I was out last night with a friend at about midnight, and we stopped to ask for directions. I saw a pair of women on a patio as they were leaving a bar, and asked them if they knew where the place we were trying to find was. In the midst of them telling me as I stood there a bit beneath them on the street -- "Go to the cinema, then..." a large, obviously drunken man strode up to the edge of the patio they were standing on, towering over me.
"Oy," he said, and raised his fist in what sort of looked like a greeting.
"Hi," I said, and flashed him a smile. He dropped his fist smack into my forehead, and it connected with a dull thud and a mild sting.
Now, I come from a background of formerly having been a bit of an angry guy, and a bit of a fighter. I used to get in a fair amount of fights, about all kinds of pointless things. Anything that might just be considered disrespect, I used to be ready to go to war over.
These days, I don't make physical confrontation that much a priority for me. I'll use it when absolutely necessary -- I manhandled a guy a few days back who tried pickpocketing me late at night in the rain -- but the risk is often far greater than the reward.
And that's what I want to discuss today -- assessing combat situations well and accurately gauging the risk-reward ratio -- not just for yourself, but for your opponent. Because it's necessary that, as you make your way through the world, you learn when it's worth fighting -- and when it isn't.
I wish I could say that the world was a peaceful place, or that guys only fought each other over valiant things. It isn't though, and they don't.
Fights almost universally start over stupid stuff.
The fights and skirmishes I've been in my life have been over the following things:
- A guy stole $1 out of my hand as another guy who owed both of us paid me back instead of him
- I locked eyes with a guy walking in a shopping mall who was strung out on drugs
- I was mildly teasing a guy, and he snatched my sunglasses and threw them
- A guy threw a snowball through my window that landed on my bed
- Some ice landed on top of my head at the bar in a nightclub, and I thought a guy threw his drink at me (actually, the bartender'd just been a little sloppy as he made a drink and ice got kicked up)
- A guy saw me talking to his female friend and "danced" into me, pushing me aside
- A guy decided he wanted to get a drink at the bar, and wanted my spot
- Another guy "danced" into me when he thought my girlfriend and I were getting too close to his crew's VIP table on New Year's Eve (our VIP table was right next to his)
Is there one "smart" fight there in the bunch? No. Fights are almost always stupid, dumb, useless posturing.
And it gets worse than this. At my university, a couple of guys got into a fight because one guy'd thought another guy'd said something to his girlfriend. A third guy got in between the two of them, trying to break it up, and ended up getting himself stabbed in the heart by the boyfriend, and died in the hospital four days later. Near where I lived in San Diego, a couple of guys had tussled in a nightclub, and one of them went to get his strap. He did a drive by shooting on the club as it was letting out, and hit the wrong people, killing a girl there to celebrate her 21st birthday, her first ever visit to a nightclub.
Fighting is bad news. It's potentially very risky, especially when weapons get involved. The last full-on brawl I was in -- the nightclub fight over the ice spilled onto my head, where I fought a crew of six guys (I didn't win, needless to say) -- I got told by a counselor at the university about a fight the year earlier, where one guy had punched another guy, the punched guy's head hit a table as he went down, he died, and the first guy went to prison for third degree homicide for a long time.
I cut my fighting back after that -- after a good long think about whether fighting some meatheads was worth potentially spending the best years of my life playing "don't end up some musclebound guy's girlfriend" in the slammer -- and haven't been a knock-down, drag-out brawl since then. I decided it wasn't worth. Just a few shoves or pushes exchanged here and there, mostly, and I've taken a few punches without trying to fight back much.
What's the difference? It's what a guy has to lose. That's the big difference between the belligerent guys -- the guys who really want to fight -- guys like I used to be -- and the guys who prefer to defuse or avoid combat.
Some guys don't have anything to lose.
You've got to be really mindful of that any time you start weighing whether to fight a guy. It might end up being a life or death difference.
What've You Got to Lose?
When I was young and angry, I really didn't feel like I had much to lose. The slightest disrespect (like a snowball cast through my window) would set me off... nobody messed with me. People even would tell me how the girls in school would tell them, "That red-headed kid is scary."
I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I once went looking for a guy, drunk and armed, because I thought he'd cheated me out of $15 earlier in the night. All I remember from that episode was stumbling past dilapidated buildings, past gangs of guys hanging out on the corners, fuming with anger, ready to put an end to him for that disrespect. I'm not completely certain I would've done it had I found him... but I'd give it maybe a 75% chance at that point.
Over $15. I might be dead or in prison today if I'd found that guy. But I didn't, so my life took a different path.
I'm not like that anymore. In fact, I'm so far in the other direction nowadays that if a guy just hits me, and then it gets broken up, the emotion doesn't even register. I just keep doing whatever I was doing before it happened.
But there are a LOT of men out there right now who are like I was. Men who've got nothing to lose, and who'll scrap with you or take your life over pocket change.
