How much force do you use?

I have always mentally classified fights as 'schoolyard fights' and 'street fights.'

'Schoolyard fights' were ones in which the attacker just wanted to beat you, not to severely harm you; street fights were ones were the attacker might cripple or kill you.

Therefore, I thought that you adjusted your response accordingly.

A pro MMA fighter and former bouncer told me that this was a bad idea, and that any fight could be potentially lethal. Therefore, you must respond everytime as if your life depended on it.

He gave me some great examples, eg, fights between fraternity fights that were near lethal.

I'm not sure if I agree, but it does make sense.



Take a moment and reflect to yourself what that means. In your question, when you state "...I thought that you adjusted your response accordingly," you're right on with the above quote. When it comes to defending yourself, individuals have a certain amount of latitude that they are allowed...however if the line is crossed, then you can possibly be criminally charged.

I would be willing to bet that you've heard expressions such as, "It's better to be tried by twelve than carried by six" or "I'd rather have a messy trial than a beautiful funeral" but they shouldn't be taken out of context.

Let's briefly examine your classification of fights. You basically have two classes of fights, one more serious than the other. Coach Blauer teaches that a real fight is an ambush. The 'schoolyard fight' or the classic "let's step outside and settle this like men" type of fight are not ambushes. In an ambush, the 'goodguy' has no time to prepare for the fight and basically gets jumped. If, in an ambush, the badguy gets seriously injured...the courts are more likely to be more lenient in their decisions. However, if the goodguy seriously injures someone who is intoxicated and couldn't fight their way out of a paperbag, the prosecution is going to tear you apart. The second example closely resembles a full contact sparring match. A sparring match can be walked away, avoided, etc....the ambush cannot.

One thing I'd suggest that you do is find out what the laws in your state are regarding self-defense. For example, Texas Law states, "a person is justified in using force against another when and to the degree he reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful force."

The use of force issue is a complicated one that will be different for each person and each scenario. The best rule of thumb to go by is 'force must parallel danger', but at the end of the day you gotta do what you gotta do to make it back to your family.....

Good Luck!
Sean Blair, PDR Coach

Thank you for your articulate answer. I see that a measured response is necessary for legal reasons, but I'm not sure my friend is incorrect.

I'll keeping thinking about it, and I'll check my local laws (good idea BTW).


You should definitely check the laws in your area.  As additional food for thought regarding the "legal" aspect, however, consider this:

Most trials would involve a jury, and those jurors are human beings, just like you.  In the event of a trial, they are (at some point) going to consider what THEY would have done, and compare it to what you did.  What it may likely come down to (which some areas even refer to in their laws) is what the "average person" would do in the same scenario.

In other words, if the "average person" would feel that a person facing two men with a knife is a life-threating situation, then that person might be justified in using life-threatening force in response.  However, if the "average person" feels that it is inappropriate to use a weapon against someone who shoves you in a bar or nightclub, then you could be deemed to have used "excessive force" if you pull out a knife and stab someone who pushes you on the nightclub dance floor.

The pro MMA fighter/former bouncer IS correct in that any fight could be potentially lethal.  However, this is where the Blauer system of Personal Defense Readiness really comes into play.  You need to ask yourself "What happened BEFORE what happened?" (A Blauer Maxim.)  In other words, what happened before the shove on the dance floor, for example?  Was there a prior incident that left the assailant with extreme animosity towards you? (And thus a desire to truly mean you permanent harm?)  Or did you inadvertantly bump into the guy's woman on the dance floor, and so he gave you a shove and told you to watch who your touching?  (Which could easily lead to an apology on your part and complete de-escalation of the situation, rather than you counter-attacking with the assumption that your life depends upon you beating this guy down quickly).

Do you see the difference?  Can you see how the "potential" for the level of danger is proportional to the level and type of events leading up to the altercation? 

In a world where so many people are taught "response X" to "attack Z," this is one of the greatest things that Tony Blauer teaches that differs from most others........ the SCENARIO DICTATES YOUR ACTIONS.  You must evaluate ALL of the scenario, and do it on a case by case basis, rather than just take a blanket policy of using extreme force in ANY situation just because there is the "potential" that your life is being threatened.

Does all of this make sense?

Adam LaClair, PDR Coach


I just wanted to add a couple of things to Adam and Sean's excellent responses.

I want to give a bit of perspective to your categories of fights.

What you refer to as a schoolyard fight I refer to as
Male Hirearchical Fighting.

This type of fighting includes anything from actual "schoolyard fights", usually involving inmature males, some name calling then the violence.

It also covers the typical "barfight", usually involving some sort of verbal attack preceding the actual clash.

Hierarchical Fighting also covers the more "honorable" subsets of "Dueling", an old custom that uses a violent act to redeem some sort of offense to one person's honor, and "sportfighting" which covers the entire gamut of combat sports.

And, before anyone feels excluded (read fraternity vs fraternity fights, gang fights, rumbles), it includes ANY variation of the above themes.

The common thread in all of the above manners of fighting, and the reason they all fall in the same category, is that the all involve:

A)Consent- Both participants have voluntarily agreed to commit violence against one another. Or both actively participated in the circumstances and chain of events that led to the fight.

1.Someone insults you, you insult them back, then someone says "lets Go!" and violence ensues.
You can use your imagination here, this could happen at a bar, schoolyard, or even with your neighbors.

2. Two professional fighters agree to fight under a certain set of rules.

B) Preparation- There is a certain amount of time between your awareness that violence is coming and the actual violence. This could be as short as the verbal exchange or trading of insults, expletives, or justification, in the case of school or bar fights; or as long as several weeks as in the case of professional fighters.

C)Ego- All Hirearchical fighting is based on establishing dominance or superiority over another human. In a barfight it's about showing who the "alpha male" is. In professional fighting (although there are many positive lessons to be learned from sportive competition) ultimately there is pride, fortune, and fame, all related to ego.

It's important here to note that Hirearchical Fighting can be very dangerous and even result in death. However, it's most important to know that ultimately it is YOUR CHOICES (in barfights usually a lot of bad ones) that lead you to be involved in this kind of fighting.

To avoid this kind of fighting simply involves making better choices.

This is one of the things that will be looked at very seriously by a judge or a jury when deciding if the force you use was justified.

You must deeply introspect on this. Even if you could win the fight or be acquitted in court; how many fights could you avoid simply by doing some proper intelligence and advance work on where you are going to have your next beer. Learning how to read a room and body language to recognize who the "bad people" are and who they are with.

How many fights can you avoid by learning and using proper defusing tactics?

The level of force is not what makes the difference in classification. Its the circumstances precceeding the fight that do.

You can have Hirearchical Fights in a schoolyard, a bar, a ring, or on the street; but remeber, you can also be ambushed there. Prepare accordingly.

Stay Safe,

Tony Torres

Blauer Tactical Systems

Thanks Mr. Torres.

I spoke with my friend again today and he clarified for me. He said: You don't fight 'harder' or 'softer' depending on the fight.*

He said when the fight is on, you always fight as if you're life depended on it. Where you stop depends on the threat level posed to you. If it's a frat brother, you stop as soon as he backs down. If it's a stranger with knife in his hand, you don't stop until he can no longer fight.

*Unless we're talking about a 'drunk uncle' situation in which use soft techniques like those in aikido.