This article is one piece of an ongoing effort by MixedMartialArts.com to understand what really works in martial arts. The focus is not on what happens in the arena, but rather on what happens on the street. If you enjoyed it, check out more stories on:
1. Martial Arts on The Street
3. Style vs. Style
When this viral video surfaced, it was presented as an Irish professional boxer on vacation attacked by over a dozen Turkish shopkeepers. The truth is a little more complicated, but the basic facts are straightforward.
The hero of the story is a Muslim, Kuwait-born and raised, Irish citizen named Mohammed Fadel Dobbous. He was in the Aksaray neighborhood of Istanbul, Turkey, and went to a shop. Dobbous opened up a shaky refrigerator to remove a bottle of water. When he opened it, perhaps a little roughly, a number of bottles of water fell out to the ground. For reasons that are not entirely clear, the shopkeeper became enraged, and tried to assault Dobbous with a stick.
He fought back, with success. In response, other shopkeepers came to the defense of their fellow small-business owner.
Then the tourist took his glasses off, put them on top of his head, and took out multiple attackers. When they realized things were not going their way, there was a call for more help. The crowd swelled.
The tourist sought temporary refuge in his hotel, but then was once more into the fray. The crowd by then was armed with clubs and wooden chairs. The tourist retreated to his hotel more than once, gathering his strength, before wading again into the threatening shopkeepers a final time.
Eventually, the shopkeepers retreated.
Senol Palan, 32, owner of the shop with a tippy refrigerated case, offered an implausible explanation. Palan said the tourist wanted to buy alcohol and when he was told there was none there, he left and returned with a friend, opened the case roughly, and caused the bottles of water to fly out. We all saw what happened next.
“The man was so strong. He was toppling anyone he punched," said Palan. "Then nearby shopkeepers rushed in to help. It was like he was made of stone. He was not punching like a human.”
Another shopkeeper who is seen on video being one-shot dropped and then stumbling off asked reporters for 10,000 Turkish Lira (around US$600) to replace the nine teeth he reports he lost. When asked if he lost all nine teeth from just one punch, the friend replied, “Brother, did you not see the man, he is like Mike Tyson.” Palan himself lost two teeth.
Dobbous was interviewed shortly after the incident, and offered his perspective. Wearing a sling, he reported he suffered a broken hand, dislocated shoulder, and a knife wound to the back, plus lost his phone, watch, and gold chain. Other reports cite a fractured skull.
“I wasn’t drunk, I don’t drink,” he said. “I went to get a bottle of water. When I opened the door they fell all over me. I said I was sorry - accidents happen. But I was shocked at what happened next."
"They should fight like men. You don't have to come at me with weapons. Come at me with your hands."
"I didn't come looking for a fight. I am a Muslim, like yourself. My hand [is injured] and my shoulder is dislocated from when someone hit me in the back.
"All this for water?"
Dabbous was acquitted in court, with the judge ruling that he acted in self-defense. Palan, was convicted of “deliberate injury” and sentenced to 3.5 years in prison, later reduced to 26 months. Two other suspects were fined only, as their attacks did not result in injury.
The shopkeepers in the area are predominantly Kurds, rather than Turks. Relations between Kurds and Turks are not uniformly warm and fuzzy. Support on social media in Turkey for the tourist was widespread.
“Should we write a novel titled ‘The Irish tourist?’” quipped noted Turkish novelist Ahmet Ümit. A woman, BakteriPlaa, proposed marriage.
A game called "Irish Boxer" was developed in Turkey. In it, a character looking like Dobbous stands next to a refrigerator full of water bottles, and then beats up angry shopkeepers wielding clubs and chairs, among other objects.
Dobbous said he is not a professional boxer as has been widely reported, but just trains in the sweet science. He speculates he won the fight, "because he is fit." That of course parallels one the great truisms in combat sports, via Karl Gotch: “Conditioning is your best hold.”
Out of shape frauds are delighted to fleece the hapless, offering to teach "deadly" martial arts techniques without the requisite conditioning. For example, with very few exceptions, it appears that the two requirements to be a Kenpo teacher are being out of shape, sometimes grossly so, and a 10th degree black belt. If you are not in good shape, do not expect your skills to work.
Mr. Dobbous' amazing performance also reflects having naturally heavy hands. As any striking coach will tell you, much of great knockout power is innate. Anyone can increase their punching power dramatically, but some people are born with heavy hands. Dobbous absolutely was.
It should also be said that the tourist received a lot of injuries, and might well have been better off if he just ran.
And for the record, no generalities should be drawn from this single incident. Turkey is a beloved destination for tourists worldwide.
But the next time you are in-store, wherever you are, and take a bottle of water from the refrigerator, take care that they don't drop to the ground. No good will come of it.