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What I learned watching over 100 fights


Fascinating article by Louis Martin, summarizing his findings after watching 154 fights on YouTube.

The one caveat is that he is not describing truly violent crimes, which obviously wouldn’t be on YouTube. Very interesting, nonetheless.

1) Fights often have no clear winner

Some readers will cringe at my use of the word “winner.” Of course on a deeper level, no one really wins in a fight. But I have to define it somehow. When your standing over your unconscious opponent, you’ve “won.”

The most surprising outcome in fighting seems to be no outcome at all. 48.4% of the fights ended indecisively. In most cases, people simply got tired and stopped of their own accord. Bystanders tend to allow fights to play out, but would often step in when there was a lull in the action.

In fact, it seems that fights that drag past just a handful of seconds are unlikely to end in a clear way. Most people seem to have the energy for one, explosive onslaught of punches. If that fails to end the fight, a second onslaught just won’t have the same power. Turns out, fighting really doesn’t solve much.

2) Knockouts happen in the first ten seconds or not at all

23% of the fights ended in a knockout (which I defined as a single blow that incapacitated a participant). What was interesting about these is that more than half, 64%, occurred in the first ten seconds. After that, there was a sharp decline, but people still “lost” fights by being overwhelmed by punches. This was very likely to happen within the ten to thirty-second mark. After that, the likelihood of an indecisive fight rose dramatically.

3) Women always clinch

For the most part, men and women go about fighting the same way, with one major exception. While 55% of all fights involved a clinch, a whopping 79% of female fighters engaged in clinching. The reason is simple:

Women have hair.

When people aren’t winging punches in fights, they are grabbing whatever they can get ahold of. Women almost always use each other’s hair as a handle to steady their aim and keep the punches coming. They will also commonly use these grips to snap their opponent’s posture over. They might even get them to the ground completely with a well-timed jerk of the hair.

Such a minor thing seems to dramatically influence the strategy with women fighters. If you’re a woman doing martial arts, I would give serious attention to this aspect.

4) Bystanders usually let fights go on

The good news is that only 26% of fights involved a third party getting involved. This means that most fights that started between two people, stayed between two people. The bad news is that when other people did get involved, it was more often than not (68% of the time) the classic “friend jumps in” to join in the fight.

And in terms of someone facing multiple assailants, it’s a mixed bag. Like most fights, 37% of them had no clear outcome. In 26%, the outnumbered person was incapacitated. In another 22%, the person escaped or fled.

Feeling lucky? Only 11% of participants who faced multiple attackers were able to defeat even one of them.

But in only 11% of the cases of multiple attackers, was someone able to incapacitate any of his assailants.

The bottom line here is this, it’s highly unlikely you ever defeat multiple opponents. Run away instead.

5) Almost all fights will go to the ground and stay there

It’s an old cliche that “all fights go to the ground”. And basically, it’s true. Participants engaged in ground fighting 73% percent of the time. When you take out those ten-second knockouts that make up so many early finishes, the number jumps up to 83%.

What’s more, only 41% of grounded fighters were able to return to a standing position. Of those that did, more than half of them returned to the ground (57%).

In terms of outcomes, ground fighting has a major silver lining: violent knockouts drop dramatically on the ground, nearly by half. Only 29% of grounded fighters were knocked out or incapacitated by strikes. For standing fighters, that number jumped to 56%

The last thing worth mentioning is that 57% of the fights that went to the ground happened intentionally, meaning a participant made some sort of attempt at a takedown that worked. The rest was simply a result of people falling down.

6) No one uses “dirty fighting”

I was curious to see if I would witness “dirty fighting” techniques such as biting, groin strikes, fishhooking, etc.

Obviously, I did see a LOT of hair pulling among females. But as for the other things, not so much. Hair pulling aside, only 16% of the fights I recorded contained what I considered “dirty fighting” tactics. Interestingly, they were done by females about 80% of the time.

I read one time that males in our society tend to fight for dominance, and females tend to fight for survival. This generally seems to be the case when I observe fights. My theory is that men follow a loose set of rules when fighting in these “dominance fights” and seem to avoid certain tactics. Women do not.

I could be wrong on that but the bottom line is that dirty fighting is not common, especially among men.

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