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How to flight?
June 26, 2009 7:50 PM   Subscribe

How do I fight?

I'm a pretty small guy. I'm also a former US Marine. I had loads of combat training, and instructors usually took me aside and told me that if I'm ever to depend on my physical prowess rather than my riflemanship, I am to fight dirty. Cock punching, eye gouging, neck jabs, knee breaking. All sorts of stuff that will enable me to survive in a situation where my life depends on it.

If I was in Belleau Woods, or Omaha Beach...that would make sense. But I'm not. I'm a civilian...and I have never been in combat.

What the hell do I do if and when I'm in a fight?

I don't want to say I'm a pacifist...but its been about 2-3 years since I last hit somebody. I don't like doing it...and I will only do it if I feel like my life is in danger. I'd rather look like a wimp and walk away, than be a tough guy who actually hurts someone. In fact, I'd rather take a punch and lay on the ground crying, than jab someone in the throat with a rigid hand. I don't want to hurt anyone. Thats my second goal.

My first goal is to not allow myself to be SERIOUSLY hurt.

In most situations, I feel I can walk away. No problem. If 99% of the people watching me think I'm a wimp...thats fine. I'd much rather be a perceived wimp, and leave without ANYONE hurt than hurt somebody to inflate my pride.

BUT...there MAY be situations in the future(although I try to avoid them like the plague) where I may be put in a situation where I HAVE to hurt or get hurt.

How the hell do I fight against some jerk who has less skill than me without killing or hurting him?

Mind you...running is ALWAYS an option for me. I will ALWAYS choose to run rather than being caught in a fight. Is it because I'm a wimp...nope. Its because I don't want anybody to suffer. Seriously.

But what do I do if I'm in a hurt or be hurt type of fight? I know this is isn't the best place to ask...but for years, I haven't been able to come up with an adequate solution.

How do I disable the situation without hurting the other person(s), or getting hurt?

I'm freaking funny...and have no problem running or ditching any material goods. Those are always my first options. I've been in fights before...and I have remained pretty calm (probably because I knew I could disable the situation and leave quickly). But I am DEATHLY afraid of the day I am surrounded by a few people and feel as if my only option is to fight dirty. I'm a civilian, and I don't want to do that. What the hell do I do?

Any help?

Sorry this isn't a typical AskMe type of question...but I really do need help here.
posted by hal_c_on to Human Relations (47 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm a girl, I was taught to carry pepper spray, and if that fails, go for any soft tissue; eyes, throat, groin. You just need to disable/stun them enough to get the hell outta there.
posted by cestmoi15 at 7:57 PM on June 26, 2009


Why do you think you would ever be in a fight? Physical fights seem pretty uncommon.
posted by saradarlin at 7:58 PM on June 26, 2009 [9 favorites]


Unless you are actually in combat, I don't see how you will ever be in a situation where you will have to fight dirty. Unless you put yourself there. I've managed to avoid it all my life; so can you.

That said, if your only option is to fight dirty, then that's your only option, right?
posted by bricoleur at 8:02 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


This seems clear. Either you can walk away from it, or there is a very serious threat to someone's health. So either you walk away or you seriously hurt the person who is seriously threatening your (or someone for whom you care's) health.
If you absolutely cannot walk away without something horrible happening, make something horrible happen to the offender, as quickly and efficiently as possible. Your DI's suggestions re: groins and knees sound pretty good.
That being said, I bet you never find yourself in a situation that requires this unless you go looking for one. (Not to say it' impossible--there are crazy/dangerous people in the world. Just unlikely.)
posted by agentofselection at 8:06 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I took a martial art a number of years ago with an early heavy emphasis on self-defense, including situations involving multiple attackers or weapons.

It was drilled into our heads, especially in higher-risk situations (e.g. with weapons present), that the only time it was worth fighting was when your life was on the line. Wallet? Bag? Laptop? Sure - here you go, take it.

With that, it followed that if your life was on the line, fight accordingly.

Not to be flippant, but isn't the perennial cliche from the old Saturday-Afternoon Kung Fu movies that "we train so that we never have to use it?" (well, behind the other great cliche of "my Kung Fu is greater than yours")

It seems to me like you're doing the right thing - many people encounter confrontational situations and escalate them (think the perennial two-drunk-meatheads-in-a-bar situation). If you're walking away with your head held high, what's the concern?

