Robber follows his victim at daylight on the street

We all loved Mr. Miyagi, but John Kreese (played by Martin Kove) in Karate Kid actually had it right. Want to win a fight, “strike first, strike hard, no mercy sir!”

I remember my parents telling me never to start a fight, but to always finish a fight. Unfortunately, most teachers I had were not interested in my definition of who started a fight.

In most physical encounters, the person walking away from the fight IS the one who started it (Larkin 57). They are more prepared to engage in combat than the other person, they frequently are the instigators, and they have one huge advantage – they get the first punch.

When I was in grade school and high school, and I’d be involved with a fight, the teacher would always ask, “who started it?”  I sometimes confessed that it was me but before I could explain the situation I was being whisked off to detention  (which I didn’t mind anyway, it was in the library and I loved to read), the principal’s office or wherever. The teacher wasn’t interested in what actually happened – they wanted quick justice and someone had just confessed. Case closed.

But, now I have a blog so I can tell you what I wanted to tell them.

When someone would confront me and start the verbal F-U game, at some point they would say “let’s go,” or, “take a swing,” or “I choose you,” (which I always thought was funny wording – are you asking me to prom or something. . . uh, which, when I would say, would piss them off even more – but I digress – life’s more fun if you’re a smart ass BTW). Where was I? Oh yeah, when they would give me  notification that they wanted to fight, I’d punch them. That tended to surprise them and often they stood there stunned, or crying, or looking for their wind. And in a few instances, punched back – ouch!

(Note: I wasn’t a bully, and in fact I was often “the bullied” and rarely started the F-U game; I had my share of backing down, running away and outright getting my ass kicked on various occasions, but I’m using these few occasions where I chose to fight to make my point).

Within moments the teacher was on site to ask the question of “who started it.” Well, I did throw the first punch but the other guy verbally told me the fight was on so why stand there and wait for him to hit me first? That didn’t seem smart. We’ve agreed to fight and the fact that I hit you first should be incidental. Not problem you have slow fists, right? Well, school teachers and society unfotunately don’t see it that way, and that’s a challenge in self-defense.


The bad guys have an edge on us already. They are willing to do violence and ready to do violence. Meanwhile, the rest of us are following the rules of polite society and the laws of the United States and our State in particular. Somewhere along the way, civilized society decided that we are supposed to meet force with equal force (Larkin 54). If you’re punched you get to punch back but knifing the guy in the throat or pulling out your 9mm and putting two to the chest and one to the head is generally considered excessive force. That’s usually against the law and in this way, the law works in favor of the bad guy.

Women however do have an advantage, besides their natural intuition.  Let’s say its two guys  confronting each other. One says, “give me your money,” grabs the other by the shirt and cocks his fist. The other draws a concealed weapon and shoots the guy. If two guys are about equal size, most juries will wonder why the victim had to shoot the crook. “Couldn’t you have just shot him in the knee or something, or couldn’t you have just fought him?” is the question the jury members will ask themselves. So will the district attorney.

Same situation though except its a woman who is being held up. Our society still treats most women as the inferior sex when it comes to physical confrontation. Sexist perspective or not, take advantage girls! A jury is more likely to side with you (all things being equal) than to have the thought that you should have just went fisticuffs with the guy.

The biggest challenge in physical confrontation is not the tactics or the strength or your skills – it’s your willingness to do violence and injure the other person – and keep injuring him until he is no longer a threat to you.

Most women are reluctant to harm another person (Larkin 50), even to defend themselves, and that’s when the fight is over – you lost and he enjoys the spoils (which is you, your kids, your home, whatever – dealers-choice you already gave up).

Understand this about that moment in time, when you are confronted with violence and violence is your only option OUT of danger – consider you’re likely at the end of your life too and the next decision you make determines whether anyone ever sees you alive again:

  • You’re probably going to be afraid (Larkin 51). That’s perfectly normal but don’t let it stop you. “You can take decisive action in the face of fear,” says Larkin (56). Fear can be tempered with preparation – the faster you can mentally get to that point of injuring another person to defend yourself, the quicker you move through the fear and into action (Larkin 56).
  • You may feel that violence lessens your humanity (Larkin 51). Frankly, this one surprised me but I think its a dynamic that should be addressed and I’m glad Larkin did. Keep in mind that most people who have been trained to kill or injure, like military special operations types, you know, the ones who know 50 ways to kill you in 6 seconds, that their overall aggression decreases (Larkin 46) once they have the skill set of how to mete out violence. They are confident of their abilities and don’t want to get pulled into a conflict (Larkin 47). They know how to kill and they know others know those methods too – they know that the best way to win a fight is not to fight if you don’t have to. They know that you fight only when its unavoidable (Larkin 47).
  • To take violent action to defend yourself, you need the intent to injure the person, and a mindset that says I’m not ready to die. Don’t rely on the felons’ love of humanity to keep him from raping you and then killing you, and then going after your kids. Don’t kick or hit him with the intent of causing a boo-boo, you want hit or kick with a driving force through him! You need to injure him to save yourself and live to see your family another day.

Let’s talk about the concept of ‘injury,’ for a moment. There’s a great 80s classic movie – Valley Girl, starring a then unknown Nicholas Cage. Cage plays the Hollywood “dude,” trying to woo Valley Girl hottie Julie Richman, played by Deborah Foreman. In the climatic scene, Julie’s prom date Tommy (played by Michael Bowen) is getting ready to fight Cage’s character. At one point mid-fight, while Cage picks himself up from his last blow to the face, Tommy proceeds to go through a “kata” of sorts, showing off his karate moves; that’s when Cage’s character kicks him in the nuts, then proceeds to tee off on his head with a series of punches. 

That’s injury.

Injury impairs normal bodily function (Larkin 69). It’s permanent in that it impairs the attacker throughout the fight (Larkin 70). Injured people are helpless and therefore can be more easily re-injured. Injury also doesn’t care how big you are, how fast you are or how bad you want to retaliate – you can’t. Injuries cause a spinal reflex (Larkin 73) and for a period of time, you have the upper hand over the injured person.

They may have started the fight but injury will finish it. The only question is – who will receive the injury, you or him? The choice is yours. No mercy – they won’t show you any.

Larkin, Tim. Survive the Unthinkable: A Total Guide to Women’s Self-protection. New York: Rodale, 2013. Print.

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