“The time is right for fighting in the street, boys” — “Street Fighting Man,” The Rolling Stones
While it’s always best to walk away from trouble if you can, you should also be prepared to handle it if you can’t. This might involve dealing with hammerheads in the only language that they understand: a fist. If the street scuffles of the past few years have shown us anything, it’s that reasonable people can quickly become unreasonable. So we’re here to help you handle all that as sensibly as possible.
You can thank us later.
Eugene S. Robinson, Editor-at-Large
1. Other Than Your Fists? Why, Yes
If we’re talking about street-fighting tools, most of you would think we’re talking about weapons. Yes and no. A shirt that absorbs punches? Now we’re talking Batman. And if you’ve been unlucky enough to actually get hit in the midsection when you least expect it — it’s always when you least expect it — know that the Deflexion, a punch-absorbing shirt, is a killer addition to anyone’s street-fighting arsenal. Should you need such a thing, that is. That and the BodyGuard, an electrified sleeve for your forearm, will have you loaded for bear.
You know that scene in every revenge movie where the hero/heroine gathers the tools for their impending night of making things right? Well, here’s your holiday guide for getting the edge in a street fight, with 17 different tools, from brass knuckles to credit card knives.
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If Mike Tyson had to hire a bodyguard, what kind of guy do you think he would hire? Well, let’s ask a guy he hired: Crosson, who recently moved from his longtime stomping grounds in New York to semiretirement in Florida, is the last person you’d visualize as either Tyson’s bodyguard or a man in his 60s. He’s dangerous, fit and able to read you way better than you can read him.
She wasn’t much of a schoolyard scrapper as a kid. But Juárez, now 40, is the leading lady of Mexico’s boxing world — a hard-punching bantamweight with a modeling side hustle. And she knows how to fight with more than her fists. After she lost her WBC title this fall, she accused her opponent, Yulihan Luna, of illegally altering her boxing gloves. Now she’s dabbling in politics, a street fighter’s profession if ever there was one.
A prison-fighting stylist, this Native American ex-con’s self-defense techniques are deadly. But make no mistake: With years of catch wrestling (a rougher precursor to today’s freestyle wrestling), boxing, and weapons attacks and defenses, Painter is light on flash and heavy as heavy can get on substance. If you want to train with him, head out to the reservation where he runs his dojo in Washoe County, Nevada. Tell him we sent you.
4. John Hackleman
Hackleman, the coach of former UFC champion Chuck Liddell, has recently been drawing heat for supporting vigilante action against peaceful protesters. But while he lacks political acumen, he has a solid fight rep, and his fight series on YouTube is as good as it gets.
Don’t let the MMA/UFC pedigree fool you. Hill started out with kickboxing and self-defense. Years later, with a 16-0 kickboxing record and a 12-win UFC run, she’s not doing too badly for an art school grad. As small as she is, she’s liable to kick your ass.
A Dutch martial artist and actor, Rutten came of age when mixed martial arts competitions on Saturday night were preceded by barroom brawls on Friday night. His self-defense system? Legendary and funny as hell. Frankly, the fact that Rutten’s not a bigger star when Steven Seagal is still making movies is a mockery of a travesty of a sham.
7. Haim Gozali
Would you learn self-defense from someone known as the Israeli Batman? Gozali, who has retired from active fighting, not only spent his pre-fight life getting shot at in the Israeli army but also getting stabbed six times in a post-military career as a bouncer. You might think that getting stabbed would make Gozali unsuitable as a self-defense expert, to which we say: Do you know any other martial artists who’ve been stabbed as often and lived to talk about it?
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In the waning days of Trump’s resistance to the outcome of the 2020 election, his shock troop of irregulars, the comically named Proud Boys, showed up in Washington, D.C., for shoving matches, group engagements by way of street fights, and any number of other activities designed to make disaffected men feel more … effective. The results included four stabbings and several more spasms of violence. It made us wonder whatever happened to their leader, Gavin McInnes?
