Know Who You Are Up Against
Know Who You Are Up Against – What Makes A Street Fighter So Effective?
et’s take a look at two fights:
The lights are bright, the cheers and whistles of the crowd have a strange rhythmic ebb and flow. It sounds a little like you’re hearing it all through a long cardboard tube. You’re in a light sweat. The gate behind you swings shut and you look up towards the cheers, but can see nothing because the spotlights are pointed, it seems, directly at you. Your mind is racing but you are focused. Your hands tremble slightly and you begin to breathe deep and heavy to get more oxygen into your body. You can actually feel your heart beat faster and faster. Looking across the ring you see him. He looks mad, focused and intense, hopping from one foot to the other in the universal rhythm known only to fighters. I’m Ready, I’m Ready, I’m Ready. “Fighters touch gloves!” breaks your concentration and you step forward to the center of the ring.
Its 10:30 PM as you turn down the street to your apartment and you notice there are no parking spots out front. “I know it’s late, but can’t there just be one open spot that isn’t a block away?
Wait a minute, there’s one” Looking at the spot, it does look tight but you can fit. As you jockey the car back and forth your thoughts go to your boss. “Whenever Tom is absent the boss always yells at us. We’re not absent. Why doesn’t he yell at Tom?” You open the door reaching across for your briefcase and step out. “By the time that jerk Tom gets back to work everything has calmed down. This is the fourth time it’s happened. The boss is an—“ WHAM!
It’s not a noise but a blinding flash of white light that drops you to your knees. Your right hand shoots reflexively to the back of your head. Something hits you explosively in the middle of your back and drives your face hard into the pavement. You hear something. It’s not a voice, it’s more like a snarl crossed with a grunt, not really even human sounding. It’s getting louder – each time you are hit. Again and again something explodes into the side of your face and ribs. Three more times something slams down between your shoulder blades and finally grinds you into the cold blacktop. The crushing blows stop and you hear footsteps, running footsteps, and the world fades to black.
Two Different Fights – Two Different Worlds. Which one are you preparing for? Welcome to the world of the street fighter.
Many trainers, fighters, instructors and martial artists train for fighting in the street- or at least they say they are. They are training to beat the legendary “street fighter”- or at least they think they are.
Now, I’ve heard the arguments that the average martial artist could beat most people in the street. Well we’re not talking about “most people.” The street fighter I’m talking about is a ruthless thug, who’s probably done prison time, might have already killed someone and wouldn’t hesitate to stomp your face into hamburger after he’s knocked you down and out. This is by no means the guy most fighters would want to meet in the street.
Unfortunately, these guys do exist. I’ve come across several in my career. Fortunately, I’ve not had to deal with them physically, but I’ve seen the brutal and shocking results of their actions. He won’t just beat you, he will kill you — are you prepared? Here’s an old military axiom to remember: Proper planning leads to perfect performance.
As a trainer and instructor, I have an obligation to prepare my charges for the worst-case scenario. It’s just common sense. If you prepare (train) for the worst, you’ll be able to handle most other situations you encounter.
In order to train effectively to meet a deadly attack, in addition to all your basic training (conditioning, drills, sparring, etc.) you need to know what you’re up against so you can be prepared both physically and mentally should you ever cross paths with a real bad guy.
So, back to the original question: What makes a street fighter so effective? Here’s a list of attributes. Some of these you can prepare for, some you can incorporate into your own training, some you should just be aware of, and some you or I just won’t do, because we are the good guys.
This list is in no particular order. There are really only varying degrees of these attributes in every bad guy, since any bad guy is a little different from any other bad guy, just as you and I are different from each other.
However, since we are dealing with the violent aspect of typical sociopathic behavior, certain commonalities exist.
Most attacks by these thugs will be stacked in their favor from the very beginning. You will need every ounce of your resolve and willpower, on top of any physical prowess, to survive a true deadly attack.
If you are lucky, you’ll be able to avoid this type of encounter just by staying alert, using common sense and listening to your gut feel. “I don’t think I should go into that bar with all the Harleys out front,” would be a good example of using all three tools that I’ve just mentioned. But let’s say that you just didn’t listen to your better judgment and you find yourself in the midst of 20 “patched” members of an Outlaw Motor Cycle gang who haven’t had any sleep for the last 3 days because they’ve been propped up on meth. On top of that, they’ve been drinking non-stop 6 AM to 6 AM for the last 72 hours. This is not uncommon behavior amongst the radical hard-core biker gangs. There is nothing resembling normalcy in this human cauldron. And on top of that, almost all of them have done time. Since most of you can picture this scenario, I’m going to use it as the vehicle to illustrate the attributes. It wouldn’t necessarily have to be Outlaw Bikers, but it certainly could. If you happen to piss one of them off, who and what would you be up against?
You Will Be Ambushed
Almost all of these types of attacks are unprovoked, surprise or ambush attacks. Remember, I said the odds are going to be stacked against you? This is where it starts. This will not be the “You wanna step outside? bar fight. There is no sense of fair play involved here. You will be distracted or ambushed, perhaps in the bathroom, perhaps on the way to your car, and if you are not absolutely “switched on” as the Brits say, you’ll never see it coming. This is the first big advantage the “street fighter” uses to his advantage – he knows he is going to attack – you don’t.
