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November 2011 How To Survive!

Posted in Features on November 1, 2011
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“I grew up in Boston! You didn’t get served a drink in an Irish bar unless you had blood on your knuckles!” That was Editor Hazel, when the staff swapped war stories of who has been in a bar fight. He’s been in several of them and learned how to end fights fast or made sure a big friend was with him before it got started. Pete’s been in one bar fight, admitting to being drunk at the time and now unable to recall the details, so we’re going to err on the side of defeat. But can you win a bar fight if you aren’t a trained fighter/boxer and don’t have any giant friends? We got some tips from Heinz Altieri, a former soldier in the Air Force, who specializes in hand-to-hand combat, has a blackbelt in tae kwon do, is a Golden Gloves middleweight champ, and trains police and soldiers in street combat. As we went to press, there was even talk he might be a contestant on the new season of “Survivor.”

• Words were exchanged, “Your-mother-eats-kitty-litter” insults were tossed around, and now you’re faced with two options: Run or get ready to rumble, because some guy now wants to fight. You agree to the latter. Should you throw the first punch? “The first punch thrown becomes the aggressor by law,” Altieri explained. “The second punch by law defends yourself, yet still makes you a law-breaker.” Consider that the legal disclaimer for this story.

• “It’s best to be as neutral as possible until you understand the offensive of your opponent.” But don’t just stand there tapping your toes waiting—guard your face and body, and try to stay far enough away that his punch or kick can’t reach you. Keep your fists closed with very little space between the fingers yet not tight and tense. And this is the difficult part: relax and breathe. “The tighter you are, the more you lose in the delivery.” But we’ll get to delivery in a moment.

• About your body: You’ll want to be in a fighting stance, but stay in a neutral position (as in, feet pointed forward). This is because if, for example, your right foot is leading, he’ll know you’re going to punch with your right hand. Same goes for him; by watching how he chooses to stand, you’ll know which fist is probably headed your way.

• Said fist is headed your way, specifically, toward your face, because “when most people are angry they want to punch your lights out and punch your face in.” How do you block the punch? Obviously your arms are going to be what you choose to use first, but “the more you can retreat, whether it is by swerving, dodging, bobbing, or backing up, the more effective,” Altieri explained. “Sometimes a step back or to the side can put your opponent at a great disadvantage, because when someone misses, he usually doesn’t regroup well.” You’ve seen someone throw a big swing and then fall down? Not regrouping well. And don’t shuffle; you’ll get tired.

• We’ve explained how to protect yourself, but what about when it comes to taking down your opponent? The strength of a punch is not from your arm. “The arm is only about 10 pounds of thrust. It comes from the bottom of your feet up. All your weight gets distributed and the punch becomes very powerful,” Altieri said. Also, position your arms so that your thumbs are up, elbows tight to your body. (Make a fist. Now rotate your arm so the thumb is skyward and knuckles are pointed out, not up.) “That’s a technique I developed to keep the elbow in the correct place, not out to the side flapping around like a chicken wing.”

• The most sensitive areas on the body—your targets—are the eyes, nose, stomach, groin, and knees. Bonus: “Center chest, full-force, is a great lung-stopper.” Pick a 1-2-3 order of areas to attack, but be flexible with that list.

• If you’ve taken a boot camp or boxing class at your gym, you’re probably familiar with terms such as jab, cross jab, hook, and uppercut. When to use them in the real world? “Depends on where the body is in front of you. Did you just set up something with one punch that allows for the hook or uppercut to come in to play? Combinations are the really devastating part of boxing or fighting.” Also, the elbow point is a sharp tool and is stronger than the bones in your fingers, hands, and wrists. Think of it as nature’s knife.

• Kicking is underrated. But: “The higher you kick, the more vulnerable you become,” Altieri explained. You could lose your balance for starters. “A natural kick is a push-kick, like stepping on a brake. You lift your knee, your heel is back, and your foot is flexed; as you thrust forward, it’s like you’re going to step on a brake as you push out.” With a high kick, it’ll be easier for your opponent to grab hold of your foot.

• If your opponent does knock you to the ground, don’t fixate on punching anymore, since you would have to nearly sit up to get the job done. Instead, remember that your leg is double the length of your arm and you’ll probably have good access to the knees and groin from down there.

• Your girlfriend watched “Road House” and has been inspired to jump on the back of your attacker. Is this helpful in a bar fight? You’re likely to immediately lose focus while worrying about her safety. But “Road House” should be required viewing for when a high kick goes terribly wrong.

• Fight’s over. Is a steak best for the impending black eye? Altieri recommends soaking a towel in apple cider vinegar and wrapping ice with it, then putting that on your eye instead; it goes after the capillaries to prevent discoloration. Immediately put ice on any other areas that took a beating in order to prevent bruising.

• One final thought: One punch alone doesn’t commonly knock somebody out unless you’re a “devastating puncher,” Altieri noted. “The game in fighting is patience. Very few people have what I call the atomic-bomb punch.”

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