Street Fighting Mistakes: Getting Involved

I posted an article on Street Fighting Mistakes last week and just found another video that qualifies for that category. In this one, there are several mistakes but I’d like to make a point that is often overlooked: the risks of getting involved.

Before I go on, lets look at the video:

As always, I wasn’t there and neither were you, so we don’t know what started this street fight. That said, we can still look at the mistakes the video shows in an effort to learn something. Here goes:

  • It looks like both guys have some grappling or MMA training. You can see attempts at sweeps, looking for dominant positions, side control, use of the guard, rear naked choke, etc.
  • It takes a long time. The fight lasts almost two minutes, which is pretty long for a street fight. This is in part due to the grappling (which inherently slows down a fight unless one person outmatches the other significantly) but also because both men seem to lack decisive power in their techniques.
  • Nobody gets involved at first. The crowd hangs back during the fight. You can even hear people shouting to leave it one-on-one. This is not uncommon but as you see near the end of the fight, you shouldn’t count on it…
  • It’s only when a “winner” emerges that the third guy gets involved. To boot, he takes a shot from behind as you can see by the blond guy stumbling forward suddenly. So the key thing to remember is to immediately do a 360 scan as soon as you can. Start from the assumption that there will always be more than one threat. If the scan proves you wrong, then no harm done. If you’re right, you at least have a shot at avoiding the sucker punch from the back.
  • No-Shirt quickly learns the error of his ways. He punches the blond guy and look what happens next: in the blink of an eye he gets punched and tossed to the ground. At least four people turn on him, one after the other. He’s pretty lucky that they don’t start stomping him.

Those are some of the key elements from the whole fight. There are two things I’d like to point out here.

The first one is that a common street fighting mistake is getting involved when you shouldn’t. Again, maybe ther was a pre-existing dynamic that made No-Shirt get involved, we don’t know. But that doesn’t need to be the case for people to step in like he did. Crowd dynamics are weird and unpredictable. You see that clearly in this video:

  • The crowd is favorable towards the two fighters. Like I said, people make sure nobody else gets involved; they leave them well enough alone, even when they come close enough to get a quick boot in. This creates some sort of unspoken agreement.
  • When somebody breaks that agreement and steps in, there is an immediate reaction. Maybe No-Shirt thought he would be OK going for that sucker punch because the crowd seemed docile enough at first. However the guys who were just standing there watching immediately attack No-Shirt. No delay, no hesitating, just attacking right off the bat.

So my first point is that no matter what goes on inside your own head when you see a fight, don’t assume everybody else is thinking the same thing. There are usually several people standing by, itching to get a free shot in. Practically speaking, other people are not wrong in thinking you are such a guy when they see you go for that sucker punch. Depending on the specific dynamic of that crowd, they’ll leave you alone or they’ll come at you hard like in this case. Regardless, you don’t know in advance which one it’ll be.

So unless you have a good reason to get involved, don’t.

Call the police, get help, whatever but don’t just go for a sucker punch like this guy did.

Depending on your local laws, you might have an obligation to help a person in need. That is the case where I live and according to the letter of the law, you have to step in. But then there’s real life interfering and the fact that people will potentially lie through their teeth and claim you started it. So again, think carefully before acting.


The second point I’d like to make is this:

Both guys seemed to have some MMA training. If you practice MMA too, you might see this video as proof that it’s a good system for self-defense. I’ve written about this ad nauseam so I won’t repeat my arguments for and against. Instead, I’d like to point out something else. Take a look at this picture:

Street Fighting Mistakes: Getting Involved

Street Fighting Mistakes: grappling with a knife carrying opponent…

At 1min08 you see the blond guy trapping the left arm of his downed opponent by stepping on it with his right foot. This effectively frees up his right hand…

As of 1min30, he has plenty of opportunity to go for what looks like one or two knives secured in his belt and pocket. At 1min45 you see him going into his sweatshirt pocket checking for something. Perhaps another knife?

So he had both the means and the opportunity to kill his opponent. What he apparently didn’t have was the intent.

