I heard that winning a real life street fight depends on your action in the first seconds. If you have to fight for longer time the probability of winning decrease dramatically. Is it true. How can you prepare yourself for the surprise in real street fight and is the phrase "Act first as fast as you can and surprise your rival". Are the real examples or video that can show how to prepare yourself for dealing with the surprise and fast reaction?


All the answers here are valid but I would like to add some Info from another perspective to the questions.

From my experience, I would say that your statement with "who first strikes" wins the game, is true - to some point. It is valid for a specific type of aggressor, someone unprepared that might had a couple of drinks, maybe trying to show off in front of some girls etc. That kind of bad guy-behaviour can be cured by a punch-first aid if prepared properly. By that I mean to be effective in your intention, you have to distract your aggressor from his intention to catch him in an unprepared moment and lign him up for your best shot.

Bad luck if he is a berserk and still starts to continue his attack. However you could practice your best punch and that kind of situation to perfection and at least to get the chance to get some time and get towards safety. This is all valid if you can't avoid a fight under any circumstances!! Best would be to move away from the guy...

But if your aggressor is someone who is prepared to be punched or simply doesnt care, you are best adviced getting away as fast as possible and a preventive strike helps you to get away from the danger zone.

If you are surprised by the attack, you will not be able to execute the first punch anyway :-)

One idea on training that kind of situation would be to get together with some friends with the same mind set and agree in randomly surprise each of you being attacked by the others at different situations and circumstances. The attackers should use gloves and head protection of course.

Have fun.

  • If you throw the first punch, you are the aggressor. Feb 19 '16 at 8:17
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    Your view of the law is naive. Feb 19 '16 at 9:32
  • @sardathrion - what do you suggest then? Wait for the first punch and act upon that? That is naive and surely not what I would recommend anybody. It depends on the circumstances how to react. If you can avoid it - for sure avoid it. If you cant and see no other chance to get out - be the first who reacts. That is my personal opinion!
    – mitro
    Feb 20 '16 at 12:49

TL;DR The duration of a fight bares no relation to the risk of injury as clearly demonstrated by countless matches. Attacking first leaves one open to very serious legal repercussions. Expecting to be attacked at all times and places is a mark of paranoia.

The duration of a fight has nothing to do with your probabilities of being injured.

The nature of the attack does. If the attacker wants to kill, they will stab/shoot to kill. The aim is to kill the target and leave. If the hit fails, they will try again later. If the attacker's aim is to inflict pain, then they will only stop if either when they have inflicted enough damage (whatever that is) or they are taken out. In both those cases, expect the attacker to plan the ambush in such a way as no matter what the victims does, they cannot escape.

The skill of the attacker does. If the attacker is a wee mean drunk unable to stand, their attacks are not going to hurt. Just dodge. If the attacker is Chuck Norris... Well, we know how that ends. I heard that a rattle snake bit Chuck Norris and after three days of agony, the snake died.

The proximity to your mates does. If all your mates from the martial art club, marines, and special forces are a minute away, the longer the fight lasts the less chances you are to get hurt. You are more likely to get hurt in the first minute than the tenth!

Boxers, MMA, and other contact sport demonstrate this all the time: The longer a match last, the more injury? Nope. The longer a match last, the more the pair are evenly matched.

You might argue that someone trying to kill you is not comparable with a MMA match. That is fair. However, not all self defence situations involve someone trying to commit murder. A bar brawl is most of the time less violent than an MMA match due to the practitioners lack of coordination and skill.

Act first, act fast is utter rubbish.

It is one of the common tropes that gets totted by deluded people who claim to know anything about self defence. It reads sensibly in the face of it but as soon as you think about it in depth, its sheer stupidity comes to the front.

I am not lawyer, nor do I play one on TV.

Acting first makes one the attacker. The situation was escalated form an argument (possibly loud and obnoxious) into a physical confrontation. Any LEO will arrest whoever started threw the first punch. Prosecutors will argue that the attacker is a violent individual and Judges will listen to them. After all, the attacker does a violent sport those aim is hurting people -- a skewed definition of martial arts.

Self defence does not give one unbridled rights to hurt, main, cripple, or kill one's attacker. What the legal definition of self defence is varies from country to country. If you want to know more, talk to your local lawyer/solicitor.

Self defence law is complex and depends on your locality. Anyone claiming that their magic formula will save you from legal ramifications is conning you. Whether you are hit first, threatened with a weapon, or assaulted verbally, does not give you a carte blanche to act like a thug. If you want to know more, talk to your local lawyer/solicitor.

In addition, people who rely on either violence or the threat of violence to resolve any confrontation are called bullies. It makes one a despicable person most people do not want to associate with.

However, even if it were a good idea legally, the statement would still be utter rubbish form a training point of view: no one walks around expecting hidden and invisible ninja attacking them at any moment. It is impossible. Even soldiers in the middle of battle have trouble detecting attacks. And they are trained for combat. After some time, PTSD starts affecting them -- or combat fatigue, whatever you want to call it.

Let's assume you want to go down that path. You have to watch for ambushes, expect the worst of all strangers, and watch out for hidden dangers all around you. This is what the medical profession called paranoia.

Now, in your paranoid state you thought someone is coming close to you, hands in pockets. Is he going to stab you? Yes, quiet possibly. So, react first: pick you gun and preventively shot him in the face! What if you get it wrong? What if that guy just did not see you and bummed into you. He was thinking about his wife and what she wanted for their anniversary, just not paying attention to his surroundings...

Is that how you want to live? Always afraid for your life, never being able to stop and rest. What kind of life is that?...

Of course, you can come up with lots and lots of imaginary situations where this advice saves your live. But they remain imaginary. In real life, this advice is utterly useless.


