How to Survive a Street Fight: Part 1

[This is the first part in my How to Survive a Street Fight series. Check out Part 2.]

I’ve been in over 100 street fights. I’ve knocked people out, split eyes open, and been rendered unconscious after being struck with brass knuckles. I’ve had my eye swollen shut multiple times. I’ve had my nose broken in boxing and MMA matches and not flinched.

(“You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time. Winning is a habit.” – Vince Lombardi)

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That is background not bravado. Street fighting is idiotic. Let me rephrase that. To the extent I am a bad ass, I am also a dumb ass. It really is completely and totally moronic that I’ve gotten into so many fights.

I’ve almost died twice. Over nothing.

Do not fight in the streets. But if you must, follow these fundamental rules to survive.

The Three Rules of Street Fighting.

Rule 1. Do not fight unless your life or health is at risk.

Rule 2. Proceed with extreme violence.

Rule 3. Get the Hell out of there as soon as it’s over.

Rule 1. Only Fight if your Life is at Risk.

Do not fight unless the situation is life or death. A bruised ego is not a risk to your health. (Become egoless.) Fighting isn’t worth it.

Why should you only fight unless it’s like or death? Because you might die in the streets. Yes, fighting literally risks your life.

In high school someone was talking shit to me. He approached me and cornered me next to my friends purple Chevy SUV. Outnumbered, I reluctantly backed down.

He started walking away and mouthed, “Bitch.” The world around me went black.

The wolf that lives inside me and that must constantly be retrained took control. Instinct and a desire for blood overwhelmed my conscious desire for my safety. The wolf attacked.

(The wolf must be fed.)

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I immediately went after him.  A trained boxer and martial artist, I threw a jab-jab-overhand right combination to his face.

Completely unprepared for this show of force, he started falling back into the crowd of onlookers. He had to be held up, as he was almost unconscious.

That’s the last thing I remembered.

Then I was on lying my back with someone standing over me. I felt like I was in outer space. Everything around me – whatever “me” exists when you are unconscious – was black. My third eye was moving through a field of stars.

(This is what being unconscious looks like.)

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I heard someone calling to me. I tried moving towards the call but couldn’t answer it.

I finally came to. “Do I have all of my teeth,” I asked her. She laughed that relieved laugh people give when the situation is more dire than you realize. “You have the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen.”

Someone had jumped out from behind a car. Witnesses saw him put something over his hands – either a hand pack to give him more oomph to his punch or brass knuckles; we never found out for sure.

He contacted with a  clean sucker punch. The back of my head collided with the concrete, making a terrifying thud that sounded like death.

It is very common for people to die after colliding with the concrete parking lot as I had. My eye was completely swelled shut for a week.

I almost died. Over what? At the time I would have told you that I almost died over honor. And indeed I would have gladly died rather than suffer dishonor.

But we do not live in an honorable world, my friends. In this a amoral hellhole called modern living, I almost died over nothing. 

Rule 2. Proceed with extreme violence.

 “If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.” -Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince.

Since your life is at risk (see Rule 1), you don’t have time to be a nice guy. You don’t have time to hesitate. You must smash the other person with absolute resolve. As Miyamoto Musashi, the greatest samurai of all time wrote in his Book of Five Rings, “When you decide to attack, keep calm and dash in quickly, forestalling the enemy…attack with a feeling of constantly crushing the enemy, from first to last.”

Where to attack? How to attack? My answer as a trained fighter would differ from your answer. If you understand one thing, however, you will understand everything you’ll need to know for an ordinary street fight.

People do not like getting punched in the face.

Brock Lensar was a beast. The beast was exposed as a bully when he encountered a fighter he couldn’t throw around. Once Brock Lesnar got punched in the face, his career as a UFC fighter was over.

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Swing hard for the chin. Lean into the punch, throwing all of your weight into it. A punch doesn’t come from the arms. A punch come from your toes and the force passes through your hips, extending all the way to your fist.

In fighting parlance, the area right around where your chin and mandible connect is known as the button. Always, always, always aim for the button.

(Klitschko lands a shot right on the button.)

the button boxing

Even if you do not knock your opponent out, you will stun him. He wasn’t prepared for you to throw the first punch, but you did. Keep punching him until he falls to the ground. Overwhelm his face with punches and destroy his will.

Again, people hate getting punched in the face. Even trained fighters do all they can to a avoid getting punched in the face.

“I don’t like to get hit, who likes it? I probably wouldn’t do this sport if I was getting hit that much.” – Wladimir Klitschko

Rule 3. Get the Hell out of there as soon as it’s over.

I almost died a second time when I failed to follow this rule.

