A few years ago I wrote an article titled 8 self-defense tips for men. It covers several tips that help you avoid violence and live your life in safety. One of them, number six, is very simple:
Violence is chaos in action. It is unpredictable and changes constantly.
This means several things:
- Things can seem calm, even as if nothing will come of it, until it explodes into violence.
- Fights start and stop constantly. Sometimes the fight is over right away. Other times it seems over and then suddenly flares up again when you least expect it.
- There is no time limit. Some fights take seconds, others take five, ten minutes or even longer until it is over. You never know upfront what it’ll be.
- Violence moves around. What starts at a specific spot doesn’t necessarily stay there. You might be several feet away and feel safe until all of a sudden the combatants plow into you and you have to fight to defend yourself.
- Being an innocent bystander doesn’t make you immune to being attacked. In the chaos of the fight, you might be mistaken for somebody else. Or somebody might feel like getting a free shot in and sucker punch you, just because they think they can get away with it. Or the fighters bump into you, you try to push them off and they drag you into the fight. If you are near a fight, you are always at risk.
- Just because the fight is over, doesn’t mean you’re safe. In particular those who lose the fight tend to go to extreme measures to “get even.” If they hurt you in the process, they don’t really care about that at that point.
When you tell somebody all this in casual conversation, they usually agree with you. But when a fight breaks out, they rush toward it to stare at it, laugh and joke, whip out their cellphone to record it (preferably being a complete idiot by shouting “Worldstar!”) and forget all about the reasons why they shouldn’t.
Humans like to watch extreme situations unfold, regardless what they are. It’s probably in our DNA in some way, because you see this behavior consistently all over the world. It doesn’t matter if it’s a car crash, a beached whale or a fight, people will watch it.
Even if it puts them at risk.
But as humans, we can also learn from our mistakes and change. All it takes is the willingness to do so and some information. The latter is usually the first step you need, because if you don’t understand the dangers involved, why would you change your behavior? So let’s look at a few examples of how violence actually works and how dangerous it is to watch it from close by.
Chaos in action.
Notice how the fight is in one place and then suddenly it moves around to another. People who are just watching all of a sudden find themselves in the middle of the brawl. Also pay attention to the people who walk in between the combatants and then just stand there, a few feet away. Most of all, notice how easy it is to get sucker punched and consider that once you are knocked out, you are at the mercy of the mob.
It takes a long time for this fight to break out, but eventually it does. Once it’s on, it keeps going for a long time, seemingly calming down and then starting up again. There is no way to predict when it kicks off or when it starts up again. If you are close by, you risk getting dragged into it.
You can get crippled.
Watch until the end. The driver crushes several people and the only reason they don’t die is because he doesn’t back up and try again. Seems unreasonable? Notice how his child is taken out of the car after he drives into those people. Hardly somebody in a normal mindset… If he does it once, it is best to assume he will try again. But in case this example doesn’t convince you, try this one, NSFW.
We don’t see what happens before, but to say the situation is explosive is putting it mildly. As stated above, people will go to extremes to get even, especially if they lose the fight. They won’t see you as an innocent victim of their “revenge”, but merely as an object that stands in their way. One they will go through if needed. So if you can’t get away during the fight, leave right after it’s done because the fight is only truly over when the participants decide it is. Your opinion on it doesn’t matter.
You can die.
Look at how these men just stand there, despite the knives being clearly visible, despite seeing the attacker stab people. They just stand there and then get stabbed themselves.
We don’t know why the guy started attacking those men, but after he goes after the first victim, it should have been clear to the others that they don’t want to be anywhere near him. As you can see, they take no action and then it is too late.
In the vast majority of the situations you might find yourself in, the best self-defense tip is to leave. Just get out of there right away, no matter how much your subconscious mind wants you to stay and watch. The risks are simply too great.
If you do stay, or if you feel you must get involved, know that you are gambling with your life. There is no way of knowing just how far things will escalate and if you will survive. If you are OK with those risks, then that is a personal choice, but do so as a conscious decision and not because of being fueled on adrenaline and itching for a fight. As you engage, remember that you accept those risks, whatever comes next.
Which is why I repeat: in the vast majority of the situations, just leave.
John W Zimmer says
Great advice Wim!
The biggest problem I have with this is it seems to be just fighting – mostly not self-defense. I mean if you are in an area where you know fights are breaking out… why hang out unless you are looking for trouble. In that case one might argue you might lose the guise of “self-defense.”
But the rules of beer muscle seem to prevail. :(
The overall problem is that too many people don’t know the difference between self-defense and fighting. They do the latter and then claim it’s the former. Often ends badly for them.
I agree that the best self defense technique in most situations is to leave. It’s not worth the risk of losing your life just to show how big a man you are. The only way to truly avoid a lethal situation is to leave.