6 Painful Things Nobody Tells You About Fighting
Everybody says they know that action movies are fake, but they're lying. For proof, just get a couple of drunk males in a confrontation and you'll quickly realize they did in fact think Hollywood fight scenes were grim depictions of reality. They'll throw haymakers and roundhouse kicks with images of Jean-Claude Van Damme spin-punching a guy through a plate glass window dancing in their heads.
Thirty seconds later, they're laying on the floor, gasping and hissing in pain while rubbing some body part, perhaps while crying. This is when they realize the difference between choreographed movie fighting and real fighting. Because in the real world, it turns out ...
Your Fists Are Fragile Flowers
A punch should be the easiest thing in the world. Just make a vaguely ball-like shape with your hand and let the beatings commence. Hell, babies do it on accident.
In the movies, everyone from lab scientists to sassy sidekicks throw punches all the time, with no ill effects to anyone but the recipient, who tends to be knocked out without a hitch. The worst case scenario is that the punch has no effect and the opponent will simply be amused, like that giant Nazi Indiana Jones couldn't hurt without a plane propeller. Right?
Of course it's not right. Have you read this site before? Is it ever "right" when we ask like that?
Here's the problem -- the hand is a pretty delicate thing. A fight-worthy fist is a lot more than just a bunched-up hand -- developing your curled fingers into a punching tool takes years of training. Even real boxers get it wrong often enough that the most common injury caused by punching failure is known as boxer's fracture.
So, what's the worst that could happen if we get it wrong? Well ... everything, really. There are at least as many ways to break your own fist with your opponent's body as the other way around. Say you align your fingers ever so slightly wrong. Too bad, they are now broken. Hit the target with the wrong knuckle? Enjoy the dislocation of said knuckle. Get the angle wrong? Congratulations, you now have a broken wrist.
OK, you think, you'll just have to get it right in one shot. You're not going to go 15 rounds with the drunk in the bar, after all. You're just going to punch him right in the face and knock his ass out with one blow. Well, the problem is ...
Punching a Guy in the Head Is a Terrible Idea
Socking a dude right in the jaw tends to be our default response to a physical threat once the "fight" side of the fight-or-flight response takes over. And a lifetime of movies has taught us that a hard smack in the jaw can end a fight in seconds. Hell, we've seen the same thing in boxing and MMA matches, right?
Yep. Rare, perfect blows ... out of hundreds thrown. And those guys are professional fighters.
For the average Joe like you, attempting the classic knockout blow to the head is distilled stupidity. Think about it: The head is a small, moving target -- and therefore pretty much the dumbest place you can attack. And missing your punch is what happens if you're lucky.
As the head is basically the hardest part of the human body, a connecting blow actually means you stand a better chance of breaking a hand (yours) than breaking a face (your opponent's). Aside from all the "your fists are as fragile as toothpicks" stuff we just finished talking about, remember that the human skull isn't just hard, it's also sharp. Angle your punch wrong, and you might drive your hand directly into the teeth. This is called a fight bite, and it can cause serious damage -- first with a nasty gash in your hand, and then with an even nastier infection. Why? Because the human mouth is disgusting.
How nasty is it in there? You'll be unhappy you asked! Human saliva contains as many as 100 million organisms per mL, composed of nearly 200 different species. Species! In your mouth! And now you have those swarming into the open cut in your dainty, womanly fist.
Hey, that's why you just want to kick the dude, right? Well, the problem there is ...
Kicks Are Useless
We accept that this point is a lot harder to believe. After all, a kick is bound to pack a lot more power than a punch, if only because the leg is so much bigger and stronger than the arm. Also, the foot tends to be encased in a shoe in a real-life fighting situation (unless you're being beaten and robbed specifically for your new Jordans), so the fragility factor shouldn't really apply here. Surely, your legs are an ultimate weapon when push really comes to shove. Eat crane kick, motherfucker!
Once again, we have stumbled upon a common misconception, fueled by a gazillion Hollywood action stars and video game protagonists.
Sure enough, a properly delivered high kick or roundhouse can be an instant game changer ... if you're an accomplished martial arts master in a controlled environment, that is. Are you that? Probably not.
While there indeed are bona fide, for realsies kicking experts out there, they are a lot more rare than, say, MMA fighters who prefer to rely on punching and grappling, using kicks mainly as distractions, last resorts and crowd-pleasing flashy moves. The reason for this is simple: Kicks are hard to master and execute properly.
In fact, the effectiveness of anything that could be considered a "high kick" in a real self-defense situation is under debate, even in the martial arts community. If for some reason you're thinking about going out and literally "kicking" some ass, read the previous sentence again slowly. The people who get paid to whomp ass aren't even sure if kicks are worth the effort. If that doesn't give you some pause, you've probably been kicked in the head so many times that another beating won't make much of a difference. So, by all means, kick away.
For the average person with no practical training under their belt, kicks (especially high ones) are slow, cumbersome, easily avoidable things that lack power, take a lot of energy and leave you in an extremely vulnerable position for a counterattack (the recipient of which is usually your dick, because that's what happens when you attempt a move that leaves your groin area open in a real fight).
The only kicks that are considered relatively effective when both people are upright are the fairly low ones to the shins and (of course) balls, which even your average citizen should be able to execute semicorrectly on the second or third try.
In theory, that is. In reality, even lower kicks tend to be laughably easy to avoid, as it turns out that ...
