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Street Fights

Victory in a Street Fight

Taken from "Mastering Jujitsu" by Renzo Gracie and John Danaher

In a sporting fight, both fighters seek positive victory over the other within the rules of the event. A sporting fight is a zero-sum game in which one man wins and the other man loses. In a street fight, however, the goal is often not to defeat your opponent, but to simply survive. Thus, a person who surrenders his wallet to a mugger with a gun and emerges unscathed with only a small financial loss has, in an important sense, emerged victorious, since he has obviously survived in an acceptable state.

In another case, say you are attacked by a man twice your size, and he pushes you over, then lands on top you. You quickly lock him up in a tight, defensive guard position, and you hold on to him until help arrives and you are pulled apart. As a result, you emerge unhurt from the encounter. This, too, would constitute a victory in a street fight. 

In a less dramatic case, say you are verbally abused by a group of thugs on the corner. Much as your temper flares, you walk away, knowing that the chance of defeating a group of thugs in an actual fight is remote. By walking away, you emerge totally unscathed and with nothing more than an annoying memory. You have attained victory, even without a physical encounter. Thus, it is not necessary to defeat your opponent in a self-defense situation. Victory does not necessarily equate to your opponent's defeat. This concept means that there are many other possible ways for someone to act than via the ways demonstrated in an MMA fight. The simple avoidance of fighting and the consequent saving of your body from physical harm is a victory. Do not think, then, that you have to commit to a victory plus the crushing of your opponent every time you get into a self-defense situation in the street. This is usually not the case. Consider the notion of victory in a street fight in terms of survival, rather than a positive victory to your opponent's defeat. More often than not, you will see that there is much more to self-defense than physical fighting. If you survive a street confrontation, then you have succeeded.

Differences in the Way Fights Begin

An important, often overlooked point in formal martial arts training is that street fights begin quite differently than do sporting fights, and this distinction plays a crucial role in the outcome of real fights. Because most street fights tend to be relatively short affairs, the beginnings of a fight are therefore very important. Whoever gets off to a strong start in a street fight tends to go on to victory, especially among those who are untrained. In an MMA fight, the fight begins with two combatants who advance across the ring (or cage) and square off. There is no prelude to the confrontation. Once the referee officially begins the fight, it is immediately understood by both sides that the fight is on and that both men must look to defeat the other within the rules of the event.

In a street fight, on the other hand, the beginning of a fight is quite different. Consider the case of an ego fight. These almost always begin with a verbal prelude and with attempts at intimidation. Ego fights are as much an attempt at enforcing a sense of social dominance as an attempt to hurt somebody. In other words, they are part of a social phenomenon, rather than a merely physical one. Ego fights almost always begin with some kind of social interaction between the two protagonists-insults, cursing, challenges, and threats. The standard pattern is one of a bitter verbal exchange that increases in intensity over time. One of the main problems that confronts a person engaged in the preliminary stages of an ego fight is the ambiguity of the situation. It is not clear whether either person really wants to fight. Actually, people often engage in confrontational behavior with no intention of getting into a physical fight. This question of motive marks a clear difference from the start of an MMA fight, where clearly both fighters have come with the specific intention to fight.

In the street fight, a period exists where both protagonists must determine whether the other is serious about fighting. As this process occurs, the two combatants typically get close to each other and engage in taunting and behavior suggestive of social dominance. The complex interplay between ambiguity, social domination, body language, verbal posturing, and close proximity make this a time when the participants can use all kinds of trickery and deception - sucker punches, groin shots, head butts. All are easy to use at this close range as the posturing process goes on. In fact, the distance between the two protagonists is so short that the fight almost always begins with them face-to-face. In a situation like this, the fight is really beginning in the clinch, which is a crucial point and marks a major point of departure from an MMA fight, and there is little need for the ritual of closing the distance that is so crucial to the beginning of most combat sports.

An appropriate question to ask at this point is this: Does the fact that most street fights begin differently from MMA fights require a change in our tactics at all? The answer is clear. Once the fight begins, you fight in a manner similar to an MMA fight. However, the preliminary posturing that occurs shortly before the fight breaks out definitely requires us to change our tactics to suit the occasion. You need to accommodate the major differences that exist between these two situations. The most important differences are as follows:

  1. Close proximity to each other
  2. Ambiguity over intentions
  3. Social factors; attempts at social domination
  4. Witnesses who will report your behavior to the law

These factors make your decisions about what to do all the more difficult. For instance, you have to ask yourself, Does the other person really intend to fight, or is he bluffing? You also have to bear in mind that there is a danger that the fight will escalate if you appear too aggressive. On the other hand, you face the danger of being attacked if you appear too defenseless. Additionally, if you seem to be the aggressor in the dispute, this may count against you in the eyes of the law if witnesses watched the confrontation.

However, these conflicting factors can be rendered much more manageable by a fighter's use of a special stance in these posturing bouts, which almost always seem to occur as a prelude to ego fights. This is the prayer stance.

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