Almost fight - me vs. homeless man

I want to share a story with you. I almost got into a scuffle two days ago with a homeless man on the subway in NYC. I was going to work, the car I was in was about a quarter full at 7:30 in the morning. I was sitting and my backpack was on my lap.

Funny thing I preach on the forums about awareness, avoidance, verbal de-escalation, non-violent body postures, etc being influenced from Coach Blauer's PDR manual and reading some of the threads from the Mental Edge forum. When it came right down to it, I didn't do any of it. I know that in big part it's because I don't train it enough. Heck, I don't have much time training due to family and work. When I do have time to train, it's informal in a park. My training partners and I work on "self-perfection", i.e., technique and some conditioning. Through past email discussions with an experienced friend who is big on Coach Blauer's material, he has convinced me that for my goals of self-defense, I should really work on "self-preservation" (awareness, verbal skills, scenario based training, etc). In a streetfight, technique is not that important. He goes on to quote loosely Erik Paulson from a recent MA mag as saying that one streetfight is equal to one year's worth of training.

Back to the "encounter". It's nothing spectacular. A homeless man boards the train with a knapsack and not the usual assortment of "bags". I'm playing chess on my Palm Pilot with my stylus (good impromptu weapon and no worries about deployment, it's already out!). The homeless man gets up and walks over in my general direction. In my peripheral vision I noticed him walking over. I go to code orange. I have already Detected him. He just stands near me and yelling nonsense. His speech was slightly slurred. He did not reek like most homeless people. He did not smell like he was drunk. I put away my Palm in the inside pocket of my jacket (a tactical mistake IMO as I just put away a weapon, the stylus – I attached a monetary value to the Palm Pilot and chose to keep it safe). He sees this and starts mouthing off about something and making hand motions mimicking me like he's reaching for a gun. I look at him and just give him a nod and a smile. I remain calm. My knapsack is in front of me in case he happened to come up with a weapon as this would serve as armor of sorts. His hands were in plain sight. He is pretty much challenging me despite me not understanding what he is saying. I still smile. All throughout I did not experience an adrenal dump. I was ready for a preemptive strike with Closest Weapon/Closest Target – I had a shin kick and a punch/grab to his groin. He had a footstomp and a swing to my head/face.

I chose not to speak to him and tried to ignore him by breaking eye contact. That made it worse. I should've tried to Defuse the situation with choice speech, but I had nothing for this situation. I visualize and sometimes train vs a belligerent mugger type as opposed to a homeless person. He punched the subway car wall behind me about a foot and a half away from me. At this I think my ego kicked in and I would not back down. Stupid me! In hindsight and we know hindsight is 20/20. I punched the wall also to show him I was not intimidated. He continues to mouth off and I did not understand him. I give him a way out to save face, I walk away to a nearby seat. At that moment, the train was at a stop and people walk in. Someone was near his seat and bag and he looked back as if someone was going to take his bag. I saw this and suppressed a chuckle as I could've popped him one but I decided to walk away. He turned back to me and this time I think he said words to the effect, "Yeah, that's right. Run away. You're scared of me." When I heard that, I knew there should be no more problems with him. I gave him a way to save face, despite the people on the train being regular people going to work and they not being his "crew/posse", so in reality, he did not really need to save face.

Throughout this whole "encounter", all eyes on the train were on us, but I'm sure if the crap hit the fan, no one would help me. This is NYC after all. If they are not known to you, they would not risk their lives helping you, and I knew no one on the train. He goes back to sit down protecting his bag. He is still talking loudly, but is a little subdued as there are more people on the train which is about half full. I am still in code orange and I look at the ads that are above. This allowed my peripheral vision to monitor him. About 2 stops later, he leaves the train. I stayed in my seat and craned my neck to check him out. I lost sight of him. I wasn't sure if he got into the next car or made the connection to the express train. I remained alert. I should've sat in the seat opposite of me so I can monitor him and tactically, I should've but I didn't. I do not carry weapons of the traditional kind. I have a few pens and a mini-maglite which I immediately made available by sticking 2 pens in my shirt pocket and sliding the mini-maglite into my sleeve so that I can have it drop into my hand if need be.

For the next few stops, I remained vigilant to see if he got back into my car or not. When it was my stop in midtown to leave to go to work, as I departed, I scanned both directions to be sure he was not around. As I left the station and got into the street, I was pretty sure he was not around and dropped back down into code yellow.

