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3 Rules for Surviving a Street Fight

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It should go without saying that the key to surviving is to avoid confrontation. Our goal is to never fight. We should try to never put ourselves in a position where we would be threatened. By using situational awareness, de-escalation, and by running away, we can avoid trouble. There are times when we have no choice. There are times when there is no place to run and we have to stand and defend ourselves. Let us look at three rules to survive a street fight.

1. Strike First

There is an axiom in Baguazhang which says, “When the opponent strikes, you hit first.” At first, this may seem like a contradiction or nonsense. The idea is that the moment you perceive a threat, you fire your shot. Many martial arts teach that we should wait on our opponent to commit and then respond to his action. This is naïve and arrogant. It assumes we would be able to act fast enough. We cannot afford to make such an assumption. A preemptive strike can save our lives and give us a major advantage. How do we strike first? How do we know when to attack?

Let me give one example. Let's say you are walking down the street and a person bumps into your shoulder. This is a classic school yard ploy to start a fight. At this point, you do not know the motives of the person. You take a step back, assuming a posture which allows for defense but appears neutral. You raise your hands to appear pleading and compliant while you are preparing to protect yourself. The assailant decides to escalate the situation. He steps forward with the intention to shove you.

You could wait until his hands land on your arms or shoulders and then counter him. But you are assuming what he will do. In fact, you do not know his intent. Is he hiding a knife? Will he fake a shove and resort to a pull, knee to the groin, foot stomp, etc.? Is he a distraction for his accomplice who will club you from behind? Why wait to find out? Why take a chance?

The moment you perceive his intention to move toward you, strike! Strike fast, strike hard, and strike to a vital area to stop his progress. I should add that you should not stop striking until he cannot move. Most people, including martial artists, are not able to produce a one-punch knockout. As long as he is upright, you should be attacking. The only exception should be if he runs away.


2. Move

Situational awareness training teaches that moving saves lives. Whenever you perceive a threat, move!

In the military, they use the phrase “impact zone.” The impact zone refers to the area where munitions will land. This could be bullets, artillery, or an ICBM. The concept is the same. The way to survive these attacks is to move out of the impact zone. In situational awareness training for government agents, they say "Get off the x." The "x" marks the danger spot.

In hand-to-hand combat, there is no impact zone. There is a similar area which puts you at great risk. The worst place to be is standing is usually in front of your adversary. Unlike movies and street fights, we do not want to square off with our attacker. The moment you or your opponent initiates an attack, you should move. Do not stay in one place waiting to receive the blows. The sport of boxing illustrates this principle very well. You will see the boxers circling each other. They often move to the side opposite of the rear punching hand of the opponent.

We can move by circling or by stepping diagonally off the line of attack. By moving to a 45-degree angle to your opponent, you accomplish two things simultaneously. You move out of the line of fire and you put your opponent in a vulnerable position.

Once you start moving, keep moving. You don’t stop moving until the opponent is no longer able to fight. This will prevent anyone from coming up from behind and attacking you while you are busy dispatching the bad guy. Movement means staying on your feet. Never “go to the ground.” If you fall, get up as soon as possible and keep moving.


3. Leave

This is not a competition. You will not be awarded any trophies if you survive. Once the altercation is over, leave the scene. I am not a lawyer. I do not offer legal advice. I am only writing in concern with safety. If you stay in the area, you risk the assailant getting back up. Trust me, he will not be happy. If he is on the ground and still conscious, he may pull a gun and shoot you. He may have friends nearby who will want to finish what he started. Just leave.

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