Under: Self-defense
6 Jun 2010

When I was a kid I was bullied a bit in grade school. My dad had to show me the old one – two (jab – cross) combo and told me that if someone attacks me – I had to fight back. He proceeded to teach me the basics of fighting in the living room.

I soon caught on to this and became a bit aggressive if anyone messed with me to the point of challenging the duke of the school to fisticuffs after school. Well let me must say that losing that fight brought me back down to reality. :)

Last night in our neighborhood there was a party raging on with seemingly a life of its own? During the daytime there were the usually girls parading about in summer attire – giggling hysterically at seemingly nothing. Along with the girls there were plenty of guys. During the night, as the hour grew later, the party spewed out into the streets. I’ll get to the punch line (pun intended) later but suffice it to say there was a lot of beer muscle and drama into the wee hours in the morning.

In this post I’d like to discuss the notion that anytime someone messes with you – irrespective of the circumstances, one has to respond to a provocation. Specifically at a party and what makes sense. Take a look at this video I found on youtube of young people partying and the obligatory fight before I start the discussion.

WARNING – there is a liberal use of profanity in this video – seem to go hand in hand with partying, youth and beer.




This was tough for me to watch. The kids were were getting into a beef with another guy and the aggressor dropped both kids. Looking at this video you might be wondering what the fight was about? I was too but usually in these fights – it is over nothing but maybe he was a party crasher. Did the kid that won the fight have any provacation to sucker punch the other two guys? You be the judge but it looked like he could have just walked away.


When I was age 21 to 23, I worked in a bar as a bouncer and I can tell you honestly I have never seen so many fights start up about nothing. It got to the point that when I heard arguments start up over who stole whose quarter that was in line for the pool table – I gave the “victim” a quarter and told them to work it out politly or I was closing the pool table down for the night.


After I left the bar I did not get into many more fights. You see if you take the party atmosphere, beer and lots of folks looking to hook up out of the equation – whats left to fight about? I’ve had some interesting parties over the years with some heated discussion about politics and religion but none of these gatherings have let to open fighting! :)


So say you are a young man or woman and like to hang with your friends at parties. Do you have any standards when it comes to fighting? Do you need the pretense of self-defense before you unload on someone that “stepped out of line?” Is a guy ogling over you woman reason enough to tattoo some knuckles on his nose? Does a skank commenting on you boyfriends behind deserve (your) a elbow to the face?


Now that I’ve set the stage – here are my views. Youth are young and dumb. That does not mean that the emotions one feels at that age are not real but they are in the scheme of things of no consequence. What I mean to say if you boyfriend or girlfriend goes for another hookup – who cares? He or she is not worth your effort. You cannot change anyone else. Smacking the perpetrator around a bit will not help. It takes two to tango.


If someone makes a crude comment to your date. Consider your surroundings, level of intoxication and the fact that words cannot hurt you. True you have a right to defend yourself but that does not include teaching anyone manners!


The law takes a dim view of people threatening, assaulting or battering other people no matter how much they have asked for it. My guess is in a party setting, you would have lots of different versions of the events that cops would have to sort through and then hopefully they would agree with your assessment.


So what would I have done in the video above? First off I hope as a youth it would have occurred to me that trouble makers might crash the party. If the party digresses to the point of open fighting – perhaps it would be time to end the party. Not an opinion in this video as this seemed to be spring break. A reasonable action might to confront a trouble maker with a group of guys politely asking the guy to leave without all of the threats. The guy who sucker punched the other guys might have just walked away when challenged.


Here is what the fighters did not really consider. First off in fights it is possible that someone will get hurt bad. Fighting for any other reason than self defense is silly. I don’t care if the guy mocked your mother!


If you fight for any other reason than self defense you are opening yourself up for criminal and civil litigation. Did you notice the cell phone videos that were capturing the fight? Either one of those two guys that got beat up while they might not be successful at having the guy arrested (cop’s call to take one or all three in) – they could come probably sue for damages in civil court easily.


I hope you understand that I think just because you can fight, you should show a lot of restraint if you come up against people trying to provoke you. I would add attending parties with lots you young people and beer are not a place that I would like to be because of the increased chance of stupidity. In this video I did not see anyone I considered right or smart, only varying degrees of bad judgement.


Now the fighting in my neighborhood last night was equally as dumb. As I mentioned the party was outdoors and at about 11:30pm or so we heard a biker driving by several times. Eventually he stopped and tried to join in the party. As a rule I don’t go outside when stupidity is afoot but when I heard the idiots fighting in the street I took a gander.


I saw (from a few houses away) about 50 people of all ages screaming at a few guys rolling around in the street (you know – punch, grab, and wrestling). It was very amusing the girls and guys trying to yell who started it and everyone seemed to be calling the police. The biker eventually took off and the and the dumb partiers stayed put – yelling at each other in middle of a street.


