Street fighting is something few martial arts will prepare you to handle. As a matter of fact, mixed martial arts (MMA) or karate won't teach you to how to cope with rigors and horrors of street fighting scenarios. Unlike sport combat or ritualized traditional fighting styles, street fighting is vicious, deadly and almost always unfair to the participants. Simply put, street fighting is a different kind of beast requiring a unique and specific form of reality based self defense training.
Ironically, most people fear street fighting, yet very few are properly trained to deal with it. Therefore, the goal of this article is to give you a greater understanding of street fighting and its related elements in hopes of diminishing some of the fear associated with it. Lets approach this from an analytical perspective and first define the meaning of a street fight.
Street Fighting Definition
If you explore the internet you will be hard pressed to find a credible or legitimate definition of "street fighting". To make matters even more confusing, there are spelling variations of the word such as streetfighting or street-fighting. Believe it or not, street fighting was a generic term that was seldom used by self defense and martial arts practitioners. It simply was not on their radar. It is only until now that the word is being used more frequently.
It was 1988 when I first attempted to define street fighting in the preface of my book, Street Lethal, published by paladin press. I wrote, "Street fighting is a spontaneous and hostile physical confrontation between two or more individuals where no rules apply. It is a sudden violent encounter that can occur anywhere, in which anything goes." Not bad for an 18 year old kid attempting to clarify such an nebulous subject.
If I may expand on my own definition, I would also add that street fighting is brutal, unpredictable and extremely dangerous. In many cases, weapons are often used with deadly consequences. Most importantly, there's no one to help you or come to your aid such a self defense situation. Essentially, you are on your own and have to truly fight for your survival!
"Street fighting is a spontaneous and hostile physical confrontation between two or more individuals where no rules apply. It is a sudden violent encounter that can occur anywhere, in which anything goes."
Street Fighting Tactics
As I stated earlier, this article will help you understand some of the unique characteristics of street fighting and also furnish you with some of my practical tactics taught in my Contemporary Fighting Arts self defense system. For those who are not aware, Contemporary Fighting Arts is my reality based self defense system specifically designed to teach you how to overcome and prevail in a street fight. While this article addresses tactics (specific actions and planned strategies) of street fighting, you might want to read my other article that specifically discusses actual street fighting techniques.
"Anytime you decide to engage in a street fight, you are dicing with death."
Street fighting can often be avoided by using some form of tactical assessment. Basically, tactical threat assessment is the process of rapidly gathering, analyzing, and accurately evaluating information in terms of threat and danger, including people, places, actions, and objects. There are two broad factors to assess in any streetfight, the environment and the assailant.
Accurate threat assessment is critical in a street fight for two reasons. First, it allows you to choose one of the five appropriate tactical responses during the altercation. Second, it allows you to respond with the appropriate level of force when defending yourself or a loved one. If necessary, accurate assessment skills will also allow you to describe your assailant to the authorities. If you do decide to report a criminal assault, notify the police while your recollections are still fresh. Jotting down a few notes immediately after the street fight altercation is also a good idea. You can learn about proper threat assessment skills as well as the five tactical options of self defense by studying our Judge, Jury and Executioner Program.
Right before the fight
Before a street fight starts, you will often have time to quickly assess the assailant's outward behavior. Be on the lookout for both verbal and nonverbal clues of impending violence. For example, is he shaking, or is he calm and collected? Are his shoulders hunched or relaxed? Are his hands clenched? Is his neck taut? Is he clenching his teeth? Is he breathing hard? Does he seem angry of frustrated, or confused? Does he seem high on drugs? Is he mentally ill or simply intoxicated? What is he saying? How is he saying it? Is he making sense? Is his speech slurred? What is his tone of voice? Is he talking rapidly or methodically? Is he cursing and angry? Remember that all of these verbal and nonverbal cues are essential in accurately assessing the assailant's overall demeanor and thus adjusting your self defense response accordingly.
When its time to react
While assessment skills are a vital component of street fighting, there are times when you must forget about assessment. For example, a criminal thug lunges from behind a car, grabs you, and throws you to the ground. It’s obviously too late for assessment skills. In such a street fighting situation, you must react intuitively and immediately to neutralize him with a variety of self defense techniques or you’re going to be hurt. Time is of the essence and your instinctive reaction and reflex must take the place of assessment. It's now time to react with defensive techniques before its too late!