You've got to be aware of that in fighting situations.
I'm in Mongolia right now. I can't say I'd recommend it terribly... the women are the least attractive women I've seen anywhere else on Earth, the men are poor and belligerent, pickpockets are everywhere, and fistfights, even during the day, are common.
In some ways, it's worse than the 'hood. At least in the ghettos of America, people won't mess with you too much, because they don't know if you've got a weapon or if you're crazy, and the police are never too far away. They'll size you up, and if they think you'll be a handful, they won't get into it with you most of the time.
Here, the men just drink and brawl. And sometimes people just get beat up, and sometimes people die. The fights happen during the daytime, in broad daylight, and at night it's worse. I've had more people tell me not to go out here alone at night than I've had tell me that probably throughout the entire rest of my life, and I've been in some dangerous places (Manila in the Philippines; Camden, Baltimore, DC, the Tenderloin District in San Francisco...).
And if you're an outsider, you're more of a mark in Mongolia than you are in the 'hood back in the States. It's a dangerous place, with really nothing going on for it.
They're fighting over table scraps.
The funny thing is, you'll typically find that the most resource-poor places and people have the highest levels of violence. Dirt-poor men fight other dirt-poor men over nothing. Over disrespect and undesirable women.
And the more you have, the more of a target you become. You become both a threat, and an opportunity.
That guy who dropped his fist on my forehead saw me talking to that woman on the patio (who turned out to be his wife), and probably perceived me as a threat. Here I am, an attractive foreign guy, dressed well and talking to his wife, and he's a big, sloppy, drunk guy who probably has a crappy job and zero prospects for his future.
Of course I'm a threat. A threat to the one thing he has in the world -- his wife. It doesn't matter that I'd never go for a girl like she was (nice person, but really not attractive at all); all he sees is "DANGER."
So, he attacks. He goes to show this foreigner who's the boss. He has everything to lose if he doesn't, he thinks -- his woman, his self-respect, how others think of him -- he has to fight.
I think it's incredibly important to be mindful of this in all combat situations.
When It's Worth Fighting
In my humble opinion, there are a few times in life it's worth fighting:
- To defend your friends, family, or lovers from harm or great insult
- To defend your country after it's been attacked (related to #1)
- To defend yourself from theft or a legitimate threat
- To get experience fighting to learn how to defend better
And I think that's it. The problem, I think, is with #3 and defining "legitimate threat." There are many things guys consider "legitimate threats" that aren't.
For instance, half of the scuffles I've had or come close to having in my whole life were over some guy getting pissed off that I was talking to his girlfriend. And that's something I understand... I'm a pretty charming guy, and women tend to respond to me pretty well. I have slept with my fair share of other men's girlfriends and wives... so it isn't like I'm harmless. I try not to, but if a woman clearly wants me, well, her relationship is her business, not mine.
And most men will never be able to compete with me on the level of attractiveness to women I've cultivated. It isn't that they couldn't, per se; it's just that they don't put the time into it.
So, the only recourse they end up feeling like they have in the face of watching a man like me charming and seducing their woman is to try and fight back violently.
While I understand this, I tend to think of it as the foolish man's strategy. Is his girlfriend really going to walk off with me right in front of him? Of course not! But I know the feeling... I had it a long time ago, when I first started dating.
What if my girl ditches me and leaves with this guy? I'd think to myself.
Getting upset and fighting over your woman talking to another guy very clearly communicates to her that you feel threatened by another man and doubt your own ability to retain a woman... it can almost become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's a huge turn off to women when they think that you think you can't keep them without physically enforcing that they're "yours."
I've certainly had girlfriends of mine talking excitedly with other men it was clear they had a spark of attraction for. It happens; we're human. Fighting is not how you react to this; it does a ton of destructive things to your relationship.
And on top of that... what's he going to do when he isn't there to police her actions? I mean, he's with her at the bar, sure, but what happens when she meets a charming guy at work?
But most guys don't realize this, and they fight anyway.
Because fighting comes from fear.
Fear of losing his girl.
Fear of losing face and status.
Fear of being hurt or taken from.
I used to fight so much because I was constantly afraid. I had nothing in my life -- no future that I could see, no real friends, no women -- and the only thing I had was my reputation and my self-respect. Any man threatening that became a GIANT threat in my mind.
Men who fight are usually in this boat. They've only a tenuous hold on the things they value as most important in their lives, and they'll use combat to try and maintain that hold.
There's also the "dumb-as-rocks" guys who fight because they don't know how to solve problems any other way, and they know you can run circles around them verbally / socially. These guys are best avoided; they usually have tons of fighting experience, because they fight so much, and their women are usually unattractive and un-engaging anyway. They're almost like a separate class of men whom you have absolutely nothing to gain by fighting (they're totally outside your circles, usually; they don't have anything you want -- women, resources, etc. -- there's no benefit to fighting them at all) but potentially a lot of risk in doing so.
