Sunday, 22 July 2012

Street Fight Reality? Or imagination?

In the above video, a fellow who goes by the moniker of "Hedgehogey" on the martial arts message board prevented another man from assaulting a woman. Hedge holds a purple belt in in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Videos like this often generate some interest on martial arts message boards and spark a lot of discussion simply because it's an example of martial arts technique applied effectively in reality. Not sport, not the movies, not a hypothetical.

Many self defense "experts" are adamant that you should never go to the ground in a street fight. They say you definitely can't tap out in a street fight, and you should immediately attack the eyes and groin of your opponent. There are always multiple opponents, weapons, and it's a fight to the death - this is street fight reality. I'm going to challenge those ideas with this video as a reference.

Most street fights are not necessarily a fight to the death. Hedge didn't need to eye gouge this man and bite his nuts off before killing him. He used what I consider an appropriate amount of force, prevented the assault of a woman, and allowed everyone to walk away practically unhurt.

Do not escalate the level of violence when you are at a disadvantage. Hedge gave his opponent a chance to stop fighting and walk away. Instead, he punched Hedge in the face while he was in an inferior position on the ground, and again after being let up. Hedge punched and strangled the man in retaliation.

For the same reason, it's not always a great idea to start eye gouging and biting when you're losing a fight - you're sending a message to your opponent that it's OK to start trying to blind each other now. The problem is that you're the one who is more likely to get blinded because you're already losing the fight. Even if you successfully eye gouge and partially blind someone, there is no guarantee it will deter them.

You can go to the ground in a street fight. Hedge took the fight to where he had the greatest advantage - sitting on top in the mount position.

You can tap out in a street fight. If you're getting strangled, and the person strangling you knows what a tap out means and they accept your admission of defeat, they may actually let you go, just like in this video. I'm not saying you can rely on this, not at all. It's simply an admission of defeat, and depending on the conditions of the fight, they may let you go. And they may not. In this case, Hedge was forced to let go because:

Bystanders can have complete control of what happens in street fights. Their role cannot be underestimated. In this case, they orchestrated the fight from start to finish. Hedge wanted to let the guy up and pass him off on to someone else. They refused and encouraged him to continue fighting. When Hedge was in the process of strangling him unconscious, they intervened to stop it when they saw the tap.

Hopefully this image drives my point home. This is the hand of one of the bystanders coming into frame, letting Hedge know that he should stop choking the guy:
A bystander telling "Hedgehogey" to stop.
The multiples might be on your side. In discussions of self defense, we almost exclusively hear about being attacked by multiples. That isn't always the case. Here, Hedge managed the situation in such a way that he kept the crowd on his side, which was essential - if he didn't do this, they might have turned on him.

This is why it was a good idea to take his time and give the man chances to admit defeat. Hedge's performance won over the audience, they perceived him as fair and just. No matter what happened during the fight, he would be safe. They were going to protect him if it all went south. Hedge knew that his opponent had no friends there.

There are rules in every street fight. But every time you fight, those rules will be different. I don't mean rules in the sense that some kind of organisation has written down rules that you must follow. I mean that there will always be a number of restrictions, obstacles, limitations, unknown variables.

These "rules" appear in the moment. Not before or after the fight. And they change during it. If you decide, for example, to "never go to the ground in a fight", then you're locking yourself into a specific scenario before you actually know what scenario you'll be involved in.

You might say that this is a single isolated case and it's wrong to hold this up as an example of how a street fight might play out. I disagree based on my personal experience. In fact, I've written an article in this blog about a very similar situation I was in, but in this case I was working as a security guard, fighting two people, and they didn't tap out. The circumstances, the "rules" were slightly different in that case, so there was a different outcome. But there were many similar elements.

If you think Hedge was just lucky he wasn't stabbed or beaten by multiple opponents, try looking at it from the other side - his opponent was lucky. Lucky that Hedge is a nice guy. Lucky Hedge didn't decide to kill him, lucky that the bystanders wouldn't have allowed it anyway. He was at a complete disadvantage. He put his life in the hands of others when he tried to harm that woman.

Personally, this is the scenario I would choose.
"But what if this, what if that?". Listen - you're ignoring what happened in the video. You're ignoring everything happening in the environment around the fight, especially his interaction with the bystanders. You're inventing your own conditions which didn't exist in this circumstance. There were no guns, knives, helicopter gunships, dinosaurs. The background is not a special effects green screen where you can switch in any scenario you like. The reality is that social dynamics dictated how it played out.

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