Maybe you have a lightsaber and you bump shoulders with someone who has one as well. Want to know how to fight them? Sure you do. It’s not total comedy: Kendo, Japanese sword fighting, or any stick fight art is easily transferable to umbrellas or walking sticks ... or Luke Skywalker’s weapon of choice.
3. Make Mine Systema
Dismissed by some as snake oil, the Russian system of Systema has seen a resurgence among people drawn to its quasi-mystical method of using flow and breathing to avoid both beat downs and knife attacks.
With the ubiquity of cellphones, street fights that would have been swallowed up as matters of lore are now documented for everyone to see. But they’re typically documents without context or just more internet noise. Right up until Alfred “AC” Charles and the folks at CrimeFaces settle in with their brand of running commentary courtesy of one of the funniest fight commentators this side of Snoop Dogg. CrimeFaces is comedian Bill Burr’s go-to for excoriating insight into the absurdity of amateurs trying to do something better left to professionals: fighting.
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Maybe you mouthed off. You made a Facebook comment that stung and the offended party is about to punch your lights out. Here’s what you need to do: de-escalate. Keep your palms up, allow your foe to vent, keep your distance and take deep breaths. And remember: Every fight avoided can technically be counted as a win.
2. Do As I Say. Not As I Do
My idea of de-escalation? To get the fight over with as quickly as possible. A reasonable person’s idea? Avoid if possible. But you need to assess whether your opponent actually wants a fight: The more visibly they have lost their temper, the less likely they are to strike. Keep an eye on the sneaky ones, and if necessary you could practice the martial art of sprinting, which there should be no shame in, unless you get caught. Then you get beaten up while out of breath.
3. The Wrong Side of De-Escalation
Sometimes your best efforts at cranking things down are not nearly enough. Then you’re in for an ass-kicking. Are there ways out? Yes, but they’re not always pretty. In this OZY True Story, a mugging victim in Brooklyn ponders what might have happened had he remembered his self-defense training.
Soccer hooligans, or “casuals,” are an international phenomenon only tangentially connected to their sport. Knowing what to watch out for is half the battle here — mostly because “casuals” are known for wearing everyday sportswear, not their club colors. Still, the “firm,” or team, to which you’re declaring an allegiance defines who you’re fighting.
2. Banging in Bangkok
In a country with a long and storied tradition of martial arts, it seems strange when you can join any number of fight teams that you’d prefer the unrestricted nature of street fighting, but Bangkok’s street-fighting scene is huge and getting even bigger. But it actually isn’t too hard to understand. I liked playing basketball in the schoolyards but hated the joylessness of playing competitively. Bangkok street fighting has all of the enthusiasm and none of the dreary daily martial arts classes.
3. Damn, That’s Dambe
Remember that old expression about beating someone with one hand tied behind your back? Dambe in Nigeria makes good on that promise, with street fights fought with just one hand and lasting until either someone gets knocked out or three minutes are up. Now, can you imagine some of the better fighters here using both hands?
MMA has made it possible for people who’d probably have been street fighting to learn how to fight with others in places other than the street. But professional MMA fighters have to go home sometime and they have to use the streets to get there. Who’s stupid enough to pick a fight with an MMA fighter? As it turns out, almost everybody. All over the world. Here are 16 of the best, and would it shock you to learn the MMA fighter typically wins the day?
5. A Third World War Started With Fisticuffs?
There hasn’t been a shot fired along the Himalayan border of the world’s two largest countries in decades, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to throw down. Chinese and Indian soldiers are street fighting to resolve their territorial differences amid heightened diplomatic tensions. It’s better than shooting. But still...
6. Myanmar Melees
Have you heard of kahprek? It’s more than just another way to kick ass in Myanmar. This martial art is on the verge of extinction, given how it was banned by the central government for its associations with the separatist Kachin Independence Army. Now a small group of practitioners is trying to keep the discipline alive.
Speaking of once-banned fighting arts: Gatka, a form of warfare combining acrobatics with swords that was created by the Sikhs in the late 17th century, was banned by British colonists who saw it as a threat. It’s reemerging as a marker of Sikh identity and is practiced in some 30 countries. Its boosters hope the next leap will be into the Olympics.