The cops finally rolled up on the scene and yelled at everyone to lay on the ground. I must say it was very amusing to see a large group of girls and guys laying face down on the street. I think they each thought their position was correct and they were just going to point out the instigator and be done with it. I finally could get to bed without the screaming. I don’t know who ended up going to jail if anyone but I hope the lesson learned is deeper then flee before the cops get there.


I really hope the lesson learned is distancing one’s self from bad situations. It is one thing to attend a well run party but quite another to mill about on the streets to all hours of the night and have no standards as to what constitutes self defense! Please join with me and let those young people around you know that rather than self defense, behaviour like this is nonsense.  

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6 Responses to “Fights at Parties; Self Defense or Nonsense?”

  1. TheMartialArtsReporter Says:

    Another good post, John.
    I guess with all the uncontrollable testosterone and lack of understanding “action and consequences” youth will do
    things that don’t make sense from our older (and sometimes
    more mature) perspective.
    Youth wasted on the young?
    The puncher really could have created a legal nightmare for himself. I think we even two guys actually.
    I totally agree that one should do everything to stay away from bad situations. Especially as martial artists, but only of course.
    I consider this already part of effective self-defense.
    Thanks for another awesome post.
    Stay safe.
    TheMartialArtsReporter recently posted..Who Else Remembers Grandmaster Allen Steen, The Father Of Texas ‘Blood And Guts’ Taekwondo Karate?My Profile

  2. Matt Klein Says:

    Funny video John. Remember parties like this in my youth. Learned that it is better to remain calm and stay in the background, not like the guy who got knocked down. The other guy who got cold cocked should have kept his eye on the aggro one, especially after his friend got knocked down. Always be wary when the guy just stands there and does not say a thing. Notice he was a left hander, harder to see it coming. Agree with Martial Arts Reporter about lack of understanding, which is usually fueled by alcohol. Better to remain in control. Yes the fighter could have created a legal nightmare by kicking the guy when he went down. He used more force than was necessary and it was definitely not self defense.
    Matt Klein recently posted..Kids Anti Bullying Secret Tip #1My Profile

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  4. Zara Says:

    There’s a very simple reason for this display: too much beer and testosterone driven need to ‘prove’ oneself in the eyes of one’s peers and especially the opposite sex. Is it wise? Obviously not. Is it dangerous? Not really since it’s a fight about dominance and territory (‘get the fuck out of here’) and not about criminal violence or escalation to armed conflict. It’s more about posing and showing guts than anything else, yet to most people (especially those from the more civilized walks of life) this is real violence and a sure sign society is going down the drain. Ok, the kick at the end was too much but while I don’t approve of any type of physical conflict there are degrees and there are far more dangerous situations than this one. To me this is fairly harmless: young people will always do stupid things and young men will get into a fight once in a while. I’d rather have them go at in one on one with certain rules like it used to go (you don’t attack people in the back, you don’t use weapons, you don’t kick a man when he’s down) than some of the sick s*** we see nowadays (drive by shootings, knives, multiple opponents, people getting kicked to death). I’m fairly young but from what I see in my immediate surroundings people are getting more frustrated and more violent: back in the days when I started going out heated debates or arguments (alcohol driven or for some girl or because a sportsteam lost or won) were settled outside the bar between two people with their friends watching to make sure no foul play was used. Usually one guy got hit a few times and went down (most people can’t fight effectively), the other party backed off, was declared the victor and everybody went back inside to continue drinking and considered the argument settled. Often both guys shared a beer afterward and it was more a manly way to show one’s courage (willingness to step up) to impress the ladies and ones friends than anything really evil. Nowadays you have to look out for hidden weapons, assume people are going to come at you in numbers and people you clocked in legitimate self defense could actually sue you and give you a big hassle over nothing. Even if you didn’t do anything wrong you could still have to spend the night in jail and get a bad rep with the cops while there used to be much more personal responsibility and social control. If fights were conducted in what was considered a civilized manner no one really took offense and it was looked down upon to sue for nothing more than a shiner or a bruise, especially since most of the time both parties were drunk and equally guilty. If a fight got out of hand or troublemakers soured it up for everybody people stepped up and separated both guys or threw the bad guys out. Nowadays people can’t seem to see the difference between real violence and what I consider playfighting and they’ll run and leave others to their fate at the first sign of trouble or call the cops when their time could have better been spent on real crimes. Call me old fashioned but I do think it was better back then, at least where I live and I never did frequent truly dangerous bars or neighbourhoods.

