8 Ways to Survive a Street Fight

Neil Strauss37 Comments

Whether you’re into the Game or Survival, there’s one situation that a lot of people ask me about–even though it happens very rarely.

So for your ease of mind, I’ve gotten permission from the Art of Manliness to post their tightly packed primer on surviving a fight.

Here’s hoping this is some advice you’ll never have to use.

How To Survive and Thrive In a Street Fight in 8 Simple Steps

by Brett and Kate McKay

Let’s say you’re out with your buddies (or maybe a lovely young lady) having a good time, when all of a sudden some jackass shoves you. You didn’t do anything to instigate the guy, but it doesn’t matter.

There is a special breed of males, that when inebriated, start fights with random people. This breed, when found in their wild habitat, are often accompanied by their similarly boneheaded buddies.

Or perhaps you and your posse end up in a rumble with the Socs because one of your buddies killed a Soc while trying to save Ponyboy from being drowned by a douche bag Soc. Man, I hate them Socs. Stay golden Ponyboy.

What can you do to prepare for a street brawl and protect yourself in this type of situation? Here are 8 simple steps you can follow to avoid ending up in the emergency room after a street fight.

1. Wake up! When someone threatens you, snap to attention. Be aware of your environment. Look for objects that you can use for weapons. Searching out a place to escape to is especially important if you’re outnumbered.

2. Try to defuse the situation. Try to talk with the guy and calm him down. If you did something unknowingly that offended him (like looking at him funny), then apologize. Don’t let your ego get in the way of apologizing for something you didn’t do. Your first goal should be to avoid fighting. Maintain confident body language. Don’t show the guy you’re afraid.

3. Walk away. If talking to the knucklehead doesn’t work, start to leave the scene. But maintain alertness and walk away backwards, still facing your opponent. If he’s a no-good, yellow-belly rat, he’ll attack you from behind.

4. Assume a fighting position. If the jerk is still threatening you and you have nowhere to go, assume a stable fighting stance. Spread your stance to about shoulder width apart and slightly bend your knees. The goal is to maintain balance so you don’t end up on the ground. Keep your hands up to protect your face and clench your teeth. A solid punch to an open mouth can lead to a broken jaw.

5. Defend yourself. The goal is to defend yourself from violent and unjustified aggression, so don’t be afraid to fight dirty. If you have any object to use as a weapon, use it. This can be anything like a chair, a bottle (extra man points for first breaking the bottle and then thrusting the jagged part at your opponent), or a 2X4. Here are some other techniques that could be used in this sort of situation:

Knee to the groin. No explanation needed why this is effective.
Low kicks to the knee, groin, or abdomen. Kick like you’re kicking down a door, using the bottom of you foot. A solid kick to one of these areas can incapacitate your attacker long enough for you to get away.
Headbutt to the face. Your forehead is one of the hardest bones on your body. Use this to your advantage by headbutting your opponent hard across his nose. If done correctly, you can do some serious damage.
Throw a punch. If done correctly, an overhand punch can put your attacker out of commission.

6. Take punches effectively. While you should do your damnedest to avoid getting punched, you can’t avoid them all. If you have to take a punch, strive to absorb it in a way that minimizes the impact and damage..

A punch to the head. Move towards the punch, tighten your neck muscles and clench your jaw. By moving into the punch, your attacker may miss the mark wide to either side. Absorb the punch with your forehead. It’s the hardest bone your body. If your attacker hits you there, his hand will be hurting and you’ll have minimized the damage to yourself.

A punch to the body. Tighten your stomach muscles, but don’t suck in your stomach. Try to shift so the punch lands on your obliques rather directly in the stomach or vital organs.

7. Give your best war cry. While defending yourself, make as much noise as possible. There are two reasons for this. First is the intimidation factor. Yelling may distract and intimidate your attackers, leaving you a better chance of getting in some good blows or getting away. The second reason is to draw attention. The more people who gather around you, the easier to call a douche bag’s bluff.

8. Make your escape. After you have incapacitated your attacker using the methods described above, get the hell out of there.

Inspired by The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook and Man Skills.


