Ritual combat between men, which tends to begin with questions such as "What's up? Have you got a problem?" or "Are you eyeballing me?" and increasingly often ends with kicks to the head and serious or fatal injuries, forms part of the wide-ranging topic of single combat. In his book ”On Single Combat” (1987) Grandmaster Kernspecht already wrote that the real fight takes place beforehand, and that the victor is already decided during the critical few seconds before the first blow is struck. For this reason Kernspecht carried out some research on the conflict behaviour of men. Some observations rocked his view of the world to its foundations, for he had previously been a follower of the Asian philosophy extolling the "mind like water", and believed that the calm, unexcited man who keeps a cool head will beat the hothead in a fight. After some time, however, he began to see the sense in "psyching up" and talking oneself into an angry frame of mind for a fight. During his studies, Kernspecht encountered rituals which go back hundreds of years and are instinctively familiar to any streetfighter, but which hardly any scientists have so far considered to be worthy of examination. However, these atavistic rituals govern the immutable processes that occur during most physical conflicts. Knowing them means knowing yourself and knowing your enemy. According to the famous Chinese strategist Sun Tzu, this is an indispensable prerequisite for victory. In fact, winning is not the object where Chinese Wu Shu is concerned, but rather preventing a fight in the first place. A fight always represents a loss, even if – like Pyrrhus – you are victorious. The object must be to limit the damage, i.e. to prevent violence from escalating even further. Preparation must not be exclusively devoted to the physical aspect of a confrontation, otherwise people who are not trained in the verbal and tactile phases, and who practice only "physical" but not "mental" self-defence, will be obliged to resort to even greater violence to resolve conflict situations, for "If my only tool is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail to me."




Interview with GM Keith R. Kernspecht about BlitzDefence


Could you briefly summarise again why competitions and sparring are not adequate pre-paration for a real-life threat on the street or in the disco?

Kernspecht: Certainly. Because ritual combat differs from a sporting bout or the classic challenge fight in at least 4 important ways:

1. There are no rules, no fair play, others can get involved, nobody prevents the opponent who has floored you or knocked you unconscious from kicking or maltreating you further.

2. The aggressor talks himself into striking range and attacks at very close quarters.

3. The attack takes place when a) you are unprepared for it or b) paralysed with fear. In other words: it starts without a signal from a referee.

4. You are not faced with a good-natured training partner but with an ”adrenaline monster” who has worked himself up into a rage. But you have neither learned to handle your own fears nor the naked, ferocious aggression you might encounter out there.


I am a WingTsun student and learn classical WingTsun. Looking at the amateurish pre-fight position in BlitzDefence with raised shoulders and practically helpless gestures makes me very irritated.

Kernspecht: As you have quite rightly seen this is only the PRE-fight position. During the fight itself we use the same techniques as always, namely effective WT solutions that have proved their worth in the most extreme circumstances. When things get serious it tends to be a disadvantage if the aggressor considers you to be dangerous and capable of defending yourself. He could call his friend(s) over to help him out, for example, or get hold of a weapon to gain the superiority he lacks. Deceiving the enemy about your real strength, distracting him and disguising your own tactics are the keys to success in battle, and the threat of violence is akin to a battle which has been imposed upon you against your will.  You should not try to look like a proud WT-fighter beforehand. Whether you have done your job well it will be apparent afterwards: if you have successfully managed to avoid a fight (3 points!), if you have not been obliged to strike a blow (2 points) or if you have been able to limit the damage with a single blow without injuring the aggressor more than necessary (1 point). After 40 years of practical experience, vanity before a fight appears to me foolish and naive.


You always used to say that a WT-fighter does not retreat. Now you are advocating cowardly and demoralising retreating steps.

Kernspecht Purely technically speaking, any retreating action constitutes a risk in WT terms unless the other man happens to be swinging a scythe to amputate your legs. But the technical aspect is only one amongst many. As a teacher it is also my duty to confront you with the legal interpretation of your right to self-defence. How you behave when the worst comes to the worst is entirely up to you, and you can only decide this on the spot, however you may be called upon to justify your actions in court. And if you want to win not only the first battle (the fight itself) but also the last, which takes place in court, you must ensure that you have acted in accordance with the law. Where there are witnesses this means using words (which nobody can hear in a disco), body language (empty hands = no weapons) and retreating steps to make it absolutely clear that you do not want to fight. You are only entitled to use the legal right of self-defence if you are quite clearly the one being attacked. But since the aim is to protect your own life in the final analysis, I can only give you my recommendations. You can and must set your own priorities yourself.



Grandmaster Keith Kernspecht