    I never went looking for trouble yet I never bowed down to abusive idiots or troublemakers, as a result I had to fight very little and I never ran with the wrong crowd who forced me to fight or take unnecessary risks. My advice would be to back off when confronted (take a stance suitable for fighting but otherwise non threatening) and make them understand you’re not a threat to them and you’re not looking for trouble (this is as much to avoid legal trouble afterwards than the fight itself). If he continues to press the issue and attacks first you’re ready (you control the distance and you’re not caught of guard), normally this should ensure victory and if you don’t use more force than is reasonable you’ll be off the hook with the cops. My main concern today would be hidden weapons: if I smell trouble I want distance between him and me so that if he pulls a knife I’ll at least have some time to react appropriately. Best of all is not to fight of course (zero risk) and the better I get at martial arts the more I abhor violence and the lesser my need to ‘prove’ myself (not that it was very big to begin with). It does wonders for your self esteem and self confidence to know you can knock a guy flat on his ass with just one well placed blow and you could seriously hurt them if you need to. Self confidence is still the best way to a) appear a hard target and avoid trouble in the first place and b) stay calm and rational in adverse circumstances and dangerous situations. A lot of people who get beaten up owe it to themselves (talking smack to some really dangerous individuals, getting into fights over nothing, drinking themselves silly, frequenting the wrong places…) and I’ve seen some pretty stupid things back in the day. One thing that always stuck with me was the time I saw a guy (skinny, short guy with way too much alcohol in his blood) talk smack to a bouncer (bald guy, tall, athletic and very confident) and than attack him (reminded me a poodle attacking a rotweiler)… The bouncer (old timer from the looks of it) floored him with one blow, instead of acknowledging defeat the guy got up and tried again with the same result. Incredible, just incredible: after the third time he finally had enough and went way. Taking on someone much bigger and more experienced than yourself is stupid enough but to want to repeat the experience? ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results’ (Einstein).

  5. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Zara – good points as usual! I’d like to share one time where I tried to officiate a street fight between my former dumb step-son and another guy. In the old neighborhood I was known and occasionally called on to break up fights (I still owned my karate school).

    My step-son wanted a piece of another guy out in front of the house… I tried to talk him out of it but my former wife (pregnant with my first – soon to be born) said I should let them fight.

    It was a surreal scene – a bunch of people surrounding them at 10PM or so and me in the center trying to ensure no one got hurt too bad. They traded a few blows and my step-son finally thought to take off his jacket… almost got attacked but my former wife yelled and I intervened. I though it was kind of stupid to try to take off the jacket.

    Anyway the fight turned into a wrestling match as neither one of them could strike very well and I noticed how upset my former spouse got as seeing her son getting his butt kicked… I finally stopped the fight when it was clear it was all one sided but the whole thing was stupid. :)

    Anyway the point I’d like to make is even though this stuff is kind of school yard stuff – there is not guarantee someone won’t get hurt bad… I’ve seen a guy that got turned into a vegetable over a shoving match over a girl in high-school.

  6. Zara Says:

    Yeah, there are always those idiots that seem to like getting beat up and just don’t learn from the experience. My brother is one of them (sadly enough): his problem is not mental retardation but the fact that once alcohol touches his lips he keeps on drinking until he drops. Another flaw is that he frequents establishments that have a rather shady reputation (drugs, fights, racial violence) and when you drink so much you cannot even stand properly you’re a sitting duck and an easy target, especially in those places. I had a few talks with him about this but obviously he doesn’t want to listen, on several occasions I offered to teach him the basics of fighting (basic boxing with a few streetwise tricks) but he declined. Hell, I offer up my time and expertise to teach him some moves that might actually keep him safe but either he’s too busy, he just doesn’t care or he’s too lazy… I don’t know what it is but one time he claimed he didn’t want to get hit in training: jeezes, that’s about the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard, especially in light of the fact that a full force punch with a bare fist hurts alot more than a light hit from a glove. The problem with those people is that they just don’t learn and talking to them about it won’t amount to much. Even though he’s my brother and I love him I can’t help him if he doesn’t want to and now I just ignore him when he does stupid things. If only he wouldn’t keep coming over here to complain about it.

    I agree every physical confrontation carries health risks but with real violence the risks is infinitely higher than the sort of ritualized, duelling kind of fight I described although it would still be better to put them in a ring with a referee and let them duke it out under formal rules and expert supervision (similar to what you did in the case of your stephson). People these days lack common decency and the whole violent image of MMA (hit or throw a guy to the ground and then pound him into oblivion) and the drivel of so called self defense experts (in a street fight everything goes, do anything you can to annihilate him or he’ll make you pay) hasn’t done much to abate this problem. People used to have some perspective on what was acceptable in fights and the damage was controlled, now it’s become almost standard practice to resort to dirty tricks, kicking a guy when he’s down or bashing people in the head with beermugs.

    What I don’t get about that ex stephson of yours: if he got into trouble so frequently why didn’t he at least take some lessons? Hell, he had an expert in the house who’d probably train him for free and he didn’t take advantage of that… stupid. When I was a kid I’d given anything to have a proper role model as a father to teach me all the things a boy should know (including basic self defense) but I got stuck with a pacifistic whimp. No wonder I had more respect for my martial arts teacher than him. The world just isn’t fair.