Guest post by Byron.

An important skill as a man in this day and age is knowing how to handle yourself in a confrontation. Our forefathers, in their day, could handle their quarrels like men. Odds are, your grandpa wasn’t above rolling up his sleeves and getting into a fistfight to defend his honor. And he probably knew how to throw a better punch than you.

But, in today’s litigious, post-feminine society, getting into a fight isn’t a good idea. Why? Because fighting sucks, and it’s almost never worth it. Anyone–ANYONE–who tells you otherwise, is full of shit. That friend-of-a-friend with the tribal tattoos and claims to have been in 200 street-fights? He’s probably lying, and if he isn’t, he’s not too far away from a felony conviction. This isn’t the Jersey Shore, this is real life. ANYTHING can happen in a fight. Fighting is anything but glamorous. It’s painful, it’s stressful, it’s dirty, it’s dangerous, and, worst of all, it’s unpredictable. You could slip and crack your head on a bar table. You could collide into an innocent bystander, and put them in the hospital. You could fracture your leg and pay thousands in medical bills to get it fixed. You could end up in jail, the hospital, or even dead.

As someone who’s worked as a bouncer, trained in MMA for almost four years, and had my own fair share of altercations (and came out of them in one piece), I’m here to tell you how to survive these altercations that all of us are confronted with at some point. Part of that survival is knowing how to avoid confrontation altogether, and then the other part is knowing what to do when the confrontation is unavoidable.

Let me state this up front: your goal as a man is to be able to resolve conflicts peacefully without a single punch thrown. It’s much easier than you think, and it takes less time than earning a 19th degree black belt in Rex Kwon Do. No matter how big or small you are, here’s a guide on how to get your balls back, and how handle conflicts like a man.

Body Language, Body Language, Body Language

The most important thing above anything else is having strong, positive body language. I say strong because you need to show that you are a confident person and that your words have weight to them. I say positive because you need to show that you’re not an immediate threat. Strong, negative body language won’t help.

How to Survive a Street Fight

Wrong. Don't be like the guy on the right.

Why? Because when you stand around with your shoulders wide, arms tense, and mean-mugging everyone that walks past you… you’re asking for trouble. And odds are good you might find it. You look threatening. And what do people do when they’re threatened? They become defensive, and they’re more likely to threaten you in return.

Right.

So, be positive! Smile, be loose, be relaxed. You should walk into any bar, party, or gathering knowing that you’re there to have a good time, and that you can handle yourself if anything happens. If you come in with a good vibe, people will respond positively to that and you’re less likely to run into d-bags who are looking to start trouble.

Even if you’re not a smiling, outgoing person, that’s okay. If you’re tired, or just content to people-watch, go ahead. Be relaxed. Enjoy your drink. Walk slowly. You can still have a positive attitude that you’re out to relax, and no trouble will come your way since you’re not looking for it. Think Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Caveat: This does not mean to be a smiling, supplicating pussy. You still need to have boundaries, and you will still have to assert yourself at times. But even when you find yourself in an argument you still have to have the confidence to keep your positive vibe. A strong, unshakable demeanor in the face of danger is manly.

Act Right

This is probably the easiest thing to do and perhaps even easier than good body language. But it can be easy to screw this up if you’re not aware. So always be on your best behavior when you are out and about. Mind your manners. Say please, excuse me, and thank you to everyone. Treat everyone with respect, and they’ll treat you the same way. The blonde bartender with a fine ass, the lonely guy standing in the corner, the group of meatheads fist-pumping on the dance-floor, the Honduran busboys clearing up your table… treat them all like human beings worthy of your respect. You’re not above them and they’re not above you. If you come across as arrogant, it’ll show. And that’ll just bring more trouble your way. For the most part, most people are not assholes. They’re just like you; they want to do their thing and avoid any senseless trouble.

Now, things might still happen, and you’ll probably screw up. Own up to it. If you got a little hyped-up on the dance floor and accidentally spill someone’s drink, apologize and offer them another. Shit happens, you screwed up. Don’t get defensive and act like it was their fault. If you hit on a girl and her boyfriend walks up and tells you to fuck off, apologize and walk away. Problem solved. Granted, he acted rude, but why get into a fight over some girl you don’t even know, with some asshole you don’t even care about? If your ego is so big that you take every insult personally, you’re going to end up in trouble.

