Martial Arts Lessons from the News, Part 1 – Body Slam Leaves Man in Coma

Huge UFC throw Khabib Nurmagoedov throws Abel Tujillo at UFC 160. UFC rings are padded. In real life, throws like this can be devastating.
Nick Burriel Jr.

Nick Burriel Jr. now requires constant care.

A fight occurred on November 16, 2013 at a well known, upscale restaurant here in the city where I live. The restaurant is the Elbow Room in Fresno, California.

Two men – Agaron Davoyan and Nick Burriel Jr. – got in an argument, which escalated.

From today’s Fresno Bee:

Both sides have different accounts of what happened, but police reports say that the two men, who had bad blood between them, were involved in a scuffle that started inside the restaurant.

Security guards escorted both men outside using different exits. Then a second fight erupted in the parking lot, with Davoyan slamming or hitting Burriel to the ground causing his head and the back of his neck to hit the concrete.

The impact left Burriel unresponsive with injuries to his lungs, heart and brain.

Fresno attorney Douglas Gordon, who has filed a civil lawsuit against the Elbow Room on behalf of Burriel, said Thursday that Burriel “has made good progress, but he still has a ways to go.”

Gordon said Burriel, who was hospitalized two months after the fight, lives with his parents in Clovis because he needs 24-hour supervision. “He can’t take care of himself,” Gordon said. “He has difficulties doing simple daily activities like putting on clothes.”

Davoyan, 24, faces charges that include felony assault and battery causing great bodily injury.


What lessons can we learn from this? A few points come to mind:

1. We absolutely must not use our martial arts skills except in self-defense. A technique that may seem innocuous and fun in class can be devastating in real life. A single punch can kill. It happens all the time.

2. Unless we want to end up in prison, we must never fight for pride or prestige. I don’t know if Agaron Davoyan has ever trained in martial arts, but he’s now facing the possibility of years in prison, because of a fight that I’m sure was avoidable.

3. Let insults pass. Be the stronger man and walk away.

4. Throws can be brutally effective in real life. In class we typically train on soft mats that disguise the true impact of throws and falls. Even MMA rings have cushioned surfaces. Typically, an MMA or wrestling floor will have a thin layer of foam beneath the canvas. Underneath that is a layer of plywood that in turn is mounted on tension springs. So there’s quite a lot of give when a fighter is thrown or slammed to the ground.

In real life, throwing someone with force onto a hard surface can destroy him.

5. From a moral standpoint, would you want to be responsible for injuring someone so seriously? Burriel’s life may never be the same. Imagine the pain his parents are going through. To ruin someone’s life in that way over a meaningless argument would be a hard thing to live with.

Wael Abdelgawad, Founder
Hammerhead Hapkido


  1. If you know of a similar story, please share.

  2. My name is josh interested in taking classes

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