When people ask me about self-defense I always ask “what is the reason for wanting to learn ‘self-defense’ techniques? And regardless of the answer I respond with the same answer.

“Conditioning and self-mastery comes first as – you will never rise to your level of expectations. You will only fall to your level of training. And in many cases your attacker may dealing with a high level of insecurity, and may be un-trained, and incapable of basic conflict resolution – So as a practitioner of martial arts you may have a ‘response-ability’ and therefore are responsible for acting appropriately.” 

On the Street there are 4 Types of Abilities:

  1. An attacker who has a REACTIVE RESPONSE-ABILITY is concerning…
  2. By-standers who have NO RESPONSE-ABILITY are useless…
  3. You – A trained defender who is ABLE-TO-RESPOND becomes “RESPONSE-ABLE.”
  4. A civil servant such as a cop, security guard or bouncer is trained to deal with conflict may determine WHO IS RESPONSIBLE. 

In your case, as a martial arts practitioner… You will become “response-able” – Through training you will become self-aware – sensitive to stimuli, and in some cases battle-hardened to overwhelming assaults to give you a better chance of acting appropriately in conflict. Additionally a conditioned body that is able to respond immediately will have the best chance of executing orders from a reactionary brain during a time of conflict, therefore increasing your responsibility.

However regardless of the chances of acting appropriately – bad things may happen. You may still get hit. You may slip, or trip. You may bleed and bruise. And moreover and perhaps worse you may be successful at executing your training and overcome your opponent with aggressive defense by knocking them down, leading to greater trauma. Regardless of the outcome, if you are on the street you have pavement, metal pipes, stairs, slippery floors, gravel, grass, traffic and the complete opposite of every safety measure you experience within a gym. You are a basic human being, and so is your opponent. You both have strengths and both have great fragility. And remember your attacker most likely will not be trained, with something to prove (due to insecurity); and if you counter you may have a very high chance of hitting your target – YET remember hitting your target on the street does not equal “success.” 

You must consider that throwing a punch in a street fight is like firing a bullet. Once you throw it you can’t return it, because if it lands successfully your opponents head may be heading towards the pavement to a potentially lethal impact. It’s not the punch that is dangerous. It’s the pavement.

Come on… Get Real…

I always recommend my students to watch street fight videos and prison fight videos. In many cases no one will come to help you… Many will watch.  Fights can be clumsy yet direct and yes still devastating. Many who attack are not trained and filled with “delusions of grandeur” and also may be filled with alcohol or rage.

1. A Flurry of Gross-Motor-Skills

In the cases of prison fights below, the assailants are using a flurry of what some would call “gross-motor-skills.” They are simple but effective. There is no Kung-Fu or Hollywood editing. Just raw punches, kicks and chasing down of opponents. There is nowhere to hide.

2. What’s worse? The punch or the pavement?

Many street fights escallate from an intention to resolve “dis-respect” or “justified anger” – and start with words, then actions then outcome. In the video below the assailant, becomes enraged unable to dis-connect leading to a strike and a very loud collision of a head on pavement. Others look on without intervening, until the cops come.

3. How Strong are You…? Really…

Just imagine trying to ward off an assault of an inmate who is capable of taking down 2 guards and needs a total of 7 guards to fully smother him. Do your think years of fine-tuned training will take him down?

The examples above showcase basic movements that lead to effective outcomes. There is no padding. No ring. No Rules, No Referee.

4. Avoidance is not weakness…

On the streets do everything possible to turn a negative into a positive. Don’t get cocky. Don’t goad others on. Don’t Escallate. Stay humble. Just leave a situation that becomes violent, unless you have absolutely no choice; and certainly do not expect to come out clean. Fight smart with spirit and executive reasoning, not stupid with emotion and the limbic system. Never try to impress anyone.

Just remember. What comes after pride?… The fall…

During my experience with the USMC a Veteran told us during combat training that “You must be willing to rip the eyes out of your own mother, if you want to survive in war…” That sounds pretty brutal, but perhaps on the streets we should use a bit more civility and to avoid confrontation altogether.

A physical fight is a result of an inability to handle things through words and thoughts. If fear takes over and fight / flight response kicks in the mind is only using the limbic system (the “lizard brain”) which is in charge of fight, flight, feeding, fear, freezing-up, and fornication. In many cases a street fight comes after an escalation leading to crude solution to a very small temporal problem.

I always tell my students to work your self-enlightenment, and self-mastery so you don’t feel so weak that you have to lash out and prove yourself through physicality. A verbal attack that leads to a physical attack may may leave your heart pounding 4x harder after you hear your opponents head bounce off the pavement leading to involuntary man-slaughter. There is only one thing worse than Fear and that is Terror.

Just think, holding back a moment of anger may help you avoid a lifetime of regret.

Build yourself from the ground up. Meaning ensure you train physically so you inherently find confidence in yourself, so when conflict comes you can smile and just walk away, knowing you are doing what’s best for yourself and others.

For Real Fighters – Empathy Matters


Here is a story… Someone has 3 kids yelling on the subway… jumping all over the seats. spilling milk on your brand new jacket… And you yell at the father… “HEY, your kids are out of control!!! What’s your problem?!”…

The father looks off in the distance… and pauses… apologies. “I’m sorry we just came back from the hospital… Their mother just passed away… I don’t know what to do….”

Treat the world as if each person has an enormity of life bearing down on them. Help them through the challenges… That’s what a real fighter does.