May we all be so lucky as to get through life without facing a life-or-death situation. But you never know, you might be in one. Sounds like you're prepared for it, and you'll know what to do when the time comes.

Hope it helps, please follow up if I'm not answering it.
posted by swngnmonk at 8:07 PM on June 26, 2009


Echoing the others who say you don't need to fight. Depending on what sort of culture you grew up in, this may seem like a remarkable claim, but in 36 years I have never had to strike a person in anger, and other than some friendly wrestling that may have gotten out of hand about 20 years ago, never really had any physical confrontation in threat or anger. Sometimes you need to recognize that walking away is still being the bigger man. And you always need to act with your own confidence. But, in the civilian world, at least in most parts of this country, you simply don't need to fight.

If you do need to fight. You fight to win, and it will be clear to you that any means are appropriate. If you are conflicted it is because you are bringing a fight to a place that doesn't need it.

If you are interested in how to diffuse the situation and take a martial prowess to the final degree of training not to fight, I recommend Aikido. I don't practice personally, but have great respect for many folks who do.
posted by meinvt at 8:19 PM on June 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Adults in the United States almost never need to fight. When they do, there is often litigation and/or police involvement. Given your level of training, the ramifications of you getting in a fight would likely be far-reaching well beyond the fight itself. Don't get in a fight. Put yourself in some position in society where fights never or nearly never occur. It's not difficult to do.
posted by The World Famous at 8:32 PM on June 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


I've been in fights before...and I have remained pretty calm (probably because I knew I could disable the situation and leave quickly). But I am DEATHLY afraid of the day I am surrounded by a few people and feel as if my only option is to fight dirty.

It seems like you're worrying unneccessarily and borrowing trouble, because you remain calm in fights and seemingly know how to avoid them pretty much completely. If you are ever set upon by a few people, you'll be justified in using more extreme measures.

Fun anecdote: I heard that Sean Connery was at a dance in some rough area in Edinburgh one evening long ago. He spent a good part of the time dancing with and paying attention to one particular young woman, and there was a group of men there who didn't like this because they felt the woman "belonged" to them. So, they surrounded Connery and he knew it would only be a second or two before they'd all be on him at once and he'd have no chance. So he picked up the biggest guy in the group and threw him off a balcony. No one messed with him after that.
posted by orange swan at 8:32 PM on June 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


How the hell do I fight against some jerk who has less skill than me without killing or hurting him?

Seconding Aikido. I took lessons for a few months, and felt it was great for someone who (like me) isn't very physically intimidating. It's all about using your opponent's center of gravity against him, and disabling attackers so you can get away.
posted by tomatofruit at 8:35 PM on June 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Have you considered learning some form submission fighting? The very early years of the UFC seem to indicate that grappling and submission wrestling seem to be very effective against an untrained opponent.

As an aside, it might seem like you've defined the problem into a no-win situation. You state up front that "running is ALWAYS an option" but then phrasie the situation as a "a hurt or be hurt type of fight". It sounds like you've basically accepted that your options are either "hurt" or "be hurt".

And, on preview, I have to agree with the other posters about the frequency of fighting in the civilian population. What kinds of situations do you anticipate arising in your life that would necessitate physical confrontation? I would imagine that, for most people, street brawling is as unlikely as shark attacks in Lake Michigan.
posted by mhum at 8:38 PM on June 26, 2009


I used to have the "what's best weapon in a bar fight" conversation all the time. I mean, a Galliano bottle even looks like a sword.

Eventually, the winning weapon was "two feet."

As in, with the proper use of "two feet," you can walk away from trouble. And live to daydream about using Galliano bottles like D'Artagnan.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:47 PM on June 26, 2009


What the hell do I do if and when I'm in a fight?

Most people (civilians) I know have lived out there entire lives without ever getting into a fight.

If this is something you're seriously worried about, you probably should reevaluate the people you spend your time with, and the places you hang out...
posted by wfrgms at 8:50 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


How the hell do I fight against some jerk who has less skill than me without killing or hurting him?

There is no way to do this, at least not with 100% confidence. A kid I grew up with got killed in a bar scuffle a few years ago when a guy punched him and he didn't see it coming, he went down, head hit the curb. If you get in a real fight as an adult, you are running the risk of accidentally killing or maiming the other guy, no matter what technique you use or how trained either of you are. I've heard a lot of stories like this. I mean, hell, who doesn't know somebody who got seriously hurt just from wrestling going too far? So, I'd say try not to get in a fight unless that's an acceptable risk (e.g. assailant is about to stab your children).

