You know it has to be said, first sentence, first paragraph: the best way to win a fist fight is not to get into one in the first place.
No shit, sherlock.
Every single mens magazine who has ever attempted to publish an article like this has started (and ended) exactly that way and is usually devoid of any real information – sometimes because someone on the editorial staff wanted to avoid putting the periodical at risk for a lawsuit; other times because the author has absolutely no clue what they’re talking about, so they cop out with this “Verbal Judo Wins The Day!” crap.
It’s common sense – avoid fighting if at all possible. No one likes to get hit (and if you do, there’s no need to go crawling pubs to find it. There’s any number of clubs filled with rubber-suited men and women who will give you a safety word and a few bruises for the right price…). But sometimes, diplomacy erodes to a good old fashioned bust-up, or worse, your opponent is just a big bully who’s looking to drive a knuckle into your nose. In either case, you are – at some point in your life – going to be called upon to defend yourself.
So… What to do? Well, I can’t promise that the following information will turn you into a hands-of-steel cage fighter who can handle any MMA bruiser in a back-alley match… In fact, if you’re actually in NEED of the information in this article, I can guarantee you that a trained martial artist or fighter will destroy you. But all things being equal, if you’re simply an untrained person who’s facing your schoolyard nemesis, or someone looking to simply get the basics under your belt in case something gnarly goes down, I can assure you that you’re way better off knowing this stuff than not.
First, you need to know a few things:
You are going to get hit.
When you get hit, it does not feel good.
Knowing and accepting those two things as fact will free your mind up enough to begin thinking about much more important stuff, like strategy and technique. If you’re petrified with fear over how much it’s going to hurt when the big bad guy hits you, you’re going to be out of focus. Thus, you’ll be much more vulnerable to taking damage than if you can just accept the reality of the situation and move past it… And perhaps, walk into the situation with a bit of confidence.
Confidence CANNOT be overvalued in a fight situation. If you walk in knowing you will win, your chances of winning are far greater… If for no other reason than the fact that you will gain a psychological edge on your opponent. If you don’t have confidence, fake it. Seriously, it’s important.
If you’re fighting in an enclosed area, position yourself so that there is an exit to your rear. If you cannot, try to get an exit positioned to your strong side (right side, if you’re right handed, left side if you’re left handed). The ability to retreat can make the difference between getting punched and getting beat. It’s helpful to remember that “retreat” does not always mean “flee” – sometimes, you have to back off a bit to get your act together.
If you’re a student or a frequenter of bars, you need to know that there is a very high liklihood that your fight is going to take place in the center of a huge ring of people who are chanting, yelling, screaming and whatnot. If this is the case, get to the door and get in position before they can seal it off as a crowd of spectators.
Lastly, if you’re up against two or more guys, someone with a weapon, or other crazy situation, don’t be a hero – get the hell out of there. If you simply cannot escape, look at the end of this article in the section “Impossible Situations”.
Your stance is the way you stand and position yourself during a fight. It’s by far the most important part of your actual fighting technique. Now, this sounds like crap, but it’s absolutely true. Your base – the position of your feet and legs – determines how much power you can deliver in a blow. You should keep your feet about shoulder width apart, with your “strong” foot slightly forward. Your knees should NEVER be locked – keep them slightly bent, but not so much so that you feel a strain in your upper legs.
As far as your “guard” goes, there are any number of techniques and positions that you could adopt, but the most simple is your strong hand in front of your face, your weak hand slightly below it guarding your chin, and your elbows very slightly
Never, EVER drop your guard. Keep your hands in front of your vital areas at ALL times, unless actively delivering a blow or in the midst of grappling with someone.
Keep your chin tucked to your chest as much as possible, and ALWAYS keep your eyes up and on your opponent. You will find that, if you take away the chin and neck as targets, your chances of becoming disabled (knocked out or unable to breathe) are reduced by an order of magnitude. We’ll cover more of this in “Taking A Punch” – for now, you just need to know how to stand.
