Self-Defense the Wallace Way
6 Super Tactics from Superfoot’s Eclectic Approach to Street Fighting
by Russell Gray
It was just another ordinary night in a smoke-filled Chicago nightclub. People were laughing, drinking and dancing. But the fun ended abruptly when a knife-wielding customer who was too stupid to have a good time approached the table of John Belushi. Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, the bodyguard of the late actor/comedian, sprang into action and positioned his body between the aggressor and Belushi’s group.
As Wallace maneuvered to launch a rib-cracking side kick into the chest of the whacked-out weirdo, the antagonist said, “I’m going to cut you!”
Wallace reconsidered his tactical response and opted for one of his favorites: He pierced his opponent with a menacing stare and calmly stated, “You may cut me, but you will never live to see me bleed.”
That was all the aggressor needed to hear. He backed off, and the situation was defused.
“If I had been by myself, I would have tried to get out of there without any confrontation, but I had an obligation to protect and defend someone else,” Wallace says. “In that scenario, there wouldn’t have been a winner or a loser—just a survivor and a guy who got carted off to the hospital.”
Over the ensuing decades, Wallace has survived more than his share of similar encounters, as well as those that have escalated far beyond. The following are the most important self-defense lessons he learned.
Awareness “The first rule of self-defense is to use your awareness to help you stay out of a fight in the first place,” Wallace says.
“The second rule is to avoid saying or doing silly things that can cause a situation to escalate into a fight.
“If you are in a bar or nightclub, stay away from people you think could be trouble. And if you notice a guy across the room looking at you, don’t glare back at him. Even if he is looking at your girl, just think to yourself, ‘Hey, I can’t blame him.’ “But if he puts his hands on her, that’s another story,” he adds. That’s when things tend to get physical.
Stance and Positioning Wallace prefers not to immediately adopt a fighting stance when trouble seems imminent because it can tip off the aggressor.
“He will think, ‘Ah ha, this guy knows something,’ ” he says. And if that happens, the assailant might feel sufficiently threatened to get a gun or knife to even the odds.
Besides, the hand is always quicker than the eye, Wallace says. You should never stand chin to chin with someone who knows you can defend yourself and just wait for him to take his best shot. “Instead, you should stand sideways and position yourself just out of his range so you have enough time to react to an attack,” he says. “That way, your vital areas will not be exposed, but your positioning will still allow you to hit him with a buffet of techniques.”
The Buffet Wallace teaches a smorgasbord of simple techniques to use once an attacker makes his move. If he steps forward to push you, Wallace says you should step back and maintain a safe distance out of range of his punch or kick while you continue to try to defuse the situation.
If the attacker actually takes a swing, Wallace advises you to immediately employ a leaning tactic: You lift your lead shoulder and move your head back to avoid the blow. The attacker will have to maneuver his weapon around your shoulder to strike your face, and although that can be done, the barrier does offer you a degree of protection. The champ also advocates shifting most of your weight to your rear leg as you lean backward so you are ready to kick and can easily avoid a sweep aimed at your forward leg.
Then, if the attacker tries to punch or kick you, Wallace says, you can simply pop him in the groin with a roundhouse kick or nail him in the knee or ribs with a side kick. If the aggressor ends up a little too close, throw a hook punch or elbow strike. Or, if you want to keep things simple, smack him with a straight punch to the nose. If the aggressor grabs your arm or shoulder, the solution Wallace prefers is to grab his hand, straighten his arm and apply pressure to his elbow in a standing armbar.
If you must use any of these techniques, Wallace says, your intent should be to keep your attacker at bay long enough for you to get away. In most situations, self-defense boils down to attacking suddenly and making a hasty escape, he adds.
The Screamer The “screamer” is one of Wallace’s favorite defensive responses for an attack from the rear. “Never let someone get behind you,” he warns, “but if someone does and puts you in a bear hug, try the screamer. Reach down with either hand and grab a handful of groin.
“If you are locked up too tight, loosen his grip by smacking him in the face with the back of your head,” he continues.
“Flex your shoulders a bit and shoot your arms out. This will give you a little room to work with. Then grab the bad guy’s groin and don’t let go until he is screaming for mercy.”
The Wallace Crunch The “Wallace crunch” is a defensive tactic designed to be used against an attacker who shoots in for your legs in an attempt to take you to the ground. If he squares off with you and dives forward, let him commit himself, he says. Once he passes the point of no return, lock your arms around his neck and arms before he can secure his grip on your legs. Immediately sprawl to preserve your balance, then drop your body to crunch him to the ground.
From that position, you can finish him with any number of judo or jujutsu ground techniques, Wallace says. For the most part, they fall into one of three categories: techniques that will immobilize him until help arrives, techniques that will render him nonthreatening by breaking a bone and techniques that will render him unconscious by cutting off the flow of blood to his brain. On the street, be very careful if your opponent gives up after you apply a less-than-lethal technique because once you let him get up, he will probably start attacking you again, Wallace warns.
The Combat Combination Designed as a defense against frontal attacks like the lapel grab, arm twist and shoulder grab, the “Wallace combat combination” is also effective against an opponent who approaches from the side. Alternatively, you can use it to counterattack after you slip his punch or kick.
A common scenario in which the Wallace combat combination can save your skin involves an aggressor grabbing your lapel while preparing to do you great bodily harm. Your response should begin with an elbow strike to the face. Next, pull your elbow back, clubbing him in the head a second time. As you finish with the second elbow smash, wrap your arm around his neck, lock him in tight and force his head downward. Then blast him with a knee to the face and watch him drop like a stone. Step back as he falls, but remain prepared in case your technique is not as powerful as you thought and he is able to resume his assault.
Nothing’s Foolproof Obviously, practicing the aforementioned techniques will leave you better prepared for a street fight, but it cannot guarantee success. “People will say to me, ‘This is what I would do in a self-defense situation because it works 90 percent of the time,’ ” Wallace says. “Well, what happens the other 10 percent? And what about the bad guy’s ability?
“A guy you are squaring off against may be on drugs, and you might have to hurt him really bad,” he continues. “If you pop a bad guy’s eardrums, he might think about it next week but not right away. The drunk guy you’ve kicked in the kneecap or the groin may not feel your techniques until tomorrow.
In both cases, since nothing has worked, the only thing left for you to do is to stop him from breathing.
“Hopefully, with a little forethought, you will able to avoid predicaments like these,” he says.
Nevertheless, it is paramount to keep self-defense in perspective, Wallace advises. “If somebody is trying to pick a fight with you, don’t try to thump him, beat him up, knock him out or put him in the hospital. Just try to keep him away long enough to escape. If you can’t do that, a good technique is to pop him in the nose. It will start bleeding, and his eyes will begin to water. You can be gone before the guy stops blinking.”
Ultimately, smart self-defense is quite unlike what you see in the movies. It is an art that revolves around the hitand- run concept. “Why stay around when you don’t know if the guy is on drugs?” Wallace asks. “You have no idea what he has in his pocket, and you can’t tell if he has two or three buddies just around the corner waiting to help him beat the daylights out of you.”
Russell Gray is a Southern Californiabased free-lance writer and karate instructor..