Jan 11, 2012 2 Share

The Best Way to Win a Fight

Illustration of two men fighting in a bar.

All too often people—especially young men, and probably disproportionately Aspies—get into fights. Or worse still, someone attacks them by surprise and overwhelms them before they can respond. 

George Orwell once said “The trouble with competition is that somebody has to win.” That doesn't apply to physical fights, where both sides often lose. Maybe you get to walk away and go home while the other guy has to be carried to the hospital. But you still may have gotten hurt—and in ways that can pain or even cripple you for the rest of your life … physically and/or emotionally. (It's easy to think before the fact that you don't care about seriously hurting somebody as long as they “deserve” it.) 

And that's not counting stuff like your girlfriend getting mad and leaving you. (Hint: If she actually likes it when you fight, dump her. She's going to want you to get into nasty situations indeed. It's never worth it.) Or being banned from the bar or nightclub. Or getting sued for damages to the furniture … not to mention the other guy's body. (Even if you “win” that case, do you want the publicity, time sink and stress, not to mention legal fees? Not to mention if the other side wins, it's on you for the rest of your life unless you pay it all off.) 

Or maybe you get arrested and charged with assault and battery, or even worse. That means heavy legal fees, time and stress, likely fines and probation and the distinct possibility of clearing your schedule for months or even many years. And good luck getting a nice job or apartment after that! 

Another possibility: The other guy, and/or his friends, gang brothers or family, may come after you personally. Just in case, you've now got to look over your shoulder and become paranoid for days, weeks, months … or even the rest of your life (but maybe not for too long!). A few guys with Louisville Sluggers and tire irons can give you a lesson you'll never forget. Or they may skip the lesson and just blast you from behind with a shotgun one night. 

So much for winning, huh? 

Now for the good news. As the great general Sun Tzu put it in his The Art of War more than 2,500 years ago: “[T]o gain a hundred victories in a hundred battles is not the highest excellence; to subjugate the enemy's army without doing battle is the highest of excellence.” In other words, there's a great way to win most conflicts: Avoid them! 

As self-defense expert (and former drug dealer, bouncer, security guard and correctional facility director, among other things) Marc “Animal” MacYoung points out, most violence happens between people who know each other. That means that a large majority of folks who got beaten up had ticked off the wrong person. 

That's why MacYoung's Violence, Blunders and Fractured Jaws: Advanced Awareness Techniques and Street Etiquette can be the best self-defense book you ever read. It doesn't contain a single punch, kick or block. What it does give you is detailed knowledge, from someone who has been there, done that and buried more than a few of his buddies, about what makes people—including you and me—tick and how to avoid ticking others off. Also, you can learn how to avoid most muggers and other criminals, by staying out of places where they can ambush you, spotting them coming and signaling them that they should pick somebody else.

Finally, you'll be better able to navigate the complex social minefields at school, in your neighborhood, at work and elsewhere. Your professors, roommates and co-workers might never throw a punch at you anyway … wouldn't it be nice to get them on your side?

Comment Options

Very good points!

Hello,First off, please accept my humble apologies for only responding now. I only saw your comment when I just now stopped by here.You've got some very good points there. Yes, sometimes violence finds you, and you have no choice but to fight back.A couple of things to keep in mind:

  • As I mentioned, Marc MacYoung points out that most violence happens between people who know each other. Also, even much of the stranger violence is preventable, because it's largely committed by opportunists looking for an easy mark - and there's always an easy mark down the road. With a little situational and social awareness, we can seriously cut back - not eliminate - the likelihood that we'll actually be forced to fight.
  • You mentioned violence against Aspies for being Aspies and for related reasons. You're definitely right in that Aspies can be disproportionately victims of violence.The thing is, in my experience and observation - all too much first-hand experience, I might add - violence against Aspies most often isn't because we're Aspies, in the way that gay-bashing or racial assaults happen simply because somebody is known (or thought) to be gay, black, Hispanic, etc. Rather, Aspies disproportionately don't know better than to do things like stare at a girl or woman for minutes on end, call someone a liar, etc. You and I know those behaviors don't make physically attacking someone right. But some people feel they do - and many more people feel they make it more understandable. (In fact, that's why many states have "fighting words" laws - it's against the law to say certain kinds of things to somebody's face. The idea is that, free speech notwithstanding, there are things you cannot say and then realistically assume you won't get hit.) 
  • From what I've seen and been told, typically ≈ 100% of martial arts training is dedicated to showing how to block, punch, kick, throw, maim and do other things to people. The instructors seem to assume that their students already know (1) that fighting is generally a bad idea, (2) that they should avoid it whenever possible (and yes, the "Nike defense" - running away - counts) and (3) just how to avoid it. These assumptions are not always correct. For that reason, I, like MacYoung and others, have tried to fill in the gap. (Albeit with far, far less experience and expertise on my part in many areas than they have!)

More broadly, I've de-emphasized the physical techniques because even though many Aspies could use help like that, so can many NTs. As best I can tell, that is not a distinctively autism spectrum issue.All that having been said, I strongly recommend Lawrence Kane's and Kris Wilder's The Little Black Book of Violence: What Every Young Man Needs to Know About Fighting. It's chock full of good advice on how to avoid a fight and in the event you have to fight back, how to hurt, cripple or even kill an attacker - all as a last resort. The authors have both the experience and training to back it up. (And both Kane and Wilder, like MacYoung, are acquaintances of mine.)Thank you very much for raising those points. Once again, I'm very sorry for having replied so late.Please feel free to drop me a line any time!Jeff Deutsch 



Hey, avoiding fights is all well and good and great, but we need to accept the reality, that that's not always an option; people get attacked. People on the spectrum get attacked, sometimes for being on the spectrum, sometimes for reasons relating to their being on the spectrum, sometimes for other reasons entirely. I'm not advocating violence or aggression or seeking out a fight, but shouldn't education in avoidance of violence, be accompanied with education on what to do when violence finds you despite your best efforts?