Another important point: don’t take everything personally. Someone bumped into you? It’s okay to be annoyed. It’s not okay think about it all night long, find the guy in the parking lot, and talk shit to him. Don’t assume he did it because he was a jerk; maybe he hadn’t gone drinking in a while and he got a little carried away. If you go out to bars and nightclubs enough, accidents are going to happen. Not a big deal.

I know this advice seems like common sense, but it amazes me how people’s manners and inhibitions go out of the window when they’re out on the town. Being drunk is never an excuse for poor behavior. If you can’t handle your alcohol without getting into some trouble, you need to take a hard look at yourself. Basically, don’t be an asshole.

Both of these principles are things you should be practicing in your everyday life anyway: positive attitude and being polite. Having a positive attitude isn’t weak, or beta. ‘Be polite’ isn’t code for ‘be a 5-foot-10 walking vagina.’ Having a positive attitude shows people that you’re fearless, that you’re someone that they can trust, and that you’re someone who deserves respect, because you give it so freely to others. It shows confidence: the secret, gooey sauce that is the essence of everything we seek to be in life. The fact is, it takes balls to put yourself out there, to make yourself vulnerable, and to get attention (in a good way). Having manners, and being polite, shows that you have tact. It shows that you are aware of the unwritten social rules, and that you can carry yourself as a gentleman.

Honestly, if you follow the two guidelines, you can solve any sort of confrontation by not getting in one in the first place. But sometimes things happens, and you may end end up in a confrontation with someone who you feel is waiting to rip your head off. That’s when it’s time to turn things up a notch.

Keep Your Distance!

The most important tenant in just-about every single martial art, combat sport, and self-defense system you can think of is to KEEP YOUR DISTANCE. Boxers use their jab to create space and back their opponents away. Wrestlers bend down and keep their hips far back from each other, making it harder for their opponents to grab them and wrestle them to the ground. And you too, need to keep your distance so you become less of a target.

This is easy to do, and pretty instinctive. If you’re face to face with someone who looks like they might get violent, back away from him until you feel he can’t touch you without moving forward. Can’t tell? Reach your arms out. If you can touch his hands, you’re too close. Back away until you’re out of his range.

Doing this is good for many reasons. One, it shows that you do not intend to fight. You might think that shows weakness, but it doesn’t. It’s smart. It also is less provoking, and it makes it less likely the other guy will counter with more aggressive behavior. This is a good thing, as we’ll see later.

Staring face-to-face like this? You're begging to get sucker-punched.

Also, it has the added advantage that if the other guy DOES attack you, you will have more time to react, as you will see the hit “coming,” so to speak.

However, exercise caution when getting distance. If a guy looks to be calming down, this won’t be as necessary. Trust your instincts. But if he’s yelling “come at me, bro,” don’t fall for it.

Walk Away

If it’s some guy in a bar who’s looking pissed because the bartender got your drinks before his, walk away. Someone on the street talks shit to you and calls you a faggot because “you looked at him?” Walk away. Some things are so minor, you can walk away and that’ll be the end of it. Again, this stuff doesn’t happen often, but when it does, act like an adult and walk away.

But sometimes that’s not the best option. What if it’s a friend who got drunk and started harassing you because you have a better job/hotter girlfriend/nicer car/etc…? You could walk away, but odds are good that something else is bothering them, and that you’ll need to address it. Use your judgment.

Talk it Out

The last, but most vital step, is to talk it out. If someone looks like they’re going to kick your ass, and for some reason you can’t walk away, you’re going to have to talk it out with him (or them). Remember to keep your distance, and if he has any friends, keep your distance from them too. Now is the time for your inner cool to be put to the test. Remember to have strong body language, but not aggressive. You’ll be scared. That’s okay, as long as you start talking. The longer he talks, the more likely he’ll calm down and the situation will calm down.

