This post was inspired by an article on Cracked. You can read it here
Saw an article on Cracked about fighting (yes, I read Cracked - and LOVE it!). I felt I had to comment about what is really going on in a fight and how it relates to martial arts.
1) Chapter 1: Broken Hands
The article correctly calls out that the most common fighting injury is not a broken nose or split lip (hopefully on your opponent) - it is your own broken hands. Punching properly takes a lot of practice. In fact, if you have not spent enough time to have this as part of your muscle memory it is probably more dangerous for you to punch than it is to your opponent. With proper alignment of the fingers/wrist/forearm and good conditioning of the wrist tendons it is possible to hit with damaging power. Otherwise, you are far more likely to break your fingers, dislocate your joints or break your wrist. None of these are any fun at all.
A lot of what we teach in Kali and Silat is open handed. I especially prefer to hit with solid bone or muscle mass rather than joints. This means striking primarily with elbows, palm, forearm/biceps, and headbutt. On the low line I also like knees.
2) Up Close and Personal
Distance matters. It may seem counter intuitive, but the safest place is right next to your opponent. At arm's length you will get the full force of any punch thrown at you (even if they break their hand, it still hurts to be punched). Up close, you can deliver the strikes I mention above easily and they are far more difficult for your opponent to block or evade. In addition, for a smaller guy like me, being up close negates any difference in reach, allowing me to handle people far bigger than I am. Of course, if you can hit someone, they can usually hit you too, which means...
3) The Need for SPEED
In an actual fight, the first hit can be the last hit. Even if someone is not immediately knocked out, the first hit, especially to the head/neck, can disrupt the concentration/balance/posture/structure and yield a chance to press the attack. "Blitzing" in this way, aggressively, can end an encounter before the other person has a chance to respond. This is the preferred result if things look like they are going to get ugly. Hit first and get it over with on YOUR terms. The most successful fight is the one the other guy never knew started.
4) Getting Your Kicks
I am not a huge fan of kicks in actual fights. I never kick above the waistline, and I generally prefer kicks as a setup to something I want to do with my hands (usually closing distance to blitz). That said, good low kicking techniques can be powerful and hard to avoid. Done well, these can cause horrific damage to the enemy's knees, ankles, thighs and legs and end the fight by themselves. Of course, feet are like "hands on your legs" and contain even more little fragile bones which tend to break when kicking with the instep. Kicking well also involves a lot of practice, and it is key to develop the muscle memory to give full hip rotation and use the proper striking surface (base of the shin or heel) when kicking so maximum force can be delivered. There will usually be only one good chance to deliver a kick before the opponent realizes it and takes countermeasures. If you kick, it has to be a show-stopper. Again, knees are a bit different and have great applicability up close.
5) Ground and Pound
Statistically, most fights end up on the ground. Therefore, it is crucial to have some skills for getting out of a situation like that,e specially if you are facing more than one opponent and need to remain mobile. One need not be a BJJ master (although it certainly helps), but knowing even a few ways to get someone off (thumb in the eye socket/tear the groin) can help. One of my favorites in the grapple is a bite. Not a loving, gentle nip, but a ferocious chomp and rip designed to tear a chunk of flesh out of the nearest available soft tissue (cheek, neck, bicep, etc.). This can make an attacker no longer want to be in close physical contact with you, and is a technique nearly anyone can easily master. It is very much a part of FMA close quarter/grappling technique.
Adrenaline is a funny thing. As part of our "fight or flight" response it protects us from pain and increases our physical abilities for a short burst of activity - but at a cost. Sometimes adrenaline can cause us to freeze. Not good. Other times, the crash when it wears off can be extreme and involve nausea/vomiting, chills, shakes, headaches or even make us pass out. Ironically, the aspect of adrenaline which suppresses our pain response can also cause us to overlook our own injuries, especially when knives are involved. The study of the adrenaline response, and practice controlling it, is worthy of significant study by anyone likely to be in life-threatening situations.
7) The Right to Bear Arms
Real fights come in two categories: ritualistic and predatory. I have written about these before, in that ritualistic fights aka "the monkey dance" are for social reasons and have unwritten social rules (watch a John Wayne movie). We are expect to "fight fair" in order to demonstrate our social dominance to the victim and observers. Sorry. IF I HAVE TO FIGHT I FIGHT DIRTY. The other type are predatory (robbery, rape, murder, etc.). These will usually involve multiple attackers, unfavorable environments (darkness, uneven terrain, limited mobility) and are highly likely to involve weapons. The keys to survival in such situations are: awareness, aggressiveness, and improvisation (rapidly finding or acquiring a weapon). The odds will always be bad here, and this is not to be taken lightly.
8) Under the Influence
It is often the case that one or more of the participants is under the influence of alcohol or drugs (hopefully not you). This can change the dynamic from comical (see Youtube) to homicidal. These substances dull the pain receptors, so some of the standard controls and pain compliance become ineffective. This re-emphasizes the need to attack structure and balance rather than just deliver pain. In Kali we want to disrupt the posture and structure immediately, and this can make it easier to have a range of non-lethal, non-permanent options to end a violent confrontation without excessive harm.
9) The Long Arm
Sadly, the law exists as much to protect criminals' rights as it does victims' rights - sometimes more so.
This means that even though you may consider your actions justified as self-defense, the courts may not believe you and serious criminal/civil suits can be levied against you. KNOW THE LAW. In predatory situations, be as aggressive as needed so you can walk away. Luckily, predatory attacks rarely occur near crowds of bystanders, so it is more likely you can flee the scene easily once the matter is resolved. In ritualistic encounters there is a high chance the police will end up involved so choose your actions wisely.
Do not underestimate how savage and unpredictable an actual fight can be.
It is SERIOUS business.
Be sure you are the one that walks away.
See you in class.