That said, my old kickboxing/boxing coach used to say that if someone rushes you in the street, put your weight on your back leg and give him a short swift kick just above the knee when he gets in range. This is easy to do accurately, isn't risky like a big swing, gives you a distance advantage, will disable or delay most opponents, and either give you the advantage in the fight or give you additional escape time.
posted by jeb at 8:51 PM on June 26, 2009


By the way, this is not legal advice and I am not your lawyer, but as a trained former Marine, you essentially have a duty to make sure that you never get into a fight as a civilian. Did they not mention that in the Marines?
posted by The World Famous at 8:53 PM on June 26, 2009


Seriously, where are you hanging out that you have to worry this much about getting into a fight? As a kid, I was established as having anger management issues, after I beat the living crap out of a kid who took a swing at me. I've lived the next 26 years of my life having never thrown a punch.

I would respectfully suggest you remove yourself from situations/locations where this is an issue. If someone threatens your life or the lives of others, lettem have it. Otherwise, is it worth it to not walk away? You say you have the skill to hurt/kill someone; if they're not trying to do the same to you, why bother even interacting with them?
posted by liquado at 9:02 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was walking near downtown Minneapolis one night, years ago, and ran across a man beating his girlfriend with a hammer. I told his to leave and he attacked me. He was on me before I had a chance to really react, and, moreso, I just couldn't walk away without knowing that he was going to leave the woman alone. It was late at night and I did not know where I could find a phone to call the police. If I disengaged, I was certain he would return to his girlfriend and kill her. As long as he was attacking me, he was leaving her alone.

Once in a blue, there is a fight you can't walk away from. Not in the time it takes to make the decision whether you're going to leave someone to potentially die.

I tried to knock the guy out, unsuccessfully. I held his hands and we struggled. Somehow, I talked him down and he went to his car and drove away. I enrolled in martial arts classes the next day. Confronted with the situation again, I would try to cripple him as quickly as I could. I'd go for the knees, the shins, the eyes, the ears, the solar plexus. Whatever was closest and could hurt him the most. I'd also shout a lot while I was doing it. "CALL 911! CALL 911!"

It might go bad. It sometimes does. I doubt there is any real way to step into a fight and know you're going to win.

Of course, I carry a cell phone with me now. A situation like this hasn't repeated itself. Maybe it never will. The best thing you can do is get the cops on the line as fast as possible. Then you can say, hey, fuck with me if you like, but the cops will be here in a few minutes. I've broken up quite a few fights outside my apartment by calling the cops and shouting down to the street that they were on their way. I'd say a cell phone is about the best martial arts weapon you can find right now. Keep it charged, carry it everywhere, and be ready to dial 911 the moment things start seeming dangerous.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:02 PM on June 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


Shel Silverstein - The Winner.

Also - Run.
posted by ostranenie at 9:15 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


wfrgms: "Most people (civilians) I know have lived out there entire lives without ever getting into a fight. If this is something you're seriously worried about, you probably should reevaluate the people you spend your time with, and the places you hang out..."
__

Other people out there simply go looking for trouble though. This might not have anything to do with the people you have associated yourself with or where you hang out.

The mentality of the OP as I see it is that he rather not fight but if he is forced into a situation, he realizes the potential for very extreme consequences. How does he control that without really hurting someone. My brother is in the military and I've heard the exact same things from his mouth as the OP has stated. I got to see some of his tactics though and they kinda hurt. ...even if we were messing around. And he didn't seem to be working up a sweat at all. :(


hal_c_on :If you are in put into such a position where running is not an option, I say do what ever it is you need to do to walk away safely. If that means dropping the person/people so that they don't get up then so be it. They messed with the wrong guy. /shrugs
posted by Gravitus at 9:20 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why do you think you'll end up in a physical fight? The fact that you give it so much thought makes me think you've got some bigger issues you should try to identify and work on.

A - learn self defense.
B - see a therapist.

"I don't want to say I'm a pacifist...but its been about 2-3 years since I last hit somebody."