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37 Comments on “8 Ways to Survive a Street Fight”

  1. I usually do not go into dangerous areas and keep out of dangerous situation. Fortunately I did not have to face this situation yet (after the age of 16 and those school bullies).
    I read “The Dirty Dozen: 12 Nasty Fighting Techniques…” by Larry Jordan. PLan to practice them as well. Those techniques seem very effective, but are even more dangerous, to the extent that you could kill someone…So I plan to reserve them for true emergencies.

    1. Just a couple of additional points :

      Awareness – it’s far easier to avoid these situations if you keep your awareness levels up – not always so easy after a few bevies, I have to admit :).

      However, anyone wishing to act aggressively towards you will always move in a certain way (walk, body posture, etc), and you can always see this – learn to recognise it. Using your body language skills, it’s easy to see.

      If face to face, the chances are your aggressor will look away briefly before launching an attack. Think it’s in order to try to put you off guard. Watch for this and try to react a split second before he turns back (preferably by moving rapidly away, but sometimes you have to strike).

      If you notice your aggressor staring intently at your left or right ear – get as much distance between you as possible – these guys are psychos.

      Develop a War Shout – a strong, sharp sound directly from the centre of your body – think the samurai used to have a specific name for this. This can often deter your opponent by shocking him in not being able to re-act (also can give the idea that you are the psycho, and not to be messed with.

      But for sure, the best advice is to avoid these situations if at all possible.

    1. “The best victory is when the opponent surrenders of its own accord before there are any actual hostilities…It is best to win without fighting.” – Sun Tzu

  2. Take up a martial art. I have been practicing Aikido(which I find is a physical embodiment of the Game) about twice a week since February and already I’ve picked up many usefull tecniques which can see one safely out of a street fight. Atitude is very important, merely taking a martial stance will make most opponents think twice if they think you actually know how to handle yourself.

    Knowing how to take an attack is crucial, I wouldn’t advocate taking a strike, moving out of the way so an attacker never lands a punch will un-nerve and exhaust them, this takes practice to do effectively.

    At the very least I now know how to fall and roll properly so as not to injure myself. A very usefull rolling tecnique is to turn on the balls of your feet, forward roll up on to your knees turning on them to face the attacker then backward rolling back to standing. In a split second this will put you 20+ feet from where you started giving you breathing space and possibly making an attacker reconsider. 20 feet is an awfull long way for someone to cross if they think they might take a beating.

    Like the Game, martial arts take practice and build confidence that spreads throughout your life. You can read all you want about them but without actually doing them, you can’t truly appreciate them.

  3. Be aware of the fact that in such a situation you will most likely have tunnel vision and not be aware of things outside this very limited view. An attacker could easily pull out a knife from his pocket and you wouldn’t even see him do it – your vision would be totally fixed on his angry face. This is a well known phenomenon to serious practitioners of self defense.

    Again, the best self defense is to stay out of trouble 🙂

  4. There are only a few reasons you should ever fight: You have something to prove (Hello jail time), You need to protect yourself, or someone else.

    Running is an option, if you can’t win don’t stay and get hurt.

    If you know martial arts realize that there might not be time for your moves, katas, etc. BJJ is great but only if you are fighting one person. If you are all wrapped up putting this guy into a kamura or arm bar and someone comes to stomp on your head it’s game over.

    Confidence can win a fight before it even starts.
    There is some great advice here, always try to avoid it but if shit hits the fan and you need to, defend yourself and if you have training in something be smart about what you use.

    Use your environment, pay attention to corners, weapons, chairs, tables, doorways, etc. Practice this, run a scenario through your head and imagine what you would use to defend yourself where you are at.

    Never let people be behind you when shit is about to hit the fan. He could have a friend behind you that is getting a suckerpunch ready.

    Doors and objects are your friend, if you are dealing with more than one person make them follow you through that doorway so you can fight them single file and back off if need be. Put shit in between you and them whether it’s distance or a table.

    There is some great advice here. Stay safe out there.

  5. I remember a high school philosophy teacher saying acting totally crazy can work too. Haven’t tried it so can’t comment.

    Learning unarmed self defense skills can be a lifesaver – not to mention a confidence booster – and you will tend to carry yourself in a way that deters all but the stupid or determined.

