Before I say anything, watch this clip first but perhaps not at work or with kids around; it’s pretty brutal near the end. There are several clips of this event on the Internet but this one seems unedited.
Here’s what the press made of it a few days ago:
I saw first this video back in April when Mr. Blythe apparently put it on YouTube before retracting it quickly. From what I’ve found, he wrote as follows in the description section:
This dummy was in my shopping center while I was on a Bodyguard Job in Washington, DC. This guy was in the Pizza Hut eating pizza off the plates of others and the Pizza Hut Manager ran him out with a pistol. Later the very same day, police officers were called to remove him from a nearby pharmacy after having been caught reaching into customer’s purses. A short time after that, he visited a Napa Auto Parts store next to my Karate Dojo and told the management he planned on teaching in that Dojo and that Jesus taught him.
The Napa guys told him he was confused (their polite way of warning the man against such action), but not wanting to miss a show, they told the man they would close early just to watch and that he must not know the owner, which is nobody to play with.. Needless to say, the police pulled him out of the dumpster behind my Karate Dojo where he was neatly placed. Semper Fi to all my Marine brothers. The karate student in the white is also a Marine Sgt. and a brand new Black Belt. Never get stupid with a Marine, you could get jacked up and have your clock stopped.
I first heard of this via a mailing list I’m on and we discussed it at length there. As the clip then disappeared from YouTube, I forgot about it, until now. There are a couple of things I’d like to offer right up front as perspective :
- I wasn’t there and most probably, neither were you. So everything we know is second-hand information.
- Aside of the comment from Mr. Blythe I posted above, we don’t know much background information. That is, if we choose to accept his words as truth…
- A lot of what I’ve read on the Internet is in the vein of “I know a guy…” or “somebody who was there told me…” That’s third-hand information which could be right on the mark or way off base. Who knows?
- Video footage can be extremely deceiving. It paints a certain picture that isn’t necessarily what really happened. Again, we don’t know the context here.
That said, here’s what I saw:
- A seemingly deranged guy (Jesus is his master, etc.) is invited as a guest instructor by Mr. Blythe at his dojo.
- The guy shows no aggression towards the black belt. He states clearly he won’t touch him and doesn’t want to hurt him.
- He asks the black belt to stand straight and the black belt advances to attack him with a kick.
- The fight is on, goes on for a while, the guy acknowledges defeat and tries to surrender.
- The black belt keeps going and stomps the guy pretty bad.
- The guy is out and gets dragged outside right before the video gets cut.
- We get some commentary by Mr. Blythe and are treated to some more shots of blood.
Without a doubt, this is some disturbing footage. Even without knowing the context, the black belt is pushing things too far with the stomping: the last two licks he got in could have been killing shots. The way I understand the US legal system, and I’m no lawyer so take it for what it’s worth, there’s no way he can claim self defense here. I also don’t see any mitigating circumstances as the black belt attacked first.
Another aspect is how nobody seems to interfere at any point during the fight. There’s only some reaction when the stomping starts and even then. We can only speculate on why that is but I’d venture a guess and say that Mr. Blythe’s authority as head of the dojo prevented it, along with group dynamics at work.
But the really twisted part is how Mr. Blythe seems to have set it all up:
- He announces the guy as a guest instructor.
- He insists he work with the black belt.
- He doesn’t do anything when his black belt attacks without provocation.
- He doesn’t do anything to stop the fight.
I’ve invited numerous guest instructors to my school. If any of my students were to attack them like that, I’d land on them like a ton of bricks. So this all doesn’t add up and smells like a set up to me. The black belt seems to have carte blanche from his teacher to teach the guy a serious lesson. If that’s what happened, it’s pretty sick, twisted and disgraceful for a teacher.
But what if Mr. Blythe’s commentary is true? What if the guy was a bit of a loony tunes who harassed and tried to rob people? And more importantly, what if he had been claiming to teach at his school? Would Mr. Blythe have been justified to set him up like this? Did the guy need to be stomped that bad?
I don’t think so. There are other ways to handle the problem. But that doesn’t mean I don’t understand the dynamic at play. I touched upon this already in “How to visit another martial arts school or gym” so you might want to read that first.
The sad fact is that if you teach martial arts, you’ll have assholes come to your class. They can be subtle about it or in your face but the intent will be clear. Some people just want to test you and get away with it, others want to hurt you (and still get away with it). In my experience, very few people are willing to pay with their blood to mess with you in your own school. But they do exist. When a guy like that walks into your class, you have no way to know how far it’ll go. Will he leave if you smack him down when he challenges you or will that only escalate things? You can’t be sure either way. The only thing you do know is the guy is there to cause trouble.
If you teach professionally, you have a lot to lose if the guy beats you. Your school might lose a bunch of students because of it, especially when word gets out, or even go bankrupt. That would mean decreased or even no income for you and your family. As much as I feel you don’t have to beat a hostile visitor to a bloody pulp, I also feel he doesn’t have a right to take away your livelihood. Because that’s what could end up happening. Not would, could. But you won’t know which one it’ll be until the dust settles. So instructors tend to play for keeps when they get challenged in their own house.
Now I’m by no means defending Mr. Blythe’s actions, not at all. He should have handled the situation differently. But as is often the case, things aren’t black and white. We’ll probably never know the full context so all of this is pure speculation. But it just goes to show how things can end up pretty bad if you let them get out of hand. And then come back to haunt you over twenty years later…
Some clarification, another video and more thoughts in part 2.
UPDATE : Check out this webpage. They’re trying to get some justice in this case. I like this initiative a lot.