Learning to fight is a difficult skill to accomplish and its complicated by some social and emotional factors.
It’s an activity, at least for men, closely linked to the concept of “manliness.”
Most people have gone through the gauntlet of childhood in which there is at least some threat of violence. By the time most people reach 20, they have felt threatened with violence, whether in school or on the playground or in a bar or on the streets.
While women definitely have it worse in the “being threatened by the world” department, by and large, they don’t typically have the pressure men feel to be perceived as competent fighters. It is an integral part of being “macho,” or “manly,” or really even competent as a boyfriend, husband, and father. Can you protect your loved ones against the world?
As a result of these pressures, many men feel compelled to be (or pretend to be) experts in violence. Fighting is a big topic of conversation in grades schools and high schools and colleges and in the military dorms. Few people are highly skilled fighters (as it takes a lot of dedication and training), so there is a lot of posturing going on.
I think of it as like “protective coloration” in the animal kingdom (the other animals).
Biological weapons which make an animal dangerous always have costs. To make and maintain claws, teeth, poison, muscles, and so on costs a lot of energy. So some animals evolved more energy-efficient ways to accomplish the same security goals. They pretend to be dangerous. Since having a bad run in with a dangerous creature is so risky (death, injury), other creatures evolve flinch and flight responses to dangerous creatures like poisonous snakes and spiders.
You ever have one of those involuntary jump responses to what you thought was a snake? Or actually was a spider? These reactions are wired into you.
Many animals have developed instinctive fear reactions to dangerous animals (bears, wolves, big cats, snakes, spiders).
So other creatures evolved a way to ride the coattails of this effect. They evolved to mimic the look of their more legitimately dangerous cousins. There are snakes which are not poisonous which are colored like their poisonous cousins.
There are fish, like the Puffer Fish, which blow themselves up with air to seem bigger and more dangerous.
Men (and especially teenagers) puff themselves up with words and they mimic the dress, habits, and attitudes of other men who are legitimately dangerous.
You see this most clearly in the way teenagers often start smoking and swearing to seem grown up. They may also dress and adopt the body language of people they perceive as feared, such as criminals. In my father’s day, kids would get a DA haircut and wear t-shirts with the sleeves rolled up and jeans and boots. By my high school years, it was a similar “Rock and Roll” look, only now the jeans were well-worn and sometimes torn at the knees and the t-shirts bore the logos of “edgy” bands like the Ramones and AC/DC.
For awhile now its been hip hop gear and gang-banger styling. Bling and big t-shirts or tank tops and tats. Bling. Grills in the teeth. Intricate haircuts.
There are many guys out there who pretend they know how to fight who have actually never been in a fight, never had any training, and/or lost all their fights.
I’m (if memory serves) 2 wins and many losses (over 30). Once I got some training, I started winning, then I stopped fighting. And they were all kid stuff.
A lot of us go through adolescence and get into adulthood throwing out a lot of smoke about our fighting skills (even just in terms of posturing and attitude) where there isn’t really any fire.
The fact is, most people know very little about fighting.
Only what they see in the movies and on TV and maybe what they saw here and there in some shoving match or schoolyard scuffle.
But this doesn’t stop people from talking and giving their “expert” opinion, in person and on the internet. Papering the world with their opinions which are typically based on very little in the way of training or experience.
Lt. Col. Grossman, in his book On Combat, called it “a world of virgins talking about sex.” They offer options and fake stories because they don’t want anyone to know they don’t know. These people are often the most dangerous, because they have something to prove and their actions are likely to be wild and unpredictable.
Going up one level, you’ll find people who have gone out and gotten a little training, and these people are often very excited to preach the gospel. Fighting methods are like religion; no one is worse than a recent convert. They may have been a sinner last week, but now they are saved and out in the front of the mall handing out pamphlets.
The invention of the internet and the development of Youtube only exacerbated this problem. We are buried in opinions. How do you find the truth?
The truth is that people love to take the extremely complicated 3-dimensional technicolor world we live in and reduce it to simple black and white 2-Dimensional sound bites.
People make lots of bold statements. Brazilian Jujitsu will beat all other styles and the UFC proves it! Tae Kwan Do sucks! Kung Fu sucks! Krav Maga is the only realistic system!
Statements like this are fundamentally flawed. I think you do need either good BJJ or Wrestling to survive in the UFC (three five minute rounds is a long time and some people have good chins), but the street is just different.
Lots of people like to think that the UFC is the ultimate lab and all questions about fighting can be adjudicated there. But the fact is that there are many types of fighting and the UFC is just one form, framed by its rules. On the street, the first thing to go is the rules. As Geoff Thompson teaches us, deception is the winning tactic on the street. They apologize. They want to shake hands. Then (if you’re lucky), its a sucker punch. If you’re not lucky, its a knife.
A claim you often hear on the internet is that Brazilian Jujitsu is the best fighting system. I think the Gracies did some great advertising with those early UFC matches and another handy thing about this system is you can demo it without really hurting your opponent (choke or joint lock).
But these very broad statements are easy to disprove. OK, its the best fighting system? I think its a pretty awesome system and tough to deal with a skilled proponent, but against a gun? Well, obviously not against a gun! The caveats start coming out. Empty hand fighting. Against four guys? No, obviously, I’m talking one on one. Can I hit you with a chair? No, no chairs. In the ring. Can I break your fingers? Thumb into the eye socket? BJJ is awesome in the hands of a skilled fighter, but on the street, other aspects of fighting may or may not come into play.
Fighting in the real world (outside of competitions) is a crap shoot. Or like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get (or who you’re fighting). Good street fighters are good at being sneaky. They survive by stacking the odds in their favor.
You bump into some guy on the street. He steps to you. He looks scary, with gold teeth and tats and the clothes. Is it real or protective coloration? How bad do you want to find out?
This is another place we men will run into trouble. The macho rises. You don’t want to “look scared.”
This is where the crazy person or the person with “nothing to lose” has the advantage.
Are you going to get in a thing with some nutcase? For some people, their rep is more important than jail time or a trip to the hospital (or the morgue). The more you have going for you in your life, the less you want to get in a brawl over some bullshit.
Is this guy doing “protective colorization” or is he really gangsta? How bad do you want to find out? Is it worth a knife in the ribs from some guy who is so scared inside, he would rather do time than look weak? Or who has so little going for them that their reputation for being dangerous is all they have?
To quote Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction….