Self Defence: the Casey Heynes case

This is a martial arts blog and some of you may find strange to find this article: at the same time I believe that self defence, whether properly trained in a gym or the simple result of someone’s self preservation instinct, should be seriously considered as a topic from which everyone can learn about, even in a blog about martial arts.  Ultimately why do we practice martial arts?  Many people will not list self defence as the primary objective of their training but nobody can deny it can be very nice side effect.

Casey Heynes is a 15 years old boy who defended himself after years of abuse: it happened just a few weeks ago and the 40 seconds video that somebody put on line went viral and hit every corner of the world in just a few days.  For many people around the globe Casey became instantly a hero who stood up to his assailants and put an end to a life of misery.

See here below the news video with inverviews:


Bulling is unfortunately a pretty standard practice and I know very few people that were not bullied when kids.  Whether you (used to) wear thick glasses (my case) or you are overweight or any other visible difference you can offer a good reason to be bullied.  In some cases it can be just verbal abuse but very often it becomes physical and even painful. Whatever the nature of the bullying it can cause the stress and anxiety and can cause permanent damages to someone psychological and emotional well being, reducing self esteem and jeopardising chances of success in later life.

Casey ended a life long situation of being mistreated by simply fighting back.  In his definition he snapped, acted irrationally for a few seconds; he did it in a way that could have caused some serious injuries to the boy who initially started the altercation but I truly hope that this event taught him something about bullying.  Casey’s action, as explained in this video was more that just an act of defence; it was the desperate need for justice from a boy that about a year before was contemplating suicide to put an end to a life of abuses.  His father and the rest of his family were far from understanding what the boy had to bear on a daily basis.

How many movies portray the weak or abused boy/girl/woman or whatever other character and the usual hero turning up and beating up or killing the baddies?  We like and sympathise with the weak ones because in many case we can identify with them at some point of our life; we like and feel satisfaction when the hero sorts matters out in many cases we would like to be one of them.  Casey is receiving so many messages of support for his act for exactly the same reason.  Support messages are sent from boys and girls as well as from fully grown up adults that used to be (or sometime still are) the weak ones, the bullied ones, the abused ones.

I remember when I was at primary school before I started martial arts; there were a few bullies who truly enjoyed imposing their will to the smallest and weakest ones (yes I was one of them).  If I start thinking about those times and mentally go back to those scenes I can still feel the anxiety and the frustration of being unable to defend myself from the nasty and cynical behaviour of those guys.

So what lessons can we learn from this episode? Here is my list:

  1. if you are a 12 years old  boy of 50Kg or less do not bother a 15 years old 80Kg+: when he retaliate he will hurt you
  2. when we see bullying and abuse we should not ignored it and let it happen; we cannot all become heroes but referring the abuse to the relevant authority and ask to immediately address the issue.  The same when it happens to your friends, children or any other person you know of
  3. if you are a child there is nothing wrong to report to your parents or other authoritative people the fact of being abused
  4. if you are a parent keep an open dialog with your children: try to find out whether bullying is happening to them or their friends

One of my missions in life to advocate for martial arts, their broad diffusion across a much broader range of individuals starting from young boys and girls.  In my opinion a more generalised and systematic practice of martial arts among young people would have a number of benefits against bullying including:

  1. better discipline and respect for authorities
  2. better self confidence for the weak or shy ones: confidence is not about threatening like “leave me alone or I’ll hurt you” but simply have a higher self esteem and naturally project it to the people around us
  3. better chance for the weak to fight, verbally or physically, his/her way out of a bullying situation
  4. more respect from the potential bullies: martial arts (should) teach respect for the fellow practitioners, even for the opponent you are fighting
  5. respect for the weak: while you learn how to hurt people you learn how you must be respecting or even helping the weakest ones.  Hurting weak people is easy… why should we enjoy it? Why should we enjoy hurting anyone at all?
  6. defence by applying a controlled response: when a person without knowledge of martial arts enters a fight can either get hurt himself/herself or cause excessive damage to the opponent as he/she is unaware of the amount of damage that could be caused; a knowledge of martial arts can help understanding how much damage can be delivered by an attack and avoid unnecessary excessive damage

I would like to conclude by sending my regards to Casey who did a good job in ending his grief the way he did it: while violence should be avoided when possible there are situation where it is unavoidable and we all know this was one of those cases.