Your Opponent Knows What's Coming
Did you ever play Mike Tyson's Punch-Out? Remember how the game used to help you out by making each fighter do this really obvious animation a second before he threw his punch so you'd know it was time to dodge? In a real fight, that's called telegraphing, and you do it whether you know it or not.
Telegraphing is your body's natural reaction in a fighting situation. In other words, your DNA is literally conspiring against you in a fight. You can't help it, any more than you can help that sharp intake of breath before a sneeze. Before you strike, or do anything, your body automatically goes through a series of giveaway preparatory motions. What exactly these motions are vary on the individual and the attack. Some of them just throw the opponent a tip about what's about to go down, such as cocking your arm back before a punch or shifting your weight before unleashing a kick. Some are actual, Punch-Out level "attack me now, I'm all open!" ticks, such as tensing your shoulders, taking a sudden, noticeable deep breath or even widening your eyes and raising your eyebrows, comic-book-villain style.
The overall effect amounts to the opponent being able to easily avoid or counter your blows, if they are paying attention to the situation at all (and once you start throwing punches, it's a safe bet that they are). Even if they've never been in a fight in their life, it doesn't take Bruce Lee to see that your sudden, aggressive, full-body convulsion is an indication that it's time to dodge. You might as well scream, "I'M PUNCHIN'!"
Thanks to telegraphing, being the aggressor actually puts you at a disadvantage in a fight. Again, it doesn't take a fight expert to know that fortune is going to favor the person who gets to react to a missed punch. Once that Honeymooners style haymaker that you thought was going to end the show misses the mark, you're basically in optimum "punch me in the face" position, even if only for a second. That punch, unfortunately for you and your overly aggressive fight plan, is far more likely to land squarely on your soon to be bloodied face.
By this point you might be a little confused, because by debunking every little technique, we're making it sound like fighting isn't even a thing, like fights don't even occur in the real world. And of course they do, you've seen YouTube videos of them.
But what we're trying to say is ...
It Takes a Very Specific Type of Person to Win Fights ...
There's a whole breed of people who excel (insofar as such a word can be used) in street fights. They're called "criminals."
The reason is that most of fighting is being willing to fight. The good fighters are not necessarily big and strong -- size and strength are in fact far less important in a real fighting situation than we commonly believe.
And they're not martial artists and MMA fighters -- although skilled and technically well-equipped for a fistfight, those guys tend to find it extremely difficult to adapt to an actual fighting situation because they're used to restraining themselves. When you've spent years mentally preventing yourself from axe kicking your annoying neighbor through the drywall he keeps drilling on Sunday morning and have only unleashed your skills in controlled dojo and competition environments with strict rules, it's pretty hard to tap into your primal rage all of a sudden when a real-life self defense situation arises.
We say primal rage because that's what it's about, deep down. Real fighting is a lot less about skill and talent and more about attitude. Ferocity. The will to fight when a rational man wouldn't, the ability to flip on your brain's fight-or-flight instinct and act without hesitation.
See, while even the most inexperienced layman has a primal fight-or-flight response at their disposal, enabling them to "wake the beast" when the situation arises, there is a problem. The fight-or-flight response is such a huge deal in everyday life, triggered by so many trivial aspects of modern culture from traffic to technology and manifesting in so many ways, that we're pretty much unable to use it as the "Hulk-out mode" it is designed to be.
So it takes a certain type of person to circumvent this psychological block in order to unleash their berserk ferocity and win by any means necessary. They are the people "winning" street fights, but also the people who are constantly instigating them. They're the kind of people who actually think fighting is a god damned good idea and are therefore losing in all other aspects of life.
... and You'd Be an Asshole to Want to Be One
Now, there is one way for an inexperienced fighter to release the beast within without actually having other, bigger beasts bash your face in for years first. Sorry, did we say "inexperienced" fighter?
We meant intoxicated. Because that's what it takes. You'd need to get drunk.
But please, please read the rest of this article before filling up on liquid courage and unleashing bare-knuckle hell on your neighborhood bully.
Because most humans aren't full-on sociopaths, alcohol and drugs are pretty much the only way a regular person can override their inhibitions and become an effective fistfighter, whatever that term is worth. It's happening somewhere right now -- guys get wasted, release their inner pit fighter for whatever reason and decide to deal out damage, Fight Club style.
Only in real life, your opponent isn't able to take an Edward Norton-issued barrage of blows, no matter how weak said blows are and no matter how much your face would be messed up afterward. The damage of such fearless, drunken, all-out punches is nothing like the wary bitch slaps you'd throw while in your right mind. And the damage those blows can do is way beyond superficial, especially with inexperienced fighters who don't have the training to block, avoid or absorb a punch. Or, as the case may be, with people who are taken by surprise because they suddenly are taking a punch to the face right in the middle of what they thought was a peaceful Trivia Night at the pub.
And if said drunken fighter does know what he's doing? Watch out. Just take a gander at this story about an MMA instructor who was charged with murder after a bar fight got out of hand and he just straight up killed someone.
Everything we said about martial arts experts controlling their inner beast means dick when everybody involved is hammered. At that point, it's not you against a professional fighter; it's you against a fellow drunken imbecile who could remove your spine with his bare hands. And even if the dude tells you he breaks bones for a living, you'll probably be too drunk to be bothered by it. And then one of you dies and the other goes to prison.
Of course, you won't remember any of these warnings when you're in that drunken deathmatch state of mind. So really we're just leaving this here so we can say "We told you so" later on.
For more things glorified by Hollywood, check out 5 Things Hollywood Thinks Computers Can Do and 5 Things That Aren't Nearly As Dangerous As Hollywood Thinks.