    I trained with a sensei who specializes in unarmed weapon defense – including aikido and ju jistu arts – most of the stuff I learned will do serious damage to and easily kill a person. I have not had to use any of it and hope never have to.

    Another post in survival section mentioned to develop situational awareness – but most of us aren’t disciplined enough to be SA 100% of the time.

    Also, your adversary regardless of how big and mean he/she is – we ALL have weak points – eyes, throat, groin, nose. side of knees.

    The article mentions to kick with the bottom of your foot – reason why, if you kick with your toes – you’ll likely end up breaking your toes.

    Best advice is if you can avoid a fight and run away, do it.

  6. One key to any confrontation when you’re being threatened is to maintain unwaivering eye contact at all times. This sends an incredibly stong signal and will usually deter your opponent before the situation escelates to physical violence.

    Strong eye contact signals strong(er than your opponent’s) spirit. If they look away for even a brief second, you’ve won half the battle.

    I’m a pretty small guy, but I did loss prevention for 4 years (before discovering the Game) and I was able to effectively “stare down” hundreds of potential threats using unwavering eye contact, by “staring through” the opponent.

  7. Very good advice all and all. I studied Tang Soo Do for 8 years under a Grandmaster and with some other
    master instructors.
    You do need to practice these methods.
    Here are some good pressure points.
    -Stomp the top of the foot up close to the ankle.
    -The solar plexus is a weak spot on everyone.
    -Just one stiff finger into the Adams Apple will stop someone in their tracks at least shortly – then beat feet.
    -A palm strike or even a firm push under and up into the base of the nose is very effective.
    -The armpit is very sensitive. Jam your stiffened fingers straight into it and use your thumb on top of the pec. to guide and force your fingers deep into the armpit.
    -The bladder, punch downward just under the navel and drive the punch into the pelvic bone.

    Also learn to punch straight, turn your fist,thumb side turning downward just before impact and strike with the big knuckles of your index and middle finger.

    Or you could just walk on the other side of the street. It takes a lot less training to do that.

  8. There are some really great tips here.

    Some that I couldn’t find, but personally regard as important:

    1) Use narrow spaces to your advantage. In narrow spaces they can only come at you one at a time if they outnumber you, making their numbers matter very little. I know this can be considered part of the environment tips, but it is easily overlooked.

    2) Go for the joints. Joints are some of the only spots (if not THE only spots) within the human body that cannot be trained(strengthened) in any way, shape or form. Which makes them some of the weakest spots. Also makes it easy to break bones if you have to. Considering how many bones the human body has, this can cause quite a bit of pain.

    3) Be aware of the reach of both yourself and your opponent. This may not always apply in fist fights, but can be very important in fights with weapons.

    4) Try to avoid getting hit in the groin. This may seem obvious, but can mean the difference between winning and losing a fight. Most martial arts stances will help with this.

    That said, I thankfully have never found myself in this situation.

    There appears to be nothing on firearms. Considering how easy it is to get hold of them in some countries, it’s not unlikely that an opponent will pull out a gun in a street fight. I can’t really give much advice on this matter though. The only things I can think of are a) Run
    b) If within reach, disarm your opponent and remove the clip. Keep in mind that if the gun is loaded through, there will(as far as I know) be a bullet in the chamber as well.

    Would be great if somebody experienced with firearms could provide tips for this scenario.



    1. CRAZY TALK-

      “I lick dogs asses with guys twice your size!”

      “I fucked guys back in the joint bigger than you!”

      (this suggests that not only are you tough but your would be assailant might be raped if he is knocked unconcious)

      “have you ever seen what an m-16 A4 rifle does to a human skull at 300m out?” (follow through with slow hand motion suggesting it will be blown off and make a slow deliberate ‘pjew’ sound of a rifle)

      1. Derren Brown’s idea of crazy talk is a lot less confrontational and disarming. With a big smile on your face, launch into friendly banter on a completely unrelated and nonthreatening subject… “The seats in my town are very uncomfortable and boring!” This will no doubt confuse the agressor prompting them to ask what you’re on about…
        “The seats in my town are very uncomfortable and boring but I once visited Austin, the seats their are big, friendly and you sink right into them!” By keeping up with the confussion, you’ll further bewilder them, robbing them of their initial adrenalin rush. Hopefully now they’ll be in a state of confusion and looking to you to provide some sense to the situation putting confrontation out of their mind.
        Derren says the subject can then be made highly suggestible if you know anything about hypnotism but failing that, keeping up the confussion until an exit presents itself is the way to go. Maybe run a few Game routines for practice!