A rather jacked black guy was talking shit to one of my friends. It was just the type of get-in-your-face-but-no-one-will-fight bullshit guys do. I didn’t like it, however, and baited the guy to get into my face.

Once he did, I unleashed a flurry of punches. He started running backwards. Since it wasn’t a life or death situation (violation of Rule 1), I couldn’t take him to the ground and pound him unconscious (which Rule 2 would require). I’d have gone to jail at worst or been sued at best. It was a lose-lose situation. Foolish.

Rather than taking my victory and continuing the party, I let my ego took over. I had to gloat:

Punching your face felt so good. Your face is soft. It felt like velvet on my hands!

He took off and I stood around bullshitting with my friend (violation of Rule 3). I heard something that sounds like horse hooves hitting the ground in cowboy movies. Someone screamed, “Look out!”

Then I was looking up at someone and felt liquid dripping all over my face. I grabbed his ankle and prepared to sweep him when the fight was broken up. (I would have obeyed Rule 2 with glee.)


Although I was only flash KO’ed, the back of my head narrowly missed a large metallic water spout protruding from the spot near where my head hit. If I had fallen back another inch to the right, my head would have been split open and brain damage would have been assured.

If I had left, all would have been well. I’d have yet another good street fight story to tell and could have kept partying. Instead I put my life at risk.

If you fight someone, get out. Not only might the person come back with a knife or gun or with friends, but the police might arrive. Get the Hell out.

What’s Next? Got Any Good Fight Stories?

In Part 2 of our series, we’ll examine some street fight videos of the World Star Hip Hop variety. One video involves multiple attackers. Applying my three rules, we’ll discuss how the people who were victims could have become victors.

Read next: How to Survive a Street Fight, Part 2.

  • Bryan

    You just don’t learn! Haha stay safe man.

    I’ve only been in one legit street fight so it pales in comparison to your resume, but it was definitely a learning experience. Long story short, I confronted to guys who shoplifted something trying to be a good Samaritan.

    My adrenaline was flowing like crazy and we got in each other’s faces. Push came to shove and we were going at it in the middle of a busy mall. I’d never been in a situation like this so didn’t know what to expect. It was me and my little sister vs. two guys my size. I got pushed back and next thing I knew I had a fist flying towards my face. Boom! Right in the kisser. I didn’t get knocked down, just back a few steps. When I looked up they were wailing on my sister (who looks a bit tom-boyish… so I can see them justify hitting a girl. They may have been drunk too.). They then ran off…

    What did I accomplish? I was glad I stuck to my principles and stood up to the BS most people wouldn’t, but they ran off and I had a huge knot in my forehead. My sister was surprisingly fine, but could have been seriously hurt.

    The thing with street fights is that they’re never even. It’s never alright 1…2…3…GO! With a referee standing by. It’s usually never 1 on 1 and there’s always sucker punches. This is why street fights are scary; there are no rules.

    Another thing I noticed was that when the fight began I was unprepared. Sure I was aware to tuck my chin, fists up, and as my dad told me later to “Duck” (duh), but my adrenaline was so high I wasn’t thinking logically, because fighting isn’t logical. For someone like yourself who is a trained fighter, I believe that you can ingrain these techniques in your physiology when the time comes, but for the novice like myself it won’t happen.

    Also, always throw the first punch, but again only if necessary

    Looking forward to Part II.

  • Chad

    Great Post. To many people don’t understand how bad a fight can turn out, especially from something as little as a bruised ego. My father taught me how to handle myself which was based on a statement and a rule. He was a old school country boy, heavyweight Golden Gloves boxer in high school, USMC Vietnam Vet, Police officer (patrolman, detective, Sgt.). The statement was “No one wins a fight, all that happens is that someone gets hurt more than the other.” The rule was “You talk your way out of a fight. If you can’t talk your way out, you walk away. If you can’t walk away, you run. If you can’t run, you put them down.” He was very adamant that if you get to the point of fighting, you make sure they can’t get back up. You don’t hit and wait to see what happens, you eliminate the threat.

  • Keith

    Made me think of Von Clausewitz’s 18th century work Vom Kriege/On War, wherein he advocates to only engage in war if you are prepared to engage in “total war.” IE – complete mobilization of all available resources in order to prevail in a conflict. In its most recent incarnation, the “Powell Doctrine” from the Desert Storm – “overwhelming force” as opposed to strategic strikes.

    Re: fight stories. Like you, I used to engage in idiotic behavior. Especially when I was an uchi deshi. I emerged from them largely unscathed but that was more a matter of pure dumb luck than any skillset I possessed. As you say, there are far too many X-factors/black swan occurrences that can happen in a street fight. They are best to be avoided at all costs.

