I read with interest peoples opinions on kata, self-defence, combat sport etc. We never seem to see though if the skills they have trained in really helped, as people are reluctant to share practical experiences for fear of either being seen as a braggart or a fantacist.
I'm neither and I appreciate my experience is limited. But to start the thread off I'll post my worst brawling experience here and the lessons learnt. Maybe others will add their own.
The Tavern in the Town in 1970's Leicester was a rough pub that served as a staging post for the Leicester City mob, always identifiable by their blazor badges of 'Semper Eadem', the city motto. The bar area upstairs was friendly enough, but the disco downstairs was more rough. If you were known you got in easily, but the doormen kept a watchful eye at the head of the stairs. The only way in or out was one staircase. There was a fire exit downstairs that was chained up (This was before the terrible Stardust tragedy in Dublin that saw the laws changed) There was supposed to be a doorman on duty there to open up in an emergency, but he was usually trying his luck with a female somewhere and away from his post.
On one particular night the doormen must have been asleep because about a dozen strangers came in (rumour had it they had paid them off) and started looking for Sid, a local lad that had been involved in a fight in the Palais the week before. They found him and tried to drag him out, Sid's friends intervened ...
There followed the worst 15 or so minutes of violence I have ever experienced. Everyone was armed with bottles or glasses, soon thrown in the Braveheart archery style. ("Beg pardon sir! Won't we hit our own troops?" "Yes, but we'll hit their's as well")
As I didn't know Sid I decided it wasn't my fight and that leaving via the stairs was the sensible option. To do so was impossible so I started pushing people out of the way. That rapidly escalated into violence as everyone had the same idea and took umbrage at being moved further from safety. Before long, everyone was involved. Some fighting to get at Sid. Some fighting to defend Sid. Some fighting to escape. Some fighting to escape first. (I was in the latter group)
So on to the crux of things. What worked? First, keeping your hands up. Flying glass was a danger so grabbing people with both hands left your head exposed. Second, keeping close. Not that you had a choice. A scrum for the stairs meant kicking was out of the question. Third, jawline strikes. Nothing got people out of the way better than a smack in the mouth. Not pulling them, not throwing them, not groundwork, a good old fashioned smack in the mouth, repeated as neccessary. Luckily for me I was standing drinking with a lad called (ironically) Rocky who was a first rate boxer and in that environment he was ace. He must have knocked half a dozen down and cut a path to the stairs. We followed stamping on people and adding punches/elbows/knees of our own.
We luckily got up the stairs and out before the police arrived, but the OiC and 3 PC's took one look at the mass of bodies still fighting downstairs and wisely stood guard at the top until things had calmed down. A stream of ambulances followed. The saddest thing was seeing lots of girls who a few minutes before had been dancing happily being led up stairs with blood pouring from cuts. Throwing glasses is the most gutless way of pub fighting imaginable.
Did my training help?
After the initial "Oh shit!" I felt as I saw things getting ugly I just concentrated on hitting people. Unlike some I was not swinging wildly but seemed to be able to pick my targets. I won't brag or lie and say I dropped loads. Even those I did might have been drunk or otherwise restricted so I take no pride in it. My strikes seemed to do the job though and apart from a cut on my head from flying glass I was unscathed. I was seventeen years old and had been training for two years. I didn't think about what to use or where. Training at the time was repetition, repetition, repetition, so things just came naturally.
Main lesson: I stopped drinking in the Tavern in the Town.