After this personal debriefing and I reflect upon the whole event, I see I need to really train against all types and not fixate on just the mugger. I made some tactical mistakes in my opinion and well, like G.I. Joe used to say, "Knowing is half the battle." so I've learned from this experience. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm easy-going and most of the time, I'm "ego-less". Well, until it's the heat of the battle, I really did not know myself. Sun Tzu in the Art of War said something like, "Know yourself, and one hundred battles you will win." I am learning about myself.

Well done that man, you remained calm and waited for him to act first. Must say though, if it were me, when he punched the wall I would have smashed him in the balls and then got up and kicked him in the face.

As Sun Tzu would say:




Stick - Good job. I made a slightly more detailed post on the threat that resides on the JKD forum.


upon reflection, i really cannot explain why i thought i would be ok when he did that. i was deciding should i or shouldn't i and this was in the space of about 2 seconds.


going over there now. thanks.

Upon reflction, you did the right thing.

Good job bro. I wish I had as much self control. after his hitting the wall, it would have been on for me. i too live in NY. these homeless people are not to be underestimated. they too carry weapons. homeless shelters are even more dangerous than the streets i understand, so this leaves them no option but to have something to protect themselves.

again i applaud your actions.



i think i got lucky THIS time. i should've not done what i did.


thanks. re: weapons - one of my nightmares is facing a guy with a those wool knit hats that you can roll up or roll down to cover your ears. i saw kids a few years ago hide a razor blade in the rolled up portion of the hat and use it to scratch the glass on the subway doors their "tag". also, saw one have a razor inside their mouth. not sure how they don't cut themselves, but that's scary considering they travel in packs and i have no real weapon other than the pens and mini-maglite i carry.

Stickgrappler, after all is said and done, what do you think you could/should have done differently? What good things to you feel you did and what mistakes do you feel you made?

I'm REALLY thinking of collecting a bunch of stories and breaking em' down Ayoob style and putting them in a book on "street situations".

You have very impressive self control. After the punch nearly hit me, I would have beaten him within an inch of his life. Good job.


very easy on what should've been done:

1) suppress ego - walk away, but walk away where you keep your eyes on the guy so he doesn't jump you, just in case. normally i'm not confrontational and avoid potential trouble, but due to my lack of training (and consistent training), when the incident happened real-time, i let my ego dictate my actions. which leads to #2 below. however, i felt that he would've continued to harrass me if i did not do something physical, hence, me acting like a caveman and punching the wall also.

2) more scenario-based training with my training partners and/or visualize encounters with not just muggers but to include homeless, drug addicts, etc.

3) i should've started with some kind of "submissive stance" (tony blauer's term)/"fence" (geoff thompson's term) to maintain distance and started my "verbal de-escalation" with "choice speech" (both tony blauer'sterms). instead, i just smiled and nodded which i think he interpreted as me being condescending or something like that.

4) i should've went to the opposite side of the train as he departed on my side of the train so that i can maintain visual contact of him.

but bottom line, in one sentence: avoid by walking away.

good things i felt i did:

1) alert to targets i had and that he had should we have to engage in a fight

2) realizing i had a weapon deployed (only later to put it away) and "armor" in my backpack should he come out with a shank.

3) glad i know a little of tony blauer's material to help me e.g. 3 D's = detect, defuse, defend.

there are probably a few more good and bad things i did. gotta get back to work.

p.s. congrats on the redname here on the weapons forum!

El Maquina,

thank you, i really did not think his punch was close enough to warrant me going medieval on his a$$, but most people who read my story had replied saying the same you did, they would've responed with physical action. not sure why i did not experience an adrenal dump after his punch.

Thanks Stick. In my only confrontations, ego was also the lowest common denominator. I wonder what percentage or bad reacton/defense tactics would be caused/sparked by ego?

Man, if I could do away with my ego, I'd be the most righteous person out there. I remind myself that by maintaining my composure, I'm winning regardless of what it seems. I had to learn that after that dude got out his car on me....

