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6 Real-Life Martial Arts and Self-Defense Stories


Photo Credit: Flickr user, Akban Martial Arts Academy

For most people, martial arts is something Jet Li or Chuck Norris practices on screen. It’s as far from real life as going to space. But for those who practice martial arts and self-defense on a daily basis, they know that it can not only be part of one’s daily routine, but it can be the most crucial component of it. Hopefully, it won’t take a violent encounter to help one realize that anyone can — and should — make martial arts or self-defense a part of their life.

If you’re not convinced, then maybe real-life examples will help change your mind. Here are six stories of real people who saved their own asses with their martial arts or self-defense training.

MMA Fighter Beats Home Intruder ‘With Mercy

This October, a burglar got one hell of a surprise when he tried to break into Dan LaSavage’s Milwaukee home. LaSavage, whose name alone could instill fear into the hearts of men, is an MMA fighter and founder of Combat Corner, which makes martial arts equipment. LaSavage had just put his 3-year-old daughter to sleep when he encountered 47-year-old Richard Melville, a career criminal. When Melville charged at LaSavage, the pro fighter’s training instincts kicked in and he put the burglar in a choke hold, forcing him to pass out.

“I did beat him pretty good, but I beat him with mercy,” LaSavage told Wisconsin’s WISN 12 News. Like any good martial artist, LaSavage applied just enough force to neutralize the threat, but didn’t injure his opponent excessively. But the most important takeaway here is that LaSavage took his MMA training out of the ring and into real life to save both himself and his young daughter.

“If people can do that for themselves,” LaSavage told the news outlet, “it will put them in a much better situation than just hoping someone else is going to protect them or save them.”   

Krav Maga Saves Family Man From Armed Burglars

Sometimes home intruders aren’t as easy to fend off, especially when they’re armed with a weapon. But one Santa Ana, California man was armed with something far more effective: Krav Maga. In September, two men broke into Erickson Dumaual’s home, where his wife and child were sleeping, and tried to burgle him at gunpoint. However, with seven years of Krav Maga under his belt, Dumaual was able to quickly and effectively disarm the gunman as soon as he looked away momentarily. When the man continued charging, Dumaual shot him in the leg and dragged him to the pool. The other burglar ran.

Not only did Dumaual make the police’s job a lot easier by stopping the perps in their tracks, but he also potentially saved the lives of him and his family.

MMA Fighter Vs. 4 Attackers

Last January, MMA fighter Joseph Torrez of New Mexico received a phone call threatening to kill him and his family. The caller then showed up to Torrez’s home with three accomplices. What they didn’t expect was a brutal fight that would leave one of them dead. Torrez, who maintains he was defending his life and the lives of his fiancée, son, and another woman, ended up stabbing one of the assailants to death and leaving severe facial injuries on another. The other two assailants fled.

Though Torrez faced charges in the death of one of the attackers, in a scenario where the other person explicitly expressed an intention to kill him, all he did was make sure that didn’t happen.

Showdown at Baskin-Robbins

In 2010, an armed robber burst into a local Baskin-Robbins in Portland, Oregon hoping to walk out with cash from the register. Seeing just one person behind the counter, he probably thought it’d be a quick and easy job. However, he underestimated employee Gabe Sutherland, who had been taking Aikido classes for just three months but was already proficient with a very useful disarming technique. Sutherland was able to twist the gunman’s hand and take the gun away from him, forcing him to run out of the store. This example just goes to show sometimes you might need to use your training at the most unexpected places, like Baskin-Robbins.

58-Year-Old Woman Fights Off Rapist With a Pen

This story proves that you don’t need formal training to defend yourself, just the natural instinct to survive. In 2007, a 58-year-old woman was praying in a chapel when a male suspect attempted to force himself on her allegedly to rape her. She had been taking notes in a journal with a pen, and when the man started to assault her, her she channeled her inner Jason Bourne and  stabbed the man several times in the neck with her pen. He quickly retreated.

Even though she was no professional MMA fighter, the woman had two very important skills: a survivor’s instinct and ingenuity for turning common objects into weapons. Never forget that just about anything can be used to strike an attacker.  

MMA Fighter Caught on Video Stopping Robbers

In yet another case of applying MMA training to real life, a Houston gas station clerk gave two robbers a rude awakening last July when they tried to steal from his co-worker. Mayura Dissanayaka, a semi-professional MMA fighter who says he was a national champion in his home country of Sri Lanka, was working behind the counter when he saw his co-worker returning from the bank with a money bag. Suddenly, two men jumped him and attempted to steal the cash. That’s when Dissanayaka intervened and dealt the men some well-trained punches and kicks, knocking one of the assailants out cold.

Dissanayaka told Houston’s local news channel KPRC, “We learn how to punch, how to kick and all that stuff you can use in the streets.”