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Thursday, January 15, 1998 Published at 10:02 GMT


All change on the buses
image: [ Some of the moves to adopt when attacker is armed with a stick ]
Some of the moves to adopt when attacker is armed with a stick

It's just the ticket for bus drivers.

The ways of the Israeli army and the FBI are being adopted by drivers and inspectors on Portsmouth's Provincial Buses to stem rising numbers of attacks by passengers.

Drivers have been robbed, beaten up, attacked with bricks and even knives. But now any potential muggers had better think twice.

Quick and effective

The techniques of Krav Maga were devised just after the state of Israel was founded, as a quick and effective way for Israeli soldiers to defend themselves in hand-to-hand combat. The staff of Provincial Buses are now among the first to have learnt what is thought could become a common qualification for those dealing with the public.

Managing director Piers Marlow said a variety of measures had been tried to protect drivers, including alarms. Screens had been put up around the driver's cab, but these were withdrawn because drivers and passengers did not like them.

So the company started looking for different ways to protect drivers, and turned to Krav Maga , which had been developed by Imi Lichtenfeld, a Czech Jew who was involved in scuffles with Nazi soldiers as a youth.

Trainer Darren Annells says Krav Maga differs from most martial arts because, crucially, it is based on one's natural reactions when attacked. This makes it very quick and easy to learn.

[ image: Blakey from TV sitcom
Blakey from TV sitcom "On the Buses", played by Stephen Lewis
"The idea is that this is swift and sharp action," said Mr Annells, a former management consultant specialising in inter-personal skills. "Martial arts were created for a time when threats were remarkably different, such as swords. But this is reality based system, based on your natural reactions, so that when you are attacked you don't have to think so much as do what's instinctive," he said.

Disarming charm

Any tactics are considered fair game in Krav Maga, from eye gouging to biting. And practitioners are supposed to be able to disarm attackers even if they have knives or guns.

One move particularly useful for bus drivers is a way of releasing someone's grip on their wrist.

"Most people would try and tug their arm away," said Mr Annells. "But if they spin their wrist round, that actually breaks the grip, rather than just pull it away. That's not what the attacker expects them to do."

Negotiate first

And the relative strength of the parties is not a factor, either. In his training sessions, 20-stone body builders had had their grips broken by small women. Even Blakey might stand a chance.

But just in case anyone should fear their bus driver might casually give them a punch in the mouth when they ask for a return, Mr Annells has also seized the zeitgeist and added his own peace process.

This includes training in spotting the early signs of attack and verbally bringing the situation under control.

However, there are some things even a few smart moves or sweet talking cannot deal with. Last year one Provincial Buses driver would have been more in need of breathing apparatus when he stepped in to an attack on his bus and was sprayed with CS Gas.

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