How to Survive a Bar Fight

Feb 15, 2012
Outside Magazine
Bar fight

"Take that, liberal!"    Photo: Courtesy of Everett Collection

Anyone who's been in a real rumble will tell you it's a far more brutal affair than your choreographed fantasies of kicking ass like Patrick Swayze in Road House. "A fight is a no-win proposition," says Peyton Quinn, 57, self-defense instructor, former bouncer, and author of A Bouncer's Guide to Barroom Brawling. "You either go to jail, the emergency room, the courtroom, or all three." Thus Quinn's first rule: Avoid potentially violent encounters. Failing that ...

  1. Insults are intended to intimidate and elicit reaction. "You're being interviewed as a potential victim," says Quinn. Don't ignore, insult, or challenge an aggressor.
  2. Remain calm, look the guy in the eye, and respond assertively, giving him an honorable exit. Apologize if you were the one asking for it.
  3. If he's bent on an attack, hold your hands open at eye level, palms toward him, and yell, "Stay back! I don't want to fight you." You'll draw attention and set up your legal defense.
  4. "If it does come to blows, you have to go off 110 percent," says Quinn. The aggressor will likely throw a wide right hand first. As you deflect it, counter with an open palm or forearm (not a closed, breakable fist) to the bridge of the nose, a knee to the groin, a head butt to the bottom row of teeth.
  5. Keep it up, be sure to breathe, break his balance, and shove him as hard as you can while screaming that you don't want to fight.
  6. Then you just haul ass.