He’s Willing To Do Anything
Another advantage that this thug uses to his advantage is that he is willing to do whatever it takes – anything – to win. Everyone loves to boast about what they would do against a bad guy. Would you really tear someone’s cheek off the side of their face? Would you really bite someone’s nose off? Would you crush someone’s throat with the heel of your boot? Would you hesitate, if even for an instant, if you needed to do these things? He wouldn’t. We are the good guys, and just being good puts us at a disadvantage in a case like this. We have an unwillingness to fight dirty, to cheat to win. They have no rules – we have all the rules. Whether it was from religion, family, society, sports, it doesn’t matter, but we have been imbued with morality, a sense of fair play, honor, and a sense of respect for other human beings. I am not judging anything here, but I will say that just an instant of hesitation at the critical moment, in a life or death struggle, can ruin your day. The bad guys do not have a moral braking system like (I hope) we all do. When they see you frothing blood or going into convulsions on the ground, there is no angel sitting on their shoulder saying, “I think he’s had enough.”
He’s Done This Before
Or he’s had it done to him. Experience is such a great teacher; unfortunately it does not differentiate between good or bad behavior being the result. Believe me, when one of these “Street Fighters” stomps some guys head into the ground, it’s not the first time he’s done it or experienced it. This is his game, his rules and he’s used to how it’s played.
Extreme Violence of Action
Luckily, most of you will never encounter or experience extreme physical violence. Be thankful for that. For most people, even soldiers, encountering extreme violence, especially for the first time, can have extreme effects. When confronted with extreme violence, normal human reactions can range from a dumb founded freeze, to on the spot nausea. This dumbfounded freeze up, coupled with a gut wrenching feeling somewhere between fear and dread, was the tactic used to advantage by the 9-11 hijackers to wrest control of the planes, passengers and crew when they violently killed flight attendants in full view of everyone or the plane. Bad guys, real bad guys are almost always the result of a violent past. You must understand that not only have these individuals experienced violence before, some of them actually enjoy it. They are not like you or me and they know this works to their advantage. You cannot allow yourself to go into a “deer in the headlights” mode in the midst of a violent attack.
For your training it is important to try and create scenarios that will bring out this surprise and fear, so that you aren’t seeing it for the first time in the middle of a real life and death situation. This is the same reason the U.S. Navy developed Top Gun and the US Air Force developed the Red Flag training programs for pilots. The more realistic you make the combat training, the higher probability of survival in actual combat.
Attitude and Intent
When the enraged biker decides to attack you, it is done with an attitude (anger, ferociousness, vengeance) and intent (your complete and utter destruction). You on the other hand are going to be fighting strictly defensively, with no intent, just survival instincts and self-protection at work. It’s important to realize that until you turn this reactionary mode around in your mind, you will be doing just that– reacting. You have to be able to start acting (fighting back) as quickly as possible. Being in this reactive mode for even a few seconds is plenty of time for an attacker to cause you grave harm. Unfortunately, most martial arts are taught from a reactive premise, i.e.; if he strikes – you do this, etc. Most arts are more defensive in nature, than offensive. I guess that’s because we are the good guys and not the attacker. However, you must add some aspect of offensive and pre-emptive (first strike) training to be realistic in respect to being, “Combat Ready.” Once again, scenario training is very valuable for you to be ready to go offensive and turn the tables on the attacking thug or street fighter. Just remember if you are only practicing defensive counters, you’re letting him strike first. In that case, the odds are going to be with him, not with you.
He Will Be Armed
Remember when I said the real “veteran” street fighter would use everything to his advantage? He’s not going to fight you without a weapon. Gun, knife, pool cue, bottle, pipe or rock, he will have something in his hand that can cause you great bodily harm. Have you ever seen a biker without a knife? There is a reason. Start practicing against weapon attacks.
He Won’t Be Alone
He will have an accomplice. Someone will be there to set you up, to distract you, or to help him attack you. Contrary to what many say, it’s not because these thugs are cowards. In fact many of them are extremely brave, by anyone’s standards, when viewed objectively. I have seen some really bad (evil) guys stand down 5 or 6 formidable opponents and not backup one inch. It’s just that they know from experience that the odds are better for them when there are 2, 3, 6 or 12 against one.
He’s Not In Shape
He doesn’t have to be. This is a fight, not a match. They don’t last that long. Seconds maybe – nowhere near a three-minute round. How many punches can you throw in 10 seconds? How many stomp kicks can you deliver in 5 or 6 seconds? That’s usually all it takes. Blind rage, fury, adrenaline and methamphetamine can carry the most out of shape, overweight, outlaw biker, long enough to bring mayhem and serious injury, even death, to another human being.
In the end these are some, but not all, of the characteristics that give the real street fighter his edge. It is important for you to know that you have to fight until you prevail or escape. You cannot stop or give up, ever. There will be no quarter given and no mercy shown by the type of sociopathic, hyper-aggressive outlaw that I’ve been describing. Take a new look at your training and decide what type of fight and what type of fighter you are training to do battle against.
© Ernest R. Emerson