Sparring Is Not Fighting
Amateur and professional sports events such as Mixed Martial Arts, boxing and professional wrestling, as well as Taekwon-Do, Jiu-Jitsu, Karate and other martial arts classes, have led the general public to view these sporting matches as “fights.” These talented professional and amateur athletes also contribute to the misnomer, hyping the events with rivalries, wagers and taunts. However, there are several important differences between these sporting events or tournaments and actual fights.
Athletes have weeks or months to train for the event. They know the day, time, and location it will be held. Athletes know who their opponent will be, and have agreed to meet that opponent in a fair match on equal footing. They know what the stakes are – a title, a belt, a medal, a coveted match with a specific contender, or even a hefty payday. Athletes know which weapons, if any, will be allowed in their competition. They wear required protective gear such as gloves, mouthpieces, and groin protection, and can rest assured that a referee will be watching for illegal techniques and assessing penalties for infractions. Athletes know that the event will last only a specified amount of time, and that in the event of a serious injury, their coach or the medical staff can stop the match. Athletes know that the event will be held in a well-lighted area, the rules won’t change mid-event, and that no bystanders will join in to gang up on them.
A fight may occur in any place, at any time, and for a myriad of reasons. There may be multiple opponents, with makeshift weapons or even knives or guns. The attacker(s) may be angry over a perceived slight, impaired by drugs or alcohol, or simply thrill seekers out to prove their dominance or increase their standing with their peer group. There In many cases, only one person knows that the fight is about to happen. There is often no one to intervene, offer assistance or call police until the fight is long over. Fights are not fair. Sand is thrown, hair is pulled, eyes are gouged. Any possible advantage is taken and exploited.
Avoid a fight if you possibly can. If you can’t, protect yourself (and your loved ones) as best you can, and escape as soon as you can. Don’t waste time thinking,” This can’t be happening,” or rationalizing your attacker’s reasoning. The altercation could be over by the time you make sense out of the situation. Trust your instincts and take action, whether that means running, taking cover, arming yourself, assuming a defensive stance (hands up, body turned sideways to be a smaller target), or striking out at your assailant.
If there are bystanders, ask for their help: “You in the red shirt! Call 9-1-1!” Clearly and loudly communicate your desire to avoid a fight by saying, “I don’t want any trouble,” or even, “Don’t hit me!” Your words may figure heavily in a lawsuit or police report if bystanders are asked what they remember.
If you can’t avoid an attack, be sure to go get checked out afterward. You might have a concussion or internal bleeding if you’ve fallen or been struck. Worse, what feels like a hard punch or kick could wind up being a stab wound. Don’t take chances…and be sure to file a police report as soon as possible.