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Self Defense/What to do when you get rocked?


QUESTION: Hello Mr.Macyoung

What should you do when you get hit by a punch/blow that almost takes you out of the fight in order to protect yourself from getting a further beat down/soccer kicked or stomped?

A few years ago,in one of the very last fights I've ever had,I got hit directly in the nose by my opponent that caused my eyes to tear up and thus blinded me which gave him the opening to continually hit me many times in the face. I was about to fall over to the ground but I knew that If I let myself fall,there is a chance he is going to start stomping/soccer kicking me so I forced myself to stay up and rush in long enough to clinch and lean on my opponent so I do not fall. It worked,he couldn't hit me anymore and the fight was broken up by the people in the area. I walked away then and there as soon as they broke it up. The only visible injury I got was a bloody(but not broken)nose.

I know this is an anime scene but its the most accurate depiction of what I did that I found:
Start at 2:00.

Do you think clinching and leaning is the answer when you get rocked and about to fall down in a street fight? It worked in my case,as I didn't get stomped/soccer kicked.

ANSWER: Clinching is a common response when you get your chimes rung. It hopefully will keep you from getting torn up more while you try to get your brains back inside your ears. It's pretty much all you can do unless there's something like a table nearby that you can roll under and try to recover.

Thing is if you're still on your feet OTHER than a clinch where you get both arms, there's NOT a whole lot you can do to stop the other guy from pounding you as hard as he can. Your hanging on hampers his movement and keeps him from hitting you harder. He's still going to try to nail you more -- and he probably will. So accept you're still going to get hit while clinching. That's the bad news.

The good news is most people suck at short range power generation. So while you're still going to get hit, clinching MIGHT give you time to get your shit back together and get back into the fight.

More bad news. Against someone who knows short power generation trying to clinch just adds to the suck. That's to say, "he hit you that hard out there and he hits you just as hard up close." You go in to recover and shit just keeps getting worse until you drop.

More good news, even if you can't rally enough to get back into the fight, you can change a crash and burn into an emergency landing.

The trick on that is to hang on long enough to recognize that your power levels are still falling or not likely to recover in time to reengage. This part is important, let go BEFORE your systems fail. You're hanging on and realize you're still going to go down. Let go while you still have enough juice to fall into a floor fighting position. This is either on your back or side with your legs pointing towards him so you can lay there and keep him at a distance. While you're down there you can both -- hopefully -- hold him off and recover.

Clinching or falling into a ground fighting position is -- at best --damage control. It's an emergency stop gap measure that may or may not work.

What you can do to keep from getting into that "Oh shit" situation is learn how to roll with and shed punches. I make a very important distinction between impacts and drives. An impact is a hit that delivers all of it's power into a stationary target. It does so in a VERY short time. In out quick like a duck mating. It's NOT the amount of force that makes an impact hurt, it's how fast that power is delivered.

You soften the damaging effects of an impact by making it take longer.

Try this hold you left hand up, palm facing you. Then with your right hand, do a fast punch into your palm and pull back JUST as fast. It's a snapping/whipping action.

It should sting like hell.

Now you're going to do it again, just as fast. But this time instead of pulling back, push through with your right fist. Move your left at least a foot.

That hurts less doesn't it? Here's the thing, there's JUST AS MUCH force in both moves.

The first one is like a pier getting hit by a tidal wave.  By being stationary the force is hitting it all at once. It may or may not survive. But the second one -- while there is an initial impact -- translates it into a less damaging (and less painful) push. By letting your left hand move like a kayak before a wave it extends the time of force transference -- which hurts less and minimizes both shock and damage.

The thing is way too many inexperienced fighters and sports martial artists DON'T know how to roll with punches. Instead they try to stand there and take the punch. OR they're so busy attacking that they ignore incoming fire until they end up hanging on like you did.

Another option to consider is something that nobody wants to admit.

Did you do a Three Stooges Knock Out?

You seldom see these in boxing matches. But they are WAY too common among MMAers. This is because unlike boxers MMAers have to divide their defenses to cover more target space. This leaves them real vulnerable to pulling 3 Stooges.  

That is to say they knock themselves out.

Like Curly, Larry or Moe slamming their face into an extended pipe/bar/beam a LOT of people literally run face first into the other guy's fist. It's not the force of the punch that rings their bell it's them running into it. Their forward momentum is supplying the force, not necessarily the punch. (This is also known as leading with your face.)

