The Ten Commandments of Street Survival, Part 1

When you begin to approach training as a professional, you need to have some guidelines. As a professional coach, I have spent a great deal of energy trying to help people learn how to learn and develop skills for developing. Over the next three months, I’ll be presenting my Ten Commandments of Street Survival. Following these commandments will allow you to move through your journey as a student with a very high level of productivity and a focus on the things that are most important.

Commandments 1 – 3 of Street Survival


1. Thou Shalt Not Not Train

Imagine for a moment losing a real street fight. Imagine the impact on your confidence, dignity and pride. Imagine if you were hurt and couldn’t train or possibly go to work for several weeks. Imagine if when you physically recovered, you were gun shy in sparring. Imagine all this.

At the time of the attack, you took too long to recognize the danger, hesitated and, as you started to react, you were knocked to the ground and, though you put up a valiant effort, you were beaten.

Upon reflection, you realized that you lost this fight for several reasons: Your actual understanding of the theories of “intuitive radar,” “attacker profiles,” “sucker punch psychology” and “fear management” were limited. Actually, you never did “sucker punch” drills. You had never done “threshold and pain tolerance training” or worked on “ballistic ground fighting,” and you never analyzed natural stances.

This scenario is a fantasy or perhaps a nightmare. But it need not be. “Totality” in your training is simply about being thorough. I always tell my students, “If I am to lose, let me lose to the superior fighter. Let me lose because he was better than I was. Not because I was worse than he was.” How hard do you train in relation to “why” you train? Think on that.

Coach Bear Bryant said, “The will to win compares little with the will to prepare to win.” That is one of my favorite quotes and pretty much sums it up.

Capture You can’t not train and expect to be your best at a moment’s notice. Boxers agree to fights three months in advance so that they may train for the contest. You don’t have that luxury. As my friend Marco Lala said, “You can’t fake endurance.”

2. Thou Shalt Not Defeat Thyself

The mental side of combat is so vast and powerful that it quite literally determines your next move. Dan Millman wrote, “When faced with just one opponent and you oppose yourself … you’re outnumbered.”

Powerful words. Your mind can be your ally or your most formidable opponent. Your thoughts can motivate you or they can create the Inertia State of psycho-physical paralysis.

Psychological fear leads to doubt and hesitation. Unchecked it can devolve into anxiety and panic. Unsolicited, a “victim’s vocabulary” starts running through your mind: What if I lose? What if it hurts? What if I fail? Thoughts like these must be eliminated for you to perform at your peak. Your self-talk or internal dialogue must be positive, assertive and motivating. Your inner coach must empower you to greater heights, to surpass preconceived limitations, to boldly go where … you get the picture. That is what it means to not defeat yourself.

3. Thou Shalt Not Give Up

The will to survive is probably the most neglected area of our training. It is also the most important. Knowing what to do and which tools to use are important but compare little with the will to survive. If you have great technique but do not know how to dig deep, I will bet on the opponent with heart. Will beats skill. “Not giving up” means not giving up. You must research this.

Irrespective of our training, there are situations that can catch us off guard. Sudden violence or specific threats outside our comfort zones can overwhelm us emotionally and induce the ubiquitous “victim” mindset. To offset this, I have my students tap into their desire to survive by writing out a list of things they will lose if they do not survive the fight.

This list is memorized (ideally, long before any serious altercation) and serves as an unconscious motivating force that triggers the survival mechanisms when our theoretical warrior-self is experiencing technical difficulties.

The list should include the most important people, places, and things in your life. And you must remind yourself that if you give up in the street, you may be giving up that list as well.

In 1987, this concept became the Be Your Own BodyGuardTM principle. This is a powerful metaphor for street survival. Sometimes we feel that we would rush to someone else’s aid more quickly than we would defend ourselves. This is a common feeling; however, it is not very practical if you are the intended victim.

So ask yourself, “Who (or what) would I fight to the death for?” And if you are that person’s bodyguard, who is yours?

My friend … be your own bodyguard.

Take these three commandments for a start. Learn them, act on them, and ingrain them … in your mind, your body, your spirit. And come back for more next month.

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16 Responses to “The Ten Commandments of Street Survival, Part 1”

  1. James Carlyle


  2. mark withrow

    Thank you for these excellent reminders.

  3. Humby

    It’s true it’s similar to my training as a LEO and the military it’s always good to have it refreshed

  4. Humberto

    It’s true it’s similar to my training as a LEO and the military it’s always good to have it refreshed

  5. craig

    thank you for the brief lesson it was very insightful

  6. Shires E Thomas

    I receive your PDN in my email box and look for it during my early morning personal time. I'm looking forward to following your 10 Commandments of Street Fighting. Getting within yourself for the commitment to learn and improving your knowledge is most valuable. Thank you for your posts.

  7. Paladin

    Bruce Lee stated that, “Defeat is a state of mind; no one is very defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality" , in other words, "you're not beaten until you've decided you're beaten". In a boxing match or fistfight, one may have the opportunity to retrain and come back to fight another day. In a gunfight, second place is NOT an option. If you have to engage, engage to win, by whatever means necessary.

  8. Rick

    Great Insights! You are your strongest asset or your greatest liability. You must be there for yourself before you can be there for anyone else. Look forward to more

  9. Ron

    Thank you

  10. Douglas Dalton

    Very good commandments. I learned alot of this from the Military secrets in World War II.