This articles is an exchange between Gerry Seymour and Bill Mattocks (see below for information about Mr. Mattocks).
Bill Mattocks’ take:
When you engage in a ‘real’ fight, whether it is voluntary, such as a so-called ‘street fight’, or an actual case of self-defense, you have more enemies than you may realize. Here are some. Feel free to add your own.
1) Your opponent. Obviously. The person whom you are fighting is typically an unknown to you. You may not know his or her capabilities. Are they trained? Are they an experienced fighter? Are they stronger than you, faster than you, have more stamina then you? Are they armed with anything other than their bare hands?
2) Time. The longer you fight, the more your chances increase that you will be injured or killed. Time multiplies odds against you, seldom for you. Time is your enemy. Get in and get out.
3) Environment. The weather, the terrain, crowds, these are all part of the environment that you probably cannot control. Slippery surfaces, loose gravel, obstacles like parking blocks, crowds that press in and prevent escapes, etc. Friends and family which you need to protect as well as yourself while you are fighting.
4) You. Your strength, your stamina, your training. Your mental mindset, your age, your health, your physical disabilities. Your hair, your clothing. Eyesight and hearing. All can impair your ability to defend yourself.
5) Unknown variables. The enemy may have weapons, as mentioned before, but he or she may also have friends, who may or may not be willing to ‘play fair’ or step in to help kicking you. You may be surrounded by a crowd that decides it doesn’t like you. You might be the wrong color, gender, perceived sexual orientation, or even religion for the area or crowd you find yourself in; not that there is anything ‘wrong’ with any of that; but it might work against you, depending on circumstances.
Consider your enemies when you fight. It’s not just the person you’re raising your fists to. There are a whole lot of enemies who are doing their best to injure or kill you. With that in mind, proceed with caution. Eliminate as many enemies as you can before you decide to fight. If you must fight, be aware of where you are and what it could mean. Keep your wits about you.
Gerry Seymour’s reply:
Control everything you can. Some things you can control in advance :
- Your physical conditioning.
- Where you walk into.
- Your physical skills.
- Your willingness (and eagerness) to fight.
- Your awareness.
Some things you can control in the moment, before things get physical:
- How you respond to others (which affects their response to you).
- Whether you escalate things.
- How others perceive you prior to the physical stuff (to an extent).
- Your awareness (again, because you can’t do more during the fight).
Some things you can control during the fight:
- What people perceive about the attacker/defender relationship (to a small extent, by saying things like “I don’t want any trouble” and “stop”).
- How long it lasts (by not prolonging the conflict – best chance of survival, perhaps, for both of you).
Some things you cannot control (though you may influence some of them):
- Another person’s attitudes and actions.
- How dangerous the opponent is.
- The crowd’s reaction, and the story they tell to the police afterward.
There are, of course, others. These just came to mind first.
Bill Mattocks is currently a nidan (2nd degree black belt) instructor at Holloway’s Isshin Ryu Karate School.
Gerry Seymour is the founder of the Self-defense Academy of Western NC, in Hendersonville, NC.