  • http://enemy--within@tumblr enemy–within

    Pursuant to the second rule if you have a knife should you use it? I would be reluctant to draw it because of the chance of having it turned against me. I almost always carry a benchmade with a 3 inch blade though.

    I’m not a fighter and I had a geeky job in the military. I have been reading Kill Or Be Killed and it emphasizes a lot of the points you have made. I guess it is better to carry a knife and have your own personal ROE that allow you to take immediate action without having to think abstractly as a situation is unfolding. I don’t know if I am mentally aggressive enough to stab someone in a first strike though.

    • Danger & Play

      You answered your own question. You’re reluctant to use it. This means it will get turned against you and used on you.

  • will

    This former thug also has a good website concerning violence in general:

  • Halfbreed

    Damn, bro.

    100 fights? You’re a beast.

    I’ve only been in three.

    I banged my ex-girlfriend in high school. Her football player boyfriend didn’t like it and came after me in the driveway of my parents house. I ‘won” but ended up with broken knuckle bones and stitches.

    The second fight, I lost. Night-time road rage incident. Dude that got out of the car was about a foot taller than me, and outweighed me by at least 70-80 pounds. I took a beating, got choked and thrown through a car window. Stayed conscious though.

    The third time was a scrap on the bridge between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. That was more of a drunken group brawl with no winners, although I did get clubbed with an errant baton.

    I feel like I”m too old to fight now. That’s what a CHL is for.

  • BlackPoisonSoul

    Apart from a few teenage school rumbles I’ve always followed what you might term Rule 0. Rule 0 is to be reasonably careful about the places and situations that you place yourself in. (Aka don’t be like the stupid bitch who gets raped by doing risky shit, like walking half-naked and blind-drunk through a really bad part of town.)

    Thankfully I’ve had few occasions where I’ve had to do that sort of thing, like walking into a biker’s bar or the like. When in places like that I’ve been pleasant and respectful – obviously not out for trouble – and left as soon as possible.

    Remind me not to get into a fight with you.

    • Danger & Play

      This is a good point.

      I always leave before last call. Even at nice places a lot of trouble breaks out as drunk, sexless losers spill into the streets.

  • Badger

    I got a great tip long ago that “the best way to stay safe is to avoid risky situations.” Don’t go places where you might be targeted. Don’t advertise our outsider or noob status, or flash money/bling to draw attention. When things start to heat up, get the fuck out. Don’t fuck with people you don’t know you can trust to not get physical.

    I learned this walking the streets of Rome and Mexico City as a teenager, where pickpocketing was the major risk, not someone getting into your face.

    • Danger & Play

      Yeah, the second fight story essentially happened because a friend of mine kept flashing a thick roll of 100s. Attracted hate and hate leads to violence.

  • BB753

    It doesn’t make sense to go for the chin or any other part of the head. You’ll only break your hand. If you want to hit the head use your forehead along with all your body weight.
    When pulling punches go for the stomach and spleen. That’s what boxers really do most of the time on the ring.
    To knock out a guy real quick hit him hard in the solar plexus. Throw epeated punches to that area and he’s down. Punches to the face often backfire and make the opponent even more mad at you.

    • Danger & Play

      That’s martial arts nonsense. I write based on real world experience and not theory from some “master” at a dojo who will give you a black belt for $49.99 a month.

      Never broken a hand but yes that can happen. You won’t even notice the broken hand until after the fight is over.

      It’s a fight for your life. If all that happens is a broken hand, good.

      • BB753

        I’m talking from personal experience. It’s easier to hit in the belly area. If you must hit the face try todo break tour opponent’s nose.
        But let me tell you a couple of blows to the solar plexus ends the fight rather quickly. Then break his nose and get the hell out.

        • Danger & Play

          If you’re shorter than the guy, maybe. But what is the leverage point on hitting side ways (into the body) verses throwing a wild punch to the top?

          My post isn’t written for me. I know what I would do. (Head butt to nose, clinch, takedown, pound.)

          These fight posts bring out a lot of fantasy guys.

          Do you have pics of you fighting or anything? Competing in a boxing match? Anything?

          Because every guy in these threads come out to say how much experience they have. My boxing pic is from 1998. We had cameras back then. But somehow in the smart phone era guys can’t produce a single pic of them engaged in competition or serious training.

          • BB753

            I certainly don´t have footage of my scarce street fights, LOL! I´m not really short. But I just tell you
            what´s worked for me. And yeah, when in doubt, break the nose and run. But the best fights are those you can avoid, or otherwise live to tell. Keep safe! Be water, my friend!

