kindey failure till Oct 2007 when he passed, so to that end over the past 15 years I have improved my lifestyle dramatically. I only drink maybe 2-3 alchoholic drinks a week.

Saturday night Feb 7th 2009, around 01:45 am, a gent enters the club, a bit wobbly for drink, but not too bad really, slim build, shorter than me by a few inches. So my usual approach, “Hello, bud, £1.50 on the door til with the young lady please,” my usual smile and firmness used he paid. The gent then tried to open the doors to the lower bar which were locked as they are in the middle of re-furbishing that bar. He continued to rattle the doors, get angry and swear. So I gently go over and say “It’s the upstairs bar only tonight, bud. This bar is closed.” There was a HUGE sign on the door I must add.” “But I always drink in this bar, he said. “Sorry, bud, it is only upstairs tonight.”

Now this is where it goes wrong, he muttered something about me under his breath as he walked for 2-3 steps up the first part of the stair case. Something along the lines of me being someone without a father and other rude words, you get the general idea. So I step up to the gent and ask him what he said. I dislike people who mutter about you as they walk off, but me being me, I just ignore it, it’s only words after all. So he asks. “Are you kicking off?” “Not at all,” I reply, “but I would like you to say what you said to my face.” To this he just smiled, a smile which says “Oh I got you now, you are getting grumpy.” I said “Ok, bud, sorry but I am going to have to ask you to leave.” He grabs the hand rail. “Make me!” Well, you can imagine what happened.

For a split second I got grumpy, took his shoulder and elbow then proceeded to remove him from the rail, which ended up with me ramming him into a wall to take a safe arm lock and walk him out while he was slightly out of sorts. This was my first mistake. He spun around real quick as he rebounded off the wall and took hold of both of my elbows and jacket material as he dug himself into a corner. At this point I lost everything I ever knew or thought I understood, and it became a struggle. If it was not for my colleague who appeared I would have been there all night I think. The gent was eventually walked out. I lost the basic principle of central stability, moving the legs not the arms. Every basic principle went out the window, to the point where, when I got a hand free to release his hand off my right elbow jacket material, I had no strength at all. I found it hard.

So Sunday I am sitting at the computer again checking emails, and thinking, I was a prize fool last night over that. That moment of conflict became a struggle. I handled it wrong. I normally ignore people muttering under their breath, I lost all basics. Normally, I would let them walk by themselves, and if it takes 20 minutes to convince them to do that by talking to them then so be it. I agree that I was totally sapped before I even started work, as I mentioned I had been real busy and not looking after myself at all. So I was not at my most energetic or awake I would say.

But I think that the events as they unfolded from the point of where I grabbed his shoulder and elbow was a lesson. Not sure if it was a lesson in being non-aggressive, or a lesson in Aikido in some way or another. But it did make me think a lot. I did laugh to myself thinking, “Oh dear what a plank I was!” Maybe it was just the poor lifestyle over 2 weeks that made me grumpy and tired and what he did to make me ask him what he said just pushed the wrong buttons. Who knows, but either way I did have an important lesson that night. MY SMALL MOMENT OF STUPID AGGRESSION WAS MY UNDOING!!


  1. That’s interesting. What do you suppose, technically, he did to effect the lockup? Was it simply that you were off center enough to be locked? I spend a fair amount of time with my students on effective grabs. Most of them are only momentarily good. Was he wedged in to the corner anchoring himself?

  2. Hi Jason,
    You make a good point here I think. A single moment of agression usually carries with it a far more concentrated dose of consequence than weeks of co-operation. This wasn’t in Lowestoft by any chance, was it? ;0)

    As far as the ‘incident’ goes – Nearly all of us at some point in our Aiki careers will be involved in a situation that just doesn’t go to plan. I’m sure you’ve re-run the moment in your head a hundred times; even now I can recall a couple of ‘events’ that got out of hand and I still cringe, years later. It’s part of what we do – no one gets it right first time. I’m sure next time you’ll be even better prepared than you usually are.

  3. Hi Dunken, Hi Charles.
    Re-running the event over and over again, oh I would say so, and yes I do laugh to myself at my stupidity at being the aggressor, and that I went all “Pete Tong.” The events were unfolded in Weymouth at the Seafront nightclub I am head doorman for.

    I think that being locked myself, by the actions of the other gent, was caused by many things really. My tiredness and general bad demeanor/health over that week, maybe not using my full potential, the gent anchoring himself in a corner, oh the list a could expand on soooo much.

