Toughness as a virtue died off somewhere in the 1950s, but most men still like to be thought of as badasses. It's why we wear Affliction shirts, hold in our tears during sunsets and give a fake woman's name when we get whipped cream in our coffee. The problem is that with all this falseness, it can be difficult to tell when you're dealing with an actual tough guy. Luckily, I've identified five ways to spot someone who is only pretending to be a badass.
#5. The Guy Who's Been in So, So Many Street Fights
A lot of times when people are talking about their badassery, they have to make a wild estimate at their fighting record. There are simply too many to count! There are several possible explanations for this. They might have something called critical incident amnesia that helps people forget awful events like getting fisted by aliens or which Tyler Perry movies they've seen. Or maybe their definition of a "fight" is being a dick to a stranger. Maybe they count it as a win when their girlfriends are too slow to dodge a plate? The thing is, most people who have been in a confrontation that escalated to physical combat know that it's like a thousand details taking a crap in your brain. You're more likely to forget someone you slept with than someone you fought. Which is only one of the reasons I like to end sex with an elbow drop.
If you're the kind of person who enters unlicensed street fights, you're either a middle schooler without a father or somewhere far away, not being that middle schooler's father. I can't verify these statistics, but it's a safe bet that if a grown man is punching people, he has a 20 percent chance of also carrying a secret knife for when he's worried he'll lose. Which means that anyone who has been in more than five street fights is lying, dead or known as the Night Stabber to baffled investigators.
I get that when you're speaking to someone who claims to be a battle-hardened and undefeated pit fighter, it's not the safest thing to automatically assume they're full of shit. It's possible you've finally found the legendary real one. However, here's what I've noticed about "street fighters." Every time a new guy at a boxing gym has no "formal training" other than the mean streets, go ahead and take out your mouthpiece, because this is what's happening next: First, he'll take a long time to explain how he can fight orthodox or southpaw, which always means that he can't do either. Next, he'll throw noodley punches at your shoulders for half a round, mostly with his eyes closed. This sets up his finishing move of forming the time-out signal with his hands while he pants about still getting over a cold. If you're really lucky, he'll thank you after all that, warrior to warrior, for a glorious battle. All I'm saying is that as far as I can tell, the street trains you to fight about as well as corn syrup and lupus.
A lot of tough guys won't even guess at the number of fights they've won -- they simply say they're from the name of a town and wait for you to gulp. I never understood using the location of your childhood as evidence of your badassery. Do you measure it by your city's hockey team or how disenfranchised its minorities are? For example, my town had more cattle than people and our education system was based around putting classrooms of children into a clothes dryer and giving the school crayon to the one who came out alive. Does that make me tougher than, say, someone from Des Moines? Fuck yes. Your move, Des Moines.
#4. The Guy Who Trains in a Martial Art That Requires Explanation
Not all badasses spring forth from a childhood of back alley knife fights. Some have transformed their hands and feet into killing machines using ancient Oriental magic. Or at least they're pretty sure they have.
I'm one of them. Officially.
But with all the mysticism and intrigue of martial arts, it's sometimes hard to tell if the Karate Master you're speaking with is a passionate hobbyist or a delusional douchebag. The easiest way to tell is how much he explains his fighting style before you've asked. If a guy tells you he takes krav maga and he's done talking about it, he's a normal person who enjoys krav maga. If he tells you he trains in krav maga and immediately describes the situations where he could use it like the Israeli commandos who invented it because they needed a fighting style that worked, you should feel safe using a punch to get him to shut up.
I have nothing against people sharing their interests, and every martial art has its own theories on how combat works. In aikido, you use your opponent's energy against him. In wing chun, you attack and defend at the same time. In taekwondo, you have a place to leave your kids for an hour. The point is, if your martial art is so magical and complicated that you feel the need to explain it, you've probably only tried it out in your imagination. And if you study your own unique fighting art that takes bits and pieces of what's effective from other styles, oh buddy. Oh, you poor thing.
#3. Guys Who Know Fight Secrets No One Else Knows
Do you know that it only takes half a pound of pressure to shatter a human kneecap and three pounds of pressure to break a human neck? Well, dumbshits do, which only makes sense because neither of those facts are real.
Guys that tell you how easy it is to kill someone with your bare hands think we are only drawing breath because of their mercy. I don't think they're right, but if they are-- thanks, generous murderers!
It's cute when people try to sound dangerous by spouting nerve cluster and ligament trivia known only to them and ninja assassins, but I never understood how people spend their whole lives bumbling around in their durable human bodies and still think they'll die if someone pulls their head really hard to the side or pokes them in the right pressure point. Was karate invented by attacking osteoporosal cadavers and no one got around to double checking the numbers? Or is it because we all watched the same action movies and know that Arnold Schwarzenegger could never lie to anyone?