That is why it is so often not a good strategy to go to the ground in the street: counting on the mercy of your attacker is not a smart strategy to keep you safe.

Sure, maybe he doesn’t have a knife. But you don’t know that upfront.

So perhaps another of the common street fighting mistakes would be: don’t assume your opponent is unarmed. It will suck blocky nuts to discover you are wrong if he has the intent to use them. The black guy in this video should count his blessings that he didn’t pay a heavy price for that mistake.

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  1. The thing I noticed was how they both adhered to civilized fight rules. The white guy had his thumb on the black man’s eye, but he did *not* dig it in to his eye, or fishhook his nose or mouth, and he didn’t grab skin and twist it all up either.

    Just a couple more opportunities I noticed that didn’t happen.

    • Indeed. The black guy did try a headbutt but he stopped after that. It looks like they both either didn’t want to crank it up or didn’t know how.

  2. I think ‘unless you have a good reason to get involved, don’t ‘ is really good advice. As quite a long time ago when I was visiting my father’s homeland, I was at a disco when all of a sudden a girl was going for her boyfriend . Anyway she was really trying to grab and scratch him and he was beginning to hit her quite hard back so I tried to restrain her and remove her from the scene so she would calm down: Big mistake! Suddenly I think everybody thought I was attacking her so I had people pushing and trying to hit me. So I let her go and went back to my business of trying to get a drink! Nowadays, I just think it’s the bouncer’s job unless there is no other option. In those days in my father’s homeland I felt some bouncers were itching to strike and not resolve matters in a calm and pleasant way if at all possible. The foreign bouncers there always seemed more civilised.

    Again, a good article. I wish there had been this sort of advice and analysis of real fights in the nineties when I first started. There was just no awareness of these issues in the arts that I was studying and thankfully I never had to use them in a real situation as I would have been trying to make complicated and unnecessary movements work against short sharp attacks probably from people unencumbered by such thoughts. I am very grateful to those teachers who first taught me as they believed as did many of us that what we were doing was the ‘real deal.’

    • Last time I worked as a bouncer the organization let me down and the promised back up never showed, leaving me all alone to handle hundreds of people. Because there was a family connection involved, I couldn’t back out. Their idea of a solution was to give me a few young kids as back up…
      A while later, a gang of thugs crashed the party and started causing trouble. I finally managed to get them off the property and into the street without having to use force and went back inside as it was no longer my problem then. After a couple steps I scan my six again and notice two things: 1) The thugs are picking a fight with three drunk guys. 2) One of the young kids had deemed it necessary to intervene and he was standing between the thugs and the drunks. So I had to go back and get him out… To make it worse, he first refused to leave and started arguing with me while we were standing there, smack in the middle between both parties who were going to kick it off in the next few seconds. I then ordered him to follow me and we both got clear a few seconds later. I’m pretty sure he thought he was doing the right thing… So I definitely understand what you mean. :-)
      Anyway, the police showed up and the thugs scattered like cockroaches. I said “fuck it” and told the organizers that I was leaving. As a favor to the organizers, my wife was helping out too. She was pregnant of our first child at the time. If they didn’t feel like giving me the tools to do a good job, I sure didn’t feel like endangering both myself, my wife and my unborn child, family connection or not. All the time, while I was covering our exit to our car, I was waiting for the thugs to come for us. I decided that very night to never work as a bouncer again.

  3. Wow – I saw so much of this when I was younger. While they had some training – neither guy had a good striking game – the best way to handle a street fight.

    As you said – you never know when someone is going to get involved. Maybe his old lady might kick the other one in the head while they were wrestling around – I think one of your posts pointed that out once Wim. :)

    An interesting read as always.

  4. When Blondie reached into his hoodie I thought we were about to see him cut the black guy’s throat.

    As mentioned before, I too noticed that Blondie had a good opportunity to dig his fingers into the eyes on his opponent. Even if he didn’t intend to tickle his brain by doing so it might have shortened the fight a great deal.

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