“There’s no such thing as a fair fight” was a favorite saying of my first martial arts instructor. His belief was that every self-defense encounter, whether it was with or without weapons, was always unfair in one direction or another. The companion saying to the first quote was “the point of self-defense is to make any fight as unfair in your favor as possible”.
My teacher was a realist when it came to self-defense; he didn’t believe in the magical gun takeaways or knife disarms that some martial arts studios seem to love. He also believed in weapons, which made even more sense in light of the fact that his “real job” was with LAPD.
Over the years, I’ve condensed a lot of his lessons about self-defense and individual combat into a simple phrase: “Cheat to win”. Now, because I’m sure I’ll get some hate mail about that, I’m not talking about cheating in baseball, or lying on a resume, or things that are immoral or illegal. “Cheat to win” applies only to the realm of self-defense.
Why then would I use “cheat to win?” Well, cheating generally means that you’re doing something to gain an unfair advantage over your opponent; in sports or games this if frowned upon as unsporting – in self-defense it’s a perfectly fine action. The second part of that phrase took some careful defining, because when you’re in a situation where your life (or the lives of your family) is on the line, the definition of “win” can get muddy. I have generally accepted that “winning” a fight means that the threat to your life has been stopped and you’re not dead or dying. This view accepts the reality of combat, inasmuch as you’re likely to sustain injuries. So long as your injuries aren’t mortal and the other guy is no longer trying to kill you and yours, you’ve “won”.
So with that definition of “cheat to win” in mind, here are some practical examples of how you can “cheat” in a fight.
Training – It might not seem like “cheating”, but if you’re trying to unbalance potential self-defense situations in your favor, learning how to fight well will do precisely that. Additionally, cross-training isn’t a bad idea. If you carry a firearm, it still isn’t a bad idea to know how to defend yourself hand to hand.
Force multipliers – The long name for “weapons”. Nothing tips the scales in your direction like being able to offer significantly more force than your prospective enemy. However, if you’re going to carry a weapon, you had better be well versed in its use.
Mindset – This is perhaps the most important way to “cheat”. While there are “alternatives to fighting”; there are also times when those alternatives aren’t available. In that situation, your mindset is tremendously important. It’s important to make the decision now and during any training that if you’re fighting for your life, you’ll do everything you can before you stop. The reason mindset is so important is that if you’re in a self-defense situation and fighting, your enemy has committed himself to a violent course of action before he ever attacked you. If you haven’t made the commitment to fight before you ever get in a fight than your enemy has a significant advantage. It’s important to decide before the fact exactly who, and what, you’re willing to fight for.
They say that “all is fair in love and war”; self defense is really nothing more than war on a person to person scale. What are you doing to tip those scales in your favor?