When Do You want to throw the 1st punch?
When it comes to fighting, you’re always going to win 100% of the fights you’re not in. I always emphasize that if you can de-escalate or get out of the situation, that will be your best bet.
But again, you’re not always able to do that. Sometimes we’ve no choice but to engage in a fight, which brings us to the question, is it okay to throw the first strike in a fight?
Pre-Emptive Strike: Self-Defense Vs. Assault
Before we look at the scenarios where you’d want to throw the first strike, you need to understand what the law says about it.
In general, and legally, you rarely want to throw the first punch. In most cases, the first person to throw
a punch or attack is seen as the aggressor in the eyes of the law. Your opponent can easily turn tables and legally say they were in for self-defense, and you attacked them.
Remember fighting in the streets is different from MMA, boxing, or movies. You can get seriously hurt with one swing or kill someone just as easily and face the consequences of your actions. And therefore, the need to throw a pre-emptive strike should be out of self-defense and not used to “fight” or settle scores. To make it clear, my guide will focus on the self-defense aspect.
So, before throwing a punch, always regard the justice system; familiarize yourself with the national and state laws. For example, some states demand that you legally have a “duty to retreat,” in such states, throwing the first punch will automatically get you in trouble.
However, even if you live in a stand-your-ground state, it’s easy to get into trouble for throwing the first punch. You must legally defend your actions even then, and if you’re proved wrong, you end up in jail.
So, before we consider the circumstances in which you’re allowed to throw the first punch, let’s consider the instances in the law that would allow you to do it for self-defense.
If you can legitimately argue that you felt your immediate safety was in imminent danger and that you saw no way to secure yourself other than physical violence, you could secure your way from the legal jaws. You need to prove that the aggressor showed a clear threat of bodily harm.
Various factors can underline the believability of your story, such as the aggressor reaching out for a weapon, a drunken assailant, or even corroboration from a responsible witness.
During an assault trial, the judge considers the actions of a normal person vis-à-vis your action. In a normal conflict situation, a normal person would try to de-escalate the situation and wouldn’t necessarily throw a punch if there’s a way out.
For example, if you can retreat or escape, you don’t need to throw a punch. On the other hand, if there’s no chance to escape, walk away or run, you could get away with throwing the first strike.
Ability and Imminence
The law will also consider the ability and imminence. For example, if you’re a big guy and a kid threatens to kick you, you’re not allowed to retaliate, regardless of their intent. See, if your opponent can’t execute a threat or even harm you if they do, you can’t speak for self-defense.
Of course, these pointers are no by no means legal advice. They’re simple rules of thumb to help you start how the law may interpret different situations. You must thoroughly research the local laws to help you maneuver the situation.
When Can I Use a Pre-Emptive Strike for Self-Defense?
We’ve highlighted the legal aspects to consider before striking a pre-emptive punch. Now, let’s go to the practical tips and situations which allow you to throw a punch first when confronted.
Pre-empt their Punch
You’re allowed to throw a punch first to counter an incoming punch. If your opponent starts to throw their punch relatively slowly, you can strike quickly and hard to pre-empt their punch.
In such a case, hitting your opponent on the shoulder is a great way to take as much force and energy out of their punch.
Opponent Corners You
If your opponent actively blocks your escape route and has cornered you into a vulnerable position, then violence is probably unavoidable. Throwing the first punch is perfect if you can’t walk out of a situation.
And you throw the first punch, not because you want a physical fight, but because it could mean the difference between being KO’d or getting out of a sticky situation alive.
Aggressor Comes on Your Face
Another practical situation when you’re allowed to throw the punch first is if the aggressor comes within a distance, that isn’t socially acceptable. Think of this when someone comes to your face literally, especially with an obvious intent to harm.
I’ve seen too many times when people allow the aggressor to come to their face, and when they’re not paying attention, they’re knocked out cold. Most people are usually caught up too much in the argument and forget they could get rocked.
However, only throw the first punch if they come to your face aggressively and refuse to leave you alone. On the other hand, if the aggressor is standing away in a fighting posture egging on you, calling you names, or yelling, there’s no reason to strike first.
An aggressor riled up and ready to fight you will telegraph their intentions. People will often betray the need to attack with their body language. See, fighting usually has a precursor, and it’s easy to know when someone is about to hit you.
Some of the common tell-tale signs are:
- Edgy movements
- Clenching their fists
- Tight & furrowed jaw
- Pale face
If you see your aggressor exhibiting these signs, you must stay alert and ready to throw the first strike.
What Fighting Technique to Use
Sometimes, things can get a little sticky, and you cannot de-escalate the situation. Now, assuming you decide to use a pre-emptive strike to ensure you’re not harmed or hurt, which one do you use?
Use the one that will get the job done.
It’s an oversimplified answer, but your choice of pre-emptive fighting technique should work in your situation. You shouldn’t fumble when striking your opponent.
