A good friend of mine talked showed me a DVD he bought in Omaha, Nebraska, of a compilation of streetfights. For most martial artists, I would say that it would be a surprise how the fights occurred. After viewing this video–and eventually Youtube clips of similar fights–I now see where the so-called streetfighting/self defense “experts” get their anti-traditional/anti-sparring/anti-competition nonsense from. The sheer sloppiness of the fights and the confusion that entails the streetfights would probably lead many to think, “that will probably happen to me too, if I fought on the street.” (Surprisingly enough, almost none of those fights went to the ground, btw) It’s funny how people watch something, and then they are so willing to throw everything they’ve learned out the window as useless. You know what that tells me? You were no damned expert in the first place, and you certainly are no martial warrior.
But I saw many things that caught my attention:
- I have been riding my teenaged stepson about pulling his pants up. Bottom line, I forbid it–and at 14 years old, he knows that if I see underwear it will lead to a spanking (yes, I even spank the teenager). But the next time he comes to the school, I will have him spar with his pants pulled down to make a point. On the video, more than half the boys on the video (they were grown men, but due to their level of maturity, I’m going to refer to them as “boys”… nothing personal) had their pants pulled down, and a good portion of the ass-whippings I saw were due to that fact. They can’t move or even focus on the fight because they can’t move their feet. You would think that kids who fight at night clubs, parties and high school parking lots would be smart enough to wear pants that fit so they would WIN a fight or two. I know, being a former streetfighter myself, that if you are serious about fighting, you dressed a certain way to make sure you were combat ready. Anyone who has ever studied the real 52 Hands would know what I’m talking about. Screw what you see on Youtube.
- Most of the people on the video were inebriated. High, drunk, if you fight regularly, you skip drinking for this fact alone. You lose effectiveness if you can’t think. Not just because of religion–even when I was a bad Muslim, I tried not to drink in case something broke out. Some people don’t think about it, and that’s why they have a lot of lost fights in their past. It destroys your health, leads to impotence at a young age, and on top of that… you might get your ass whipped by an inferior fighter. It’s just not worth it. And trust me, women really don’t find you attractive when you drink. You just think they find you attractive when you’re drunk.
- When outnumbered, these guys had no impromptu weapons. That just amazes me. Even at 41 years old, I carry something that can be used as a weapon. Anything. Even a ball-point pen. These guys seemed to fight a lot, but they haven’t even thought about that. So what does a guy do when he’s been beat up? Get a gun. What a coward. Level the playing field, so you can continue fighting. It’s not necessary to try and kill everyone! Someone’s been watching too much TV!
- There was no thought about targets. These guys swing wildly without a plan. No techniques, not vital shots, just swinging. They looked horrible. Once in a while, you’d see someone who has had some training, and he always dominates, even when outnumbered. It shows, but you have to prepare for it by training and fighting. The guys on the video may have worked out (some were muscular and you could tell they lifted weights) but the physiques had nothing to do with fighting success. In one clip, the fat guy beats the crap out of the muscle head with the tats and big mouth. Fat guy didn’t want to fight, but it was clear that he had once boxed, and he destroyed muscle head. It was hilarious. Preparation wins every time.
- Where they lacked in preparation, most of the guys made up for it by showing up in numbers. Pugilist #1 runs his mouth. Pugilist #2 obliges and whips #1’s behind. #1’s friend jump in and sometimes kicks ass, half the time accomplishes nothing. #1 had courage because he had friends. I noticed that the worst fighters had the most friends. Sounds like a lot of martial artists I know.
So this leads me to a point. I have a good friend back in DC who I grew up with on the Karate circuit. He did traditional martial arts, entered tournaments, won some and lost some, trained hard and sparred harder, and went to college, got married and had a mostly non-martial artist’s life. When we were younger, he was a good guy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but fortunately never engaged in fights–even when we fought, he was on the sidelines. I had wondered about him. He wasn’t scared; he was smart. I recognized that. But I wondered how he would do if he ever needed those skills for the real thing.
So back in the early 90s, when we were in our 20s, at the King Kong Discoteque (yes, I was into salsa merenge) an old boyfriend approached his wife on the dance floor. My friend let him know that she was with him, and the guy left. Later, while we were sitting down eating, ex-boyfriend approaches with two friends and tries to get her to dance again, snubbing my friend. Before I got the chance to ask him what he wanted to do, my friend jumped up and clocked all three guys, leaving me nothing but rug scraps to clean my shoes with. It was beautiful.
I know what you’re thinking… he didn’t have to attack them. Oh, yes he did. Those guys were planning to fight, it was that obvious, and they thought my friend was a marked target, being one of the only white guys in the club. There would be no way–short of brandishing a weapon–that we would have been able to stop that from happening. Liquor, jealousy, machismo, a little racial hostility, and plain old stupidity make fighting unavoidable. I had always teased Bill because he only fought (as I put it) when it counted. I was proud of him! And guess what, we went to King Kong a lot after that, even seeing those guys many times and never received so much as a glare from them. Talk about fighting without fighting! Sometimes, you save up for the “real thing”, and you never have to really engage in “the real thing”.
And this leads me to the major point of this article: Sometimes, you have to fight to avoid really having to fight. A man who has fought a lot–simulated or otherwise–is more confident when confronted with the possibility of an impending fight. And if you actually go to blows, you will be more effective and efficient. AND, should you end up with one of these fights, you may avoid a serious fight just by demonstrating that you are the wrong guy to be fucked with. But many martial artists would rather avoid all fighting at all costs, saving up “for the real thing”. But the “real thing’ will most likely be a dismal failure if you have not truly prepared. And preparing in concept only–drills, demonstration of “what if he throws a punch/grabs you/blah blah blah”, and “well-thought out strategies”–but you have not simulated the actual unpredictability of a fight by having some good old fashioned sparring, you will most likely end up looking like one of those guys on the video. No difference between the ones who fight all the time, and the ones who are doing it for the first time.
Saving up for the real thing is a good idea… it’s smart. But you have to prepare. You must have a combination of good concepts AND hands-on live practice–whether it’s in a tournament, sparring with strangers, or in live fights. But you must have both. And hands-on fighting must be done outside of your comfort zone. It cannot be accomplished in the classroom, or your Guro’s garage, or your homeboy’s backyard. Get both, and then save up for the real thing.
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