Again, therapy. If not for your sake then for everyone else's.
posted by 2oh1 at 9:49 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just want to point out that the poster did not ask whether he should get in fights. He asked what he should do if he finds himself in one. I find myself idly wondering this too sometimes, so I was curious to see if anyone would say anything useful. Apparently not.
posted by !Jim at 10:16 PM on June 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


IMHO, the key is to quickly access the situation to identify what kind of scenario it is:
1. The guy only wants your money/wallet/watch. Mugger may or may not have a knife/gun.
Solution: (If) you give it to him, no fight. (It's illegal to attack the mugger when he turns around to run away, but IANAL.) Call 911.

2. The guy only wants to cause you physical pain with no permanent damage. It's when you chose not to give the mugger your money, drunk guy is angry at you, street kids want to bully/smack you around, etc. And maybe when he gropes your girlfriend.
Solution: You fight until you can run away, and call 911.
No knives allowed. Pepper spray, groin kicking, breaking joints are okay. No permanent damage should be caused unless you think it has escalated into the next scenario.

3. The guy wants to kill you or cause permanent damage.
Solution: You fight until you can run away, and call 911.
Deadly force allowed. All gloves are off. Eyes are fair game.

Unfortunately, we live in times when we can go to jail for accidentally killing someone in self defense, a la Con Air (1997). Be careful using "excessive force" given your background.
posted by jayne at 10:17 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you get in a real fight as an adult, you are running the risk of accidentally killing or maiming the other guy, no matter what technique you use or how trained either of you are. I've heard a lot of stories like this.

That's what I've always heard. Adult men who get into fights always risk seriously injuring or killing their opponent. Street/bar fighting is nasty business, and you should expect your opponent to fight nasty.

Real life fights are not like in the movies and not like in school when a coach or authority figure will eventually break it up. I saw that much on the streets of Kobe, Japan.

I learned all this from a paramedic friend. He became solemn when remembering treating victims of street and bar fights. Nothing was worse, he said. This, from a man trained to jump out of helicopters to rescue people.

If as The World Famous said, as a former marine you have certain duties in this regard, you need to clarify what they are.

I am not a fighter and I am a small girl who has never hit a fly. Kicked a few walls though.
posted by vincele at 10:27 PM on June 26, 2009


I used to look for trouble, because I didn't like myself enough.

I've met a knife, a gun, been carjacked, mugged, and don't actually know how I got down that one block in Boston without mishap, when I actually interrupted a drug deal by walking between the vendor & customer as they were exchanging goods. Bad night, that one (all of them).

But, with the exception of the carjacking*, I never had to fight. I won the fights by running, walking, talking... generally, by assuming a yielding, unconfrontational, unpanicked posture. I "unreacted" to the threats. I wish I could really express it better, other than to say: if you don't want to fight, you don't have to fight (except in the rarest of cases).

I think I'm living proof of that.

* One punch, and the incident was over. The average martial arts student is roughly 100 miles ahead of the average troublemaker in skills and strategy.

Oh, one more thing: I like myself much more these days. Quite a lot, actually. One could even say I act as though I were my best friend. Yay therapy!
posted by IAmBroom at 11:16 PM on June 26, 2009


Re how to fight and win without killing or maiming (or being killed or maimed) I can't give you advice beyond 'be a good runner' and 'know how to read situations so you can avoid them.'

Because the number one and two rules of don't-want-to-fight club are: avoid places where fights happen, and avoid people who want to fight (corrollary to rules 1 and 2: avoid bars).
posted by zippy at 11:21 PM on June 26, 2009


If someone was trying to seriously injure or kill me, and I was in a situation where I could not simply walk away.... you better believe I would turn into a cock-punching, eye-gouging, knee-stomping machine. If your LIFE is on the line, I don't understand why you would be afraid to fight dirty. Would you expect your opponent to give you such courtesy. In the most extreme of situations, fighting honorably is not what it's about.
posted by gnutron at 11:25 PM on June 26, 2009


Maybe there's a connection I'm not making here but...

Your original combat training is still the answer to your question. If you're in a situation where your life (or someone else' life) is on the line, and the attacker gives you no other option but to fight, there is really no such thing as fighting dirty. They already made it dirty, now you're just fighting to clean things up.

I too trained in martial arts with a heavy focus in self defense. My trainers did not pull any punches (no pun intended) - when you are in this situation, your single, consuming goal is to kill or maim your opponent - whichever you can do fastest, without stopping to try to make a choice between the two. The goal is to incapacitate them immediately before they can do the same to you or someone else. Take judo throws, for instance - in training we constantly drill to pull up on the person being thrown at the last second so that their impact with the ground is lightened. But you are constantly reminded that in a real situation, you are to drive the person into the ground with your full force, hopefully landing them on their head or the back of their neck.