Here’re some pointers to consider when selecting a pre-emptive strike technique:
In the event of close-quarters street fights, never fight fair. Fight dirty, and don’t be nice. Niceties, decorum, & fairness are a hindrance in a physical altercation.
If you must throw sand in your aggressor’s eyes before kicking their balls as hard as possible, do it. Hit their stomach, groin, bite, or scratch their eyes. Use weapons around you, elbows, and knees.
The thing with street fights and there’s no such thing as a clean fight, and the only people who complain that the fight was unfair outside the ring are those who lost.
Choose a Technique you’re Confident In
The other important thing to consider when selecting a pre-emptive strike technique is to be familiar with and confident in its abilities.
Ideally, pick a technique that you’ve practiced. In such a situation, trying that technique you saw in a movie is not best. Instead, pick a fighting technique you’re familiar with and confident it’ll yield the desired results.
All In or Not
If you take a pre-emptive strike route, you must be committed to the mission ahead. There’s no room for half-arsing around. Throwing half-baked strikes at your aggressor will only rile them up more, which is not good.
Instead, you need to deliver lethal blows that will give you a window of opportunity to run or have them reconsider confronting you again, even if it means decapitating them.
In line with the all-in or out aspect, you must also select a reasonable force, depending on the situation.
See, there’re many variables to consider when determining the amount of force to use. For example, a response to an aggressor with a knife is different from that threatening to punch you in the face.
An idealistic pre-emptive strike should be one that you can do without winding up or telegraphing your intent. Let the strike be a surprise. It shouldn’t require any preparedness or even give them time to respond.
Regardless of the pre-emptive technique you pick, it should solve your specific problem at that time. Don’t go for a technique you heard worked for your buddy or anything. Go with what you believe is the best choice for you there and then.
How to Time a Pre-emptive Strike
The final aspect to consider when you go for a pre-emptive strike is timing your strike. The timing of a pre-emptive strike is just as important as the strike itself.
So, what are some tips for timing your strike:
Draw an Imaginary Line
In any confrontation, distance is always key. Never allow the aggressor to come too close to your personal space; otherwise, they’ll surprise you with a pre-emptive strike. Plus, you’ll have less reaction time if they get too close.
Instead, it helps if you visualize an imaginary line to separate you from your aggressor. Ideally, the line should be far from where the aggressor can reach you.
You can keep maneuvering so they stay behind the line, but if they come too close for your comfort, you can land them a punch.
Hit when Talking
The opportune moment to hit your aggressor is when they’re talking. Human minds are wired to focus on one activity at a time and don’t respond well to a radically different activity. So, before their minds switch to fighting mode, you’ll have inflicted enough damage.
And this also applies to you. Distract them with your talk, and then make a surprise attack on them when they least expect it.
Be Flexible and Stay Focused on the Mission
You must remain assertive and flexible so it’s easy to throw a pre-emptive strike from any side, situation, or opportunity.
Finally, stay focused on the mission. Your actions should help you achieve your mission or at least get closer. For example, if your goal is to escape, choose a technique that will decapacitate your aggressor temporarily to allow you to flee.
This video has been included for its clarification of the topic matter. Credit goes to
Engaging in physical altercations or violence is strongly discouraged. It is always best to prioritize peaceful conflict resolution and avoid resorting to physical violence. If you find yourself in a situation where a physical altercation seems imminent, it is generally advised to seek non-violent alternatives such as walking away, diffusing the situation through communication, or seeking help from authorities or responsible individuals.
Physical violence can escalate the situation and lead to serious consequences for all parties involved. It’s important to prioritize personal safety, self-control, and seeking peaceful resolutions whenever possible.
When to throw the first punch in a fight is more complex than it seems. When you add the legal aspect, it becomes even more difficult.
And this is when we understand the importance of knowing the law, training, self-defense, and remaining prepared. Fortunately, this guide addresses the basics you need to get started on most of these things.
When it comes to self-defense, there is a distinction between acting in self-defense and engaging in an unprovoked assault. Self-defense typically refers to using necessary and proportionate force to protect oneself or others from immediate physical harm or danger. It is generally considered justifiable when there is a reasonable belief of imminent threat or harm.
However, laws regarding self-defense can vary by jurisdiction, and it is crucial to understand and abide by the specific laws and regulations in your area. In most jurisdictions, self-defense is allowed when there is a genuine and reasonable perception of danger, and the response is proportional to the threat.
Engaging in an unprovoked assault, on the other hand, is generally illegal and can lead to criminal charges and serious consequences. Initiating a physical confrontation without justifiable cause can be seen as an act of aggression and is not considered self-defense.
It is always advisable to prioritize personal safety, seek non-violent resolutions whenever possible, and, if faced with a situation that may require self-defense, consult local laws and regulations to understand the rights and responsibilities pertaining to self-defense in your jurisdiction. Additionally, seeking professional advice from legal experts can provide a clearer understanding of self-defense laws specific to your location.