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Bar Fights - Street Smarts (permalink)

We often think of bar fights as wholesome redneck entertainment, but in actuality bar brawls are brutal, ugly, and sometimes deadly. However, operating under the theory that bad things occasionally happen to good people, we’re going to talk about the finer points of being involved in a bar fight.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that I’ve been around a bunch of these scuffles. Between nearly three decades of police work, playing drums in several cover bands, an underwhelming stint as a college student, along with a general love of a good time, I’ve experienced dozens upon dozens of barroom peccadilloes from many different angles. I will share a few lessons learned, but you owe me a beer.

Let’s say that, in spite of all the common sense you supposedly possess, you suddenly find yourself at the local watering hole squaring off with a drunk guy who seems intent on using your face as a floor mop. Your first and foremost action is to attempt de-escalation.

When males are involved, there will be posturing prior to the fight about 95 percent of the time. Therefore, if you can somehow back away, the odds are good that tempers can be eased. In the end, a slightly bruised ego is always preferable to nursing a broken nose.

In most cases, throwing your hands up in the universal “I give up” sign, along with some type of loud apology for the unintended offense, is usually effective. Having your hands up is also a great defense against incoming punches if your sparring partner isn’t interested in listening.

OK, you tried to avoid the problem, but now it is truly a fight.

Above all, stay cool and loose. Most commonly, your (probably intoxicated) opponent will open with a wild series of ineffective roundhouse punches. Keep your hands up and don’t feel like you must respond in kind to every blow.

With patience, you will find an opening. Many times, after the initial flurry of four or five swings, your assailant will have essentially expended his entire arsenal. It’s now time to make a move.

I’m not suggesting you go on the attack. Usually after the first punches, other customers, friends and bouncers will separate the fighters. However, if you are in a situation where you must defend yourself, hitch up your girdle and go to town.

My preference is fighting on the ground, as most people are not very good when they reach horizontal. If your opponent is trained in ground-fighting, you will find yourself in serious trouble, but most people just flail away ineffectually. Use this time to make whatever moves you find appropriate.

We won’t go into ground-fighting technique, as there is no substitute for actual training, but we will point out that knowing how to put a submission hold onto someone is very valuable for bringing a quick end to the festivities. Don’t go to the ground and simply trade punches, because you will both wear yourselves out before anyone gets the upper hand.

There is one major danger in all bar fights: buddies. If your opponent’s friends see you gaining the upper hand, it is very likely that they will join the fray or at least blindside you with a beer bottle to the back of the head. Always try to keep your back to a wall, table or friendly crowd.

Above all, never allow yourself to be on the ground while your opponent is standing. If you hit the ground, make every effort to get up even if it means crawling under a stripper to do so. I’ve seen a person stomped to death, and it seemed an unpleasant yet effective way to shuffle off his mortal coil.

Bouncers are a fact of life in bar fights. Here is one blood-conserving tip: don’t fight the bouncer!

In all my years, I don’t recall a bouncer who fared worse than a customer. I’ve seen a few who got scuffed up, but the patron always gets the worst end of the deal. Bouncers aren’t cops and aren’t bound by any code of conduct aside from “Stop the fight and don’t take any crap.”

I suggest that if you are somehow wronged by a bouncer, don’t contest the issue on the spot. Instead, talk to the manager over the phone the next day or maybe contact an attorney. Arguing with a bouncer, the manager, or responding cops will always end with less than optimal results for you.

Once the fight is over, leave! If you were the first party to walk (or get thrown) out the door, use that opportunity to make a quick exit. If the other group leaves, wait a few minutes, then head out. There is a very good chance that someone will feel compelled to restart the mayhem, so disappear when you can!

The front door and parking lot are dangerous places. Previously I’ve noted that shootings often happen at the primary entrance to a bar, while parking lots are a favorite place for both fights and guns. Once you start walking out the door, do so with rapidity and alertness while heading straight to your transportation.

If you decide to intervene in a fight, do so safely. A friend or well-intentioned bystander often ends up in worse shape than the brawlers because they tried to step between the pair. A better plan is for two people to simultaneously grasp each participant from behind and pull them apart. And the best advice is to simply stand back, unless someone is on the verge of serious injury.

Don’t be too surprised when your opponent produces a weapon such as a knife or broken beer bottle. Whenever you find yourself at a severe tactical disadvantage, the key to survival is quickly disengaging using whatever is handy, such as a chair, bar or table.

Above all, don’t use your date as a shield. You might survive, but the relationship won’t!

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