De-Escalation before Street Fighting
Believe it or not, most street fights often starts off with some sort of dialogue. This is the pre-contact stage of street fighting and you might have the ability to apply de-escalation skills and talk your way out of the situation. De-escalation is the art and science of strategically diffusing a hostile situation before it turns into a street fight. It's important to keep in mind that not every confrontation legally warrants fighting. Often you will be required to use de-escalation skills to talk someone out of a possible fight. For example, an intoxicated loudmouth may be just the type of person you can settle down and lead away from a problem with effective de-escalation skills. You can learn more about the pre-contact stage of street fighting by reading my book, When Seconds Count: Everyone's Guide to Self Defense.
Street fighting de-escalation skills is the strategic process of diffusing a potentially violent confrontation. Its goal is to eliminate the possibility of an agitated individual resorting to physical violence. Effective street fight de-escalation is a delicate mixture of science and art, psychology and warfare. You must use both verbal and nonverbal techniques to calm the hostile person while employing tactically deceptive physical safeguards to create the appearance that you are completely non aggressive. De-escalation is the art of “tactically calming” the hostile person before he resorts to fighting. You must be in total control of yourself, both physically and emotionally, in order to deal effectively with someone on the verge of losing complete control. No matter what, you've got to keep your cool!
Avoiding the Street Fight
It behooves you to always try to de-escalate a hostile person and diffuse a possible street fight before it happens. Why diffuse a street fight? Here are five good reasons:
- For safety's sake - violence can often be avoided if you make the attempt.
- You have a moral imperative to prevent the street fight if possible.
- De-escalation controls your destructive abilities and should be part of any reality based self defense training program.
- Courtroom defensibility.
- To diminish the possibility of spectator intervention during the altercation.
However, there is no real guarantee that de-escalation skills will work in every street fight or on every hostile person. There are people who are going to attack you no matter how skillful and sincere you are in your efforts to avoid street fighting. Always keep in mind that when you’re dealing with human behavior, anything can happen. So be alert and be prepared for the worst possible scenario.
Practice makes perfect!
One of the best ways to develop and refine your de-escalation skills is to practice in front of a mirror. To begin, stand in front of full-length mirror and picture a street fighting confrontation in your mind. Envision a very angry and hostile person screaming at you. Once this scenario is crystal clear, assume the proper de-escalation stance and look into the mirror. Now, assess your stance while being cognizant of your physiology and hand positioning. Next, speak out loud and verbally diffuse this imaginary person. Remember to always use choice words for your street fighting scenario. To evaluate your performance you may want to record or video tape your performance.
Effective street fight de-escalation can only be achieved when you harmoniously orchestrate your verbal and non-verbal skills. This is known as "congruency." Significantly neglecting any one of the street fighting de-escalation principles will result in incongruence which can lead to disaster. For example, if you’re pointing your finger in someone's face in a confrontation, your selective semantics really won't matter. If your body language is perfect and your voice exact, but your choice of words is poor, you won't be congruent. Remember, for effective de-escalation, your entire body, mind, voice, choice of words, and emotions must be unified into a congruent whole. De escalation congruency is discussed in great length in my self defense dvd, In Your Face: Winning Strategies Against the Encroacher.
Choose your words carefully
Words are powerful. In fact, great nations have gone to war over mere words. Likewise, in street fighting, a poorly chosen word can provoke an immediate attack by a hostile individual. In Contemporary Fighting Arts, we use "choice words" to effectively de-escalate a hostile individual. Your objective is to convince a hostile person that you are willing to compromise in the confrontation. Avoid commands like "relax," "calm down," "shut up," "stay back," "keep your distance," or "chill out." Such statements will likely provoke hostility and anger. Instead get into the habit of saying "hey, I'm really sorry," "please, let's talk this out," or "I can understand your anger."
Street Fighting Tips
Now that you have a fundamental understanding of self defense awareness and threat assessment, it time to take a look at several street fighting tips to add to your repertoire. If you like, you can find many more street fighting tactics in my book, 1001 Street Fighting Secrets: The Principles of Contemporary Fighting Arts.
