Jonathan Stevens gave one last pull on the lock to the doors of his martial arts studio before walking off into the Porthcawl night. The Welsh sea air provided the ideal come down after his day of showing eager students the benefits of his fourth dan black belt training. Each lesson that day gave his spirits an uplift, whether it was practicing techniques to building endurance to full contact sparring. The added bonus was that he got to see his students learn and progress. Although he was too humble to admit it, he was proud that his dojo was the best in the area.
As usual, there was little activity on the streets, just the two cars that went by and a few people smoking outside the Full Moon pub when he walked past. They showed him no acknowledgement as he passed. His route skirted around the town centre but even that seemed deserted. It was only when he walked past the small park that he actually saw anyone. He couldn't miss the three young lads who looked to be in their late teens as they were making enough noise for ten people. Their choice of vocabulary didn't impress him in the slightest.
Lookin straight ahead, he continued to walk past. Suddenly, all three young men sprang from the bench they had taken over and rushed over to block his path. Now able to see them better, his assumptions of their ages were proven correct but all three towered over his five foot five inch frame. Sensing confrontation, his training and instict immediately kicked in. Jonathan shifted his feet into a ready but non threatening stance.
“Where are you going, wee cunt?” asked the largest of the three who also had the build to play for the front row of Porthcawl RFC.
“Home,” Jonathan replied assertively.
“You'll have to pay a toll to go past,” the large boy sneered.
Genuinely not wanting any confrontation, Jonathan tried reasoning. “Look lads, I don't have any money,” he explained.
The big guy chuckled while the thinner lad to his left remarked, “We don't believe you” in the same mocking tone as his friend.
“Well, I'm afraid it's true ,” Jonathan replied. Tired and not in the mood for playing any games, he tried to move around the three.
“You're not going anywhere until you pay a toll,” the bigger one barked as he and his two comrades barred Jonathan's path. He shoved Jonathan in the chest forcing him to take one step back. Frustrated at not moving the smaller target further, the bigger guy lunged for another shove. Prepared, Jonathan side stepped the attempt while at the same time grabbing his attacker's wrist and sweeping the legs taking the bigger man's feet from under him. He landed with a big thump.
Out of the corner of his eye, Jonathan saw the lad on his left come toward him. Without hesitation, he lashed out with a side kick. The blow landed squarely on theboy's mid section and forced him back several steps before falling over and doubling up from having the wind knocked out of him. The third lad stepped forward unleashing a wild punch. Jonathan easily parried the attempt and retaliated by bringing the palm of his hand to the assailant's nose and sending him backwards before falling on his backside.
Damage done, Jonathan had every intention of using the few seconds he had before the big fully got to his feet to make his escape. To his dismay, the last lad he knocked down got up very quickly and produced a shiny metal object. Pointing it at Jonathan, the lad yelled, “I'm going to slice you up, you cunt!”
He made a forward thrust at Jonathan who easily side stepped it grabbing the wrist of the hand holding the knife and pulling the attacker in his intended direction. Applying the appropriate pressure, the blade fell from the hand and he felt no elation when he heard the knife wielder's radius snap.
Leaving the young man screaming, “You broke my fucking arm, you wanker!” Jonathan turned to face the big lad who charged full force at him. He might have been fast for his size but Jonathan routinely stepped to his right avoiding the charge. However, the lad stopped quickly and turned throwing a punch at Jonathan who ducked causing the attempt to miss. Not giving up, the big lad tried another punch but Jonathan blocked it with a quick rotation of his arm. Now it was his turn. A quick right cross scored on the big lad's chin rapidly followed up with another. The blows stunned the lad long enough for Jonathan to execute his finishing move. Jumping high into the air, he spun around delivering a perfect round house kick to the jaw. The attacker went down in spectacular fashion while Jonathan landed ready to receive the next attack.
The lad who had the wind knocked out of him was up but was fearfully looking at Jonathan like a deer whose eyes were caught in the headlights of a car. He suddenly proclaimed, “I know him now, he's that karate guy. Let's get out of here!”
He then helped his bigger friend to his feet, who mumbled some unintelligible words at Jonathan who concluded that he must have broken the lad's jaw, before scampering off together. The third lad, still holding his arm in obvious pain, ran after them but not before turning to Jonathan and annoucing, “I'm goint to sue you!”
It took the rest of the walk home before the adrenaline from the evening's altercation completely flowed out of his body. Memories of it kept him awake well into the night and he found himself going over and over in his mind why these lads would attack him. With no other plausible explanation, he concluded that it must have been down to their alcohol intake. That was enough to allow him to get a couple of hours of sleep.
The previous night's attack was still lingering in his mind when he opened the studio for another day of teaching martial arts skills to others. He never dreamed that he would actually have to use his training in reality and that unnerved him a little. Even though the morning class was less than half full, (morning classes were usually sparsely attended) it was enough for him to be able to clear his mind of things. Therefore, he had more focus for the afternoon class. He watched from his small office as students began to file in and begin changing or stretching out on the mat for the upcoming session. That didn't block his view of the two officers from the South Wales Constabulary when they entered the dojo.