        1. Derren Brown rocks! Lot of his psychology will really help if you’ve not been exposed to it before, just don’t try and become a massive manipulator, ‘cos that’s not fair.

  9. A good way to counter a ‘hay-maker’ type punch if it’s thrown at you is to elbow the attacker in the face. Put the palm of your hand on the back of your head. Then step inside the punch with as much speed and power as possible, this will deliver the point of your elbow straight into the attackers face. I can’t find a good video as an example, but it was the first thing I was ever taught and probably the coolest.

    1. That sounds… devastating. And effective. I don’t think I’ll easily forget that image haha. Which is good, in case anyone tries to break the jaw off my face.

  10. There are no rules and for a guy with no fighting skills its simple use your hand for distraction and wave them like a fool the guy will look at them and expect you to use your hand then hit him in the balls with your leg …. cheap but effective.

  11. 4) “A solid punch to an open mouth can lead to a broken jaw.”
    Unless I am wearing THICK and STRONG gloves I would never try that. Open mouth contains teeth and saliva, teeth will hurt the skin and saliva-to-wound contact can be a great way to catch something you’d never want to catch. You don’t know where there other guy has been or who he has been with.

    Taking a taxi, never walking home alone through not-so-good areas, etc, have worked for me. Best way to avoid something is to do everything to make sure the risk of it happening is minimal. When I’m already facing somebody and thinking where to hit them, I’ve made a huge mistake or two long before that encounter happened.

    If all else fails, sprinting is a good skill to practice. You don’t have to be the fastest to run away from a bear, you just have to be slightly faster than the person you’re with 😉

  12. When confronted by this situation we have three options – fight, flight or freeze. If we had a choice, we should pick flight. The first rule of self defense is “run like hell”.
    Unfortunately, what most people do in this situation is they freeze. They ignore the threat and hope it goes away. Or hope someone comes to the rescue. Well, no one is coming.
    It’s important to understand the psychology of an attacker. He will first scan the area and profile potential targets. He will then interview them i.e the approach, the push. This is an interview we want to fail.

    Just like we study in PU, personal space is the most important thing here. No one should be in your personal zone unless you have an intimate relationship with them.
    The problem for most people is understanding when “it is on?”. Most people realize this when it is too late i.e his fist is on your face.
    The important point to remember here is – it is on as soon as someone enters your personal space.

    What we do in this situation is keep the threat at arms length – we step back and put our hands up high, palms facing outwards and say “How can i help you?”.
    If the threat keeps coming, note that you are already in a subtle fighting stance. In this instance we would shout “Step Back, Leave me Alone” loudly. (note we are trying to fail the interview, the potential threat realizes at this stage your not an easy target) We have also got the law on our side here right? Witnesses will say, he defended himself.

    If the threat keeps coming and applies physical contact, grabs or moves into your personal space – it is time to strike, a heal of palm to the nose a number of times.
    This should be straight forward and easy as your hands are up, palms facing outwards at all times to maintain that position. You are shouting “leave me alone” “step back” …. this serves to release a lot of your tension and prepares you for fight.

    The reason i say heal of palm to the nose area rather than a punch is because a punch is like a sniper and a heal of palm is a shotgun. With a punch, unless you have a perfect punch with perfect accuracy this can go terribly wrong. A heal of palm has a much better chance of connecting – the palm to the nose, fingers into the eyes

    Okay guys, i hope this helps. I wrote this off the cuff so hopefully it is laid out clearly enough for you guys to understand. I would recommend that the best way to gain confidence in this area is to take up self defense classes of some kind.

  13. Being a Bouncier for 4 years doesn’t make me a street fighting master but I have learned a thing or two. The article above is giving awesome straight forward advice. The only things I want to add are. Most People who start or who are looking for a fight doesn’t really want to fight they want to put on a “look I am bad ass ” show for every one. The best ways to tell this kind of person, loud voice with a bunch of how I’m going to kick the shit out of you talk.