    Thank you for the good comments and wisdom(s).


  4. “The mind and the body are one.” –Koichi Tohei

    “Stiff mind, stiff body.” –Randall Hassell

  5. Jacques says:

    I was 1st kyû, whitch is no high level, weighing about 130 pounds, and I taught aikido in a little gym on a university campus in France. I had just created the dojo, whitch was no more than the permission to practise an a photograph of Ueshiba o sensei at the proper place during the training times. It was in the sixties.
    Some people enter the dojo suddenly and tell me “Come and hurry, the “lieutenant” is trying to take hold of a girl”. I was more then a bit afraid. The man was known as a more than violent one and bore the reputation of having been excluded from a training of paratroops for violence. He had more than once escaped a squad of policement who tried to arrest him, injuring some of them seriously. “If you don’t go I wil”, my girlfriend told me. She was a petite woman.”Moreover, if you don’t go, you’ll be finished as the teacher of aikido you claim to be”.
    So I went. The man was holding the girl by the hair and an arm. The karatekas of the karate club were circling him from a distance of 6 yards, and went bakwards wen he turned to face them. That had been the situation for about 10 min.
    What could I do against a main 20 pounds heavier than me, who was supposed to be an advanced fighter, with the kind of muscles that apparently go directly from the ears to the shoulders -no neck?
    I cried out to the too long present karatekas: “Out of the way or else!” The went away a little, say ten yards.
    Given my level in aikido, I knew that I was not able to sense a real fighter as long as he could hit me from a distance, without my having established a contact with him. So I went to him in a very non-martial way and put a hand on his shoulders, at the base of his neck, just where you put it on the second step of irimi-nage. There I felt that I could possibly sense and control him. I never knew whether I was right or wrong. Under my hand was a block of concrete.
    He seemed a bit surprised that anybody dared approach him that way. I told him: “You won’t have her that way, you are frightening her”. It suddenly was as if the concrete block had become a balloon going flat. He answered with the question “You think So?” I was as surprised as he was, but managed to say “Yes indeed”.
    He told me: “I want to speak to her a minute.”
    I asked the girl if she accepted, an I added that I would be here and control that he did’n exceed a conversation of two minutes. She accepted.
    I told the man “She’s willing to, but no more than two min.
    The things went exacly according to that contract.
    Then I and my girlfriend took the girl with us in my car. As she lived just across the street from the scene, we drove somewhere else for a moment, then went back to her building, and my girlfriend accompanied her to her door as I was taking watch at the entrance of the student home.
    For me I think it was a narrow escape. Physically seaking, the man could have hacked me to pieces.
    I was 20 then, I am 60 now. I can’t practise regularly now because I work curing people when my aikido pals train, and also because I am not as interested as before. Nevertheless I sometimes think of the incident , as well as to some two others situations, i.e. two hobbos finally going away from harrassing a very old man, one of them saying about me “let’s go, he does karate” -I suppose that they knew that I taught aikido at a french equivalent of ymca, and that they said “karate” because it seemed more virile and a better excuse for going away. And the other situation I’ve forgotten just now.
    So I remain doubtful about the relevance of the question “Is it or not effective in real fight?” and other debates comparing this or that sensei to the Gracies or Lebell or who else. I think that it’s not the question. After 30 years of practise, I had the opportunity of feeling the extraordinary strengh and stability of senseis like Tamura sensei, 110 pouns, whitch I could not move by an inch even as he was explaining a technique to a crowd of students a the same time. I also had the opportunity to feel the strengh of a master of calligraphy who could guide my brush without my being able of resisting even as he took it only by the upper end. The latter was a great man too, a real practitionner of ki and kokyû, and a former practitionner of sword, that he hadn’t practiced for quite a time, at the age of only 50 -so much for the legend of the samurais who turn zen or calligraphy when gotten very very old.
    I know nurses who don’t miss a vein when doing an injection, and that is probably even more interesting and valuable then any art of fighting even after it’s been turned to a physical philosophy.
    So on one hand I think that the intersting thing with Ueshiba o sensei was that he finally abandoned the fight itself (even if he continued to teach something else and radically different by means of the fighting techniques he knew so well). In that sense, the Way (Do) consists of becoming a nurse rather than staying a fighter, and O Sensei achieved it only half way.
    On the other hand, would I have dared prevent the girl from being taken hold of and being possibly raped by the “lieutenant” if I had’nt studied aikido.
    I’m now a psychologist close to retirement. I will have time to train again in aikido. Or not. Who knows?

Speak Your Mind