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Book Review: Street Smart by Neal Martin

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Neal Martin’s E-book, Street Smart: The Smart Approach to Street Self Defense is available for download. Mr. Martin’s martial arts background includes formal training in karate and jujitsu. In addition he also has worked as a bouncer.

This book draws on those experiences. Street Smart is written for those with no martial arts experience as well as those who consider themselves to be seasoned martial artists.

Martin starts this book off with some foundational definitions. Included are self-defense, the law’s view of self-defense, and the difference between fighting and self-defense. The main lesson to be learned here is that from a get sued standpoint, one has to be very careful when defending one’s self in a perceived attack.

Here Martin offers two simple rules: 1) Don’t be the aggressor and 2) Don’t overreact if you do have to defend yourself. Regarding the first point the advice is simple: Violence is the last option and you should walk away if possible. If you cannot walk away and are forced to defend yourself then the second rule applies: Respond with enough force to allow you to escape. Anything beyond that — especially if you are a martial artist and hurt the attacker! — could open you up to lawsuits.

From here Martin spends several pages discussing something that many people do not realize is self-defense: Prevention. As a former correctional officer this section really resonated with me. It’s something that the trainers always covered and also is something that I relied on to avoid tight spots. Included in this section are the author’s “three A’s”. These are “attitude”, “awareness”, and “action”. 

Attitude is how potential street criminals see you. If they perceive that you are an easy target then the more likely you are to be a crime victim. Next on his list is awareness. Or, as we called it in prison, scene awareness — a good dose of commons sense and alertness. For example, always pay attention to your surroundings and don’t put yourself in a bad situation (e.g. walking in the worst part of town, alone, and at night!).

Finally, if there is no other choice and you are in a bad spot, you’ll have to resort to action. Here action can be as simple as walking back into a safe store if there are shady characters in the parking lot. Or, it can also mean resorting to self-defense if you have absolutely no other choice.

Interestingly, even if it comes to the last option, Mr. Martin still encourages the reader to run away if possible. Again, this is some sound advice. Tactically you do not know if the attacker has a weapon, has friends, etc. Also you could just get hurt or worse still, seriously hurt the attacker and get sued. So, while this may seem contrary to “tough guy self-defense”, it makes perfect sense for “smart person self-defense!”

Martin spends the last half of the book discussing some basic strategies and techniques for that worst case scenario. He starts with something known as “the fence”. This is a tactic that was created by the self-defense expert Geoff Thompson. If the fence fails Martin stresses the use of very simple fighting techniques. No fancy martial arts techniques here; just simple direct attacks that will hopefully let you escape. 

Here Martin offers advice that some martial artists will not like to hear: Their martial arts training may not have adequately prepared them for the realities of a street confrontation. Based on my prison days I can definitely agree! Having seen countless inmate fights (and also having had the pleasure of breaking up more than a few!) I can testify that these altercations do not happen like Hollywood would have you think they do. They are quick, chaotic, and often over in less than a minute. No time here for a long and drawn out Chuck Norris movie battle. What you need are quick, simple, and effective techniques. Period.

Martin closes his book with a listing of those techniques that are suitable for just such a street confrontation. This part of his book is definitely for the person with some martial arts experience. In addition to techniques, Martin offer tactical advice like hitting first if you have the chance. Also included are how to deal with law enforcement after such an attack, and a caution against revenge attacks from the person you just defended yourself against. 

Here again the author offers us a dose of reality: The person who just attacked you is very likely a criminal. Therefore, even if you were justified in defending yourself they may seek revenge or have one of their accomplices get even at a later date. What did you expect? They’re criminals!

My only criticism of this book is that I wish Mr. Martin would have offered some advice for those who do not have martial arts experience. Granted, you really can’t learn physical techniques from a book but that’s not the kind of advice I was hoping for. What you can offer is advice such as enrolling in a self-defense course that’s sponsored through your local police department or martial arts school. Presenting the reader with such advice and options would have made the book much stronger

That criticism aside, I recommend this book for martial artists and also those people without any martial arts experience. Its overarching strength is the fact that offers some very sound non-violent self-defense advice that most anyone could employ.

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