    Bar fighting

    1) Stay calm keep cool .Make them believe they are not a threat to you, with out saying a word. A Smile works, add a subtle head shake and a inner chuckle or ”Ha” move slowly when you begin to engage (No sudden movements when getting up from the table or off a bar stool Use slow smooth movements when you are at this point you should be ready to attack) the buffoon.

    2) Don’t talk shit. This waste a lot of mental energy And it escalates the situation. So if you are arrested for assault and go to court when witnesses are asked they can say You stayed calm and wasn’t the aggressor , that fact alone will save you from a felony conviction. But if you feel the need to talk a little B.S. hear is an
    Example on what to say

    Douche bag : i’m Goanna kick you ass

    You : well I guess that is an ass whuppen I gotta take (then Smile )

    3) Strike first strike hard no mercy, yes I am quoting a movie and its good advice .
    If your at this point you are sanding no farther than 3 Ft in front of him,( any further you should have walked away or The group would have broken it up).If the person doesn’t back down and stares you down then “GO” Quickly go towards him He will step back to get in a fighting stance or to back away ,Do this fast enough he may stumble Aim for lower parts of the head From the eyes down . Your goal is to get him down so you can get away.

    4) Get away: he is down he is confused Now leave go to a safe crowed place and call the police Yah I know this sounds crazy You just pummeled some one and took off ‘Why call the police ?” After the fight you’re your going to forget thing like credit cards and driver license you gave the bartender to start that tab. some states laws it is a required for a liquor establishment to give all information to the police in the event of a fight that means you id. And the police will find you and charge you.

    5) Calling 911 Give your name, location, and what you are wearing ( will help to find you.) tell the dispatcher you were in a fight @ the location . and you need a officer and stay on the line until the police get there , once there the police will ask you a lot of questions, DON’T answer any questions Tell them you may need to go to the hospital you don’t feel well, Once there the police cant talk to you till you are “stable” or wont die from there call a lawyer and do what he tells you.

    I’m not a lawyer , or an expert street fighter but I have been in a few fights and went to jail on a couple of occasion for not knowing the legal aspect.

    Because you think the fight is over it might not be.

    1. good advice on point 5. especially in this day and age where an armed home intruder can get away with suing a homeowner for protecting his family and property

  14. I have been in this situation a few times. Due to this I feel I have come up with a foolproof plan.

    First: When the attacker becomes aggressive, simply drop to the ground and play dead. This should make the attacker confused as to whats going on an come closer to you for a better look.

    Second: Once he is close enough, kick him in the groin! This will make him also drop to the ground and start rolling around.

    Third: Start doing the worm, this way it looks like a breakdancing competition and you can move straight back into your game. 🙂

    Truthfully, taking up a martial arts is great for confidence in this situations. I study Wing Chun, Ju Jitsu and Sanda which allows me the confidence to know how to reduce my chances of being injured or even attacked. Best thing to do, is just not be there in the first place, like others have said, awareness of your environments.

  15. The only thing I disagree with is breaking the bottle BEFORE hitting him with it. This is a bad idea. You could end up cutting your hand. You also lose some range and the structure of the bottle is compromised after its broken, so it doesn’t hit him as hard. Better to try and break it over the guys head.

    Also, if you CAN’T break the bottle, you will look even weaker.

  16. With the UFC being as popular as it is a lot of people have started taking lessons. It used to be you take fighting classes if you want to be a badass but now its more like you take lessons to stay even with everyone else. Especially in cali. If your worried about getting into a fight go out and learn how to fight first hand. Don’t just watch the UFC and study their moves until you think you know how to fight. Otherwise your just a punk.

  17. Take a Boxing or Muay Thai class. It’s an awesome work out and you will know the mechanics of throwing a good punch or kick. Untrained people throw punches/kicks incorrectly increasing the chances of injuring themselves as much as the opponent.

    If striking isn’t your fancy then take a Judo or Jiu-Jitsu class. You will learn the mechanics of using your opponents momentum against them as well as how to inflict unimaginable pain to the person with little to no strength at all.

    All of these classes can be found at a Mixed Martial Arts or Martial Art Gym in your area. Boxing gyms are typically found in a down town warehouse district. Monthly memberships are typically between $60-$100 for unlimited mat/gym time, well worth it.