I generally view people who fight these days as being people who feel as though they aren't in control of their lives... they're people who view everyone else as a threat against whom they must struggle violently.
As you move up in the world, the ability of others to threaten you goes down. But, others want to fight you more, because they perceive having more to lose from you, and more to gain by defeating you.
The more attractive to women you become, the greater a threat to other men you become. But if you fight every damn guy who wants to fight you, you'll be fighting forever, getting beat up, and you'll get absolutely zilch for it.
Sometimes you'll have the good fortune of meeting a guy who falls into the "big, dumb fighter" category, but he's also pretty good looking and does well with women, and he's typically in a good mood and is even cool if you meet him via talking to his gal, because he's secure enough in his ability to retain women and get new ones if he can't that he doesn't worry about a guy talking to his woman, even if the guy is an attractive, charming guy.
These guys tend to be really cool guys, usually pretty worldly and experienced, and you'll find they're worth getting to know. And they'll fight guys that piss them off, because they're big beefy guys and they've fought so much that they always win, and it's easy for them, so there's not much disinentive for them not to. These are good guys to have on your side if you meet them; they can be a blast to hang out with and talk to and learn from, they're usually pretty ambitious and upwardly mobile, and you wouldn't mind having them in a fight, either.
Otherwise, though, steer clear of the big guys who like to start things. Aside from those few cool guys, the rest of them typically don't have anything else going on for them, and fighting (and winning) is the only way they can feel good about themselves.
Taking all of this into consideration, at the outset of a combat situation or potential combat situation, you'll want to take a few moments and try and figure out when it's worth fighting and when it isn't.
That guy last night, after he dropped his fist on my forehead, he then just stood there, looking at me with a facial expression with all the emotional depth of a cow. His wife and her girlfriend then pulled him away, apologized to me profusely, the woman I'd been talking to telling me he was her husband, and then continued pushing him back so he wouldn't get into anything.
I raised my arms up briefly, inviting him to fight, then realized it wasn't worth it. I wasn't really injured, and I stood to gain absolutely nothing by fighting this cow of a man.
Because, honestly... if a cow butts you with its head, are you really going to stand there and fight it? What do you gain by fighting with a cow?
This is why successful people characteristically cordon themselves off from the destitute. It isn't because they think people living in poverty are undesirable people or lesser, per se... it's because members of the underclass are far more likely to be violent, dangerous, and prone to destruction -- because they have nothing to lose.
Whereas, successful, established people have worked very, very hard to build success into their lives and have a great deal to lose -- it's not worth risking losing everything in a meaningless fight over them, say, asking directions from the wrong guy's girl, or accidentally stepping on someone's feet (which is something people actually fight over here in Mongolia; it's considered incredibly insulting to step on someone's feet, obviously something that becomes kind of unavoidable in a crowded city).
Anyway, my friend stood there, asking me if we should take this guy. "He's a little big, but he's drunk as hell and hardly standing," I said, thinking aloud. "He'd be an easy roll."
"Let's get him. Do you want to get him?" my pal said.
"Ummm.....," I said, considering. I turned it over in my mind for a moment. I wasn't hurt; the guy was just a drunk with nothing going on in his life -- I didn't feel any more disrespected by him than a lion feels disrespected by a house cat, really; I really felt nothing at all about this. I leave Mongolia and go back to my awesome life; this guy stays here, with his unattractive wife, his slovenly body, his crap job, and his futureless prospects. He can hit me in the head, but I beat him at life a million times over. "Nah. What's the point?" I said. I turned back to the women. "You said we head down to the cinema and then- what? We go right? Or it's behind it? Or where, exactly?"
She gave me direction, I thanked her, flashed some eye-daggers at the cow-man, then turned and went on my way.
Because... what would you rather do, go fight some guy?
Or go meet some beautiful girl?
Once you have the ability to choose between the two, I think it's pretty easy to do so. I used to fight men because I didn't have that choice. These days though, I'd much rather live for building businesses and making art and getting girls and having children than I would fighting men. That last one isn't even worth the trouble, unless there's a genuinely good reason to do it -- and most of the time -- 99% of the time -- there isn't.
A little live and let live is in order.
And if some random guy shoves you or clocks you one, unless he's actively trying to fight you, I'd say shrug it off. Think of the coolest guy you can -- Harrison Ford, George Clooney, etc. -- and what he does if some guy decks him, then gets pulled away. He doesn't chase him down for a fight. He just gazes at him with daggers in his eyes... then walks away. He's the bigger man, and he recognizes that men with lesser lives and means will always strike out with physical force trying to injure bigger men.
Just goes with the territory. Heck -- it's kind of a compliment when guys consider you such a threat to their relationship that they feel like they have to fight you off! Once it starts happening to you, you know you're moving up in the world.
Well... either that, or you're in Mongolia.