How do I know when I am in a fight?

I know what you are thinking – surely everyone would know when you are in a fight, so please allow me to explain the eye catching title, so perhaps I should retitle this article as “How do I know when I am in a confrontation” – just checking you are awake and thoroughly reading this…

A confrontation doesn’t start with a punch to your nose, it starts when your intuition tells you “something’s wrong” (something called “combat awareness”).

Here’s the problem:

When you’ve got some pissed off 6’ 5” drunken rugby player yelling profanities in your face — it’s difficult to make snap decisions.  Your body’s “automatic” responses during high stress is to drain blood away from the brain’s cortex (responsible for rational thinking), which guarantees a loss of “higher thinking” (the reason why many those flashy martial arts moves suddenly fly out the window).

The solution is to create clear “Decision Points” — beforehand. This will help make decision-making more automated for you under stressful conditions.

You’ve GOT to have a series of decision points – an automated checklist if you will – that reduces internal chatter, and eliminates the need to “figure it out” at a time when your higher thought processes are in lock-down.

You want to simplify your decision making process. I’m going to detail a couple of decision points you should set up beforehand:

Know when the “fight is on”.

This is a big one. Because a lot of guys choose to put-off making this decision until it’s too late, then later (perhaps mumbling from a hospital bed) explain that they had no idea what that “mean guy” was up to. In reality, there are often THREE major signs that trouble is brewing. They are as follows:

1. Body Language

2. Verbal

3. Previous Behavior

Let’s delve into each one briefly.

1. Body language: These are non-verbal signals. It’s typical for the average guy to ignore these, but learn to become attuned to them. There’s a number of “tells” or non-verbal body language signals that indicate an imminent attack on you. These are like gifts from your opponents telling you “you’re about a second or two away from me striking.”

  • The “Looking Away” – Just before that right haymaker is thrown an opponent will commonly look to one side. It’s a sort of distraction technique. As fighter Jim West says “If I’m in a confrontation with someone and they look to the side, it means they’re about to hit me – so I hit first”.
  • The “Finger Jab” – Someone poking you in the chest is also a big red flag. He’s building up his confidence and resolve, by violating your personal space. Any violation of your personal space at the initial stages of a confrontation should trigger some kind of immediate response from you.
  • The “Shove” – People typically don’t push, then walk away. This move is almost always immediately followed by a punch. Decide beforehand what you’ll automatically do in this type of a situation, because you’ll most likely have NO time to decide during a confrontation (which is the whole point of creating these “Decision Points”). FYI: 95% of the time a right “Haymaker” is going to come your way. Train yourself to watch your left side.
  • The “Target Gaze” — An opponent will naturally look at what he’s about to strike. Watch out for an adversary who changes his gaze to your chin or some other obvious target
  • The “Chin Drop”: Another “cue” that should prompt you into a decision is seeing your opponent drop his chin. This is a fairly consistent, and subconscious act of protecting the neck … it almost always means trouble.
  • Getting Hit: The biggest non-verbal cue is being struck. Many novice fighters can get “blind-sided” and are slow to realize what’s going on. They know something’s wrong, they may even suspect they’ve been hit by that angry looking fellow — but somehow they just can’t bring themselves to believe it – until they get hit again. If you suspect you’ve been hit, do NOT stand around trying to figure it out. Take immediate action, whether it’s running away or dropping the guy in front of you.

2. Verbal – This is the second major indicator that trouble is at your doorstep. Here are two specific verbal cues that you should look out for:

  • The Threat: “I’m gonna zyx@%# you up!” Okay… this may seem so obvious that it’s not worth mentioning. And I wouldn’t mention it if my research didn’t show that MOST inexperienced fighters do nothing in the face of serious verbal threats. They often stand by and take NO action. A Bully or Emotionally Hijacked individual (rarely will you get open verbal threats from a Predator), often uses the verbal threat as a way to “ramp up” his confidence and emotions (much like the poke in the chest) meaning that things can escalate fast. Think through various scenarios and what would trigger you into decisive action.
  • The “Sudden Silent Treatment”: If your opponent has been talking, talking, and talking and then suddenly becomes quiet, it means he’s entered into an internal dialog on what he’s about to do to you. As FightFast instructor Demi Barbitos says: “Fighters don’t talk and swing at the same time”.

3. Previous behavior – This is the third indicator of potential trouble. Judge people by what you see them doing and adjust yourself according. This is where your powers of observation come in. You’ll want (for example) to avoid loud young men who’ve been drinking – especially if there are women accompanying them. Bar bouncer (and cage fighter) Mike Serr points out that nearly ALL intoxicated men will react violently if they are confronted or slighted in front of a woman.

So a common tactic is to set up a “ploy” to separate the guy from his pack before confronting him. It is more likely he’ll leave or follow direction as there’s no need to “save face”. Even a small guy with very little chance at winning will fight furiously to avoid being humiliated in front of friends and women. It’s important to keep in mind that loud behavior with friends and women present can create a volatile situation.

What will trigger you to action?

You should decide, in advance, what factors will trigger immediate response from you. Define them for yourself.
Automatic response — There’s no longer a need to think about it. If a certain “trigger” is tripped you don’t have to ponder long and hard. The decision’s already been made for you.

You should know this, some of your “triggers” may not hold up in court. But by defining your triggers, you also can define what’s NOT your trigger. Someone accidentally bumping into me is not a trigger — for me. And if he then “flips me off” and calls me a “son of a #!*!” and keeps walking, that’s not a trigger for me either. You see, it allows you to make intelligent decisions under stress (and avoid being emotionally hijacked yourself) and never regret those decisions
The most beautiful thing about a trigger is that it allows you to FULLY engage when the time comes. No hesitation, no second guessing because there is no other decision to make other than “am I willing to hurt this guy?” and “what is my target?”. You’re locked in and ready to rock n roll.

Altercation vs. Personal Combat

It’s important that you understand the difference between Personal Combat (a truly life-threatening fight) and a simple Altercation.

An Altercation is where you’re life is not necessarily in danger – but you are still in a physical confrontation. It’s more of a situation where you need to control and restrain. An example might be your drunken brother-in-law who needs to “escorted” out of the house because he’s table-dancing with a lampshade on his head… or the neighbor who’s upset because your dog “unloaded” in his yard… or any situation where shattering your opponent’s nose with a vicious head-butt would be considered “over the top.” And that’s the problem.

Winning a fight absolutely depends on instant decisions. Go or no-go. Fight or flight. Yes or no. Spending precious time pondering whether or not you’re in an altercation or a real-to-goodness fight leaves you wide open.

Wishy-washy indecision is your enemy. Black and white decisions are where it’s at.

Now, a good way to tell if you’re in an altercation or an actual “personal combat” situation is to look to your gut (no, don’t look down at your stomach). Your intuition. If you’re experiencing a huge adrenal dump and all the signals of “fight and flight,” you need to trust that and know you’re in a situation that requires total commitment on a level that ultimately could prove lethal.

Irritation and a slightly elevated heart rate on the other hand is telling you you’re in an altercation. Only YOU will know. The trick here is to listen to what your body is telling you.

Here’s another way to look at it. If your answer to the question “Am I Willing To Hurt This Person?” is “No,” then you’re in an “altercation” situation that probably will require “control” tactics. It’s why you must have your decision points well developed before you actually find yourself this type of situation.

You will learn all about confrontation, trigger points, pre-emptive striking and defending yourself by joining Tring Krav Maga, part of Tring Martial Arts.  Call us now on 0845 094 8805 and no longer be a victim.

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