The Hard School
Conclusion to the Single Dude’s Guide to Survival
I envision the Single Dude’s Guide to Survival as my last attempt to explain basic tactical behavior to young men in written form. Exactly 20 years ago I made my first attempt, and though the book left much to be desired, the opening segment cannot really be improved upon, other than to update the tactical deductions. Below you will find an excerpt from my long out of print book, The Fighting Edge. The account that set me on the road to writing, an account of the incident that had earlier set me on the road to becoming a feral savage, a “nasty white-boy” who was given a wide berth by most of the unsavory denizens of Harm City (except for cops) from age 30 to 45. What follows is the account of the few minutes in my life that changed the rest of it. It is broken into sections that will be addressed in Italics after each.
SETUP: I was at work, pushing a loaded dolly, still cooling down after an argument with my supervisor and his assistant. Pumped up on whiskey and PCP, they had come to work in a racist frenzy. I’d told them that if they attacked my partner (a black guy), they’d have to deal with me. I could fight, and they knew it. I was young and didn’t realize that their fear of me was to my disadvantage. I kept moving, considering my options. They were two aisles over when I heard the super yell, “All you niggers and hippies are gonna die!”
They’d hit me after work on the parking lot, I had reasoned that they wouldn’t risk losing a union-wage job. I knew that the super kept a baseball bat in his car, so I made a mental note to leave with a mop handle. For now, I had freight to spot. I turned into the detergent aisle, as the part-time kid to my right headed to the back room at a run. Was he sick? Or did he hear the phone?
This is where every threat, every time you are marked for a crime, panhandled, questioned by strange men, this is where the encounter should stay, with you aware, alert, thinking tactically, keeping the situation in the “avoidance zone.” I totally blow it here, thinking of getting the job done, assuming that violence in the workplace would be like violence in the neighborhood and at school, and in the boxing ring had been for me in my youth—confrontational, a fight. The constant failure of most Americans to recognize violence for what it is or to even describe it accurately, comes from this grade school confrontational, in-group, pecking order aggression template, which has no place in a predatory environment. I was also laboring under the illusion that all people held the same basic values, and that there was no real difference between me, a home buyer, husband and father, and these two guys, one a drifter from the hills of West Virginia and the other, a criminal Italian from the Bronx.
IMPACT: The super shouted, “Get ‘im!” I stopped as I heard a single slapping footstep behind me. I began to look back just as a heavy grunting body slammed onto my shoulders and a hairy, muscular left arm wrapped around my neck. It was Geno, the assistant. At 5 feet 8 inches and 147 pounds, I was balancing seven bales of dog food on two wheels, with 170 pounds of mean Italian on my back—trying to rip my head off! For a second I tried to stand. As I went down, I pushed the dolly handle to the right. As it crashed, the steel blade flipped up to the left in time to catch me in the chest as I fell forward to the left. Geno landed on his feet as the super tried to push past him, yelling, “Don’t let ‘im up!”
This is the kind of thing that much self-defense is based on, but if it is done right on the aggressor’s part, there is not much hope unless you are a physical specimen, and your attackers have already decided that you are not. Grappling defensive maneuvers should be dynamic for such an impact, not resistance based or too technical, but focused on going with the fall and rolling through it, not stopping in hopes of getting up but making distance from the point of impact as you fall. The people who are really good at this are not combat athletes or fighters or even grapplers, but ball players.
THE FLOOR: I rolled back off of the blade as Geno trapped my right shoulder with his left hand, pushing me back against the shelving, firing short rights into my face. After eating a few, I pushed off the floor with my left hand, scooted into a semi-sitting position, tucked my chin, and raised my right to the cross-arm guard.
Although this is not what I trained for, my two years of unsuccessful wrestling and four years of unsuccessful boxing combined to enable me to calmly eat the punches and improve my position.
THE BEATING: Geno stepped back and growled, “Get up!” I refused, and he hit me with a right cross over the left lip, resulting in three root canals. I tucked my chin and gritted my teeth as the maniac whacked away with what turned out to be his standard combo—left, right; left, right, right—all hitting my forehead with a dull wooden thud. He was punching down out of a bent squat, and that double right would pull him off balance. He pushed off the shelving to my back to right himself and launched another combo. His punching was ineffective, and there was a stack of freight between the super and me. I sat tight.