Look him right in his eyes. Be firm, open, and honest. Let him (or them) know that you’re not looking for trouble. Ask them, politely, what the problem is. By politely, I mean that you should ask in a serious, but non-hostile manner what’s going on. Something as simple as, “What’s going on?” If you do it right, he should start spilling the beans on what his problem is. Maybe he’s upset that you took his spot in line. Maybe you were too flirty with his girlfriend. Whatever his issue is, shut up and listen. Ask him questions. Ask him his name. Introduce yourself. Keep eye contact with him, but don’t stare him down. It shows vulnerability, and if you have confidence in yourself, he will not be provoked by it, but he will begin to trust you. Keep talking. State your position clearly, but honestly. As I mentioned earlier, if it’s something you did, apologize. Acknowledge that what you did upset him, and that you meant no harm.

Do not say “What’s your problem?” That’ll make people defensive, and will just make them angrier. Do not, and I mean do not lose your cool and start going off on him. Things will get worse from there, and you could be in danger. Unless you’re already getting curb-stomped, you can’t ever lose your cool. Doing so shows just enough insecurity to lose whatever respect you might have with him. It shows that you’re not a man who can keep his composure, but a child who reacts to the slightest threat.

If you’re still trying to be calm with the guy, and he won’t budge, keep trying. Be firm. You cannot let him dictate how the situation will go. If it’s a house party and you need him to go home, he needs to go home. Do not let him push you around. If he wants to pick a fight with you, don’t fall for it. He may still run his mouth at you. He may intentionally provoke you: a push, an insult, a comment about your mother. It’ll be tough, but you must keep your cool at all times. He’s trying to see if you’ll fold, and if you do, game over. You have to have the attitude of an adult that’s dealing with a kid throwing a tantrum. I.E., you are the calm, assertive adult that’s dealing with an unruly child. He’s not your enemy, he’s not a threat. He’s just a spoiled brat that wants to take his frustrations out on you. Don’t give him what he wants.

***

Notice how there’s no actual advice on how to physically defend yourself. Why? Because, in all honesty, if you end up in a fistfight, you probably screwed up somewhere. Most martial arts schools — and any instructor who gives a damn about his students’ well-being — teach that violence should always be a last resort. There are too many things that can go wrong if you decide to throw down. If you’re lucky, you might just get a black eye. If you’re not so lucky, you might get jumped by 3 of his buddies. And it doesn’t matter how big and strong you are, you never, ever, ever want to get in a fight with more than one person. You will lose. Period.

Or, he might pull out a knife and stab you. You could slip and fracture your skull on the bar counter. You could even crash into a window and get sued by the bar to fix it. These may sound like extreme cases, but they’ve happened, and they happen more often than you think. Like I said earlier, fighting is unpredictable and anything could happen. Don’t risk it.

Hopefully you take this advice to heart, and start applying it in your own life. It’ll save you a lot of useless drama. It might even save your life. So go out, be on your best behavior, have a positive attitude, and have fun.

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21 Responses to How to Survive a Street Fight

  1. Jamie says:

    Good article, I recommend reading the book ‘Watch my back’ by Geoff Thompson.

    Something that I don’t think was touched upon here, is never get involved with anyone elses business. Use common sense, and step in if you believe it is really necessary but otherwise stay away. There is a story about how this guy was manhandling his girl in the street and a bystander went over to offer help to the girl. She responded by getting a knife out and slashing his bicep tendon. He is now disabled for life. The point being, no matter how it seems from the outside, you do not know the story so best stay out of it.

    • Rick says:

      Yeah, it’s generally a very, very bad idea to get involved in a confrontation between a man and his woman. The reason being that these confrontations are often emotionally charged, which means that people won’t necessarily be thinking about the consequences of their actions. And also, just by getting involved, you can escalate the situation past where it would otherwise have gone, because men see other men as much more appropriate targets for violence as opposed to women. He might be just yelling at her, but if you intervene, you could get assaulted.

      If you think it’s a genuinely dangerous situation, call the police and let them handle it. Otherwise, don’t get involved.

  2. Chris says:

    I agree with everything in the article. Sometimes though, you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, become a target and physical confrontation is unavoidable.

    Also, there are certain situations which I personally couldn’t live with myself if I walked away from. Some guy slaps your girlfriend, blindsides your buddy, is kicking your dog, etc. these things call for battle.

    I’d say the risk of going down hard is more than acceptable in situations like that. Although they are rare, they do happen.

