The Ten Commandments of Street Survival, Part 2

Last month, I discussed the first three of my Ten Commandments of Street Survival: Thou Shalt Not Not Train, Thou Shalt Not Defeat Thyself, and Thou Shalt Not Give Up. Let’s move on to numbers four through seven.

Commandments 4 – 7 of Street Survival

  • 4. Thou Shalt Not Fear Fear
  • 5. Thou Shalt Not Telegraph Thy Intentions
  • 6. Thou Shalt Not Lose the Street Figh
  • 7. Thou Shalt Not Invite Disaster

4. Thou Shalt Not Fear Fear

More dangerous than your opponent is your mind. If your mind doesn’t support you, you’re three-quarters beaten before you’ve started. There are really only two types of fear: biological and psychological.

Capture13 Biological fear has been generally described as the “fight or flight” syndrome for most of our modern history. This definition does not serve us once the physical confrontation is under way and is really not pertinent to your success. Though the adrenaline surge created by your survival signals is a component of success, it is the mind that ultimately determines the action you will take.

Psychological fear, on the other hand, is an emotional state. Therefore it can be controlled and used to create action. However, due to the lack of good information on fear management, fear, as we feel it, usually creates emotional inertia: your body’s inability to move as a result of psychological brain lock. Inertia or panic is created by psychological fear when the mind visualizes failure and pain. Understanding this process is necessary to conquer fear. We use three acronyms to help us remember that psychological fear is only in our mind.

Psychological F.E.A.R.

False Evidence Appearing Real. External stimuli that distract us: physical evidence such as weapons and multiple opponents.

False Expectations Appearing Real. Internal stimuli that distract us: how we visualize images of pain and failure.

Failure Expected Action Required. A trigger to do something!

Famous boxing coach Cus D’Amato said, “The difference between the hero and the coward is what they do with their fear.” The next time you feel it—fight it. Challenge your fear. Attack your fear. Do not fear fear. We all feel it. Fight your fear first, then fight your physical foe. This is one of the true ways of growth.


5. Thou Shalt Not Telegraph Thy Intentions

When it’s time to fight, most fighters telegraph their intentions. This faux pas is committed at times by everyone and every type of fighter, including you and me. From street fighters to professional boxers, from military generals to serial killers—we all telegraph.

Telegraphing for most is considered to be a physical gesture, but really, the physical telegraph is usually the third stage of the telegraph “domino effect.” In my seminars I always remind participants that you can only beat the opponent when the opponent makes a mistake. Think about that. The real opportunity occurs at the moment of the telegraph, when the intention is revealed, when there is hesitation or a momentary lapse in attention.

Capture Start contemplating the various ways we reveal ourselves, the signals that create the telegraph: anger, erratic breathing, adopting a certain stance, going for the knockout, verbal threats. These are among the most common telegraphs that would afford an experienced opponent some mental preparedness. Remember that your opponent should be the last person to see your attack.

This subject is so vast that I can’t do justice to it here. Just remember that fighting is like tennis: the player who makes the most unforced errors generally loses. But don’t look only at the obvious.


6. Thou Shalt Not Lose The Street Fight

You must know in advance that you will survive the authentic street fight. By “authentic,” I mean a true situation where you have moral and ethical reasons to take action. Only then can you be resolute in your conviction and only then will you have the support of good and the force of the universe behind you. This may sound corny to some, but when you use your skills for life (preservation), rather than death (abuse of your skill), the emotional power that is available to you is exponential.

You must also appreciate the relationship to the pejorative ego in combat. You don’t “win” a real fight. You survive one. Win and lose are labels our ego uses. Think survival. Think about your life and why you’ll survive. This is true power.

Remember: Never fight when your opponent wants to fight. Never fight where your opponent wants to fight. And never fight how your opponent wants to fight. Take care of those three factors and I’ll bet on you. Sun Tzu wrote, “The height of strategy is to attack your opponent’s strategy.” Study this.

On a purely strategic level, you can study the samurai treatises about the mind and the ego and death. They reveal much about the appropriate mindset for lethal combat. If you catch a glimpse of the power of this mindset, you will recognize true power and you will be sure not to abuse this power.

7. Thou Shalt Not Invite Disaster

You’ve heard the expression “An accident waiting to happen.” Many victims of violence failed to use simple skills like awareness and avoidance. No one deserves to be a victim, but many street tragedies result from “planning to fail by failing to plan.” Though the world is an incredible and wonderful place, it does have its dangers. If you respect this simple truth and spend a little time developing your Survival Toolbox, you can get back to the real task at hand: enjoying your life.

For simplicity’s sake, consider there are two types of victims: those who deny and ignore (apathy will usually help seal your fate) and those who manufacture danger at every turn. If you haven’t had the opportunity to read Gavin de Becker’s excellent book The Gift of Fear, get yourself a copy. It is the first time, in my opinion, that anyone has effectively explained the fear signal in a positive, useful light as it relates to danger and violence. His examples and theories are welcome additions to the pre-contact arsenal necessary to try to avoid violence.

It would be nice if simply trusting survival signals were all we needed to detect and avoid danger. Unfortunately, there may be situations where we do everything right but still find ourselves in the thick of things and must take physical action. Preparation is paramount.

Learn to evaluate a stimulus in advance. This mindset will spare you a lot of trouble if you do a little research. In the end, most situations are easily avoided with the right attitude, awareness and advance analysis.

Critical areas you must evaluate:

Your routine.

Are there any obvious places you could be attacked? Is there something about your schedule, behavior, residence, etc. that sends a “come and get me” message to an opportunist criminal? When would you attack you and why?

Your mind.

What type of person are you? Do you find yourself in many confrontations (of any nature)? How do you deal with them? Do you lose your temper easily? Do you accept abuse (verbal, mental, etc.) too readily? Both reactions could create serious problems in a violent confrontation.

Your arsenal.

You may have a safe routine and have yourself in total control and still be faced with a threat. What specialized skills do you bring to the confrontation? Many of us become fairly proficient with our empty hands in a ready stance in the dojo where we know the rules, we know our opponent, the level of contact is agreed to, we’re wearing equipment, and … I think you get my point. Do you really understand the nut on the street? Are you confident on the ground? Against a weapon? In a survival scenario? Total confidence results when you ask pertinent questions and research, to your satisfaction, the answers. That’s being proactive. After all, it’s your life.

Apathy and denial will seal your fate in a confrontation. Other personality aberrations, like an inflated ego, misguided inferiority complex, or overconfidence all contribute to the issue of safety. These attributes will create problems during confrontations of any nature. Be proactive about the things that can cause you grief.

Capture15 I have a simple belief that keeps me honest and introspective. I believe we experience confrontations every day of our lives. (Here I’m defining “confrontation” as any situation that affects our enjoyment of the moment. I know people who take traffic personally!) Therefore, the degree of calmness and clarity with which we deal with our confrontations will directly determine the quality of our day and therefore, the quality of our life.

Take time to study these commandments until you understand them and can integrate them into your daily life. Then be sure to come back next month, when I’ll be discussing the eighth, ninth and tenth commandments.

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2 Responses to “The Ten Commandments of Street Survival, Part 2”

  1. joe

    Great read. I truly like the idea that we should approach self defense as a way that we can enjoy life better. Some of us, myself included, sometimes get too paranoid and that can hurt our own quality of life.