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Put Up Yer Dukes! - Street Smarts (permalink)

“What are you looking at, butthead?!?”

Whenever such a line is uttered at a bar or other gathering, you can rest assured a fight is getting ready to start. Hopefully, the challenge isn’t directed toward you, but sometimes, through a bit of imprudent behavior on your part or simple bad luck, fisticuffs are imminent and you have been given a gold-engraved invitation.

By “fight,” I mean a good old-fashioned, bare-knuckle, ass-whipping brawl. This is opposed to a felonious assault, where the attacker’s goal is to take something from you without warning or provocation. In a fight, you see it coming, may have had some part in instigating it and will, against all common sense, continue blithely forward until someone has a fat lip.

Over the years, I’ve touched on an endless variety of tips for avoiding and disengaging from interpersonal violence, along with ideas for surviving an assault. On the other hand, we’ve never really discussed the common “everyday” fistfight, because intelligent people such as me and thee are supposed to avoid such reckless endeavors. However, in a bow to reality and testosterone, we’ll examine the particulars when ego or booze overrides good sense.

Contrary to popular television and movies, a real fight isn’t two steely eyed gentlemen standing in a circle, glaring and daring the other to take the first swing. If you actually see such a tableau in real life, the fighters are just hoping bystanders will pull them apart before anything happens so both can claim victory without running the risk of a broken nose.

Most real-world fights start with a sucker punch or a shove. Some type of hard feelings has developed and the aggressor suddenly, without warning, throws a punch or shove in the direction of their adversary, often from the side or back. It’s cowardly, but it happens all the time. In fact, based upon my years of investigation, observation, and occasional participation in fights, I’d say this occurs in the majority of cases.

In nearly every situation, the aggressor telegraphs their intentions. A hard, steely glare or “fighting words” thrown in your direction is pretty much an announcement to all nearby parties that the fussin’ and feudin’ is getting ready to commence. This is the moment to make a decision: leave or not? If not, get ready for problems.

The troublemaker will eventually head your way. If he’s a sucker-punching kind of guy, he’ll shear off, appear to walk past and then strike from the side or rear. If you remain facing him, he might strike, shove, or continue to walk away without contact. If he keeps walking, that would be another good time for you to leave because he’s just waiting until your back is turned to start the fracas.

If you choose to stand your ground, the best course of action is to back up against something protective, discreetly blade your body to the threat, and lower your center of gravity. At this point, it isn’t prudent to actually double up your fists and raise them like a boxer because this could precipitate the fight or be used to claim intimidation by you.

Instead, tent your hands together as if making a thoughtful gesture and bring them up to mid-chest. Cops use this all the time: it appears non-threatening but places your hands in a position to quickly parry or deliver blows if necessary.

In most fights, after a few wild roundhouse swings or ineffective jabs, one participant tries to take out the legs of the other fighter or get him in a headlock. This happens in nearly every street fight, so be ready.

The majority of fights end up on the ground as a wrestling match. This is also the worst place to be because you have lost mobility and run the risk of getting kicked by your opponent’s associates.

There are many ways to avoid takedown, but the primary goal is to keep your knees and hips away from your opponent’s grasp. Having a working knowledge of the basics of ground fighting, as it is known in Mixed Martial Arts circles, is also a good idea.

If someone gets you in a headlock, instantly tuck your chin hard against your neck to prevent choking and then go to work on the lower body of your assailant. Do not flail uselessly, trying to land blows to the upper body, because it doesn’t work.

Instead, attack the lower body and perhaps hands with great violence, because attempted choking rises to the level of deadly force. Don’t try to bulldog your opponent down because it can have adverse consequences to your neck—such as instant death.

One big problem with brawls is that there typically isn’t an “exit strategy.” After both fighters are exhausted and scuffed up, things devolve into a slow-motion grappling session until one or both parties agree to cease or bystanders pull the scrum apart.

There’s really no good way to end a fight, so you might as well just stand and slink away quickly. There will be taunting, but prudence suggests a quick exit. I then suggest a call to local authorities in order to prevent being cast as the wicked provocateur who fled the scene.

After it’s all safely over, go home and hit yourself squarely in the forehead with a hammer, because smart people don’t allow themselves to get involved in dumb fights.

Brent T. Wheat is a former SWAT officer, canine handler, detective, and patrol supervisor who retired after a 30-year law enforcement career. Brent is the publisher of WildIndiana Magazine, a regionally focused outdoor magazine. He can be reached at /*','a','/','<',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 97',' 110',' 97',' 105',' 100',' 110',' 105',' 100',' 108',' 105',' 119',' 64',' 116',' 97',' 101',' 104',' 119',' 116',' 98','>','\"',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 97',' 110',' 97',' 105',' 100',' 110',' 105',' 100',' 108',' 105',' 119',' 64',' 116',' 97',' 101',' 104',' 119',' 116',' 98',':','o','t','l','i','a','m','\"','=','f','e','r','h','a ','<'],i = l.length,j = el.length;while (--i >= 0){out += unescape(l[i].replace(/^\s\s*/, '&#'));}while (--j >= 0){/**/if (el[j].getAttribute('data-eeEncEmail_JaajOSthNz')){el[j].innerHTML = out;}}/*]]>*/.

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