Mar 10

Book Review: How to Win a Fight


As provocative as the title of this book is – How to Win a Fight: A Guide to Avoiding and Surviving Violence – there’s so much more to this book than just that.

A key point for me, and what I hope to get across to our students, is in the subtitle – “A Guide to Avoiding and Surviving Violence.”

Kane and Wilder, two of my favorite martial arts authors today, spend the entire first third of the book discussing what happens before violence even occurs. They talk about the importance of awareness, a key word throughout in probably every single chapter. Be aware of what’s happening around you, and what you could be doing to add gas or water to the fire.

From the authors:

Self-defense really isn’t about fighting like most people think. Self-defense is about not being there when the other guy wants to fight. Fighting is a participatory event, which means you were part of the problem. Even if you think you were only “defending” yourself, if your actions contributed to the creation, escalation, and execution of violence, then you were fighting. And fighting is illegal and a really bad idea.

This collection of chapters is excellently assembled, almost as if the authors had kept a blog and edited that content for this book. The chapters are pretty short and have catchy, “listicle”-style headlines, such as “Know How to Perform First Aid” and “Seven Mistakes to Avoid in a Fight.”

Broken into three sections – before the fight, during it, and afterward – How To Win a Fight brings up legal questions constantly, a poignant reminder that, first, we live in a litigious country, and second, the martial arts moves we practice and teach to a fault (meaning we don’t fully execute the technique unless we’re hitting a pad or performing in the air) actually do have consequences when applied to people. Don’t overestimate that.

If the book boiled down to one simple takeaway, though, it would probably be this:

Even though the books were published under different companies, I view this book as a precursor to Scaling Force. That is a much more detailed book discussing each of the levels of force – presence, voice, empty-hand restraint, non-lethal force and lethal force – that are only briefly outlined in How to Win a Fight. (Kane and Miller also add a sixth level in Scaling Force).

I’m happy to add this book to my “Recommended Reading” for my lower ranks.

Adam Bockler

Sensei Adam Bockler is a 2nd-degree black belt in karate and the owner of Metamora Martial Arts. He's been in the martial arts since 2003, and has received instruction in tai chi chuan, Hsing-i chuan, judo, tae kwon do and XMA. Sensei Bockler was inducted into the 2014 USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame as Karate Black Belt of the Year. He is the communications manager for Float Mobile Learning.

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