Here's the thing about that. Let's stick with just the upper body. You have a left and right arm as well as sides. If you punch with your right, your left is still there protecting your left side. The weakest part of your defense is on your right side. In fact, since your right arm is so busy attacking, there's a gaping hole in your defenses. (That line "The best defense is a good offense" is bullshit.) You may be charging forward with your right side attack, but anything coming in on your right is going to get through.

You run the risk of getting clobbered this way unless you tighten up your defenses and practice target denial (For example, when attacking you turn your body so your left side is out of range. This makes it safe to move your left hand over to protect the right quadrant to handle any incoming counter-attack).

I hate to tell you this, but if you got hit hard enough to give you Jell-O knees in a fight, odds are you did a 3 Stooges on yourself.

So if you're going to be fighting ...
1) tighten up your defenses when you're attacking,
2) learn how to roll with and shed punches
3) learn how to clinch to better limit his movement
4) learn how to do emergency landings instead of crashing.

Oh yeah and accept that if you're going to fight, you're going to lose now and then. That's the price for playing that game. If you're lucky, you just lose the fight. If not, you get stomped. If you ain't willing to play for those stakes (or do the work to learn how to minimize the damage, don't play.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: "This is either on your back or side with your legs pointing towards him"
-You mean like this?:

Its stage 4 of the punch-block series from the guard position taught in Gracie Combatives. Here's what supposed to be stage 5 to address further issues:

I wish I could show you the specific clips from the gracie combatives DVD itself but alas,its copyrighted by the gracies so I could only show you those alternative clips. The tactic seems very valid though. Going for a takedown to get top position(mount or side control)seems to be a better tactic but I guess you're going to need energy to do that which you may not have when rocked.

"learn how to roll with and shed punches"
-You mean like in boxing? I didn't know that worked with bare knuckles,I thought it only worked with boxing gloves on. long after the incident,I made a try out for boxing. When I started sparring with my instructors(it was one-sided sparring where they were only defending and I was trying to hit them),one of them knew how to roll with punches. Unfortunately,I was only able to train for a very short time(a month or so)due to life issues(not related to fighting) so I never got the chance to learn the skill but I'll keep that in mind if I ever get the chance to train again.

"You're going to lose now and then"
- Yeah,I learned a very hard lesson that day. It was the first time I had ever been defeated/humiliated like that(and so far,the only time thankfully).
Although thankfully,it all ended up OK in the end. later on,my opponent apologized to me and the only injury I sustained is a bloody nose and a bruised ego.

"Don't hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting; but never hit soft."
That was the tactical error I made. when the fight started,I was hitting to intimidate him,not take him out. This pretty much gave him the opportunity to catch me with a hard punch that bloodied my nose,made my eyes tear up blinding me leaving me defenseless to his onslaught of punches until I made the decision to clinch and hang on when I was about to fall over. Now I know,you only put your hands on someone when you intend to take them out.

>"This is either on your back or side with your legs pointing towards him"
>>-You mean like this?:

NO! That's fuckin' grappling BS.

Here's something that is really, really, REALLY important for you to understand. Grappling and submission fighting is ONLY for when you don't want to hurt the guy and you are IN a safe situation.

Those are VERY specific circumstances - and while common -- they are not the only circumstances you'll find yourself in. As I often say BJJ is great if you're a) a cop trying to arrest/restrain b) wrangling Drunken Uncle Albert at a family reunion or c) sitting on a drunk friend. If those are not the circumstances DO. NOT. TRY. IT.

Grappling and BJJ type floor work is a tool, and I'll be the first to admit it is a good tool. But right after I say that, I'll tell you that it has been over-sold, over-promoted and over- marketed as a miracle tool. A cure all tool that does everything. It. Is. Not. If you try it in the wrong circumstances (and believe me there are more wrong than there are right circumstances) you're going to get kicked to death or stomped into brain damage for the rest of your life. Not necessarily from the guy you are fighting, but others deciding to jump in while your hands are tied up trying to grapple him. And what are you going to do? Your hands are tied up dealing with the other dude.

What I'm talking is you down, him up. You put your legs towards him to keep him at a distance. If he tries to run around them, you pivot.

