Dealing with a street attack

A number of bloggers have posted about this video and have provided their thoughts about it. Watch the video below first before you read on, it's worth seeing in its entirety:

This has already been covered by various people that I read and whose views I respect- read Vox's take here, or Mike's take at D&P, or Carey's take here. All of them have valid points, and all of them point out very stark problems with the way that both victims handled themselves.

So we know what the victims, especially the male victim, did wrong. He did not have commanding posture. He did not make it clear to his adversaries that he was not to be trifled with. He let his woman take the lead- always and everywhere a huge mistake. He did not punch or defend, at all, in any sensible way. At all times he showed that he was a victim, not an adversary.

With all of that being said, and being kept in mind, let me ask you this: after seeing this, and after reading all of the opinions noted above, would you be able to survive a street attack by a bunch of young black thugs?

I am considerably less sanguine about your prospects of survival than some of the others. And with good reason.

Watch perhaps the first fifteen seconds of the video and you'll see why. This is a street assault involving multiple attackers. Dealing with just one attacker effectively is not easy. Dealing with many attackers is in fact extremely difficult- note however that I am talking about unarmed combat. (If you're packing heat, the entire equation changes- there is nothing quite like a .40 or 9mm to even the odds if you're facing five or six attackers.)

If we look at the dynamics of the fight, we'll see some very instructive things about street fighting that I think are worth keeping in mind:
  • Being taken to the ground is the absolute worst thing that can happen to you. It is not for nothing that I recommend studying both a striking art and a grappling art at the same time if at all possible. In a street fight, the ground, not your opponent's fist, is your biggest enemy. A fist can be dodged and countered. So can a kick. This is even true of a knife or a gun. The reason for this is that when you're standing up, you have a truly vast array of weapons available to you- forehead, fingers, fists, elbows, forearms, knees, shinbones, feet, even heels. On the ground, you're reduced to just two weapons- fists and feet. And your range for both are severely reduced.
  • If you are taken to the ground, it's not the end of the world. It is still possible to fight from your back and in guard. You have to know how to keep your head about you, to stay mobile, and to keep your feet pointing straight at your attacker(s).
  • No matter what, GET BACK UP. The longer you stay on the ground, the more strikes you will take. You are far more exposed on the ground- and simply in the act of going to the ground, you will take damage from hitting hard concrete with your spinal column and head and tailbone. If you are not trained in breaking your fall properly, this is going to be a very painful experience- hell, it's going to be painful no matter what, but if you go to ground properly, the pain is relatively fleeting; if you go to ground badly, the pain is likely to be permanent.
  • Fighting against multiple opponents is incredibly disorienting and extremely difficult. Do not for one moment believe anyone who tells you otherwise. When you are in a fight, your vision narrows and your concentration is focused almost entirely on the dickwad in front of you. All you can think of is the guy in front of you who is clearly begging for you to apply some much-needed cosmetic surgery to his face using nothing but your bare fists. If you then get hit from the back or side, it is extremely confusing if you aren't used to it- and even if you have trained for such situations, it's still a challenge to adapt. This is why various systems, such as Krav Maga (both civilian and military), Systema, MCMAP, and hisardut explicitly aim to teach students how to handle themselves in crowds and against multiple attackers.
  • NEVER be caught unawares. Mike made this point particularly well. The reason this couple got caught up in this in the first place- other than the fact that these young black thugs are better categorised as animals than humans- is because they lacked situational awareness. I'll make this really simple for you. If you're walking out at night, and you see a gang of black or Latino hoodlums hanging around, and you aren't sure that you could take them, walk the hell away. Trust me on this- you'll live longer if you just pay attention to your surroundings.
But the most important lesson, by far, is the one that my teachers hammer into us every single day when we study street combat:
No matter what happens, GET BACK UP AND KEEP FIGHTING.
If you are ever unfortunate enough to get into a street fight, understand this: you ARE going to get hit. You ARE going to get hurt. There is no avoiding this once the first punch is thrown. You ARE going to bleed. And you WILL tire very quickly- as I've said before, most people who don't spar or fight have no idea just how fast you can get gassed in a real fight. (Hell, I think I'm in pretty damn good shape, and even I get gassed pretty quickly when I'm sparring at full speed.)

So if you're in the fight, for real- stand firm, don't get taken to the ground, and use every single weapon at your disposal to inflict as much damage as you can.

There are no rules on the street except one- no quarter given, no mercy shown, none expected- so don't hold back.

Strike for the eyes, the groin, the liver, the nose- any vulnerable target that you can find.

Fight as hard as you possibly can. Worry about the details later- and make sure that you leave your attacker(s) bleeding and screaming at your feet.

Of course, all of this is easy to say. The reality is that if you're attacked by a large group of savages like these two unfortunates were, you are almost certainly going to lose. It's just cold mathematics at that point. There is, however, a big difference between getting beaten up, and getting beaten up intelligently. The latter involves knowing how to take impact- and more importantly, knowing how to recover from the impact and repay the favour.

If you look closely at the video, you'll see that nearly two-thirds of the strikes that the assailants threw more or less missed. In a real fight, that's roughly the number of strikes that you WILL miss. It's pretty much guaranteed that you will miss most of what you throw. That's just the way it is. You can reduce those odds by learning how to punch and kick properly- and don't ever underestimate the utility of a good hard kick, by the way. If you're in a stand-up fight with someone, dealing with hand strikes is hard enough- once you add in legs, the problem rapidly becomes multidimensional and therefore extremely difficult to solve.

The best piece of advice that I can give anyone about street fighting, based on this video and my own experiences, is that you can never afford to be caught unawares. The strikes that you don't see coming will be far worse than the ones you do.

The couple who were attacked here were very lucky that they got away with cuts and bruises. If their attackers were anything other than subhumans, and were armed, they would very likely be dead. Don't repeat their mistakes- and don't ever let a gang like this catch you without a weapon at hand.


  1. Don't hold back - you're 100% right on this one. The problem is that most people will always hold back, generally for fear of prosecution later. Going 100% crazy insane (pulling ears, gouging eyes, nut shots etc.) may get you out of the fight, but you may be in for a heap of trouble later.

    I have noticed that a fairly big disadvantage is merely wearing a shirt. It gives the attackers something to grab, hold on to and use to knock you off balance. I do realize that there will almost never be time to take off your shirt in order to fight, but it is an interesting factor that few seem to consider.

    1. Interesting that you mention shirt-grabs. There are several ways to get out of those; one involves inflicting serious striking damage, two involve just getting out of the grab, and another involves an armbar of sorts. Problem is, most people don't know any of this. Grabbing someone's shirt is a great way to get him off balance and set him up to eat several punches- or set him up for a nasty take-down. It's one of those odd attacks that can catch people by surprise very easily- and as you say, it's not something that most people consider.

      As for not holding back- my teacher put it very well in a class I took with him last year. He said, basically, "Don't worry about what happens after the fight." He did this after some people got a bit queasy about the fact that one of our releases from front bear hugs (arms pinned) involves biting someone on the neck. After some amused mockery of people with "vegetarian issues", he pointed out that there is always time to worry about "those issues" later- when the fight is done and the attacker is lying bleeding and broken at your feet (hopefully!).

      In a street fight, it's a question of survival. Dealing with lawyers and questions of "proportionality" become pretty irrelevant at that point. Unfortunately most modern justice systems seem to have a hard time understanding that if you're the victim of an unprovoked attack, then it's very difficult to exercise restraint at that point...

    2. I've known shirt grabs were a problem ever since I got taught to "jersey" someone (

      If you do it right you can trap their arms and cover their head at the same time leaving you free to punch at your leisure.


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