What are the best tactics if you get in a fight?

Some of the best tactics if you get into a fight are: trigger an adrenaline dump in the aggressor; use the fence to maintain distance; consider the pre-emptive strike; attack vulnerable areas; use opponents as shields; make use of improvised weapons and fight dirty.

I’ve written previously about avoiding a fight – monitoring your body language, avoiding dodgy areas, running away, not drinking excessively and staying alert.

However, if it’s a life and death scenario, then these are some of the techniques that have been described if you are unfortunate enough to get into a fight. 

Trigger an Adrenaline Dump

Derren Brown is a British mentalist and hypnotist. He has written about the time when he was confronted by an aggressive man one evening in a car park whilst on tour in America,  The man had approached him and had become loud and abusive asking if Derren wanted to fight.

There’s no right way of responding to such a question – a “yes” or “no” response is just as likely to get you hit.

Instead of engaging with him directly and arguing or pleading with him., Derren spoke to him in pleasant manner about a completely different subject. “The wall outside my house is four-feet high”, Derren responded. 

This completely confused the aggressor and was not what he had been expecting.   Derren’s calm response and off script comment  completely broke the bully’s pattern of behaviour.  He was left bewildered and experienced an ‘adrenaline dump’ – all the fight he had in him suddenly drained away..

At this point, some self-defense instructors advocate striking your opponent, whilst they’re in this confused state.  

Using a similar technique, many of these experts will advocate asking a question to the aggressor.  Typically the question is completely unrelated to the current situation; something like, “Did I see your sister the other day?”.    This often causes the individual to pause to think and it’s during this interlude that the strike is landed.

Instead, of striking, Derren continued his flow of conversation about the size of walls he’d encountered on his travels. His aggressor ended up breaking down in tears at this point and Derren ended up comforting him, 

To be able to pull this technique off you have to be able to remain calm under pressure.  Derren had rehearsed this response countless times.  It’s unlikely you’d be able to pull this off without prior practice. 


The Fence

If you feel a situation is escalating and could turn violent then you should maintain your distance by using the following technique.

Geoff Thompson, the ex-doorman and self defense expert has spoken about the importance of maintaining distance between you and the aggressor,  This is done subtlety via the fence.

Your arms are raised to chest height and are bent slightly at the elbow.  Your hands are turned upwards as though you’re trying to diffuse the situation.



On the surface this is a very non-threatening posture.  But it serves a number of purposes.

One of the most important is to maintain a distance between you and the aggressor.  If your opponent gets too close, then the space for you to be able to react is reduced:  you won’t have time to respond to an attack and you won’t have space to move. 

The fence posture maintains the distance you need to either deescalate the situation by talking down the aggressor, to run away, or to see an attack coming and launch a counter.


Pre-emptive strike

Geoff Thompson also advocates a controversial tactic known as a pre-emptive strike

Rather than waiting for the aggressor to attack, blocking and counter striking, Geoff suggests striking first. This is only done if you genuinely feel like you’re about to be hit.  

This is out of sync with what many martial arts and self defense courses teach.  Most martial arts schools will spend hours rehearsing attack, block and counter attack techniques.

Geoff argues that this is often ineffective and is too slow.  You’re likely to end up being hit.      

He argues that many of the blocks and traps may look like they could be effective, but on the street they just don’t work.   

A street fight is pure chaos:  there’s the risk of multiple assailants, adrenaline is pumping; typically alcohol/drugs are involved making behaviours more unpredictable, and  there’s pure aggression on display.  .  It’s not the controlled environment of the dojo.  If you’re not used to this type of conflict it can be petrifying and all your training will go out the window. 

The pre-emptive strike is controversial because, depending on the laws where you live, you should only strike in self defense and even then using only reasonable force.  If you make the first hit then it could be harder for you to justify that you acted in self-defense.

If your pre-emptive strike causes the aggressor to fall and crack their head, they could die. You could end up on a manslaughter charge. 

Attack vulnerable areas

If you’re going to strike, then it’s best to aim for the most vulnerable areas. 

The nose is one such area.  A solid strike can cause an immense amount of pain as well as bleeding.  It also has the added advantage of causing the opponent’s eyes to water, impairing their vision.  

A nose strike may be enough to take the fight out of the individual and to deter them from engaging further.  At the very, least it should provide enough of a distraction to enable you to make your escape.

The other obvious target is the groin area.  A solid strike will incapacitate the aggressor as every male knows.  

As I’ve previously mentioned, the best option in any conflict situation is to run.  You really need to be able to keep your ego in check and avoid potentially fatal altercations.  Any other response really only needs to be reserved if you really have no other choice and either your or your loved ones lives are in danger.


Using opponents as shields

If attacked by more than one opponent then you’re really in a dangerous situation.  Typically one aggressor will engage you from the front whilst the other will try to outflank you and attack from the side. 

If you let this happen, you have no chance – you won’t even see the incoming strike that knocks you from your feet.

Being attacked by multiple opponents is not like a Bruce Lee movie where opponents patiently wait to attack on by one.  They’ll attack as a mob.  You need to manoeuvre to that you can use one individual as a shield against the others.  The key is not to let yourself get surrounded.

Make use of improvised weapons

Be aware of your surrounding in a conflict situation.  Is there anything nearby that you can use as a weapon?  Even loose change in your pocket can be thrown at you opponent to distract them whilst you make your escape.

It might be something that you have on you and can access easily.  It could be a pen which can be used as a stabbing weapon or a set of keys that be put between each finger like an improvised knuckle duster.  It could even be a rolled up newspaper which can be used as a baton.

Are there things within reach that can be used?  Sticks, stones, bottles and the like can be thrown at your opponent or used as striking weapons.


Know how to fight

If you’re going to engage in physical conflict then you have to know how to fight.  You need to train in a realistic martial art that reflects the brutality of a street fight and prepares you psychologically as well.

In a fight, the adrenaline flooding into your system and the chaos of the situation will mean that you’ll only be able to used crude motor movements.  Intricate, multi-combination moves practised in the dojo by many martial arts will be ineffective.

Don’t try to use a grappling art like BJJ.  The very last place you want to be is on the ground. 


Fight dirty

Remember that in a street fight, you’re not following Queensberry boxing rules – there are no rules.  You can kick, stomp, gouge, rack, scratch, bite your way to safety.

As I’ve mentioned, attacks to the nose and groin area are particularly effective.  

However, you need to be aware of going too far.   You could end up in trouble with the authorities if you’ve used anything over what is considered reasonable force.  There’s a great film, Felon, with Val Kilmer which shows what can happen if you overreact – essentially you end up behind bars.


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