Its not pretty, its not comfortable, and it shouldn't be. But you need to remember that, in the situation you speak of - where no other options exist, this person wants to do the same thing to you (or someone else).

You fight to kill or maim, or you don't fight at all. That's your only choice.
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:33 AM on June 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


1. Don't fight.
2. If you have to fight you don't get points for style, you end it as soon as possible.
posted by edgeways at 12:45 AM on June 27, 2009


Dude, you're a Marine. Who is dumb enough to get into a fight with you? I'd be inclined to say that if they do so, they deserve what they get in the dirty fighting department.

And, seriously, what on earth are you getting into that fights happen to you even as often as that? I've been in one "fight" since I was in junior high school, and that was just some punk who threw a random punch at me on the street.

Failing that, I'd take either aikido, judo, or BJJ, all of which focus on "control"-type techniques, i.e., things that can be done w/o crippling people. (Although you still have to be careful -- many throws in aikido and judo, and chokes etc. in BJJ can do serious damage... yes, even aikido -- put some hips into that kote gaeshi and wrists can go snap...)

Aikido dojo also incorporate multiple-attacker techniques (randori) in the advanced curriculum. And often try and inculcate a less combative attitude.
posted by paultopia at 2:16 AM on June 27, 2009


Well, I am in sort of the same situation as you. I am decently tall but very very thin. For some reason, this makes me the guy at the bar or party that some guy decides he wants to beat up. They come up to me and start belligerently accusing me with things like "why did you bump my arm with my drink?" or "are you trying to insult me?" or "why are you staring at my girlfriend?" etc.

Diffuse. Its easy. Just tell them whatever they say is right without being obsequious. Genuinely apologize for whatever they think you did. Apologizing for things I didn't do is much easier than fighting and possibly trying to explain to police why Mr. angry is lying on the floor. I have avoided many many fights. People don't want to beat up a guy telling them how smart and awesome they are usually.

Now, if apologizing doesn't work, and one is afraid for one's life, I think striking first is the best plan. Surprise always gives one the advantage, and a bully wouldn't be expecting that. Never get into a fight unless you are afraid for your or someone elses life. If you do, aim to do as much damage as quicly as possible so you can get the hell away from there.

I am sure you learned all this in the marines, but the 3 down and dirty quick and painful techniques I learned were:

1) throat: use the edge of your hand and karate chop the throat. Hit the adams apple. If you crush the windpipe they may die. Since you would never fight unless in grave danger this should not be a problem.

2) knee: turn sideways and use the entire force of your weight, your muscles, and your weak leg to drive your strong leg into the other persons kneecap. You are trying to force their leg to bend backwards. This will immobilize them. The knee is one of the most painful areas on the body.

3) groin: Don't punch, or kick you will miss the important bits. Grab the jewels, squeeze, twist, when they either throw up or look unable to function, let go and run. This is the advice most rape defense classes give because it is easy and foolproof. Yes, you have to touch another mans area, but this is better than ending up in the hospital.

Basically, if there is no danger to my life, I am not fighting. If there is, I am going to win before the fight even starts. Never ever ever get into a fight where you or someone else is not in iminent danger of serious bodily harm.

Good luck.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 5:28 AM on June 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think first of all you should sit down and think about what situations you really would fight in. You might also look into things such as how police officers are trained physically restrain suspects - the goal for them is not to maim or kill.
posted by fermezporte at 6:41 AM on June 27, 2009


seconding what many have said, make sure you won't get in fights...that is, always mind your surroundings, be polite, don't get shitfaced drunk, etc...
posted by spacefire at 7:01 AM on June 27, 2009


Non-violent control of a violent individual is an entirely different ballgame from learning how to fight well. As a martial artist who has trained for most of his life (first in Kempo, later in Aikido), I would never enter into a fight with the mentality of, "I'm going to NOT hurt this guy." If possible, that's my intention, but at the point where I've made the decision to engage in a physical altercation the line between causing injury and harmlessly preventing my opponent from hurting me is a thin one, and it's largely determined by my skill. I don't know and have never met anyone who could guarantee the latter outcome; a good, serious martial artist who aspires to control and not just violence generally knows that it only takes a slight mistake to necessitate a more severe response to prevent their own injury or death. Part of being skilled lies in knowing how and when to use an opponent's openings in a judicious way.

