First Lesson: Self Defense

by William Durbin, Soke of Kiyojute Ryu

I remember some of what happened, but the assault was so severe that there are aspects I cannot remember.  I do remember when I arrived home my parents could see that I had been attacked.  They asked my what happened and I told them how one of the boys from my school had another boy hold me while he beat me.

          Most of his strikes were directed to my abdomen and he really pounded me hard.  The boy was a drug addict and very malicious. The beating was brought on by the fact that I carried my Bible to school each day and he didn’t like it.  I found out later he had threatened to beat up the other boy if he didn’t hold me while he was beating me.

          The boy was the son of a rich family and while my parents wanted to call the police, I knew the kind of trouble his parents could cause for them and begged them not to.  But I did ask, what am I suppose to do if attacked like that again?


Turning the Other Cheek

          It wasn’t that I couldn’t fight back against the other boys, but I thought I wasn’t supposed to.  I had just dedicated my life to the Gospel ministry and thought that as a minister I shouldn’t fight.  But my parents told me that it wasn’t right to allow someone to beat me like that.

          My parents were simple folks, with a great faith in God, but a practical understanding of the world.  My Dad was a World War II veteran and knew what it was like to be trained to fight for his nation.  My Mom in her simplicity of faith said that the Bible told us to turn the other cheek, but if the person struck the other cheek, then it was time to defend yourself.

          I understood what my parents were saying, for they emphasized that I should avoid fighting if at all possible, but that to protect myself from another beating like the one I’d just suffered, I had the right to defend myself.

          While I felt like I could handle myself against any one person, having enjoyed wrestling like most boys of my generation, I wasn’t sure what I was suppose to do in another situation like the one I had just experienced, so I basically asked, How?

          How was I supposed to defend myself against two attackers? How was I supposed to protect myself against vicious assault?


Lesson in the Garage

          My Dad stood up at that point and some come on outside.  We went out the backdoor of the house and headed to the garage.  The center of the room was cleared except for the lawn mower and so we moved it out of the way.  Dad then gave me my first lesson of self defense.

          He explained that he had been in the army and that they had trained in basic hand to hand combat.  He once again emphasized to me that I shouldn’t use what he was going to teach me, unless I found myself in the kind of situation I’d just experienced and then he told me to do what needed to be done.

          Dad then taught me how to stand, how to hold my arms up, have the fists ready to punch, and finally Dad taught me to kick.  He especially emphasized that I should never use kicks unless I was in a situation where I couldn’t defend myself with them.

          I went through the skills Dad had taught me and then he encouraged me to practice them, so that I’d have enough skill with them to use them if I was in a bad situation again.  He also told me to watch boxing on television.  He explained that most men threw punches similar to boxing and that by watching the shows I could see how I would be attacked and get some ideas how to improve my punching.


William Paul Durbin, Sr.

          My Dad was a good man.  When my sister and I were growing up we learned from him the importance of reading the Bible and praying.  Now don’t get me wrong, my Dad was not a saint.  He had a very volatile temper and was known to curse strongly when upset, but he was the kind of person who recognized his failing and did strive to better himself.

          My Dad was in the Army from 1942 to 1946.  He didn’t talk much about the war, but did admit that after the war was over he found a love for the Japanese people.  My Dad was never prejudice and taught us, my sister and I, to never look at a person’s color but to know a person by their actions.  It was nice growing up in a prejudice free home.  To be honest, my parents were not prejudice at all, either about religion, race, or nationality, so that when I ran into it in other areas, I was surprised.

          When I came home after the beating, my Dad took the situation serious.  Now that might be a surprising statement, when looked at from today from a post Columbine time frame, but back in those days threats were not taken as seriously as they are today. First of all, those kind of violent situations didn’t happen much, and when they did people were expected to take care of it themselves, the police didn’t want to get involved in what was considered frivolous or children fights.

          Unfortunately, there were the same kinds of situations back then as what happened at Columbine, but they were not publicized. However, my Dad saw that the beating was severe and knew that more were likely to follow if I didn’t start standing up for myself and have the ability to protect myself adequately.

          Therefore when Dad taught me my first lesson of self defense, he did it in a serious fashion.  He wasn’t preparing me to box in a ring, or play a sport of striking, or wrestle, he was preparing me for self defense.  Now in regard to that, Dad emphasized what God would want and what God would not want.  He emphasized to me that I must never engage in frivolous fighting.  If I could, I was to walk away from a fight.  If I could I should try and talk my way out of a fight.  If there was any other way of dealing with a situation, rather than fighting, I should take it.  Only as a last resort should I actually fight.

          In that regard, since I shouldn’t fight unless I had to, Dad taught me to hit the vital points on the body, to weaken the attacker. These basic vital points where those more designed to weaken a person, rather than do serious damage.  Thus he taught me to go for the chin, jaws, stomach, and solar plexus.  These he explained should weaken an attacker, but not do too serious harm unless I was to hit too hard.  Thus while I was to protect myself, I wasn’t to go berserk and hit too hard.



          After that lesson I practiced what Dad had taught me, trying to improve my skill, but knowing the who time that I didn’t know nearly enough.  I found a few booklets on the martial arts, some dealing with Judo, Jujutsu, Karate, and Ninjutsu, but back in the 60s there wasn’t a lot available, at least not in the little town of Bardstown.

          So I practiced what Dad had taught, doing what I could to improve my ability, learning what little I could form other sources, and continued to watch boxing when it was on television.  I never forgot Dad’s admonition not to fight unless it was necessary and did my best to stay out of frivolous situations, though there were a few times when I had to defend myself.

          What Dad taught me served me well as a foundation for the martial arts training that was to come.  My first actual martial arts instructor was Richard Stone, a very gifted practitioner of the martial arts.  He taught me primarily the art of Kodokan Judo, but as self defense he shared with us the knowledge he had gained from his instructors.  Between them, Ramon Lono Ancho, Hiroshi Wada, and Takayuki Ebisuya, taught Stone, Kosho Ryu Kempo, Kodenkan Jujutsu, Kodokan Judo, and Aikikai Aikido.

          Once while doing a clinic for my students back in the 80s, Stone said that when I came into his class he thought I was a natural.  Now actually I was very far from being a natural.  I had injured my legs playing baseball in the sixth grade and so never took physical education while in junior high and high school.  While I climbed trees, swam, and rode my bicycle, so that I had decent muscle tone and strength, I was not as coordinated as I should have been.

          But once I started practicing the moves my Dad had taught me, I began to gain more bodily control and dexterity.  It was thanks to Stone that I gained a great deal of my martial arts knowledge, but I constantly thought of how to apply it in self defense.  Keeping in mind what my Dad had taught me, I analyzed everything Stone taught me from the perspective of actually fighting an opponent in self defense.

          If Stone recognized something that seemed natural in me it was probably because of the basic self defense training I had received from my Dad.  Stone really helped me learn what I needed to know in regard to technique and this started me on the path that I follow today, teaching martial arts for self defense.

          But the beginning of my lifelong journey in the martial arts and my mastery of Kempo was that first self defense lesson given to me by William Paul Durbin, a good father, a good man, and a man who really developed into a man of God.  Before he died Dad became a deacon and was a truly dedicated man of God.

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