What are the common mistakes untrained people do while fighting?

The common mistakes untrained people do while fighting are: fighting in the first place thinking that there will be a winner, pulling their punches, not being prepared for the adrenaline dump, closing their eyes whilst striking, having a poor stance, turning their backs, using high kicks, headhunting, worrying about being hurt, throwing haymakers, moving backwards, and not being prepared for the use of weapons.

Fighting in the first place

Perhaps the biggest mistake is getting into the fight in the first place.  In a street fight, there are no rules and there’s no referee to step in and pull the fighters apart.  It’s a highly unpredictable and chaotic environment in which people can get severely injured or even die.  Usually this happens completely by accident, typically when someone trips or falls and hits their head on the sidewalk.

You may want to think about that the next time someone hurls an insult towards you in a bar or on the street.  Do I really want to end up in a situation where I could die or end up in prison on a manslaughter charge?   Most fights are driven by the ego.  Forget about your pride and walk away – you’ll be glad you did so in the morning.

No one Wins

The other misconception is the view that someone actually wins the fight.  

If you get beaten up, then clearly you’ve suffered a big loss:  you’ve been physically injured which will take time to recover from but perhaps more significant is the mental trauma.   You may well suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the future whereby you keep reliving the experience in your mind which impacts on your day-to-day life.

If you “win” then you may have to live with the guilt of having beaten someone up.  You may also face police charges and end up in prison in the other person is injured or even ends up dead..

There really are no winners when you get involved in street fight.

You should really only ever fight if either your life or the life of your loved ones depends on it.  

Pulling your punches

Untrained people in a fight don’t know how to punch and will typically pull their punch on impact. Essentially this means that they will aim their punch to stop at the surface of their target.

This technique is even taught by some martial arts.  In Shotokan karate, punches and strikes are strictly non-contract, ending a few inches away from your opponent.  This is disastrous from a self defense perspective as it conditions you to strike in this way.  

Why Shotokan Karate is bad

To punch correctly you need to punch through the target, aiming several inches beneath the surface.  This is how you develop powerful penetrating punches.  

The best way to learn to punch correctly is by using the heavy bag.  By hitting an actual object you can feel how powerful your punch is, and learn whether your punching technique is actually any good. 

Can you use a heavy bag for kickboxing?

The Adrenaline Dump

Most untrained fighters are ill prepared for the adrenaline dump that occurs at the beginning a fight – the moment the body drops a load of adrenaline into the body in preparation for a physical conflict.

This has some advantages: it acts to block out pain and  can give a mental and physical boost, making us temporarily stronger and hyper focussed.  However, it also comes with some disadvantages.

The vision becomes more focussed on the threat, meaning that peripheral vision starts to close down.  You may not see your opponent’s mate move in to attack you from your side.

Only crude movements become possible.  The body becomes primed to either be able to run away or to fight (the so called “fight or flight response”).  The arms and legs become supercharged to be able to respond but the price paid is that any fine motor skilled movements become harder to do.  You’re just not going to be able to pull off that intricate ten point death move you’ve seen your martial arts hero do in the movies.

You need constant realistic fight practice in dojo to get used to the adrenaline dump to learn how your body responds and how to cope with it.

Closing eyes when punching

For some reason untrained fighters often close their eyes when striking.  I don’t know if this as a result of some childlike response – what I can’t see can’t hurt me – or whether it’s some form of defensive reaction.

Either way, if you don’t have your eye on the target, you’re not going to be able to direct your punches accurately and you’re certainly not going to be able to see the counter strikes coming your way.

Poor stance

Often the fight stance of an untrained fighter is characterized by the hands being held too low,  at around chest height.  This leaves the head dangerously exposed.  It also means that any punches thrown are far more likely to be thrown from the shoulder as opposed to engaging the entire body, making them less powerful.

This is combined with a tendency for holding the head high.  For some reason, the head of the untrained fighter is held high and leaning back from the opponent.  I think this is to try and move the head as far away as possible from the aggressor.   However, this is disastrous as it leaves the chin dangerously exposed.