If you're willing to spend years learning a subtle art that takes a belligerent person's attack, blends with and redirects it, and ends the fight without them being injured, I'd suggest training in Aikido. It isn't easy in any way: it is relatively simple to learn how to break another human being who has over-committed to an attack, and incredibly complicated to learn how to extend and control that force without leaving yourself open at all.

Many Aikido schools are good. However, many will teach you things that do not and could not work, which is largely why Aikido is laughed at by the UFC types. A good Aikido school will emphasize the martial applications of Aikido techniques, be led by an instructor who deeply understands how things like balance, pain, extension, and ki all interrelate, and ideally will be a place where you can learn both the martial application of a technique (the "jutsu", in Japanese) as well as the more enlightened ideal that most Aikido focuses on (the "do").

What you may find (or at least, what you will hopefully find) is that years of training in Aikido leave you aware enough to avoid situations where you need it. Like any -do style, should be about the improvement of the individual rather than learning the Ultimate Fighting Style du jour.
posted by ellF at 8:06 AM on June 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


By the way, this is not legal advice and I am not your lawyer, but as a trained former Marine, you essentially have a duty to make sure that you never get into a fight as a civilian. Did they not mention that in the Marines?

I'm pretty sure this is an urban legend, actually.
posted by EarBucket at 8:20 AM on June 27, 2009


"I don't want to say I'm a pacifist...but its been about 2-3 years since I last hit somebody."

Wow. Missed this part of the OP.

That's not normal. That's not healthy, to believe that going a whole 2-3 years between physically attacking someone makes you a candidate for pacifism.

2oh1 (and others) nailed it:
Again, therapy. If not for your sake then for everyone else's.

You have an unhealthy predilection for violence.

See. A. Therapist.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:11 AM on June 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


What is with the preaching?

I don't want to turn this into chatfilter, but I do think we should ease up on the OP here -- he's a Marine. Those 2-3 years could be 2-3 years since years since being in a combatives course, or in a fight with other trained fighters in a bar brawl on a base somewhere. People with psychological issues that lead them into fights don't tend to say things like, "I'd rather take a punch and lay on the ground crying, than jab someone in the throat with a rigid hand. I don't want to hurt anyone."

Also, the question was, "what do I do if I'm in a hurt or be hurt type of fight?" Suggestions for therapy based on that inquiry are not answers.
posted by ellF at 9:17 AM on June 27, 2009


Telling the questioner that these scenarios are not likely to happen is not answering his question.

Bad things happen to people. Period.

Just dont let anyone die is my answer. Act accordingly.
posted by captainsohler at 10:15 AM on June 27, 2009


Let's assume that this is a 'Hey, so I'm curious, if I was in such and such a situation, what would I do?' post. My interpretation of the post says this dude is probably not the sort of person who starts fights and has not had to defend himself in years, so he's wondering what he should do if he finds himself in that situation again.

I have nowhere near as much combat experience, being limited mostly to a number of years of martial arts training, both hand to hand and weapons.

1) If possible, run the fuck away.

2) If not possible, yes, fight dirty, and fight to disable first and secure yourself time to get away. Vulnerable areas are key - eyes, groin, solar plexus, feet, armpits, any soft areas. Use your teeth and nails if you have to; your bite can exert hundreds of pounds of force on tissue.

3) Use psychological warfare. Be confident. 90% of fearsomeness is the image you project. Do remember, though, that fearful people can sometimes fight even dirtier than they would if they weren't, so also be careful.

4) If it gets to the point where your life is in danger and you know it's legal to use deadly force in self-defense, then by all means, do that if it is absolutely necessary.

5) Anything can be used as a weapon. Pepper spray, blunt objects, glass made into a shiv!
posted by kldickson at 10:19 AM on June 27, 2009


Most anything you do to an assailant depends on how he or she is standing. Watch for locked knees that you can take advantage of with a kick. If you're fighting a group of people, you have to hurt one of them badly enough that the rest will give up. If you're in a close grapple, bite your opponent. Also, ears will come off if you grap tight enough and yank hard enough. Worry about the blood later. Try to use your elbows to "punch." Go for the throat, battering the airway will take the wind out of your opponent's sails.