"Winning" in self defense is whatever makes you safer.

Within that context, if you can get yourself out of danger, sooner, with more reliable methods, that's better. If someone is trying to hurt you, you don't know if they have friends on the way, if they're going to pull out a weapon or make something into a weapon and so on.

However, "first few seconds" is only true under specific contexts.

For example, many dangerous situations involve warning signs or indications that last several minutes. For example, a lot of fistfights between men start with people trash talking or yelling at each other... and instead of leaving, people hang around or engage (not taking themselves FROM danger...).

A lot of advice around awareness involves people having to take proactive action as soon as something feels off. It's really applying the diver's philosophy of an Incident Pit to personal safety.

On the other hand, a fast assault by surprise, you really only have a few seconds at most - someone is attacking you, by surprise, and possibly with weapons or allies. Reversing surprise in this case, involves you deciding to act before them, or throwing an unexpected factor into their plan.

There is no easy solution to assaults where the odds are stacked against you - if there was, it wouldn't be bad odds, right? People spend years trying to develop methods and reaction that allows them to navigate these problems quickly and better. Some of that is having methods you can use quickly and without much thought, and some of it is learning to identify danger quickly to take action - avoiding that incident pit and having the option to get out of trouble long before you are stuck with "mere seconds to act".


Real fights are not constrained by rules. There is no referee to pull you apart from a clinch, or rules against bashing the back of your head. Nothing prevents multiple people from attacking. There is no padding. If someone puts you on the ground, they can stomp you.

Real fights are not like the movies, where people are bashed in one sequence and immediately get up to keep going. Fights can end in one punch. You cannot assume that after you get hit in the face you will be able to continue.

Skilled fighters will not waste time once they are in contact with you. Given time, they will find a hole in your defense and hit you or unbalance you, which creates a bigger hole that they will quickly exploit. Trying to defend continuously against an attacker of comparable skill is a losing proposition.

So what does this mean? You have to act like the fight can end at any instant. If you are already in contact, you must counter immediately, or you may not get a second chance. The fight may not actually end quickly, but you cannot plan for a later that may not come.


Avoidance is the Best Defense

Be aware of your surroundings. You're in a parking garage, fumbling with your keys, and you see someone running towards you, who appears less-than-wholesome (and you're unsure if you can get into a safe place before they arrive)? Run away! Someone pulls a knife on you? Run away! Do you have a choice between well lit, well traveled streets and dark, dangerous alleyways? Take the well lit, well traveled street. The best way to defend against a particular situation is to not get in it.

You can't hurt what isn't there.

  • I would say run towards safety instead of away. Feb 18 '16 at 16:42
  • @Sardathrion At no point did I ever say "run away from safety!" You could misconstrue the "fumbling with keys" situation for this, but I was seeing a situation where its unclear if you can get into your car/door before the attacker gets to you. I'll change that.
    – PipperChip
    Feb 18 '16 at 19:38
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    Strawman argument? You are right, you never said "run away from safety!" and neither did I criticise you for saying (or not saying) it. Running willy nilly could end you in more trouble hence running towards safety. In your parking lot example, run towards the exit where there's a guard not deeper into the garage. 'nuff said. Feb 19 '16 at 8:24

Reading these answers I have to ask how many real fights some of the posters have been in...

A lot of what's taught in self-defence classes goes out the window when it happens for real, and as for avoidance being best, a lot of the time you won't be able to avoid it if it happens.

Going in fast, hard and aggressive is the best way to handle it in my experience - no fear or hesitation, just be confident and get the job done. The quicker the better. As soon as you start dithering and showing any doubt that's when it can go wrong. True, you can tell in the first few seconds of confrontation how it's bound to go, and only with having done it before a few times can you control the fight-or-flight response.


In some parts of 'third' and 'forth' world countries, the notion of a 'fair fight' is not the norm. A dozen guys with weapons will attack an unarmed guy. A grudge may be settled with one guy arguing with the target, and his buddy comes up behind the target and stabs him in the back. A woman was pissed at her old boyfriend and while her friend was distracting him, she went behind him and sliced his arm nerves, leaving them helpless. These are true stories.

People who live in such places don't usually advertise that they even know 'fighting.' I know of several experienced 'fighters' who go to such places for visits or permanently and they tell no one of their past.

In USA, in general, there's an epidemic of rudeness, that one can shoot off their mouth all they want. Another true story in one of the above 'tough places': an American MD was vacationing and while walking, cussed out some guy in a car. The guy just got out of his car and severely damaged the doctor's teeth. Does this mean one should be 'paranoid'? Or do you call it smart? Well, you can just study the random attacks of street guys who run up behind someone and pummel them. Or intent to kill someone just to join a gang.

There is a big difference in walking around with potential panic, seeing threats at all sides, and being aware. No, you have to discern what is just bad behavior and a potentially dangerous situation. Further, you have to remember that an experienced mugger (or one, who has been in the front row seat at a 'gladiator school' in a prison) will follow rules. He may be completely high, and just want to cut someone, for no reason. If it is just an ego thing, that's something you should be able to walk away from. If you can't walk away, then, yes, don't react, but act first.

As for all the legal ramifications, everyone must decide for themselves beforehand.

Will I risk myself (or a loved one) maybe being seriously hurt or maimed for life, or even killed, by this nice stranger who is just offering to help me with my bags?

A good book is the Gift of Fear... not 'panic' but trusting your gut. In the previous example, if something tells you something's not right, then say no thanks to the 'help.' If he persists, then your red flag should be up. As a closing personal example, a friend of mine was in one of these third world countries and attacked by a guy with a knife. He took the knife away, and killed the guy. No cops came knocking on his door. If he had hesitated, 'maybe this guy wants a cigarette' he would not be here today.


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