Great post, man.


i believe most, if not all, people with no real MA training in these types of encounters (road rage, people who bump into you, etc) let their ego rule them. with that said, there is probably another reason which may or may not be the real reason.

they could be displacing their stress/anger that is built up that otherwise could not be relieved/let out in traditional ways (wife, kids, boss, coworkers, etc) and when the incident occurs such as road rage, etc. they displace their pent up stress/anger at whoever just cut them off or bumped into them, etc. the people who do take it out on their wives or kids, well, those are the wife/child abusers. those who know not to take it out on their wives/children/boss/coworkers, because of this, with no philosophical/mental/MA training, the anger builds up and is pent-up looking for release. incident happens and *POW* escalation of incident to potentially dangerous ramifications.

let me know what you think about this. am i off-base? thank you for the feedback. i'm slowly but surely learning.

p.s. i recall your road rage incident which you posted sometime ago just not the specifics. from what i remember, if you go over yours, it mirrors my incident. most incidents will have this similar pattern. we both could have "walked away" but somehow chose to escalate it, albeit unconciously, but it got escalated. luckily, we both made it out of it with no one hurt.

Good posts guys. Just goes to show how much more I have to learn.


thanks krept. you can never really stop learning. you should maintain the "beginner's mind" (aka "white belt mentality") - i'm a sponge and will soak it all up.

Stickgrappler and others:

More posts like's amazing what you figure out after analyzing incidents like this.

T0ki is correct. anyone have "war stories" to share?

some members may wonder what these stories have to do with weapons? well, you may be armed or may have opportunities to use impromptu everyday items as weapons. to analyze these stories will give one an understanding of the point of no return (i.e. the point where you tactically choose to deploy and use a weapon). once that point is passed, the repercussions may be very serious. hopefully by us sharing war stories, we can learn from our collective experiences and possibly learn when to deploy/employ weapons be it handguns, knives, sticks, ASP batons, pepper spray, empty hands etc.


not sure if you surf on by/lurk on the former Mental Edge forum now named Tony Blauer Expert Q&A forum here at, but periodically there are war stories posted and Coach Blauer and the rest of his PDR (personal defense readiness) team of coaches usually provide insightful replies which helps in analyzing the incident posted.

you guys will get a kick out of this...

my fiancee's little bro (6'3, @ 200) was at the bus stop yesterday morning. Big indian guy there. He said he was really big, so I guess he means bigger than both of us (I'm no shrimp at 6/285)... this guy sees my bro and stands up and says "what the fk are you looking at mofo?" and gets within a foot of him and asks him for money. Guess he smelled alcohol on his breath too at that point.

Anyhow, long story short my bro backed down and was debriefing my lady on how everything went down and what he would have done... "If I would have had the karambit(Worden's Impact karambit), I would have..." "If I would have had my blade, I would have..."

Shoulda woulda coulda. He said to me that if I was there I would have loved it because I would "have been able to see what weapon technique works on him."

I had to correct him and say, no that I would have done the same thing. A piece of sht is not worth using your jail card for (meaning that you only get one chance at a first offence). Then, ironically, I brought up this post and some other ones I have read here (he's MMA fan and fought in one event) and let him know that homeless drunks act fools lots of times and (agreeing with the logic) they are frequently armed with blades and such because they don't want to get jumped either.

Also made it a point to him that he's not too smart for not carrying a weapon- if he would have needed one it wouldn't have been there. At the same time it was a good thing because he might have done bad stuff with it. Advised him might be good to get some pepper spray because it gives a good non lethal option that doesn't leave many signs of assault like bruises, etc.

Good stuff guys. Believe it or not those posts helped him calm down and move on with life. Sht happens, thanks again for sharing even what might superficially appear embarrassing.

2 members posted on the OG their war stories and they both seem to have a common theme: they were both drunk. bad things happen when you are drunk.


"Worden's Impact karambit"

you mean his DTL? have you or your bro used it before in a real encounter? want to hear your opinion on its effectiveness.

"thanks again for sharing even what might superficially appear embarrassing."

remember "embarassing" denotes the ego kicking in. if you can be egoless in an incident, the egoless would not hesistate to do something that most ego-filled people call embarassing to save their butt just to save face and stroke their ego. i'm not directing this at you krept, as you put in "superficially appear embarrassing".

a thought which i do not know if it's true: the bigger one is physically, the more ego he has. just a thought.

glad your bro made it out of that encounter safely!

"also, saw one have a razor inside their mouth. not sure how they don't cut themselves"

In the movie Above the Rim, Tupac had a razor stored in his mouth.

Pretty slick, he was talking, then pulled it out of his mouth, then put it back in. It was lying flat on his tongue