Friday, November 20, 2009

The Four Stages of a Fight

By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved

A few days ago I was talking to a friend about whether boxing is or is not a sport that translates to real world self-defense. My stance on the subject was: maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, either way it doesn’t really matter. Actually defending yourself from someone who wants to seriously injure or kill you is about one thing and one thing only…causing injuries.

To clarify this point I’m going to go over the four stages of fighting. These are the four stages that a real fight will progress through. Keep in mind right now I’m talking about a fight and not an act of violence like an assault, rape, or murder. Real acts of violence have only two stages and we’ll go through those next.

Stage Number One: The Man-Dance. A real act of violence just starts, but a fight usually begins with insults and posturing. One person, or a group of people, insults another and then they start sticking their chests out and acting tough. Maybe someone puts their hands up and maybe they don’t, but they don’t assume traditional fighting stances, they just get ready to hit each other. No actual “work” is being done here; it’s just ego and posturing.

Stage Number Two: Non-Specific Trauma. After the man-dance is concluded one person will attack the other. Normally both people, or groups of people, will step forward and just start swinging with no real thought behind it. During this stage both people will usually get hit multiple times but the blows are haphazard and not actually aimed at a part of the opponent’s body that is susceptible to trauma. One punch may land on the top of the person’s head where the skull is thick, the next may land on an arm, and the next may land on their hip bone. Both people may be punched, kicked, kneed, stabbed, shot, or bludgeoned several times but because the trauma they received was not specific, delivered all over the place, and not focused on a vital area, nothing changes and the fighting continues.

Stage Number Three: The Initial Injury. Nothing changes until the first injury occurs. Without an injury the stage of non-specific trauma would last until both parties either got bored or tired. When they get tired they’ll usually revert back to the man-dance and then go home.

An injury, as it applies to combat, is when part of a person’s body gets disabled, can no longer function normally, and requires medical attention. An injury could be an eye gouged by a thumb, a testicle crushed by a foot, a metatarsal being broken by a boot heel, or an eardrum being ruptured by a slap. Until something along those lines happens nothing will change.

Normally the injury happens by dumb luck if it happens at all. Typically one of three things happen: 1.) By dumb luck a punch lands on the other person’s jaw which causes a concussion and the person passes out and falls to the ground, 2.) Someone accidentally scratches the other person’s eye which results in the person not being able to see, or 3.) One person gets punched, pushed, or loses their balance and falls to the ground where they break their wrist or arm, or they hit their head and suffer a concussion and perhaps lose consciousness.

Stage Number Four: Follow Up. Once one person gets an injury their body has to react to that injury and for a brief period (perhaps just a few seconds) their autonomic nervous system takes over their body and they are helpless. In addition to their brief helplessness a part of their body doesn’t work anymore so their ability to fight back is reduced and may be non-existent.

In a real altercation, when an injury occurs the injuring party does not stop and step back in a fighting stance, but rather they continue by jumping in with newfound vigor. They keep on punching, kicking, biting, stomping, stabbing, shooting, or whatever until they are confident that the other person is finished. What they do during their follow up usually consists of more non-specific trauma but they may get another injury to two by dumb luck.

In terms of actual violence there are just two stages: 1.) Before an injury, and 2.) After an injury.

Stage Number One: Before the initial injury. In a situation of actual violence anything can happen before the first injury occurs so speculating on it is of little use. The only thing that will change the situation is for an injury to occur.

Maybe someone man-danced, maybe someone put a knife to your throat, or maybe someone has already struck you four times, it really doesn’t matter because an injury hasn’t occurred yet.

Stage Number Two: After the initial injury. After the first injury is caused the situation then changes in your favor (assuming you were the one to cause the injury) so all you need to do is follow up by causing more injuries until the person(s) can no longer pose a threat.

All forms of fighting can be reduced to these simple stages. It doesn’t matter if its boxing, kickboxing, knife fighting, or a real act of violence, the only thing that gets the job done is injury.