How to Survive a Street Fight

Trying to keep this article reasonably long, i’ll pass on an introduction and get right to it:

The most important thing you have to know about fighting is this:

Avoid At All Cost

That’s right, a guide about something telling you not to do it. Crazy, huh?

Well, let me explain: I’m not going to go into the morals of using physical violence here, as I do not regard myself as the one guy who knows what’s right. That one I’ll leave to you.

I’d rather talk about a few aspects of street fights that are frequently overlooked, especially by those seeking them. And they just so happen to be those that might get you killed.

See, a real fight is nothing like Hollywood would like you to believe it is. There is nothing to be gained, but everything to be lost. Literally. And it’s far from looking cool, too.

The problem with real fights is: You don’t know sh**. You don’t know how strong the other guy is. You don’t know how many friend he’s got around and where they are. You don’t know if he’s intoxicated, possibly making him both, reckless and less susceptible to pain. And, most importantly, you don’t know if he’s armed.

One of the first things US Marines learn when the come to hand-to-hand combat lessons is this:

Always assume your opponent carries one more weapon.

And there’s a problem with weapons, as you might know: They’re designed to inflict injuries.

Chances are you’ll find yourself cut open, shot, crippled or at heaven’s gates before you even know what hit you.

A gamble not worth taking.

Now, depending on where you live and how much respect you have for the law, you might think to yourself “So what, I’ll carry a gun”. That’s a great idea if you want to rob a bank (which in itself is not a great idea at all), but a lousy one for self-defense. If you show it, you’ll most likely make the other guy attack even more violently or pull his own. If you fire it, there’s good chance you’ll end up in jail, let alone live with the knowledge of having killed a person for the rest of your life. If you don’t miss, that is.

A knife, by the way, is an even dumber idea. Unless you know how to handle one – in a fight! – it’s most likely to end up being used against you. And there’s only a handful of people who do. On top of that, you have pretty much the same problems as with the gun.

So, what do you do?

Three simple steps:

  • Preparation

  • Assessment

  • Fight/Flight


Preparation does not only include gearing up or taking classes. Both help a lot, but a great part of it can be done at home, comfortably sitting on your couch.

There are two important parts of mental preparation we’re going to talk about, self-confidence and determination.

The first is easy: Don’t do what I did. Don’t make yourself a target. Hold your head up high, but try not to come across as arrogant. Try not to attract attention, but walk steady. This alone can save you a lot of trouble. Avoiding walking dark streets, alone, in the middle of the night and similar places should be a no-brainer.

The second is a little more, well, a stretch, if you will.

Given you did try to avoid a fight at all cost, yet find yourself in a position where you have to resort to violence, you will have to commit to it at all cost. This sounds contradictory at first, but is extremely important to understand. Once you cross the line, the rules change. As long as you can still walk away, do it. But once you’ve decided you can’t anymore, you will have to do everything in your own power to stop your opponent. Every dirty trick in the book is allowed. The goal, of course, has to be to create an opportunity to walk away, to render your opponent unable to continue the fight or chase you. Not to kill him. But the means to these results are very similar. You have to accept that, even if you’re a pacifist that makes Buddha himself ashamed in comparison. A fight is a fight, and every single split-second of hesitation can cost you your well-being at best, your life at worst. If you fight, you fight. With everything you’ve got.

As far as classes are concerned, don’t think a few weeks of martial arts training are going to make you into Bruce Lee. Martial arts have their merits and are a great, fun thing to do – but to be applied in a real life fight, you’ll have to put a lot of time and effort in them. You’lll have to become very good at them, and that will take years. Literally.

I would advise special self-defense seminars which can be found in virtually every larger city. Weekend seminars are usually more fun, but less effective, as you will have to do more practice on your own to really let the lessons sink in. A great martial art for defensive purposes is Krav Maga, which is rather easy and quick to learn – though not excel at – and highly effective.

DVDs, books and online courses are a waste of money, as you’ll probably end up with a set of moves you think you can execute, only to find out that you somehow got that wrong. When it’s too late.