If you're fighting a group try to cover your back. Also try to isolate one of your opponents. If you can break away from them but you know you won't be able to keep running, find high ground or a protected area to fight from; in other words, when possible don't let your opponents choose the field of battle.

Carry a knife. Even a legal (four inch? I'm not sure, and it may differ by locality) blade will cut someone up enough that they'll give up quick. Make sure it has a good grip and that you're comfortable holding it blade-downwards (the way they trained you to wield your ka-bar). Be sure you aren't prone to letting go of it, as you'd hate to be disarmed and find your own knife stuck in you.

You are an adult, and as you say, one who tries to avoid fights. This means that any fight you do find yourself in is the result of someone else's unusually aggressive approach. If you try talking them down, try running away, and he or she still comes after you, or the group of people is obviously out for your blood, you should be prepared for a fight to the death.

You aren't going out in order to get in fights but if the fight comes to you there is no such thing as "hurt or be hurt." You should try to kill your opponent. Chances are you will incapacitate them before this comes to pass. Stop immediately, get to safety, call emergency services, get an ambulance for your assailant and a police car for your protection (if it doesn't save a life, it helps in court).

But you learned all this in the Marines.
posted by breezeway at 10:25 AM on June 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I used to live in a college town, with a lively bar scene and not much else. An army base was also not too far away. My perspective from living a block away from both campus and the bars was that military training and booze are the only explosive combination. My roommate's police scanning adventures with a camera basically confirm this.

I guess there's a certain amount of programming the military that leaves soldiers in constant anticipation of threats. An odd and tragic example: a few guys leave base to hit the campus bar scene, get completely trashed. One of them throws a bottle at a car parking at a nearby house, and calls its driver a homosexual, in so many words. In a step I can't imagine I would take, the driver goes into his house and retrieves a kitchen knife, conceals it and confronts the posse. Things go as bad as you can imagine; the driver ends up killing the drunken soldier. Where it gets odd is, our drunken and now dead soldier was carrying a concealed pistol. Someone was bound to die in that confrontation.

But none of this has to happen if you're as anti-fight as you claim. At some level, these people willfully escalated the situation, rather than defused it. Separate yourself from the threat and call for backup (lawful police, preferably). If you're in a bar (the powder keg hold), the bouncer's role is to prevent this. It's truly naive to assume you can punch or kick your way out of a violent threat.
posted by pwnguin at 11:36 AM on June 27, 2009


I'm with the others who say you can likely avoid actual fights for the rest of your life. And you sound like you could avoid most of those with your preferred method of running. But given your training, I think your problem will actually solve itself if the feared inescapable fight situation comes up.

If it's a situation where you can't get away and might take a punch or two before it gets broken up, you'll survive. If it's a situation where you or a loved one is in serious danger, then the person threatening you doesn't deserve your restraint. They have waived their right to it by denying it to you. And you will act in a way that disables them because you won't be thinking about anything other than protecting yourself or your loved ones. If there is a middle ground between those two and it's just that there are three knuckle draggers who have you surrounded, then it sounds like you have some non-lethal, non-maiming techniques you can use. What's wrong with kneeing one of them in the balls? He asked for it and nobody keeps score outside of the playground. How about a swift uppercut to the nose with the heel of your hand (that one pairs nicely with running right afterwards while he is stunned and blinded)? You know some things like that. You don't have to go all stiff hand to the adam's apple or destroy their knee. If it's that or die, you'll do it. If it's not, you won't.

But most likely you'll be fine. Likely no fight will come up. If it does you'll likely get out of it. If you can't, it'll likely get broken up. If it's not likely to get broken up, you have some effective techniques that won't maim. If it's life threatening you have some more effective techniques to get the job done. Take a self defense class to augment your non-maiming techniques if you want to feel more confident about that.
posted by Askr at 12:11 PM on June 27, 2009


My best friend and I took martial arts together in high school. The only way I learned how to fight, and how *not* to fight (e.g. with drunk guys at rock concerts), was to practice.

The techniques in martial arts are like 20%. The experience and confidence are the other 80%. My friend and I would just ... practice fighting. It starts out playful, then it turns into a (more) serious situation where you're taking some lumps. It doesn't take long before you're just not that afraid of getting hurt. It's easy to talk a guy down and not ever have to fight in the first place when you're not afraid of taking a few smacks.