The most useful thing about boxing in terms of self defense is the ability to take a beating, because real survival situations tend to go physical like this, by surprise. The ability to remain calm and track his output, finding the rhythm breaks is only learned through sparring, not drilling or bag work.
CHAOS: Geno was getting frustrated. He wasn’t attacking me out of hatred, which was the super’s motivation. This was a dominance thing for him. He had to be the toughest guy on the crew. He stood back and yelled, “Get up and fight!” The super stepped in and kicked my right leg behind the knee. Geno shot him an angry glare and leaned in with another combo. At this point, Geno still wanted to beat me in a fight. The super wanted to drop a case of Ajax on my head and end it.
I was lucky that Geno hit me early and that the clutter separated my attackers as well as their divergent desires for my demise. Always, when attacked by a group, look for a way to mentally or physically separate your enemies.
COMEDY: Again, Geno stepped back and said, “Get up and fight!” and again, the super stepped in—but Geno pushed him back and growled, “He’s mine!” I had to grin. I was getting worked over by Abbot and Costello!
I seriously found this funny at the time, which is a sign that I had the proper mindset for counter-predation, though I lacked the tactical mental toolkit.
THE KILL: Geno wiped the smirk off my face with a big combo. He actually got his weight into those last five punches. I didn’t feel anything, but my head moved. This time when he lost balance, he grabbed my head in both hands and started slamming it against the metal shelving behind me. He caught me with the corner of the Ivory soap shelf. I felt a sharp pinch at the back of my skull every time it hit. My head would bounce back as the tinny rattle of the shelving rang in my ears—my clearest memory of this incident. That sound still gives me chills when I hear it.
After a point—I had lost any sense of timing and repetition—I noticed that every time he pulled my head toward his chest, blood would arc over his shoulder. It was mine. I discarded the pacifist attitude.
You have to have fought to be able to reliable asses when a foe has decided to finish you. Being able to feel this, just as he feels the need, is necessary. The longer this situation went the more my violent past and training—if in quite different scenarios—began to assert itself.
SURVIVAL: I didn’t want to lose consciousness around these two. Besides, I had never been knocked out and wouldn’t give that fat pig the pleasure of being the first to do it. I grabbed him by the throat, pushing my thumbs into his windpipe. I was surprised that his neck was so small. He let go of my head and grabbed my forearms. He began to get weak and stepped back. The super stepped in and helped pry my hands off his throat. Geno didn’t complain.
This is a clutch point where the attackers begin to develop cohesion under pressure. If this had been alone in an alley instead of in a well-staffed workplace, things may have gotten much more brutal in their favor from this point onward.
THE BREAK: Geno stepped back as the super stepped right. Jomo, a big West Indian black, walked up behind the super. I was bleeding, Geno was heaving, and the super was sweating a river of whiskey. The super took one look at Jomo standing there with crossed arms and yelled, “I’m not in it!” (The supervisor and Geno never “talked.” Everything was yelled, growled, or grunted.)
Now, from this point on, we are in a fight, which is what I had trained for. Despite Geno’s remaining tactical advantage as I was still on the floor and he was looming over me, every second that ticked by now favored the younger, trained fighter.
THE GRAPPLE: I was ready to even things up. I had a vague notion of knifing the super (I was armed, but the knife was in my pocket) after I finished Geno. That thought evaporated when I tried to stand. I grabbed the shelving with my left hand and got my left foot under me. Geno jumped on me while my right knee and hand were still on the floor. He put me in a side headlock as he kicked the dolly under me with his right foot. As he held my throat over the blade’s edge, he growled, “I’m gonna break your fuckin’ neck!”
I said, “I know,” reached around his back with my right hand and gouged his right eye with my middle finger. He shifted enough to turn his face, which allowed me to get my right foot under me. He didn’t have enough left to take me down from this position. On the other hand, I had forgotten how to break a headlock and couldn’t find his eye. The aisle was suddenly full of people. The super was calling the boss’s daughter a slut. The boss (a little old lady) was beating on Geno’s big biceps with her little fist. This was pissing him off, so he started to crank the hold.
The following passage was heavily redacted by the paladin press editor, who was trying to preserve some measure of decency. It is restored here.