You need to tuck the chin into the neck and raise the hands so that they also protect the jaw area.  This is the most vulnerable area of the head – a clean strike on the jaw is enough to knock you out.

Turning your back

It’s a human reaction to turn away from danger but to do so in a fight means almost certain death or injury. 

Many untrained fighter will turn their back when they’re hit in a defensive maneuver.  This exposes the kidney area and back of the head to violent assault.

If the fight goes to the ground then turning your back is disastrous.  It will also give your opponent the opportunity to put on a rear naked choke.  You’ll be lucky to come out of the situation alive.

You must learn to keep facing your opponent so that you can see the danger coming and react accordingly.

The use of high kicks

Let’s be clear – high kicks should only be reserved for martial arts movies.  An untrained fighter has no business trying to execute a high kick.

Most martial artists spend years perfecting their high kicks so they can deliver powerful kicks without losing their balance.

The moment an untrained fighter tries a high kick, they will fall over.  The fight is then over.


Most untrained fighters will focus on the opponent’s head as the main target and will ignore other parts of the body.

The head is actually quite a tough area to attack.  Most likely you’ll be connecting with solid bone.   If you land a punch on someone’s forehead you’ll end up with a broken hand.

There are easier targets to aim for: the groin, the liver and kidney areas, the solar plexus, shins, floating ribs etc.

By all means the head can be a  target – if you land a solid strike to the nose, then the fight might well end at that point.  But don’t forget about the other vulnerable areas of the body.

Worrying about being hurt

The untrained fighter will worry about being hit and whether it will hurt.  This is a perfectly rational concern but if you’ve entered into a fight (which presumably is a life and death scenario otherwise you would have made your escape a long time ago), then now is the time to ignore such thoughts.  They will only distract you and are likely to inhibit your responses.

The adrenaline dump I’ve mentioned previously will take care of any pain.  In the middle of the fight you won’t feel a thing and it may only be several hours after the fight that you experience the pain from any injuries.

Throwing haymakers

The untrained fighter will throw big looping haymakers.  It’s a reflection of our evolution that almost anyone can throw this type of punch will little to no training.  It’s almost like an instinct.

Haymaker Punch [Boxing’s most powerful strike?]

It’s a very simple type of punch that essentially involves swinging your arm towards the aggressor like a giant club.

They are powerful so that if they connect they are likely to result in a knockout.  However,  they are also quite slow and are easily telegraphed to the opponent.  This allows them to be blocked or avoided altogether.

Once thrown, if they miss they are likely to throw the individual off balance enabling a barrage of counter strikes to follow.

Moving backwards

Many untrained fighters move backwards when faced with an advancing aggressor.  

It’s very difficult to throw a punch or a kick whilst moving backwards.  Moving backwards also means you can’t see where you’re going, meaning you could end up tripping over something.

Instead of moving backwards, you should circle as they advance, moving to the side of your opponent.   You’ve then turned a defensive maneuver into an opportunity to attack.  Stepping to the side, exposes the side of your opponent’s body allowing you to strike to the head or kidney area.

The speed of the fight

Most untrained fighters think a street fight will last for some time, like a movie martial arts fight with strikes, blocks and counter strikes being thrown.

Most street fights are over in a matter of seconds as soon as one decisive strike lands on target.

Most untrained fighters just aren’t aware of the extreme danger they’re in.

Be aware of the knife

There are no rules in a street fight.  More times than not the aggressor is going to carry a weapon of some type.  

The conflict may start off as a fist fight but before you know it, a weapon may be pulled out and you’ll end up in a pool of your own blood.

The trouble is, with your reduced narrowed vision, and reduced pain sensitivity as a result of the adrenaline dump, you won’t even see the knife being drawn much less feel it slashing your body.  

Many knife victims report that they didn’t even realize they’d been stabbed. 


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