By the time my friend and I were black belts, we were practicing getting hit just as much as hitting.

Okay - how to take down a guy without going to jail. You're a little guy, so you want to move *in* as quickly as possible. This is going to work for fists and knives. One punch (not too hard) as fast as you can right under the sternum ('bread basket') or the bottom of the ribs on either side will stop a guy cold. You're actually going to want to move into his swing, like you're trying to have him hug you. Hit him again in the ribs and briskly run away. If there are other guys, they will often think twice before engaging with you once you've taken down one guy and are eyeing up your next target, so it's not as bad as you think. Don't turn your back to them until you're away.

If he has a gun do whatever he says. If he's loud and talkative, you'll most likely be fine. If he's all business (e.g. just wants your wallet) you might die. If this freaks you out, take a martial arts class that's as similar to boxing / street fighting as possible.
posted by blahtsk at 3:21 PM on June 27, 2009


Most "stranger on stranger" fights seem to happen at night. And usually in places where you might guess they would happen (bars, crazy-bad neighborhoods where you are the stranger), dark alleys, etc...) So retire to your homestead early. And stay away from places where your spider senses go berserk! I think this will decrease your chances of ending up in a "stranger on stranger" fight.
posted by boots77 at 6:32 PM on June 27, 2009


I have never been a fighter. I don't have your problem- if I don't find an alternative I am going down. I have been in a situation where a very pissed off man with a knife was trying to decide whether to cut me or not. It took maybe twenty minutes of me backing very slowly away, moving both back and forward, talking and being engaged in the situation for him to decide against it. I have felt that being creatively involved and willing to to what ever is necessary is all I need.

I live in a town where people have been shot while driving in their cars so it was with great concern when I noticed that the car that I had carelessly cut off was not only next to me at the light but full of angry thug-like individuals. I felt like I was scant seconds away from a physical confrontation. Thinking quickly, I let my mouth drop open, turned my head, gazed blankly in their direction and stuck my finger up my nose. They were highly amused and recognized I had no ill will towards them. They drove off laughing.

If your self respect is not tied to what others think of you I don't think you will ever be in the situation you fear.
posted by pointilist at 9:05 PM on June 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Learn ground fighting, like jiujutsu or wrestling. I see small guys take out large all the time by choking or submitting (embarassing but generally non-injurious). 90% of all fights end up on the ground anyway and most peoople have no idea how to grapple.

I also have to laugh at the people who ask you why you should want to know how to fight - just because you live miles away from water you should at least be familiar with swimming.
posted by dozo at 5:43 AM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


SysRq has a good point about you being overanxious about this. Fights are easily avoided in this day and age. What are you're talking about is so unlikely to happen that it's not worth spending the amount of emotional energy on it that you're spending. If you can, talk to a therapist about it.

If you do want to get a better idea about what you can do with your body against another body, I recommend you try a martial art that involves regular sparring against fully resisting opponents, like Muay Thai, boxing, Brazilian jiu-jiitsu, sambo, or judo. Knowing what you can realistically do might make you feel more confident and comfortable. I think it might relax you overall as well.

MeFi user tkchrist, a guy who's done a lot of martial arts of various sorts, has written some insightful stuff on MetaFilter about martial arts training and its relationship to self-defense if you want more to chew on.
posted by ignignokt at 9:32 AM on June 28, 2009


Not sure why you're so worried about physical confrontation....but, I used to date a very small guy (5'6, Buck Fifty at most) who had several black belts in karate and other martial arts. He told me that he knew how to flip someone out of the way if he needed to...

So I think this is the kind of thing they could teach you in martial arts training.
posted by bananafish at 10:53 AM on June 28, 2009


In response to an earlier comment:

If you are trying to keep yourself from hurting others, it is a bad, bad idea to carry a weapon and an even worse idea for you to use it UNLESS your opponent is similarly armed AND pulls his weapon out first.


Basically, don't do what this guy did:

http://www.thebostonchannel.com/news/3790049/detail.html
http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20140141,00.html
http://www.bostonherald.com/blogs/news/city_desk_wired/index.php/2007/12/14/third-trial-for-pring-wilson-you-bet/

If your opponent falls down, don't continue to strike him. Don't repeatedly strike someone in the head.

If you win the fight and your opponent seems seriously hurt, call 911 so that he can receive proper medical care.
posted by kathrineg at 12:20 AM on June 29, 2009


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