CONCLUSION: I grabbed for Geno’s balls, but his jeans were so tight I couldn’t get a grip. He was becoming indecisive, no longer trying to take me down. The boss must have hit his arm 20 times. I jammed my hand down the back of his pants, snaking it through the crack of his sweaty, hairy ass, into his underwear. It was not easy to force my hand down between his muscular ass cheeks, though this was aided by the sweat. Just as my index and middle fingers began scrapping at the back of his hot, hairy balls, he broke the hold and snarled, “I’m out of here.”
The super yelled, “I quit,” and hurried away. Geno snorted, “Me, too,” and walked after him. The boss pointed her finger at me and said, “You are fired for fighting!”
This is so typical, that a successful defense that is hard fought—since the attack was launched when no neutral or friendly witnesses were in sight—will tend to look to arriving witnesses as a mutual combat.
AFTERMATH: I had lost a lot of blood and wouldn’t leave the store, because I knew that Geno and the super were waiting for me in the parking lot with a bat and a station wagon. None of the blacks on the crew would take me to the hospital. The part-time kid had found and removed a steel pipe earlier that evening, not far from where I had been jumped. I remembered seeing the super with it the night before, thinking he had been using it to level a shelf base. A real nice guy.
A cop came to make me leave. When he saw the scalp peeling off the back of my head, he suggested that I arrange for a ride to the hospital. He took one look around at the scene and informed the elderly owner that I had obviously been jumped from behind, that the Super was pumped up in a manner consistent with an attacker, not a witness and that he was certain they would follow me and finish the job, so I needed to have a useful friend. Fortunately, I had directed the boss’s daughter to tell my wife to call Banno, an actual killer whose son, Dante Justine, would become my first boxer. While he was taking my name and address, I did not realize that it would be given to my attackers, who I had never trusted and had made every attempt to foil their knowing my address, which they had sought by offering me rides home and even following me after work. The cop informed me that Geno was pressing charges; the super claimed that he had seen me jump Geno from behind. The cop suggested that I get a lawyer, as he asked for my name and address to complete the form he was required to fill out. Now the supervisor and Geno would know where I lived! Months of legal hassles followed, during which I discovered that lowlife criminals know the system as well as any lawyer an honest civilian can hire.
My injuries included a scalp laceration (which was closed with staples), a concussion, bruised ribs, and three damaged teeth that required root canals.
PERSPECTIVE: My “partner” thanked me for offering to defend him. He explained, however, that the threats against him had been a ruse to set me up. The supervisor and Geno knew of his gang affiliation and that he carried a .38 special. (That was news to me.) Besides, he pointed out, he was just a “nigger;” I was a “nigger lover.” I rated higher on the hate scale with the supervisor and Geno.
Afterwards, I realized that I had some hard questions to answer, which led me to write over twenty books on this subject in as many years. The survival philosophy I wish to encourage readers to follow is avoidance, and once combat is engaged, a legally sustainable counter attack.
The survival fighter must acquire the following experience-based skill set:
- Floor work is a prerequisite, focusing on the ability to take your partner down, deny the takedown, and reverse the takedown to gain your feet again. Floor fighting is stupid in an age when a one-to-one attack is a rarity and mob attacks are the rule. To the extent that floor work is pursued for submissions, it should focus on disarming armed antagonists and on submitting unarmed fighters against a vertical surface: wall, fence, vehicle, etc. BJJ is great, but learn some Judo and roll with wrestlers so you can learn what “wresting strength” is.
- Boxing is a must, not just MMA boxing, but real boxing with real boxers in a real boxing gym. Focus on the jab above all else.
- Knife dueling, with a sparring partner, using safety knives and fencing masks, cups and lacrosse gloves, is the surest way to learn functional knife mechanics. Break your unarmed-against-the-knife countermeasures out of this context.
- Stick-fighting, learning power-striking on the bag [tires and posts will do] and learning tactics and defense through tap-sparring with your knife-fighting gear, teaches the crucial aspect of range sensitivity with hand-held weapons.
I intentionally left out firearms as I know nothing about them and there is no legally sustainable way for a white man to use a firearms for defense in Baltimore Maryland, not even if he is a police officer. I will leave that discussion to those who are knowledgeable.
See aggression clearly for what it is, avoid it if at all possible, commit your mind to a tactical worldview and if you must resist it, do so with ruthless efficiency, not emotion.