Lee Hollins


Published July 2012

Life is beautiful, delicate and above all else fragile… But beware.. that precious chance that you are given can destroyed in an instant; snuffed out by the brutal application of a clumsy fist, or the savage steel kiss of a careless blade. Life then is just left to bleed out across the dirty, uncaring concrete...
Surviving The Streets
Recently the news wires were alive with the case of a 56-year-old diplomat who lost his eye during a failed attempt to steal his blackberry; an attack that took place in broad daylight as he took a short cut on the way to a dinner party. He is not alone. According to the Office of National Statistics street robberies are up by 10 per cent, totalling nearly 100,000 recorded incidents. The amount of robberies involving knives are also up by nine per cent to 15,552 incidents. Danger undeniably exists on the streets.
Surviving The Streets
In the case of the diplomat why did he fall victim to violence? Was it a poor decision? A lack of risk awareness? Or the absence of a viable response plan? Surviving such high risk encounters is now no longer just the preserve of the high risk operators; door staff, bailiffs and law enforcement personnel. The skill set required to manage such risks is now on the wish list of a growing number of individuals sensitised to danger, passing through or living in challenging environments, or interacting with those people whose first language is violence. Welcome to the world of urban safety training.
Today, in Bunker 23, ACE-PST are proffering a solution; a survival toolbox that you can use to configure a defensive lifestyle that is a "best fit" for you. The course is hosted by Lee Whittington. Lee is a veteran of the safety training arena, having worked within various prison and custodial settings, before carving out a career delivering corporate safety training across the UK and as far afield as Jordan, Oman, Beirut, Armenia and Russia. Whittington is clear about the programme objectives: "We're interested in developing real skills. It's not about teaching people to spar, or execute traditional martial arts techniques. It's about safe living and where necessary doing what you need to do to keep safe."
Surviving The Streets
The course is a mixture of theory and practical. The theory element draws on a wealth of published research covering the analysis of various types of attack, data on reaction times and the efficacy of various countermeasures as well. The physical element comprises simple yet powerful and memorable techniques.
The historical books veritably drip with blood. In short, violence has been mankind's stock in trade since he was first able to form a fist and smash it into the face of his enemy. In that sense the solutions to this age old and enduring problem have been tried and tested. Many of the ideas are long standing and hard proven. What ACE-PST seek to do is deliver a training programme that empowers a 21st century audience. Whittington said: "You don't need to re-invent the wheel. What you need to do is develop the right mind-set and proficiency in simple yet powerful techniques."
In addition to responding to all manner of incidents within the prison and custodial environments Lee has black belts in Karate, Kickboxing and Belarusian Sanda. As a coach he has delivered British and European Mixed Martial Arts champions as well as world Champions in Thai and K-1. This unique mix of real life and coaching experience has led to the distillation of old school, straight forward and powerful techniques. He posits a simple and coherent strategy that can be applied irrespective of setting, status or experience; be aware "Aware" of danger and eliminate them at source. If this fails "Communicate" and attempt to de-escalate.  In a worst case scenario have the know how and wherewithal to "Escape" danger (A-C-E).
Surviving The Streets
Today Lee, who has been involved in personal safety training for 17-years, is busy doing what he does best; creating a challenging but rewarding learning environment. As expected it's a slick and polished delivery. It involves the use of an award winning state of the art interactive audience response system as well as a good old fashioned gym, replete with mats, pads, bags and other well-worn training paraphernalia. This first session sees a collection of trainees all with a shared interest in personal safety assembly eager to learn; a trainee paramedic, a teaching assistant, university lecturer, executive security for a pop band, club door staff, a beautician, as well as various retail and sales staff. Each and every one dealing with people day to day. Ordinarily their customers or service users are a known commodity, but as the newspapers testify conflict and confrontation seem now to be what is known in health and safety parlance as "reasonably foreseeable", and therefore present a risk that needs to be managed. But work related risks aside all of the delegates are social creatures, that is to say they are out and about and could, just could, come up against who knows what when they turn that corner and enter that unknown pub, club, shop, street, party, park or car park.
The theory session starts with looking at the nature of violence. What is it and why it occurs, the facilitators, inhibitors and dis-inhibitors. Causes and triggers are considered along with a host of risk reduction strategies. Then the stress response is analysed with a practical consideration of the implications of perceptual narrowing, auditory exclusion and skill degradation in combat situations. Lee then looks at survival and success factors as real life encounters are detailed. These cover individuals who have survived knife and gun attacks only to come back and prevail. Even the seasoned security staff are learning new tips and tricks. There is an extensive section on pre-contact indicators; a host of "tells" and "pre attack rituals" are covered using real CCTV footage of real attacks.
Lee Hollins
Delegates then make their way to the gym space where no time is lost in initiating a series of action/reaction drills. The dynamic nature of the session is key. "The emotional shock of attacks can be a debilitator even when no damage is done…"  Lee asserts as he unpicks the nature of an attack and discusses where time and opportunity are lost in violent encounters. He covers "conversion" or "bridging" drills that take the "target" from the status of victim to one of being in control. He makes much use of research coming out of the US military as well as using a simple governing principle "S-W-A-T". Those interested will have to come down to see how this works. Lee also runs through some simple drills that cover "intercepts" from a range of attacks, lefts, rights, lunges and charges. The chaotic nature of the attacks serves to add an air of chaos and confusion that the delegate has to assert order and control over. Whittington differentiates between traditional "models" of martial combat and more reflexive instinctual protective techniques, don't think "blocks", as in a definite alignment of the limbs and joints, the type required to attain a grade. Think about "intercepts"; Instinctive responses that can be used to mitigate against attack. Watch what happens in real combat. In a neat move low lighting conditions are introduced, with strobes and noise. Once again the training environment has been manipulated to induce chaotic conditions that learners have to surmount.
In the afternoon session edged weapons were considered. An examination of the dynamics of a stabbing or slashing attack reveal that 60 per cent of attacks involved instantaneous arming where edged or pointed implements are gathered from the immediate environment. Real CCTV footage is used and reveals amongst others shopkeepers, sales assistants and security personnel suffering at the hands of explosive edged weapon attacks. There is some tough viewing but each incident proves to be a goldmine from which tactics and techniques can be mined. Drawing on research coming from the US and Latin America various attack strategies are shown including the so-called "gypsy stab" and the "pump and dump". The how is also analysed in detail with the locations from which weapons are drawn looked at when considered eliminating the danger as early as possible.  There are some powerful take homes lessons coming out of this session. The afternoon closes with some trapping and counter attack drills designed for use in close quarter attack scenarios where some form of edged weapon is present. Sweat streams off of the delegates as they frantically apply the lessons they have learnt, again and again. At the end of the day there is an awful lot to take away and consider. First time learners will have a lot to go at and even established martial artists will come away with a realisation that techniques can be simplified and intensified.
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