    • pauldrake

      I’m a short guy. Real short. I’d like to think in my youth I was a poor man’s version of Franco Columbu. In any case, you’re so right. A well placed punch to the solar plexus can end a fight instantly.

  • Robert

    Lesnar was getting pummeled about the face and neck by Carwin and came back to win that fight. You should edit this post to include the Vin Diesel monologue from knockaround guys where he talks about his 500 street fights.

  • BodiPUA

    How. The. Fuck. did you have ONE HUNDRED street fights? Are you mad? You must have gone out looking for punch-ups right?

    • Danger & Play

      Started fighting in the 3rd grade. Got bullied then I got tough and got revenge.

      Also, youy know how you see guys get into each other’s faces? When you did that to me, you got punched.

      When you actually hit people who talk shit/get into your face, your fight count gets high really quickly.

  • Blaximus

    I’ve had dozens and dozens of nasty street fights. I had so many fights because I followed none of the rules outlined here. These are very sensible rules to follow because I have seen a couple of people maimed over what started out as a disagreement over nonsense.

    Fighting most definetly is a life or death instance. The sooner you realize that, the less chance you will have of ending up in an ambulance or the morgue. Movies make fighting look cool and poetic, but if done correctly, it hurts. Both parties. Very much.

    Once I started following rules like the ones stated here, the fights that I’m invoved in virtually stopped or ended much more quickly with much less physical damage ( to me anyway… ).

    Fellas, look at it this way, every time you engage in fisticuffs be willing to die or to kill the other guy. Now the guy that slights you by bumping into youi and then making some off color remark will look more like a clown and almost threat-less.

    And hell yes, getting hit in the face blows, especailly getting hit in the nose. And falling down ( or getting knocked down ) puts your head at great risk. Lotta hard and unforgiving surfaces out in the world.

    It is the best advice in the world : you must go in hard, fast and relentless. The opponent must absolutely go down overwhelmed. And yeah, you are putting his head at great risk.

    Choose wisely and good luck.

  • A♠

    My favorite “fight story”:

    A friend and I were approached by three men looking for a fight, making threats, while we were leaving a place.

    I stopped.

    Looked them in the eye.

    And said:

    I don’t want any trouble.

    And, Trust me, neither do you.

    They apologized and left.

    Shades of Musashi.

  • Elam Bend

    Working in bars scared me off from fights, yet fight will find you. I was always good at taking a punch to the face thanks to rugby and wrestling, not that I ever wanted to stick around. I got sucker punched in a Cabo bar that requires 6 stitches at the Centro de Salud. Got grabbed by the bouncers before I could fight back then.

    Most memorable recent fight was in Whistler. One guy attacked three of us. He was smaller than two of us, a local. After some shit talking we had separated and the. He reappeared, getting into the fave of the biggest of us. ( btw, I’d never let anyone get that close to me). And BAM, he head buttes that guy (broken nose, 4 busted teeth), head butted the smallest of us, and caught a punch of mine while he tries to head butt me. I made the mistake of trying to back up to quickly and fell down, which is the worst – never be on the ground. Thankfully I had wrestled and was quick, I came up and half picked him up in a firemans carry. We both toppled, though me somewhat in control. We came up with me in a position of control. He was bent toward me and I had his arms and shoulders wrapped. That’s when. I noticed that we were surrounded by a crowd. I yelled at the Aussie bouncers to ‘get this nut off me’. They shrugged. Someone in the crows said “fuck that, fight!” I expected a hit to the back of the head. I threw my opponent to the side, hard and went in the opposit direction. I noticed he started scuffling with someone else. It all happened very fast.
    I found the big guy who got head butted by following the pool of blood, he looked awful.

  • Ryan

    Good post man, I know that feeling you described of the “wolf” come out.

    I’m not a fighter, I’m generally chilled out and prefer to use my words to resolve issues. But there have been times when enough was enough and it was on. I can’t remember it but my friends said that I got this look that they had never seen before, sometimes you just gotta stand your ground.

    But I completely agree with walking away from conflicts over the ego. Getting fucked up because you can’t handle someone calling you a bad name is pure stupidity.

