Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review: How to Win a Fight

I recently (and more than a little behind schedule I admit, which Mr. Wilder or Mr. Kane if you are reading this, I sincerely apologize for) finished "How to Win a Fight" by Lawrence Kane and Kris Wilder.

"How to Win a Fight" is a book first and foremost I think about why you should NOT get into a fight, and how to avoid getting into one. As the saying goes, the only fight you are sure to win is the one you do not have. This book exemplifies and stresses that to n-th degree. They discuss the difference between the Hollywood glamour of fighting vs. the brutal reality that IS violence.

The book starts with an excellent forward by Mr. Rory Miller. This is a great call to action and one that I hope is followed by anyone who reads this book. (Or any other of Miller, Wilder, or Kane's books, which are all very good ).

Included in the introduction is a check list of how far you are willing to go, what you are and are not willing to do in various situations. I think this is an excellent idea. Miller did something similar to this in his seminar. It's really good to have a mental check list and to know what you are willing to do in any type of violent situation; to know your limits I recommend doing the checklist before and after reading the book to see if your answers change. I did. Scan of Photocopy the check list and take the time to fill it out. You might be surprised.

The book itself is broken up into three parts.

Before Violence Occurs, During a Violent Encounter, and After a Violent Encounter.

Section One gives lots of useful information about avoid violence and situations where violence occurs. In this section they cover information like awareness levels, reading body language, tactics predators can use to ambush you, using your voice to de-escalate the situation and how to avoid the Monkey Dance. Gangs are not your friends. And lastly, you WILL get hurt if you get involved in a fight. Which is not fun. Getting hurt can mean a lot more than just black eyes and busted teeth, which they cover in later chapters more extensively.

Section Two covers what to do if you are involved in an altercation. Kane and Wilder make it EXPLICITLY clear that under no circumstances should fight unless you have absolutely no other options and it is life or death. Section two covers some fairly intense material and may not be for the faint of heart. They talk about how to really hurt the enemy if you are in a situation where you need to get away. The book covers vulnerable spots, fighting tactics and strategies, etc. Again, this section is a good read, especially for someone who has never thought about what it might take to have to get someone away from you. For example, they describe in detail exactly how to pop an eye ball from its socket. Its a little morbid to be honest, and unsettling to read, but again I feel like its important to know what you may be into if you have to something that extreme to survive.

Section Three covers what to expect after you have been in a violence encounter. Unlike "Meditations on Violence." which covers mainly the emotional trauma that comes with a violent encounter, "How to Win a Fight" covers what to expect legally after you are in a violent encounter, what to expect when the police arrive and what you can do to protect yourself in court. This section is probably one of the more useful sections in the book as no martial arts dojos ever seem to cover this kind of information, and no one really tells you what to expect or how to behave with the police should you ever be in any kind of altercation.

Overall, lots of good things. Lots of useful information.

My ONLY complaint with this book is the fact that it has illustrations instead of photographs. I understand what the authors were trying to accomplish with this, and while the idea of using comic book style illustrations to reach a younger or wider audience is a good idea, I do not think it lends itself to this medium. This book is about the seriousness of violence, the cold and terrible reality of getting into a fight, the pain, the injuries, the possible jail time, etc. I think a serious book deserves a serious medium. I think if you are trying to communicate how 'uncool' violence is, then comic book illustrations are not the way to do it. Violence is nothing like comic books and video games and movies, so why try to use those same media to explain how it ISN'T like that?

Again, as mentioned, I believe using this type of marketing tactic will (potentially/hopefully) very like draw in the demographic the authors were trying to reach, but for me, it just didn't really lend itself to the message of the book very well. From what I understand "Little Black Book of Violence" is very similar to this book, but uses photographs. I think I would have enjoyed that format a lot better and will be reading Sensei Nick's copy for comparison sometime in the near(ish) future. Maybe I'm just a fan of uncomfortably graphic, but I think a picture of someone with a huge scar across their face or their guts laying on the sidewalk next to them where they bled out and died is much more sobering than an illustration. It just sort of makes it more real and brings it closer to home. An illustration removes the element of 'this is very real, and this is not a game', a photograph shows something that really happened to someone at some point in time and cannot lie. (Aside from Photoshoping it of course... but true actual photographs captured with film are pretty solid case makers in my opinion.)

To summarize: This is all the information they should go over in any kind of self defense class, seminar, or rape defense class or anything of the like. This is all incredibly useful information, and a good read for any Martial Artist who thinks they are studying self defense as opposed to Martial Arts as they are not the same thing. I think its important people know this kind of information and I think all Martial Arts dojos should require reading of this kind from their students. As mentioned, my only fault with the book are the illustrations. And not the illustrations themselves, because I like comic book art, I just don't think its the right format for the material. But, I have a feeling I may be in the minority there. It's just a personal preference thing on my account; so take it with a grain of salt. If I had to rate this book one a scale of 1 to 5, I would give 4 out of 5 stars, for sure.


  1. SG: Thanks for the comprehensive review of the book. Nicely done!

  2. I live and work in what are considered quite safe communities. I don't hang around with dodgy people. I don't get drunk publicly, nor hand around with people who do. I drive defensively...

    ... and I haven't been in a fight in over 30 years.

    I must be doing something right.

  3. You just reminded me that I haven't yet posted my review, SGS! After work today...

    BTW Rick, I live in a safe community, but work in the heart of "the hood." I hang around mostly with other karateka (not too dodgy), don't drink or do drugs but work with lots of folks who do (clients). I sometimes drive too fast (working on that) - but I still haven't been in a fight (outside of the ring) in almost 39 years (and I was 6 when that one happened). I guess I, too, must be doing something right - or be really lucky :-)