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I decided that it was time to get out of "the life"
when I realized that my friends treated me worse
than my enemies and I was doing the same to them.
But worse, I was treating my family
worse than I treated my friends.
                 Ted Truscott

The realities of streetfighting

On this page:
How to tell a real streetfighter | The pain and paranoia

I would like to address my qualifications say the things I do about the subject of streetfighting. I know my approach to making your martial arts street effective will ruffle some feathers -- especially among those who think that being an expert in one focus automatically instills omniscience in others. When it comes to the realities of violence, I speak from experience, but unless you have read my other books there is no way you can know what that means.

I am an ex-street fighter.

That means a very specific thing where I am from, and what it means is not nice.

There is no "If I ever had to use this stuff, I'd…" in what I said in this site. The fact that I am still breathing is based on the fact that I HAVE used this stuff in the real thing.

In the same breath, however, I will tell you that being a street fighter is nothing to brag about. I've encountered a whole lot of people who say, "Well, my teacher was a street fighter. What he teaches us would work in the street."

Oh yeah? Before you tell me about street fighters, go out and read the Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. Pay special attention to part about the monkeys jumping up and down and chanting, "It's so because we say it's so." This is not to be disrespectful of what you believe, but to tell you, in all sincerity, to question such a claim. You can say or claim anything -- give a listen to any lawyer, liberal arts professor or would-be social engineer, and you'll see what I mean. But just because you say something doesn't make it true.

How to tell a real streetfighter
A lot of martial arts instructors claim to be street fighters. They brag about how their system is street effective and even "street proven". To listen to these people they make it sound as if they were real, hard-core street savages. And to give them credit, they may have been bouncers and even brawlers, still that's a totally different league than street fighters.

Simply stated: Most martial arts teachers who claim to have been street fighters don't have the stink.

There is a certain psychic odor that comes from growing up and living in the streets. It's a rot that comes from constant exposure to violence, death, alcoholism, drug addiction, sociopathic behavior, poverty, sadism and viciousness. It's reflected in a person's attitudes, speech patterns, personal interactions and how he looks at the world. It's a certain hardening of the spirit that comes from living years with the attitude of "do unto others before they do unto you." Add to that the chronic paranoia of having spent years looking over your shoulder, lest vengence-minded people you have wronged, slither out of that shadow you just passed.

When I say I was a street fighter, it means that I was a vicious, self-centered, misbehaving drunken, stoned thug among other vicious, self-centered, misbehaving drunken, stoned thugs. We were the worst kind of savages. Man to man, mano y mano was bull. Numbers and weapons were always used to increase our odds whenever possible. Once you realized the other side could and would shoot back, you did everything in your power to make sure he never got the chance. You always stacked the deck in your favor. You hit first, you hit hard enough to make sure he didn't get up. You ran as often as you hit, and you hit from behind as often as you could. Anyone who didn't play that way didn't last too long. The blood, the bullets and the knives were real. In the streets, life and death were determined by whims, pride, intoxicants and sheer stupidity.

Being or having been a street fighter is nothing to be proud of, much less brag about. Nor is it something that you turn on and off. It's not a job that you go to and come home from. It's a way of life (and often death), and it's constant. It's living with being the hunter and the hunted every day and night. Knowing that the next corner you turn could end your life you don't swagger boldly around it, you check first before cautiously turning that corner.

The huffing and puffing about what a bad ass you are you keep for the safety of  being around civilians and your homies...people who won't make you walk your talk.

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The pain and paranoia of being a street fighter
It's not how many people he's beat up that makes a street fighter -- that's just a sadistic brawler. A brawler goes into places, picks a fight and then leaves the area to go back to a home far away from the trouble he caused. Street fighting isn't stomping someone and then contemptuously forgetting them, like so many bouncers and brawlers do. If they don't leave, such people don't last long in the streets. They don't have the sense not to swagger around the corner or to check the shadows.

Being a street fighter is spending two weeks after a conflict watching approaching cars lest a gun barrel comes poking out of a rolled down window. It's dashing wildly through alleys to escape six guys who suddenly jumped out of a car. Of course, the guy you beat up waiting in the shadows with a baseball bat as you come out a door is also loads of laughs to deal with. That is what being a street fighter is about. It's surviving the aftermath of your actions when someone backs up on you on his terms, not yours.

There's a lot of pain and paranoia involved in being a street fighter that the fakes don't know about. Standing over a friend's grave is a horrible experience. Spending your life always looking over your shoulder doesn't do your social graces any good. Waking up with the cops pounding on the door about what happened last night really compounds the suffering of a hangover. Long nights in the emergency room because someone blindsided you with a beer bottle or scrubbing your friend's blood out of your car seat - those are the experiences of a street fighter. The scars, both physical and psychic, stand out clearly. Trying to impress people by claiming to be one is like trying to impress people by claiming that you're a leper.

Most people I knew in the "life" are now either dead, in prison, totally burned out courtesy of drugs or booze or holed up somewhere nearly crippled because they didn't check the shadows.

That's what happens to most "street fighters." Those few who do manage to escape know about the downside, and that's why they left. Even people who weren't players, but who grew up in lousy neighborhoods and fought their way out, have the stink. It stays with you forever. You can see why such a life would give someone a spiritual stink. I should know, that was how I was raised, and that was the environment I operated in while running in the streets of Los Angeles. Even though I left it behind, the residue still remains with me to this day. It's taken me many long, hard years of work to improve myself from that state, and I still don't have it down.

It's knowing this downside of the 'life' that is the litmus test for telling ex-street fighters from wanna-bes. Basically, you can now see why someone who brags about being a street fighter isn't one. What's there to impress people with? "Hi I'm a dysfunctional, intoxicated thug who hurts people unnecessarily...what do you do for a living?."

Gee, that goes over well at dinner parties.

Someone who thinks going out and picking fights or working a few months as a bouncer in a local watering hole means he's a street fighter is mistaken. In the same vein, I never saw any of those street proven techniques in the streets I was on. It might work against a drunk yuppie in a fern bar, but I wouldn't try it in some the dives I've been in.

In the same way that a lot of camp cooks suddenly became snipers after they returned from Vietnam, a whole lot of martial arts instructors became ex-street fighters when they opened their schools. It's a marketing ploy. It sounds really good. It attracts students, and people, who don't know the difference believe them -- thinking that aggressive sports training regimes are the same thing.

The problem is, it's not true. If you believe such a person in good faith, you are the one who will bleed to discover what he's teaching won't work in the real thing.

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