  3. Ken says:

    What do you do if someone tries to make you compromise your values and you can’t walk away? I’ve seen this before and I am not sure what the best option would be. For instance, you are sitting with your date somewhere and a group of guys come up to you, boxes you in, and basically tells you something like “hey, did you just look at me? apologize or I’ll kick your ass” when you clearly never looked at the guy. Should you apologize (and possibly have your girl see you as a pussy…someone who won’t stand up for himself against bullying), prepare to throw down since it’s probably unavoidable?

    I don’t believe walking away works in this situation and talking may not help with someone like this. Advice?

    • Jamie says:

      I think in this situation, the only possible answer is to apologise. No girl wants to see her guy fight, especially over something so obviously not your fault. Apologising and backing down is the only possible mature move to make. If the girl sees you as a pussy then she has far bigger issues than you should be willing to cater for.

    • Jared says:

      That is a pretty obscure situation. I’ve never seen that happen before. If it happens in a public place, then make sure you get peoples attention surrounding you, and hopefully attention of some authority figure. There is no reason why you can’t leave. Just make sure she can be removed from the situation. If you are boxed in with multiple people and you cannot deal without facing conflict.. You push whoever is in front of you out of the way and make sure you and your girl run to a public place.

      Swinging at a group of guys is stupid unless you are jet li in an action movie; and as someone who has taught self defence, I wouldn’t recommend swinging at all. It gives them a reason to hit you. If they have already decided and are gonna be swung at.. then you better be able to block and defend, but no matter what you have to remove yourself from the situation.

      If you are afraid of looking like a pussy in front of your girl, then that is coming out of your own insecurity. The fact that he is fighting you is coming out of his. If he was comfortable with himself he wouldn’t need to prove anything to anyone. Being strong in your decision to resolve the conflict is significantly different then being strong in your decision to defend yourself physically. it’s smart. I’ve never met a girl who likes their guys fighting. And if she has a problem with you not wanting to get your asked kicked by four guys, you need to question the girls you date.

      You just have to remember about keeping your emotional responses in check. These people are looking to elicit a response. Less is more in these situations. You need to make sure you are in control of your emotions and They can’t attempt to manipulate your emotions if you remove yourself from the situation. If they call you a pussy, then thats fine. You don’t even know them, or care to know them.

      Any martial artist can tell you that just because you have training doesn’t mean you will win the fight. It only takes one punch to end a fight, and in many cases, the first who lands a hit tends to win the fight. keeping your distance is still the best thing you can do. After a friend of mine was stabbed outside a hospital trying to break up a fight, i can only say that there is no reason ever to fight, and that I’d be cautious on people looking for one. You don’t know what they are carrying and you don’t need to find out.

      • Ken says:

        Thank you for the advice. It makes sense and I will keep that in mind. I try very hard to avoid altercations but I do know that while I am very easy going, I do not tolerate threatening behavior very well. Thankfully, no one ever messes with me and I believe that it has a lot to do with my confident body language. It also probably helps that I’m not a tiny guy. :)

  4. Aaron says:

    This guy, Marc “Animal” MacYoung, has a pretty no-bullshit approach to self-defense that starts with avoiding potentially violent situations in the first place. There are plenty of essays and info on his site:
    http://nononsenseselfdefense.com/

    I first learned of him from Penn and Teller: Bullshit! in the episode where they debunk a lot of misconceptions around martial arts.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCPZMnQ9API

  5. David says:

    Thanks, very good advice that people can remember.

    ‘Keep your distance’ – that’s something I’ll keep in mind. I remember a few weeks back in a bar me and a friend saw a drunk guy acting extra weirdly, and my friend instantly stepped back. Interesting..

  6. Dominik says:

    Excellent book: The little black book of violence.

  7. Jack says:

    “If you hit on a girl and her boyfriend walks up and tells you to fuck off, apologize and walk away. Problem solved. Granted, he acted rude, but why get into a fight over some girl you don’t even know, with some asshole you don’t even care about? If your ego is so big that you take every insult personally, you’re going to end up in trouble.”

    I dont know about this, Id be willing to fight about it, if the other guy was being a douche then theres no way Im backing down, if I didn’t know he had a girlfriend then what do I have to apologise for? Im a mans man and theres no way im pussying out.

