A defence against three muggers

 Practical outcomes of Chang Hong principles in real life


Around mid-March 2016, I was attacked by three muggers on Eastern Beach in East London.


I had woken up at around 4am to take a walk along the beach to catch the sunrise; it was approaching autumn so I wore a hoodie and a cap.


The main stretch is rocky, but becomes sandy towards the Northern strip, which is slightly isolated – an exit-only street lined with bars on one side and the sandy beach on the other side.


The beach side of the street is well lit but very quiet at that time of the morning.


As I went into this road, I noticed three vagrants walking on the other side behind me. They walked under the floodlights, which lit me up directly but kept them hidden.


I suspected they were following me, so I slowed down. They also slowed down.


One of them went up a dark staircase and spoke to a fourth guy. Then he quickly regrouped with the others to continue following me. I wasn’t too worried because the street was well lit and I had passed by a police vehicle, I felt safe.


Students demo double staff form


But then I saw some fires in the distant beach dunes and someone appeared from around the corner ahead of me, running.


That is when I decided to turn back. The police car was nowhere in sight; I started to panic.


As I walked back, I looked over my shoulder at the guy running and turned to see that one of the vagrants was crossing the street to my side of the street. Adrenalin pumped, I felt an ambush.


The person chasing me turned out to be just a morning jogger and he just ran past. At that same moment the one who had crossed the street walked towards me but jumped out of my way at the last second, pretending to dig in the dustbin. I pretended to be confident, while inside I was already crapping myself.


The two others crossed and tried to grab me as the one by the dustbin turned around to close in from the back.


I fought, deflecting the two in front of me so they couldn’t hold me, but no solid hits.


The third guy was nearly on me, so I jumped over the low wall onto the beach sand, where it was dark. They followed, happy that I was now an easy target on the beach. But my thinking was I didn’t want anyone else to see the commotion and come down to help his buddies.


On the beach, I decided to attack one of them full-on, so I’d have fewer to worry about.


I managed to take him down and with his back bent over my knee, I shot a few punches into his ribs. As I was about to him properly, I felt objects flying past my head – empty beer bottles. Bottles were everywhere on that beach.


A bottle hit my chest and bounced off without breaking, I let go of the first guy. He already had a bottle in his hand, so I took that from him, thank you.


The other two were launching bottles at me, I ducked; they missed. I bent over to pick up a second bottle, this one with the neck slightly broken. I held that one with my right hand in a reverse grip ready to stab and the other in a front grip, ready to club, break and then stab.


I swung, I missed, while ducking flying bottles from three attackers.


I saw another jogger, and thought I’d get some help. I dodged the flying bottles while running back over rocks and over the low wall back up onto the street.


The jogger ran past me, refusing to stop to help. I realised the way I was dressed (dark jeans, black hoodie, black cap pulled low) and holding a beer bottle in each hand, I did not look like a damsel in distress.


So I had to fight. I threw some kicks while holding the bottles. The three circled, moving around me just out of range, they had obviously done this before. I turned and ran – hard.


Then, realising they were chasing me just as hard, I turned. One of them had a rock and taunting me with swearwords, he threw it. He missed. Another had a metal rod and he threw it, he also missed; idiots.  At that point, I began to calm down as they were now all three in front of me, while I backed out of the avenue.


Suddenly, they slinked back up the dark steps back into the bushes where they lived. I turned to see the police car was back, lights flashing blue, not too far away. I was relieved and walked past the cop car, which had only parked to stop a drunken driver. I still held the bottles in my hands all the way back to the guest house where I was staying, adrenalin pumping through my system. I took a shower and I crashed out on the bed.


Now, many people have been attacked and even hospitalised by the violent vagrants of Eastern Beach.


A student defends an attack using the staff


I could have been badly cut, but these were the key things that helped me leave the situation without a scratch, although very breathless:


  1. Awareness is key

In addition to staying away from dodgy spots strewn with empty beer bottles, taking in the surroundings has become an instinct from the many years of training in our system. The small details I took in as I walked into the trap allowed me to make split second decisions, like the counter-intuitive decision to jump onto the beach where the fight would not attract more vagrants from the bushes where they lived.


  1. Always be moving

When dealing with multiple attackers I didn’t allow them to keep me trapped in one spot, especially when missiles were involved. Staying a moving target as they did the same, spinning, turning and going in for attacks, defences and counter-attacks is key.


  1. Position is key

Not allowing them to place me in the middle, I kept all my attackers in front of me, and kept the source of light behind me. Alternatively, wear a cap!


  1. Staying centred

The countless hours of training and focus on grounding and centred-ness probably helped out more than anything. I’m sure my attackers were confident that I would fall, especially on the beach. But our system does well to develop an great sense of grounding that even in panic and chaos, I was able to stay on my feet.


  1. Run if you have to..

There is no shame in running, especially when the instinct says so. There is a saying: “You can’t save your arse and your face at the same time” and in this case, I ran for my dear life. When the time came, I stopped running and turned to face my attackers again.


  1. Train harder

When I got back to the hotel, I wanted to go back and find those guys. It was only then that I realised how weak they were. At the end of the day the situation got me to train, not just harder, but smarter and with more intention. Not that I’ll be looking for trouble in the future, but if it comes, I’d like to think that I would have broken past the mental barrier of striking with full intent.


Students perform a choreographed sequence using the staff

It’s sad that there are places where we as people can’t walk freely for various reasons, but I’m grateful I was equipped with the Chang Hong training. It saved my skin, although I wish I had landed more decisive shots.