What was your first real fight like?

Here’s a question for you: What was your first real fight like?

There are some qualifiers though, to make sure we’re talking about the same thing:

  • I’m not talking about a schoolyard scuffle because some kid stepped on your toes and the teacher breaks it up after he pulls your hair. Or when your sister broke one of your toys and you ran at her, screaming “I hate you!!!” Let’s leave this stuff out.
  • There was a clear and present danger. Meaning, not fighting was either not an option or the beating you’d take refusing to fight would mean a trip to the hospital or the morgue.
  • You were scared. Either before, during or after. But for the first time, you were scared big time because you knew the stakes were higher than ever before.
  • You actually fought. You punched, kicked, pulled or pushed the other guy. It didn’t stay at the verbal stage.

Here’s mine:

I must have been 9 or 10 years old, I’m not sure anymore because it all happened so long ago.  There was this kid living in my street and we didn’t get along. He was obnoxious, loud, dirty and in hindsight, missing a few nuts and bolts in his brain.  In short, he was the kid your parents didn’t want you to play with.

Damn, that'll hurt when it smashes into your head...

Anyway, for some reason, we didn’t get along.  I also must have done something to piss him off at one time (honestly can’t remember) because one day as I came home, walking down the street, he suddenly stepped in front of me   I obviously hadn’t seen him hiding out (hello awareness!) so he was right there in my face, cursing and threatening me. In and of itself, that wasn’t a big deal. Though he was older than me, I was bigger and stronger. The problem was that he had figured that out too and had geared up for the occasion. He was:

  • Wearing a wooden helmet.
  • Carried a wood and iron, round shield in his left hand.
  • Brandished an honest-to-God medieval flail in his right.

I was too young to add colorful adjectives but my thought process went something like “Holy Fuck! If he hits me with that I’m dead!”

At this point, my memory gets hazy. The way I recall it today (which could be wrong. It’s been almost 30 years) is that he threatened me some more and then pulled back the flail to strike. So I stepped forward and drove a straight punch into his stomach, as hard as I could. He dropped to a fetal position on the pavement, tears welling up in his eyes, making a sound that managed to combine retching and trying to breathe in, all at the same time.

I walked home and felt scared for a long time.

I never had a problem with that kid anymore after this fight. I guess dominance had been established and he must have figured that if he couldn’t take me on when he was armed, he couldn’t take me period. I obviously never gave any indication that I considered myself lucky he didn’t bash my skull in so that suited me just fine.

Sometimes, things don't work out the way you planned...

Some lessons you can learn from this tale of my sordid past:

  • Awareness is key. I didn’t see him waiting for me and he had the drop on me.
  • Strike or don’t strike but don’t threaten. If he had swung the flail without pulling it back, I doubt I could have done anything about it. He was so close, I couldn’t even have turned to run before he could get a shot in.
  • Pre-emptive strikes rule! In many cases, hitting first is the easiest solution. It may not always be legal, but it works real well. In this case, I doubt the law would have been against me.
  • Real fighting is scary shit. Especially if the other side figures taking along weapons as equalizers for whatever you bring to the dance is a great idea.

Looking back on the whole incident after 30 years, perhaps I could have acted differently. Maybe the kid only wanted to scare me. I didn’t have that impression but maybe he never intended to use the flail at all.

Or maybe he wasn’t pulling it back to strike but just to swing it around a bit in a menacing way. Who knows? The point is, I didn’t know any better and my first experience at a real fight turned out OK in the end. No blood, no foul, as a friend of mine likes to say.


So that’s my story, what was your first real fight like?


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  1. I was walking to school in the snow (long island, NY) and I made a crack about welfare. One of my acquaintances (not really a friend) thought I was talking about him (found out later that his mom was on welfare).

    I had shoes on without rubbers (slipped easily) and as he came on me I tried to tell him I was not talking about him. He was several inches tall than me and one of the school tough guys in 7th grade.

    He smacked me in the nose while I was trying to talk my way out of the fight. Instant bleed. I saw red and tackled him – pinned him and made my blood drain in his face rather than punch him! I figured if he wanted to make me bleed – I was going to give it to him. The other guys pulled me off.

    He started telling me and everyone else that it was a fluke – he could kick my butt! He wanted to fight again but I told him no – walked away – he tackled me!

    I did not know I could take him but by the second tussle I was not scared. I out wrestled him again and gave him some more blood. I got pulled off quicker by his friends.

    Well by the time we got to school I kept telling him that I did not want to fight but he tackled me again as we got inside. We wrestled around the hall into the girls bathroom. The fight ended as I was bashing his head against the girls toilet when the vice principal walked in.

    I got off with a warning – you see everyone thought I was the victim and the other guy (including me earlier) but that guy finally left me alone after getting bested three times in one morning.

    Thanks for bringing back fond memories Wim… Your story brought back fond memories of my youth.

  2. You may want to expand you definition of “fight”.

    I’m a private security professional (retail loss prevention and nightclub security) and have been in HUNDEREDS of “interpersonal physical conflicts” but I can’t say that, “not fighting was either not an option or the beating (I’d) take refusing to fight would mean a trip to the hospital or the morgue” and I’ve never felt the need to punch or kick anyone (I’ve had plenty of opportunities but I always have an eye toward witness’s perceptions and striking people never goes over well with juries).

    My cases have almost always simply been instances of taking people down to place them under citizens arrest for shoplifting, having people attack me (unarmed and very poorly thought out) which, again, tends to turn into a take down/immobilization or stepping in between people who were fighting to pull them apart. I’ve been hit numerous times but the people always seem to immediately back away when the strike doesn’t have the desired affect and so they discontinue being an immediate threat, meaning I can’t justify a counter attack (I suppose I could have pursued them to place them under citizens arrest for assault, but that would risk further violence which, considering I’m no longer in danger unless they attempt to closewith me again, hasn’t seemed warranted).

    I’ve been in one “fight” in my adult life outside of work that I define as a fight, but I failed to deescalate it (I could have walked away, but my pride got the better of me) so it doesn’t comply with your definition.

    • No worries David, thanks for the input. The idea of this post was to talk about how having a first “real” fight changes the way you look at violence. My definition of “real” is arbitrary, for sure. But we need one to keep everybody on the same page or there’s no point in discussing it (if the conversation goes all over the place).

  3. I was 18, I was very drunk and at a party. I made a remark to a guy I went to high school with, who never really liked me, but I didn’t know he was looking for a fight (something my friends told me later). He grabbed my shirt and kept telling me he was going to smash my face in. I tried to push myself away from him, but he was much bigger than me and he picked up a half full bottle of whiskey and drew it back to hit me on the head. Before he could hit me I headbutted him, then all the guys who were watching separated us. He ended up in hospital, missing four teeth or so.

    Lessons learned
    1. Shut the f**k up and don’t talk smack, you never know what state of mind someone might be in.
    2. Pre-emptive striking
    3. Drink only in good company.

    I think you did the right thing with pre-emptive striking. It makes absolutely no sense to bring a flail and armor to a fight against a larger opponent, unless you plan to use it, because next time you see your opponent, you might not be armed.

    • I especially agree with lesson #3. It’s been a real long time since I was drunk in a place where I was not amongst friends.

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