  18. Brazilian jiujitsu is my art of choice. “Inconvenient behaviour management” as Master Behring calls it.

  19. Great post!

    I have a background in martial arts and have found that I am constantly aware of a persons body language due to me having to read where an attack was going to come from during fights.

    This helped me discover if people on the street are just acting tough or will attack me; and if they do I know where to move and where to hit to incapacitate them immediately. Also effectively enough for me to have enough time to get away. Best way to survive a fight is to not be there.

    So I’d definitely suggest taking up any martial art as well. Growing up in Glasgow in Scotland this definitely helped me out.

  20. I´ve been doing kick boxing for some years now and these situations are quite familiar to me. If you look big and strong some guys think of fighting you as a group of 3-5 people to show themselves, that they can beat a guy that is stronger than they are.

    So when you are alone and like 3 guys walk up to you on the street and one shoves you and tries to fight you you have to first stay calm. Often this one is the leader of the group, the alpha male.
    In 90% of the time he will fight you so with knowing this already, try to through a solid punch directly in his face. If it´s doen right, the others of the group will be shocked because hey didn´t expect you to punch first.
    This technique will work most of the time.

  21. Thanks for the post.

    I found the timing of this quite interesting: I’ve never been in a fight, and have never been in a situation that could’ve turned into a fight.

    I read this on Saturday morning, then that same night I ended up going out with a friend. On our way home, a drunk douchebag tried to start an unprovoked fight with us. He brushed past me, then accused me of pushing him….

    Prior to reading the article, I don’t know how I would’ve handled the situation… but the first thing I did was try to defuse it (apologise, etc)… which didn’t go too well, as the idiot thought I was being smug – I think this was mainly because he was actively looking for a fight (but maybe I also need to work on my fight-disarming-apology-wording/tone). Thankfully one of the douchebag’s slightly less idiotic friends was telling him to leave us alone, and he listened… so we were able to just walk away.
    Not too sure what would’ve happened though: there were 4 of them and 2 of us.

    Definitely considering taking up some form of martial arts though – you never know what’s going to happen & what kind of idiots are out there :

  22. The most imported thing is to go after the leader, there is always a leader. The guy that all the other guys look at to see what to do. This guy can be sported in ways of:

    1. He started the fight
    2. He talks smack!
    3. He is the guy that wants to F you up.

    Now first of all you want to get away from the fight, you never. I say again. YOU NEVER WANT TO FIGHT!

    But if you cant, you do one of two things

    1. You go after him, fast and hard, do not let him get the upper hand. Go after he’s eyes, he’s neck. It’s a fight, you want to live. And never never fail to the ground, say on your feet!

    2. Go crazy! Yes WTF! If you are more crazy then the guy that wants to fight you the is a good chance that he will thing twice about fighting you.

    If you cant do anything run and call for help 911, 112, 000 or what ever the number is where you are at.

    Hope it helps


  23. No matter how good of a fighter you are it is almost impossible to get out of a fight without being injured. Avoiding one is always your best bet. Many guys like to posture to appear tough, but few guys actually want to fight. I have gotten out of fights many times by telling the aggressor, “i’m not going to fight you” in a confident manner. Very few people will attack in this situation, especially with witnesses. My kung funinstructor would instruct us to run away if possible (there is no shame in avoiding a dangerous situation) If you absolutely have to fight do not be afraid to hurt the aggressor seriously. He will not be concerned with your health so do not be concerned with his. A downward stomp to the top of the knee, punch to the throat, or eye poke can cause serious damage but can be very effective at ending a fight quickly. Finally, I would highly recommend anyone who is into Game to start lifting weights regularly. It makes you healthier, better looking, stronger, and more intimidating to attack. Further, starting a martial arts course can give you confidence, safety, and a DHV to tell girls about. Also, many styles practice meditation and philosophical introspection that can improve inner game. Good luck guys!

  24. Even though I’m not a fighter, it’s good to know ways to get around a street fight. Hopefully this will not happen in my life.
    I used to be bullied so I will have no tolerance if someone tries to start a fight with me. I may not be buff, but my intelligence will help with a situation like this!

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