  • Ironthumb

    cool post!
    fancy seeing you using disqus BTW.
    Anyways I rememebr my most memmorable street fight
    there were 10 dudes from the opposing fraternity, kinda cornerred us
    Damn only 3 of us. Good thing it was us tough trio and my brother was 230 pounds back then and the opponents were some lame o’s.
    I threw the serries of punch that required their leader (their officer who started it) to have his lips stitched later on.
    The asshole grtabbed som empty glass bottles planning to hit me with it good thing my brother tackled him. The blood from the mouth really stained my bro’s shirt and we even thought he was stabbed.
    This was my first street fight and I completely FORGOT all my martial arts training! I just bashed whoever I can without even evading anything all I was able to do was slug them, I was completely blank! No sidestepping, nothing!
    then later backup came and this I can share – if you will be retaliating, hire the ones from far away places. Rataliators must be lowlives from different zip codes that was they cannot be traced.
    It was unfair after that, the goons belonged to different colleges and our dean decided to put us under medical public service. Damn the goons even came to our stall to have their BPs taken, but by then they didnt quite provoke us I think they’re just screwing around

  • asdasasdasd

    I’ve never been in a real fight. A few years of krav maga, 5 of lifting weights, and being almost 7 feet tall (6′ 9″) gives me a confident “don’t fuck with me” appearance I guess. I was hit/shoved (not sure which he was trying) once in the side in a bar while hitting on some dude’s gf and I turned around and stepped towards him to continue and he backed off. Kinda feel like less of a man for never getting in a fight. I also have a very calm demeanor in general, I do not get angry easily, so I have never actually felt the wolf escape. In the above example I remember my brain laughing at the guy’s attempt and then thinking “better let the animal out to impress this girl” but there was no emotional passion behind it, only calculation. I have no idea what this tells about me (thoughts?). I used to be the weak skinny kid in school, so I knew I could never fight back then, I wonder if my previous “cant fight or will get crushed” mindset is still prevalent, or if I know that I am so big that most people are not actually a threat? No clue.

    • Connar Pierce

      I’ve been thinking the same. I feel like I’ve missed out on some sort of humbling experience, sort of Fight Club esk experience in life because I’ve never been in a fight. I’ve never felt the wolf either, just hints of the pup inside. I was never able to lose control though, nor do I ever want to. I think the solution is definitely to be stronger and taller than the opponent or 99.9% of men. Maybe with an amused mastery. Not sure, but I’d rather avoid a fight if I can.

  • Jackson Berg

    If someone wants to fight don’t throw the first hit no matter what, like this jack off tells you to, no, no friends only idiots and self presumed “badasses” do -(Like this man has said about himself five seconds earlier, but I’ll tell you this much no one says such a thing unless they are assholes)- The best way of going about fighting is to find the trigger to your rage and use it when you take the first hit.

    Next off: The man who wrote the article is a pussy, as you can see he says “Oh they might bring a gun or a knife or the cops” it doesn’t matter to you. That my friend is the sole fact which separates the self-presumed badasses and the real ones. The trigger once activated you have to let it take control, it’s rather soothing for you to watch as your buddy seemingly moves on it’s own one could describe the sensation as orgasmic, but to another may describe it as going on autopilot. But if you don’t let it have full control you’ll lose.

    Street smarts: First off there’s people such as myself who get set off from physical violence and hard liquor such as Jack Daniels, for these people have killed and you can see it in their eyes. You can very well even hear it in the way which they communicate with you if they are actual badasses (These people aren’t the most obvious of people but we all share a common characteristic which I won’t giveaway easily you’ll just have to figure it out) All and all, if you’re going to fight someone keep these words in your mind “If you’re going to fight someone, beat them; Don’t just beat them until they are unconscious, beat them so their kids understand not to fuck with you.” which is what my brother and his friends told me after beating me to the point where I had my jaw wired for six months. I was seven if I remember correctly.

    I’ll tell you right now I only click this abysmal link for I wanted to have a good laugh and boy did I receive one.

    • Danger & Play Blog

      I wish all troll posts were this amusing. Thanks for the laugh.

  • 0080F0

    I’ve always gone for the knee, myself. If they can’t run after me, I can just walk away.

    Could I propose a rule 0 for how to avoid arriving at needing rule 1? Be intimidating. Look like someone they don’t want to fuck with. Don’t look like an outsider, don’t flash a fat wallet, and don’t look scared and lost. An unassuming smile and confident body language will keep your parts intact better than carrying a weapon. If you give off signals of being vulnerable or weak or alone, they’re going to pick you out and tear you apart.

    You’re only in danger if you believe you’re in danger, because then you tell other people that you think they’re dangerous. Even lions and dangerous wild animals back down when you act with confidence. If they think they’re scary, but you aren’t scared, then they think you know something they don’t.

  • WreckTom

    Best way to win a fight is to avoid it altogether.

    If all else fails, these rules are good.

    You want the threat neutralized ASAP and you vanish in a cloud of smoke. Neutralizing a threat doesn’t always mean rendering someone unconscious, but I means rendering someone unable to physically get to you.

    Of course, KTFO of a guy will accomplish that, but so will a swift stomp to the knee.