In case you didn’t already know, prison is not a very fun place. When you’re not being strip-searched by guards or being forced to take a dump in full view of your cellmate, you’re constantly on the lookout for people trying to do your harm. Prison is one of the few places left in today’s modern world where a man is measured by his ability to fight. So while you generally shouldn’t take life advice from a person who has ended up in prison, when it comes to learning how to fight and survive a violent encounter, there is something to be learned from inmates.
I have reached out to a couple former inmates as well as a former prison guard to learn what it really takes to survive when your life is on the line and the only thing standing between you and a cold metal slab is your capacity for violence. If you’re looking for an article on dispute resolution, or hoping to find advice on how to properly apply that new super-secret wristlock you heard about, I recommend you look elsewhere. Instead, this article aims to give you real, no bullshit advice on how to hurt another human being when serious violence is the last resort.
This is How to Win a Prison Fight – 7 Rules for Surviving a Violent Encounter.
1) Get Big. There is a reason prisoners spend a large percentage of their free time working out. Not only does being big and strong make you look intimidating (which makes people less likely to mess with you), but it allows you to physically overpower another person. The bigger and stronger guy has the advantage in a fight. You hit harder, wrestle stronger, and are harder to knock down. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself why almost all combat sports have weight classes. Even five or ten pounds can make a difference. And all things being equal, outweighing someone by thirty, forty, or fifty pounds makes you almost guaranteed to win.
2) Hit First. There’s a saying, “If you’re defending, you’re losing.” Don’t wait for the other guy to throw the first punch. Nobody really cares who threw the first punch. The only difference is that the person who hits first has a big advantage. The majority of people who wait to be hit before defending themselves end up losing the fight. That’s because while you’re covering up or trying to block a person’s punch, another punch is already on the way. And by the time you block that punch, another is on the way. It’s a cycle that repeats itself until you get knocked out. Don’t be on the receiving end of that cycle. Hit first. Hit hard. And keep on hitting.
3) Have a Weapon. Prisoners will go to almost any lengths to make sure they can protect themselves out in the yard, and one of the best ways they do this is by being armed with a weapon. A good weapon acts as a force multiplier and can greatly increase a man’s ability to do serious damage in a fight. Because of this, inmates are constantly coming up with new and inventive ways to make sure they always have access to something dangerous when they need it. One of the more ingenious methods I heard of is a prisoner who hid a weapon in plain sight by sharpening a piece of metal, then taping a few leaves to the end of it and sticking it straight into the dirt out in the yard. To the rest of the world it just looked like a small weed popping out of the ground. But to the prisoner who put it there, that “weed” was a potential life-saver. Out in the real world you don’t need to get this creative. Depending on what country you live in, it’s perfectly acceptable to carry a knife or gun with you for self protection. (Check your local laws and use your best judgment.) Remember, having the right weapon can save your life. Conversely, you should also keep an eye out for weapons that your opponent may have. Always be aware of people’s hands.
4) Have Backup. In a gang fight, a man without backup is as good as dead. Unlike in the movies where a lone hero can take out ten men using nothing but his speed and fighting skills, in the real world, having reinforcements can mean the difference between getting a few cuts and bruises, and ending up in the hospital. In prison having backup usually means joining a gang, but on the streets it could be something as simple as hitting up the local bar with your buddies instead of by yourself, or being friendly with the doorman. At the very least, do your best not to get in a fight with someone who’s rolling with a bigger crew than you are.
5) Be Trained. Most of the guys in prison aren’t trained martial artists. A few of them have boxed or wrestled, but when it comes to fighting most of them don’t really know what they’re doing and just rely on strength and aggression. The good news is that strength and aggression can be overcome with proper training. Most martial arts are bullshit and won’t help you against a real attacker, but a few of them will. These are the five most legitimate martial arts for learning how to win a fight against a bigger and stronger opponent.
- Mixed Martial Arts
- Muay Thai
- Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
- Freestyle Wrestling
- Krav Maga
6) Haul Ass. Mr. Miyagi was right when he said, “Best defense… No be there.” If shit’s going down and you don’t want any part of it, haul ass and get the hell out of there. It’s that simple. (Technically speaking this isn’t a rule for “winning” a fight but it’s still some damn good advice.)
7) Be Aware. Prisoners are constantly on the lookout for trouble. That’s because inmates don’t normally telegraph the fact that they’re about to attack someone. Firstly, the guards would try to shut them down before they had a chance to do their business. And secondly, they don’t want to give up the element of surprise and warn their victim that an attack is imminent. Lucky for you that’s usually not how it usually works in the rest of the world. Out in the real world, most people make a big show out of preparing to fight. They start yelling and getting in the other person’s face. “Bro are you serious right now! ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW! You’re about to get fucked up!” If this starts happening, refer to either rule 2 or 6. Hit first or haul ass.
The overarching concept behind all this advice is that force respects force. Whether that force is from a weapon, physical size, greater skill, or greater numbers, surviving a violent encounter is about increasing the force available to you by any means necessary.
Stay safe out there.
Until next time,