All eyes were upon the two officers as they made their way across the dojo floor towards Jonathan's office. He shouldn't have been surprised to see them. They would have eventually heard about the last night's attack and were probably just after a statement from him.
Stepping outside the office doorway, one of the officers announced, “I am PC Griffiths and this is PC Jones,” pointing to his colleague next to him. “We've had a report that you attacked and injured three youths last night. We need you to accompany us to the station.”
“What, me attack them?” Jonathan burst out in alarm. Then in a calmer voice added, “It was they who attacked me. I was simpy acting in self defense.”
“Okay,” noted PC Griffiths. “Still, we need you to come to the station and answer a few questions.”
Offering no resistance, Jonathan went with the two police officers but not before instructing Barney, a short, stocky young man in his late twenties and the next ranking black belt to lead the class. Looking bewildered, as did everyone else in the dojo as to why their sensei was being led away by the police, Barney simply nodded and moved into position to begin the lesson.
He might not have been handcuffed while he rode in the back of the police car, Jonathan still felt as if he was being arrested. It seemed even more so once they got to the station and the two officers began questioning him about the previous night.
“The three youths all claim that they simply asked you for some spare change and you just went off on one and attacked them,” PC Griffiths explained.
“That's not how it happened and besides, they had been drinking, “Jonathan protested. Taking a second to calm down, he told the officers his complete account of what happened that night, recounting how they stopped him, demanding he give them money and when he refused, the largest of the three went for him. He didn't fail to mention the knife that was pulled and attempted to be used on him.
The officers listened intently to Jonathan's side of the story. Once he finished, PC James, who until now remained silent, come forward with, “Self defense or not, you broke the jaw of a sixteen year old boy and the arm of another one. Luckily for you, you didn't hurt the third boy because he was only fifteen.”
“What was I supposed to do? Ask for ID before they attacked me?” Jonathan inquired in a mixture of sarcasm and disbelief. “Besides,” he then added, “You should have smelled their breath, it stank of beer.”
“Maybe so,” the officer returned. “Could you have defended yourself without injuring them? After all, you are a blackbelt, you should know how to properly defend yourself.”
Jonathan couldn't believe what he was hearing but before he could answer, the officer added, “Or maybe you were just looking for an opportunity to try out your karate skills.”
“I never look for opportunities to use my training. Last night they came at me when I was simply walking home,” Jonathan spat in disgust.
PC Griffiths stepped in to resolve the heightening tensions by calmly stating,” Okay, we believe you weren't out to show off your martial arts skills.” However, the expression on the other officer's face betrayed the PC's words. Soon, after, the interrogation stopped and Jonathan was asked to provide a statement before being released without charge. As he was leaving, PC James gruffly informed him, “We may need to talk to you further.”
That afternoon, the session was in full swing when he arrived back at the dojo. Although, he trusted his junior black belts fully, he was glad that Barry and some of the first dans were running things very well in his absence. He watched the rest of the lesson with a sense of pride and that helped him push his run in with the law to the back of his mind. As soon as the session ended, Jonathan called his black belts into us office and explained what happened.
“That's a load of bollocks!” Barry exclaimed momentarily forgetting where he was. The other two junior black belts nodded in agreement.
One of them spoke up, “The whole reason we teach people karate is so they can defend themselves but it's not going to do any good if you're going to get arrested for it.”
Not wanting it to escalate, Jonathan swore the black belts to secrecy. He also explained that the affair might not be over. All three gave their word of silence. Those vows were made redundant the next morning. While students began coming in and warming up for the morning session, the same two officers showed up at the dojo. Blind to the stares they were getting from the students, they made their way to the door of Jonathan's office. Jonathan bade them to come in but they remained at the door. Then in an intentionally loud voice, PC James announced, “Jonathan Stevens, we are arresting you for assault and causing grevious bodily harm. You don't have to say anything but it may harm your defense if you later rely on in court something you haven't told us.” He read out the rest of the official caution, all the while, barely able to conceal the grin on his face.
This time, Jonathan was led away in handcuffs in front of all of his bewildered students. Barry again stepped in to take charge of the class. Only this time he felt it necessary to explain why their sensei was being taken away by the police in handcuffs. During the whole ride to the station, Jonathan struggled to grasp the reality of the situation. After all, he acted purely in self defense, so why didn't the police believe him?
On arrival at the station, he allowed the officers to go through the necessary formalities. When those were finished, he immediately demanded to his solicitor. As a result, he was put into a holding cell until one arrived from the law firm who had handled his purchase of the studio. He hoped that his lawyer would get the whole mess cleared up.
“All three of the boys you claim attacked you saw you do a spinning kick to the one boys face. One of them described it that you were acting like Bruce Lee. We know that was the kick that broke the one boy's jaw,” PC Griffiths explained.
“That doesn't sound like self defense to me,” the other officer chimed in.
“What was I supposed to do?” Jonathan asked demandingly. “He was eight inches taller and five stone heavier than me.”