Remember, you're trying to buy time while you recover from getting rattled. You dropped to the ground as an emergency, stop-gap measure trying to save your ass. That's because HAD you tried to stay up on your feet and failed you'd have been helpless. When your system fails this way,you got nothing left. You can't even get into a defensive position, much less go on some kind of BJJ mode. Remember your shit is falling apart. The idea of dropping to the floor BEFORE you lose all juice is so you still have a chance to recover. You want to land with a little gas left instead of a complete crash and burn.

If you buy enough time to get your head back together THEN you worry about the problem of getting back up. Because if you're totally out of gas and you start getting stomped, you ain't getting up.

>>learn how to roll with and shed punches"
>-You mean like in boxing? I didn't know that worked with bare knuckles,I thought it only worked with boxing gloves on.

Yes like in boxing. What your instructor was doing is part of teaching. It's also drill I used to do with partners where they were the only ones attacking -- and doing it hard, but slow -- and I was working entirely on my defense -- including rolling and shedding.  This drill does a lot of good things if you focus entirely on doing defensive action -- like learning how to roll with punches.

>>"You're going to lose now and then"
- Yeah,I learned a very hard lesson that day. It was the first time I had ever been defeated/humiliated like that(and so far,the only time thankfully).

I'd say you learned a good lesson that day. It just came in a hard package. Lose the word humiliated. In fact, lose ego when you fight.

First that will keep you out of most fights.

Second, if your ego is driving your actions you're going to be looking for ways to win -- instead of the much more important ways not to lose.

Let me tell you right here and now. It took you getting hit that hard to be able to understand what I'm about to tell you. "The best defense is a good offense" is bullshit.

Sooner or later, that attitude is going to result in you eating that very blow that rocked your world. And that's the happy version.  You could have run into a knife that would have cut your throat.

I have an e-book coming out soon called "Writing Violence IV: Defense"  I'll give you an excerpt from it to get you thinking about defense in a whole new way...

Knowing this, what I'm going to suggest is instead of thinking the winner is the one with the 'best offense' consider the implications of: The loser is the one with the weakest defense.

That simple reframing of the idea opens all kinds of plot possibilities. Let me explain it this way. First-rate offense against a second-rate defense means easy win. Even a second-rate offense gets through a third-rate defense. So, even a mediocre attacker will defeat a bad defender. And that same second-rate offense will bounce off a first-rate defense—often to the point where an uncoordinated attacker will fall over.

But now let's equip both with equal, but opposite skills, in one area and a mismatch in another. Imagine an attacker with first-rate offense, but a third-rate defense. He attacks someone who has a first-rate defense and second-rate offense. On their first moves, that's first-rate versus first-rate—which is a draw. They proceed to their second moves, but this time it's not the attacker going again, it's a counter offensive by the no-longer-defending defender. The original attacker's third-rate defense is now facing his former target's second-rate offense. Things aren't going to turn out so well for Mr. The-Best-Defense-Is-a-Good-Offense.

Among the world's violent there are many out there who have first-rate offense, but third-rate defense. There are even more with second-rate offense and third-rate defense. Generally, these guys rely on other people being less willing to commit violence than they are. They succeed, not that they're particularly good at it, but because they're attacking citizens with fourth rate defense. People who won't even try to hit back. Their aggression against the weak works until they come across someone who feeds them their liver.

As a writer know that third-rate defenses commonly tend to fail against dumb luck, wild swings, and the unpredictable—which is a good way for a unskilled person to survive being attacked by a more skilled person. Often 'big bads' get cocky and sloppy about both offense and defense. This leaves them at a loss when things don't go as planned. Expecting no resistance (fourth rate defense) they're caught flat-footed when their target unexpectedly hits, shoves or shoots back. Can they recover in time? That's up to you, the writer.

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Marc MacYoung


Street self-defense, crime avoidance and personal safety


I grew up in the streets of Los Angeles in 'situational poverty.' I have dealt with criminals and violent people all my life -- both personally and professionally. I have written 15 books and 6 videos on surviving street violence. I was originally published under the name Marc Animal MacYoung. (Animal was my street name). I've taught police and military both internationally and within the US. I've lectured at universities, academies and done countless TV, radio, newspaper and magazine interviews. I'm a professional speaker on crime avoidance and personal safety. And I am an expert witness recognized by the US court system. My bio is at My abridged CV (Curriculum Vitae) is at

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