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living in the hood

How to avoid a street fight, and what to do if you can’t

The following article may one day save your life. Learn how to avoid a street fight and how to win one if you can’t get away.

Ed Latimore
Ed Latimore
Writer, retired boxer, self-improvement enthusiast

I’ve got experience fighting in both the ring and on the streets. While the two might seem similar, the difference between boxing and street fighting is that boxing is a sport with rules.

In boxing, there’s respect between opponents. Generally speaking, the two guys fighting don’t actually want to hurt one another. It just so happens that the conditions of victory are to do just that.

In street fighting, there is no respect. There is no thinking. Streets fights are no joke. Because there are no rules, it’s easy to lose your life or be permanently incapacitated. On the flip side, if you’re the “winner” of a street fight, then it’s easy to find yourself facing serious jail time or retaliation.

That’s enough reason to never street fight, but sometimes you’ve got no choice. In those instances, the following items on this list will give you a much better chance of winning the fight and living on to see another day.

Self-defense is pointless

So you want to learn self-defense? Are you worried that you can’t fight and that someone will embarrass you?

Let me tell you the truth of the matter: if you live in the United States, there’s a good chance that someone has a gun. If it’s anywhere else where guns aren’t so easy to acquire, then they might have a knife. No amount of training makes you bullet or knife-proof.

  • Take boxing classes for fun.
  • Take Brazilian jiujitsu (BJJ).
  • Learn kickboxing for fun.
  • Learn Krav Maga for fun.

Don’t bring that shit to the street though. The days of “having hands” are over. When I was younger, people took pride in settling differences over a “fair one”, but those days are long gone.

The rest of this article will show you how to use common sense and an even temper. If those things fail, then we’ll get to how to escape a street fight with your life. Live to fight another day, one way or the other.

With all the shit that can go wrong in a street fight—like you accidentally killing him and catching a manslaughter, or worse, you losing your own life—here’s a WAY better plan.

Check out the rest of my articles on living in the hood

Avoid places where assholes hang out

You know where the problem spots are. Even if you aren’t actively looking for trouble, you know that there are certain environments where violence is much more likely to occur. Unless you earn a living by being in these environments—and if you do, I strongly suggest you find another way—then avoid them.

The usual places come to mind. Clubs, bars, the hood, the block—pretty much any place with lots of alcohol & even more ego. Generally speaking, if it’s most active at night or it’s a place where criminals hang out (or criminal activity goes down), avoid it.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

[Developing your street smarts will you how to avoid a bad environment filled with worse people. Read my quick guide on developing your street smarts here.]

Don’t be an asshole

You can stop a lot of bad situations before they start with good manners and a sincere apology. It doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong. As long as the person wasn’t blatantly disrespecting you or attempting to harm you. Let it go and keep it moving.

Not only let it go, respond with a simple “my bad.” It takes responsibility and sends a clear signal that you’re not looking for trouble. This isn’t a guarantee that the person won’t pursue it, but it does give you an out to avoid a conflict.

[In my article about growing up in the hood, I write about the power of good manners and how it’s probably saved my life a few times. You can read it here.]

It’s important to not come off as weak and overly avoidant of a potential conflict.

Depending on the person you’re dealing with, this type of behavior invites more problems than it solves. You have to be firm but forgiving, even if you’re the one who should be on the receiving end of an apology.

Keep your ego in check and be practical

If you are met with a situation, walk away or talk it down. But if you follow step one, you should realistically never have this issue. However, shit happens. When it does, it’s not the time to prove who’s bigger and badder.

Deal with enough bullies and trouble makers, and you’ll eventually realize that most times they either want a soft target (muggers and jackers) or they wanna prop their ego up (drunk guys with their girl or young guys with friends).

If you cross paths with one of these dudes, do not escalate. They aren’t being rationale. Follow the previous step even harder.

I’m not telling you to be a bitch.

I’m just telling you to do a simple cost-value analysis of your safety. Either you win and you’re facing time (if you can’t prove justifiable force) or you lose and you’re potentially 6 feet under.

Consider wisely.

Be and look strong

This isn’t about your ability to move weight or your actual ability to defend yourself. This is about not looking like you’re not a soft target. This deters *a lot* of bullshit. So lift, walk with your head up, have strong body language, and never ever look lost or distracted.

If you are confronted, speak strongly as well. Notice I said strongly, not condescendingly. Please learn the difference in tone. It’s the difference between dudes thinking twice and them escalating because you pissed them off

The goal is to clear up a genuine misunderstanding, leave guys an out (that hopefully, your stature compels them to take), and let predators know that you aren’t a soft target.

Run if you can

Running is the only footwork you should be worked about in a street altercation.

I don’t care how much self-defense training you’ve had or how easily you think you’d take this guy. If you aren’t with people you need to defend, run. You might *literally* be living to fight another day. No one cares if you looked like a coward and if they do, fuck ‘em.

The best fight is one that you avoid entirely, by any means necessary. In real-life, people have concealed weapons and hidden friends and there are consequences.

You don’t want to worry about the cost of legal defense that you might lose if you can’t prove it was self-defense with justifiable force. With that said…

If you have to street fight, swing first and neutralize

Assess the situation and figure out if fighting is your only option. If it is, do what you gotta do. And no more than that.

I know more than a few people who got 2-4 years inside on aggravated assault charges over fights they didn’t start, all because they let it go on longer than it needed to after they got the best of them.

Neutralize the risk to you and your loved ones in the most dispassionate way possible. You want it to look like you were protecting yourself; not being a vigilante or getting revenge. Unfortunately, street fights often turn into legal issues, either because of the fight or because someone died.

You do your best to prevent the latter, but you have to do what you have to do. Ultimately, it’s better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6–but avoid both by being smart and cautious.

A summary of what you need to avoid street fights

With today’s firepower, wanton regard for life, and litigious culture, negotiation and track lessons are a better investment than self-defense.

But don’t be a bitch.

Don’t start no shit won’t be no shit.

Stay away from places shit tends to get started.

The rest is up to you.

Check out the rest of my articles on living in the hood

Ed Latimore
About the author

Ed Latimore

I’m a writer, competitive chess player, Army veteran, physicist, and former professional heavyweight boxer. My work focuses on self-development, realizing your potential, and sobriety—speaking from personal experience, having overcome both poverty and addiction.

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