You practiced it a thousand times half-naked in the bathroom mirror, along with your upper cut, haymaker, and maybe even some moves from that Tae Kwon Do class you took in your sophomore year of college.
None of it matters when you’re staring into the bloodshot eyes of a beef-necked steroid monster at the bar who’s convinced you’re picturing his girlfriend naked. Combat is imminent. So what do you do? Wally “The Weapon” MacDonald, a mixed martial arts coach in Rochester, N.Y., says almost every fight starts as an argument and can be prevented. “The best thing to do is put your hands up, and act like you’re sorry,” he says. “Try to de-escalate the situation instead of throwing fuel on the fire.”
But sometimes, a quick bar bout is unavoidable, no matter how petty the argument. And if you’d rather walk out of the joint with your dignity (and face) in tact than hobble back to your car with a black eye, bloody schnoz, and bruised ego, follow MacDonald’s tips to win any fight.
1. Watch Ol’ Beefneck’s Body Language
MacDonald says an opponent will tense up, drop his chin, and shift his weight before attacking. He’s broadcasting his attack—and you can counter it if you know his next move. If he’s about to throw a punch, he’ll clench his fist and teeth, and cock his shoulder back.
2. Slow Him Down
“Most of the time, fights don’t last more than a couple punches, so it’s best to be first,” says MacDonald. Aiming for his chin, nose, or temple will slow him down enough for you to get away. Also, “never underestimate a kick to the balls,” he says.
The only problem is most street fights MacDonald sees aren’t fistfights anymore. With the rising popularity of MMA and UFC, more people are using the moves they see on TV. “The haymaker is turning into the double A takedown,” he says.
3. Ready, Set, Sprawl
So if Beefneck’s about to try a takedown move on you, MacDonald says he will shift his weight by bending his knees or waist before charging. When he rushes forward, push his head toward the floor and sprawl. With your chest onto his back, slide your hips and legs back, so his head is near your stomach and your legs are out of reach. Now, your body weight is on the back of his neck and his head, allowing you to push his face into the floor.
4. Prepare Your Mind
OK, time for a buzzkill: According to Tony Blauer, globally consulted self-defense guru and creator of the SPEAR self-defense system, the sprawl move won’t win you any fights unless something else is ready long before Beefneck even comes into the picture—your mental game. “The mind navigates the body,” he says. “Self defense is the act of, in the moment, overcoming emotional and psychological obstacles to do what’s right, to protect yourself.”
Blauer says that when he interviews victims and victors of physical confrontations, the difference is their mindsets. Traditional fighting styles don’t prepare a victim for a street fight because what happens in the ring is completely different. “No fight ever starts with half an hour to warm up,” he says. Or when you make plans, “It’s not like ‘Hey, what are you doing Saturday night? Let’s defend ourselves at that bar.’”
In an ambush on the street or a bar fight, fear takes over and paralyzes the victim. “That fear moment is everything,” Blauer says. “It’s that domino effect of doubt, hesitation, anxiety, and panic, and it can happen pretty fast.”
The SPEAR system, which Blauer has taught to military and law enforcement units in the United States and around the world, focuses on being mentally prepared for that moment of fear so it doesn’t defeat you before the first punch is thrown.
5. Check Your Ego at the Door
Of course, the best thing for both your mind and your body is to avoid getting in a fight altogether. Both MacDonald and Blauer say the most common mistake they see guys make is letting their egos get in the way. Even with all his belts, titles, and a 20-year career, “The Weapon” MacDonald says he really doesn’t like hurting people.
“(Most) of the time if one guy is pissed off and mad, and you’re calm and collected, you can defuse the situation,” he says. Even if you’re in the right, MacDonald suggests buying the other guy a drink or apologizing.
After all, your ego will heal faster than your face.