Carrying a weapon can greatly help you boost your confidence and, if handled correctly, give you an advantage in fight as well. But: Stay with non-lethal defense-weapons only (see above). Pepper spray is both, easy to handle and effective, able to end a fight before it starts. If you decide to buy one, buy two instead and fire one somewhere safe, like in the woods, to get a feel for how it “shoots”. Stay clear of the tear-gas versions, as they have shown to be ineffective against people under the influence of drugs, and chances are your attacker is drunk.

Another great weapon is the kubotan (try google for more info), although some supervised training (a weekend course should suffice) is highly recommended.


This will be a short paragraph. How refreshing.

Look at your surroundings:

Is there a way out? Maybe one that’s blocked by your opponent, but will open when he moves? Are there people around you can ask to help? A bunch of guys who seem to root for the attacker? Objects that can serve as a weapon? Memorize this and try to make use of it when you can.

In-fight, always try to know where you are relative to your surroundings and what you’ve noticed beforehand. If an opening presents itself, try to slip out of there. If you end up next to that trash-can, grab the lid and use it. If you’re up to one person only, try to keep your back turned to an opening, not to wall. If there are more, consider the opposite, so you won’t be attacked from behind.

Assess your opponent:

Does he carry a weapon? If so, can you stop him from pulling it by rushing in?

Does he look intoxicated? If so, forget about those submission techniques, he’s probably insusceptible to pain.

Does he seem to be hurt? Where? How do you effectively hit him there?

Oh, and assess yourself, too. Are you carrying anything that can be used as a weapon? Where exactly is it? Are you injured and therefore unable to execute certain attacks?


If, in assessing the situation, you’ve found a way out, now is the time to run for it. Remember, it’s the smart thing to to. If not, this should be fight and flight rather thatfight or flight. Remenber, the goal is to incapacitate the attacker in order to get away. Nothing more, but also nothing less.

If you have a weapon, use it immediately. Again, only non-lethal defense weapons.

Take a boxer-like stance, with one leg further away from your opponent than the other, holding the weapon in the hand that is farthest from him. This way, it’ll be harder for him to take it away.

Aim your pepper spray at his eyes and empty it. Don’t bother to save some for a second shot, you won’t get a chance.

If you use a kubotan or any other blunt, light object, aim for the bony areas – ribs, colar bone, hips – for maximum impact. A single strike to the solar plexus – right in the middle of the torso, where the ribcage ends – can cause severe damage. Remember to hit with full force, commit to it.

If your weapon is sturdy and heavy – anything club-like you might have picked up – aim for the soft parts, especially groin and stomach, or for the head.

Empty handed, remember that every dirty trick is allowed: Eye gauging, attacking the trachea, hitting below the belt. Again, aim for the soft parts of the body. Put your body-weight into your punches, don’t just throw your hands, throw your weight. Remember there are many angles from which you can hit but keep them narrow, so you’re quicker. Don’t flail wildly.

Mix it up.

When aiming for the head, try not to hit the forehead or cheek bones. Aim for nose and chin.

Don’t try fancy karate kicks, but do kick. You have more power in your legs than you have in your arms, because you work them out with every step you take.

Consider your elbows and knees, too. Especially when your opponent is too close your a punch.

Whatever you do, try to stay calm and collected, pick your shots and aim. Don’t rush it, but stay active. Stay in control. Attack. Keeping your hands up is a great idea, but don’t think too much about protecting yourself, as it will render you passive.

And, unless you really know what you are doing, do not try complicated techniques, such as submission holds. They leave you wide open and, if you haven’t practiced them thoroughly, will probably go wrong under the pressure of a fight situation.

As soon as you get the impression that your opponent had enough, leave.

Do not stick around! His buddies might be on their way, or he might recover pull that weapon he had hidden.

And once your home, check yourself. You’re probably still full of adrenaline and might have an injury that needs medical attention without feeling any pain.

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