Fighting is a nasty business. No matter what the reason, no good ever truly comes of it. I could throw out a bunch of quotes, written by well-known and well-meaning martial artists about how fighting should never be for anything but defence of yourself or others, how no one ever truly wins a fight or something similar. But it would be nothing I haven’t written before, and it would provide no insight into what needs to be done once a fight actually happens. There’s actually quite a bit…
Unlike what you might have seen in the movies, a real fight will never be a drawn out thing lasting thirty to forty minutes with both combatants taking heavy blows to the head and body but yet, still keep on fighting until the penultimate moment. For the most part, a real fight will usually last less than a minute and will often involve several blind swings where other combatants miss their target. The unfortunate reality is that most people, especially those who have trained in a fighting sport like wrestling or boxing, will falsely assume that they’re prepared for the realities of what happens when there is no regulating or governing body to referee the fight and no rules to protect the combatants.
I’ll even be brazen enough to say that those who train extensively in the martial arts will still lack a certain something required to deal with certain realities. For example, have you ever been punched in the face? Have you ever taken a strike to the body when prepared for it? Have you ever faced multiple opponents? Have YOU ever struck a human body? Something other than a punching bag, of course. Objects never strike back. But these are always concerns that one needs to be aware of. Luckily, my martial arts training and chosen profession has given me insight in both sides of a conflict. And I’m going share some of that knowledge with you now…
Let’s talk about hitting and getting hit. What happens when you get punched in the face? Simply, you’ll experience a batch of effects, including but not limited to dizziness, nausea, blurred vision and perhaps loss of consciousness. Definitely, your ears will likely start ringing. If someone successfully lands a solid blow to your face and/or head, it will potentially end the fight, right then an there. This is one of those times when the instructor in me wants to remind you that protecting the vital areas of the body are paramount during a fight. If you can’t avoid an incoming strike, a glancing blow on a less vulnerable area is preferable, even if it means you’re still getting hit.
Getting struck anywhere else on the body will have its share of complications, especially if a blow lands in an area where you were unprepared for it. Getting punched in the gut isn’t incapacitating in and of itself. But getting struck in the abdomen can cause internal bleeding and injuries that while not immediately painful or incapacitating, can be life-threatening if left untreated. Even getting struck on the limbs is not without risk. If your opponent manages to fracture or break a bone during the exchange, it can incapacitate you. If the pain doesn’t distract you enough to cause you to lose the exchange, going into shock likely will.
Next, one needs to consider the aspect of throwing an actual strike against another human being. I’ve seen fighters spend hours practicing drills on pads or a punching bag, only to turn their wrists or fracture a bone after one strike during a real fight. There’s a significant difference between striking an inert target and trying to hit a moving opponent, who likely won’t take kindly to being struck (whether they initiated it or not).
Another important aspect is how a fight is initiated. Listen, I’m all for self-defence and never being the one who strikes first. But the reality of the street is that if someone means to do you or someone else harm, you may not have the opportunity to wait for them to throw the first punch. Doing so could critically endanger you or a loved one. Certainly martial arts training should always be used ONLY for self-defence. But self-defence occasionally means striking first. It will sometimes be inevitable.
Now, what happens if you’re stuck facing off against multiple opponents? I have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with that exact scenario. The thing to remember when dealing with multiple opponents at once is to deal with the first one quickly. You’ll always see one of two scenarios: either the ringleader will be the first to attack, or the ringleader will hang back and let his or her peons get taken down before stepping in. It’s important to know the difference. Because much like taking out a bully, the rest will usually scatter quickly if you take down the ringleader. But the same rules apply, regardless of how many opponents you face.
I’m always reminded of a story Sensei told me when I was younger. He described a time when he worked as a bouncer in a local pub. He wound up tossing out a group of troublemakers and had gotten word that they would be waiting for him outside when the pub closed. True enough, he stepped out of the pub in the wee hours of the morning to find the five guys he had kicked out, lined up in a semi circle waiting for him. He was quick in thinking, an explained to the group that they would certainly kick his ass. Of that, there was no question. But he was swift enough that whomever was the first to approach would get his eyes clawed out before he went down.
The threat had the desired effect, as no one dared to be the first one to attack. Although they would have certainly been successful if they had swarmed him, no one wanted to take the chance of being first and being blinded for life, just to extract petty revenge on a bouncer form the local pub. Sometimes the best defence is one’s voice. Not every fight will result in a physical altercation, and that’s an important lesson.
Last, but definitely not least, is to avoid fighting altogether. Yes, yes, I’ve made a point of saying that this is sometimes inevitable. Not everyone is comfortable with the prospect of running away from a fight. Our in-born fight-or-flight reflex makes this a possible reality, but most people fight against that reflex due to some twisted sense of pride or macho sense of bravery. But tactically repositioning yourself to “fight another day” can definitely be a means of slipping out of a fight without injury.
It may not always be possible. But when it is, avoiding a fight is always preferable. Violence is never preferable, although it may sometimes be necessary. But when you can avoid any of it, it’s preferable. As the saying goes, you win every conflict you never fight. But if you find yourself in a situation where a fight is inevitable, it’s also important to remember that you need to protect yourself and others first and foremost. It’s always important at the end to find a way to go home. ☯