Now, with that strong foot forward, your strong-side hip is going to be slightly pointed at your opponent, and your strong hand – when you throw the punch – is going to place a lot of pressure on your strong leg. This is vital – if you can use the power of physics to align the transfer of energy from your foot, up your leg, through your hip and shoulder to your fist as you throw the punch, you will devastate your foe when you connect.
Keep moving. Don’t dance around like a moron, or you can get tripped up and probably knocked out… But definitely keep moving to the side, occasionally changing direction. Don’t pick your feet up off the ground completely; rather, try to shuffle slightly. Stay as much of a moving target as you can without putting yourself at risk of being tripped, pushed, or otherwise taken out stupidly. You’ll DEFINITELY want to practice this in your room / garage / backyard to get the hang of it.
Lastly… No wild blows. Don’t go into a fight flailing like a madman, trying to hit whatever you can as much as possible. You’re going to wear yourself out VERY quickly, which will leave you completely vulnerable to the patient opponent – which is completely counter to the goal of this guide, right? You want to win, not end up a bloody lump of exhausted meat on the ground. Find your target, be patient, look for openings, and deliver your blows carefully and with great purpose. And that leads me to…
What You’re Actually Here For: How To Punch Someone
First, the fist:
Fold your four fingers downward into your hand
Place your thumb on the OUTSIDE of your fingers
Now, the particulars:
You want to fill the space in your palm with whatever you have at your disposal – a roll of pennies, some dirt or hunks of grass… Anything to reduce the space between your fingers and the inside of your hand. If you have nothing available (or, don’t want to be accused of “dirty fighting” or whatever… But let’s face it, all’s fair when there’s no ref’s and the threat of bodily harm), try to grab the “meat” of your palm, where all those callouses are, and wrap it slightly under your fingertips.
Whatever you do, do NOT fill that space with your thumb. Your thumb MUST be outside your fingers, sitting at a 90 degree angle to your index finger and bent at the second knuckle. Don’t let it stray off to the side; don’t do that little “thumb out” fist-pump swagger thing you saw DMX do in that one Jet Li movie…
The same goes with your pinky. Some flashy morons try to show how cool they are by sticking their pinkies out in the air while waving their fists at you, like it’s wine-tasting time. Don’t be that guy. Keep your fist tight – all four fingers folded and your thumb out of the way, or they’ll be sticking WAY out… In a fiberglass cast for six to eight weeks.
Now that you’ve made a fist, it’s time to fling it at someone. First, a word of caution (or, if you prefer, a note on technique): It is IMPERATIVE that you keep the back of your hand completely in line with your forearm at all times. Never, ever flex your wrist in any direction when delivering a punch, or you’ll break it.
There are several types of punches, and I’m sure you can readily call to mind several types based on what you’ve seen in movies, televised boxing matches, MMA bouts, etcetera. The type of punch that I most highly advocate – especially for an untrained fighter – is a simple straight punch. Keeping the elbow bent and at a 30 – 45 degree angle to the body (and in front of your face – remember, don’t drop your guard), extend the fist forward with simultaneous extension of the elbow and the shoulder. The elbow should straighten the arm, the shoulder should deliver the force… It sounds strange, but try not to deliver force by the extension of the elbow. Let your body weight push through your shoulder into your arm. Connect the blow at the peak of extension to get the maximum force out of your blow. Connecting too soon, you’ll lose power; Connecting too late, you’ll throw yourself off balance.
Hooks – the wide-sweeping side punches you see a lot of people throwing – are great for boxing or other score / tactical fighting… But they don’t deliver the force a good straightforward punch will, and they’re SLOW. If someone’s out there scoring you on how many times you connect, sure, go for it. But otherwise, just stick to the straight punches. The same goes for uppercuts and light jabs. Stay away from those unless you’ve been training purposely with combinations and whatnot (which this guide assumes you’re not, since you’re obviously here to learn the basics. All you “trained” fighters out there, I don’t need your emails about how I’m wrong to suggest avoiding these. You know what you’re doing? Go for it… Otherwise…).
Make your punches count – give a full-force blow that connects quickly at the apex of extension each and every time.