    • Byron says:

      First, thanks for the positive responses in the article!

      @Jack, it’s not about who’s right or wrong. It’s about making a bigger issue out of something that isn’t a big deal. You’re going to deal with rude people all the time. As long as they’re not someone you deal with on a regular basis, who cares? My point is that it’s less risky and less time-consuming to walk away from situations like that than it is to escalate them. Pick your battles wisely.

  8. Pushit says:

    I think the title is a little misleading. Replace “Survive” with “Prevent”.

  9. Jared says:

    @Jack

    If you are a mans man, then you wouldn’t have to fight over a girl. You can go find plenty others at bar. It’s not pussying out. It’s the situation my friend.

    Fights ain’t worth it. Unless the guy spat in your face or is already going to hit you. Anyone can throw a punch. It takes real character to defuse something with your words. Not to mention some intelligence. And if you do talk him down, you look like the better man because you didn’t lose your cool.

  10. CHB2 says:

    Great article. I always remember talking about self-defense with my old Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach about what he would do if someone tried to start a fight with him. He basically said that he would run away as soon as possible, that there are too many unknown factors at play. Keep in mind he is a professional MMA fighter and a tough-ass dude, so for those of us with little fighting experience it is even more true that you should do everything you can to avoid the situation escalating.

  11. Frank says:

    I couldn’t agree more with you. If you get into a fight, you can only loose.
    This are the scenarios that can happen with their consequences in increasing order of seriousness.
    You win: your girlfriend or friends will look at you like at a caveman, you may have injuries (like a broken hand, which can be very serious), you can involve innocent peolple standing around, especially women (in a bar or club, this is more than likely to happen),you can damage things, an, worst case scenario, the guy you beat down can report you to the police (and the good luck with the rest).
    You lose: in best case, you will have a black eye(but still, try walking around two or three weeks with it), you could have, like Byron said, more severe injuries that cost a lot of time and money to recover from, and in the worst case, your opponent could have a knife, or he could just beat on you so long until really bad things can happen to you (lifelong handicap, blindness, or even death).
    I’ a pretty experienced boxer, but i never had a street fight. Be mature, be intelligent, it’s just not worth it.

  12. nick says:

    Very good read, i’m never usually an aggressive person who starts fights which is why i am able to be a likeable guy with heaps of friends. I did recently think about getting into a punch on with a old friend of mine over a big issue (doesn’t involve women surprisingly) and was extremely close to doing it. Reading this article has further emphasized that i made the right decision.

  13. [...] first lesson from that experience was that I sucked at fighting and never wanted to get hit in the face again. I’ve more or less succeeded at that [...]

  14. Jon says:

    Funny tidbit – “The guy on the right” in the first photo is UFC fighter and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blackbelt Nick Diaz. Probably one of the few people on the planet you’d least want to get into a bar fight with.

  15. scaman says:

    Here are the mistakes most guys make that get them hurt (or killed):
    #1: You train with someone who doesn’t fight regularly. Of, worse, a black belt who has never actually hit another person save his own hide. (That’s about 99.99% of the black belt “teachers” out there.)

    #2: You train for years in a style that doesn’t actually work in the real world. Hospitals are filled with guys who confidently dropped into their fancy stance at the start of the fight … and ended up on the ground a second later getting the crap stomped out of them.

    #3: You never learn even the basics of the “fighter’s mindset”… that special vicious way of thinking that actually turns you from a mild-mannered human into a lethal beast in the blink of an eye.

    • EnglishPenpal says:

      I think that scaman copied his post (and his opinion) from

      And I am not sure that it is right – Hospitals _filled_ with guys whose fights lasted one second? No no.

      I would rather avoid violence and fighting. But if I can’t, I would rather use the little karate that I know, than go into the situation with nothing at all.

      When a 17 year old boy and his mum and dad came to my house to tell me that my 16 year old daughter had attacked him*, I used my karate.

      Karate taught me to breath slowly and deeply, talk loudly and strongly, and keep all three of them in my field of view.

      So, I was as calm as I needed to be in dealing with the situation.

      * he forgot to mention that he had racially abused my daughter, and had previously been to my house asking that I go out to fight him. Silly boy,…

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