Keep your hair short
Keep your hair short, especially in the back of your head. Long hair or trendy pony tails can be dangerous and risky for you in a street fight the following reasons:
- Vision - long hair can temporarily impair your vision during the course of a compound attack or during a ground fight.
- Manipulation - in a ground fight your assailant can pull your hair and manipulate your balance. Moreover, you can easily be controlled and thrown if you have long hair.
- Immobilization - your assailant can immobilize you by grabbing your hair. Don't give him this opportunity! Keep your hair short!
Don't be Transfixed when Street Fighting
When engaged in the street fight, avoid direct and steady eye contact with the adversary. A quick glance is fine, but avoid becoming transfixed. Looking into the assailant's eyes during a street fight is dangerous for several important reasons. First, it provides no vital data about your assailant's attack. Second, it can psyche you out and draw your attention away from the street fight. You can also fall victim to a variety of visual feints during the street fight. During a street fight, your must diffuse your field of vision at relative points which is often determined by the range of the opponent as well as other important factors.
Don't Trust Spectators when Street Fighting
During the street fight, always be cognizant and suspicious of all spectators. People love watching a good fight and onlooker intervention is a common occurrence during many street fights. Ironically enough, Americans are inveterate supporters of the underdog. They hate to see anyone lose a fight. There is always the possibility that a spectator or witness may jump into the street fight and attack you! Despite the fact that you were the victim in the initial altercation.
"When street fighting, always be cognizant and suspicious of all spectators."
Apply the CWCT Principle when Street fighting
When street fighting, apply the "closest weapon to closest target principle" or the CWCT principle. This street fighting concept states that when physical danger is imminent, launch your closest weapon to the assailant's closest target. The closest weapon to closest target principle creates the most direct and efficient route of offensive tool deployment and thereby accelerates your offensive reaction time. It reduces the possibility of weapon telegraphing. CWCT also reduces your assailant's defensive reaction time and improves the overall accuracy of your strikes. Finally, it promotes overall practitioner safety during the street fight.
Every Street Fight Must Be Won Fast!
Every street fight confrontation must end quickly. Remember the longer a street fight lasts, the greater your chances of serious injury or possible death. A street fight should be over as quickly as it begins. Your self defense techniques and tactics must be quick, decisive and deliberate. There is no time to design or formulate a battle plan or test the assailant's ability with probing self defense techniques like jabs or feinting movements. This is a common sparring mentality that will help you meet your maker. Remember, street fighting is not a game! Its a serious business that can cost you your life if you are not careful.
"Every street fight must end quickly."
Know The Elements of a Street Fight
Here is a brief list of elements that can creep in as time passes during the course of your street fight. (1) Weapons are often brought into street fights. (2) Street fighting are inherently dangerous and always unfair. (3) Making one simple tactical error can easily cost you your life. (4) Your immediate physical condition worsens quickly in a street fight. (5) The level of force between you and the assailant will progressively escalate during a street fight.
Street Fighting Can Take Place Anywhere
Street fighting can occur anywhere. In any self defense situation you must quickly evaluate the strategic implications of your environment. Your environment can be anywhere. It can be a bar, street, alley, bedroom, movie theater, airport, grocery store, an elevator, your office, a gas station, in your car or on the beach. There are six essential factors to consider when assessing your environment. They are Escape Routes, Barriers, Makeshift Weapons, Terrain, Positions of Cover, and Positions of Concealment.
If Possible, Strike First in a Street Fight
Whenever you are squared off with your assailant in a street fight and there is no way to safely escape, you must strike first, strike fast, strike with authority and keep the pressure on. This offensive street fighting strategy is called the first strike principle (FSP) and it's essential to defeating an opponent in a street fight.
Allowing your assailant the opportunity to deliver the first strike in a street fight is tactical suicide. Its like allowing a gun fighter the opportunity to draw his weapon first. In a street fight, if you allow the assailant to strike you first, he might injure or possibly kill you and he will most certainly force you into an irreversible defensive flow that will prevent you from issuing an effective counter attack. When employing CFA's First Strike Principle you must also concern yourself with the law. Be certain that your initial strike is warranted and justified in the eyes of the law. For more information, see my First Strike DVD or my First Strike Book.
Founder & President
Contemporary Fighting Arts
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