Both officers seemed to disregard the response. PC James commented, “We know that you could have defended yourself without having to do any fancy spins. We think you were just looking for an excuse to try your karate out on somebody and that you intentionally tried to injure that boy.”
“What?” Jonathan questioned exclaimingly. “That's a load of bollocks.”
“Language,” cautioned PC Griffiths.
PC James continued, “We also didn't find any evidence that a knife was pulled on you. The boy who you say did that says that he had taken out his mobile phone and that you broke his arm because you thought he was calling us.”
Jonathan couldn't believe what he was hearing. “Why were the police believing the false tales from a bunch of drunken louts?” he thought to himself. Snapping out of those thoughts, he barked, “I know a knife when I see one and that boy definitely had a knife.”
Again, the two officers seated across from him seamed to pay little attention to what he was saying. He nearly bit his toungue off when they informed him that he was going to be formally charged with assault and causing grevious bodily harm. It still perplexed him why the police were believing the word of three young thugs over his. Even as he was going through the police process, he made a mental declaration that he was going to clear his name.
Many of the students at his karate club were very supportive of Jonathan's plight and many offered support. Two members even started a fund to help him pay for his legal defense. Although Jonathan told him that it wasn't necessary, inwardly, he was grateful for the thought. However, he did notice in the weeks that followed, some students stopped attending and while he didn't want to believe it, he couldn't help thinking it was on account of his legal problems.
In spite of all the support, Jonathan was a nervous wreck by the time the trial began. He thought he might have been spared a trial when the opposing solicitors struck a deal but one of the mothers of his alleged victims rejected it on the grounds that Jonathan wouldn't serve any jail time. Her response was, “He injured my boy, he should go to prison.”
Jonathan didn't share his barrister's optimism when the trial began. Dark clouds of anger formed over him as he stood in the dock and listened to the largest of the three, the one who started it all. Even though he had prepared himself for all of the false testimony he expected to hear against him, it still unnerved him to actually hear it.
“We were just sitting in the park minding our own business when this guy came from out of nowhere and started attacking us,” the large lad stated while pointing to Jonathan as “the guy.”
“He kicked my legs out from under me and then punched John. Rhys took out his mobile phone to call the police and that's when he broke his arm. I went over to help Rhys and that's when he did that spinning kick and broke my jaw.”
“Were you drinking that night?” the defense barrister asked when it was his turn. After the witness answered in the affirmative, the lawyer asked, “How much?”
“Four cans between the three of us, we shared the fourth can,” came the lad's reply.
Cocking one eyebrow, the barrister asked in obvious disbelief, “So, you only drank one can and part of another?”
“Yes,” the boy on the stand answered weakly while shifting his weight in the chair from side to side.
“What about the ten empty cans found around the area that night?” the barrister inquired.
“That wasn't us,” the lad protested, “That must have been someone else.”
“Really,” the lawyer said with a further air of disbelief. “Now tell me,” he added, “Why would a man who's only five feet five inches attack you and your two friends?”
The boy began to shake his head but then answered with a degree of smugness about him, “You know karate guys, they think they're all hard.”
“Do you think you're hard?”
The boy hesitated for a moment, “Why yes, I can handle myself, I guess.”
“You guess,” the lawyer turned. “Well I have a school report that says you're a bit of a bully.”
“I never bullied anyone!” came the retort.
“It says here, that the parents of Huw Thomas filed a complaint against you for bullying their son.
“What, him? Yes I used to tease him a little but he couldn't take it so he got his mother and father in against me. I mean he was a bit of a wimp.”
“And before you met him, did you think my client was a bit of a wimp?”
“I guess so.”
“You guess so.”
Not long after the boy whose arm Jonathan broke took the stand. Pointing at Jonathan in the dock, he testified, “He just wailed into us with a whole bunch of kicks going 'Aaah!' while he was doing it.” The boy reinforced his testimony with immitations of Jonathan's supposed deeds.
Jonathan observed the testimony wishing he had a video camera. This way the boy on the stand could see how ridiculous he was looking and sounding. However, it did play directly into the hands of the defense barrister. He picked several huge holes in the boy's testimony and for the first time, it actually looked to Jonathan that he might get acquitted.
After that, as the trial progressed, the prosecution's case grew weaker and weaker. The defense lawyer completely discredited the third boy's testimony. Then came the defense's turn to present their case. The doctor who had mended the broken arm testified that it could not have been broken in the way it was claimed and it was more in line with making a forward stabbing motion. Furthermore, there seemed to be no end of volunteers waiting to come forward to testify to Jonathan's good character. Therefore, it shouldn't have been any wonder that it took less than three-quarters of an hour for the jury to find him not guilty.
The parents of Jonathan's attackers might not have gotten the conviction they had hoped for but the did get some sort of justice through the civil courts. Jonathan was ordered to pay £1200 to the parents of the boy with the broken arm and £3400 to the parents of the boy with the broken jaw. Neither did the not guilty verdict bring back the students who had left between his arrest and trial and the new students who joined were enough to make up the numbers. Facing bankruptcy, through his lawyer's fees and law suits, he was forced to close the school. He couldn't see any justice in that.