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I Punch First
July 2, 2014 2:16 PM   Subscribe

On 22nd May 2014, Gia Milinovich awoke to discover an intruder in her house. This is what happened next.
posted by chrimble (107 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
(Actually, it would have been the 23rd May. But even so -- just wow.)
posted by chrimble at 2:18 PM on July 2


Punching a hard surface with force pretty much always bruises thoses knuckles even when executed perfectly — no need to self criticize. It seems like whenever I read about a pro boxer in a street brawl they break their hand & opponents face with the first punch.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:23 PM on July 2


The most irritatingly viral thing about Upworthy is how their terrible headline style has infected the rest of the internet.

That said the piece was interesting. I think I've read somewhere on the internet that if you're faced with a home intruder, immediate full on aggression as exhibited here is the best response because if you don't react immediately you or your could be taken hostage.

What this means is that when I open the shower curtain I'm mentally preparing myself to tackle the person that is never, and will never be, hiding behind it.
posted by Aizkolari at 2:29 PM on July 2 [23 favorites]


I think her point is that she bruised part of her hand---in other words it wasn't a perfect hit.

That she punched first.
posted by bonehead at 2:30 PM on July 2


I totally get the "twitter feminists" (as Gia calls them) idea that the onus is on society to change itself so that women aren't victimized. But not taking self defense because you feel like you shouldn't have to just doesn't really work out.

I shouldn't have to go to work, but I do. Women shouldn't have to live in fear of being victimized. Me not going to work won't make my life any better. Urging women not to tell other women to take self defense classes... I just don't see how that will end well.
posted by natteringnabob at 2:32 PM on July 2 [7 favorites]


She obviously dealt with the burglar effectively and far more successfully than I ever would in the same situation, but the principles she articulates seem like they would lead to "eye gouge first" rather than "punch first". Is punching better maybe because someone's more likely to grab hold of you while you're eye-gouging or biting in the gentlemanly Southern style?
posted by XMLicious at 2:33 PM on July 2


Hmm, interesting. Mostly I know her from her arguments with trans folk, which have led me to like her not even a little bit. It's good that she defended her family effectively. I'm not surprised that she punches first.
posted by Ambient Echo at 2:37 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


Brava. She did well, the training obviously helped her use her fight or flight response more effectively. Yes, the world should change so self defense training is not required, but until then, training is good.
posted by arcticseal at 2:38 PM on July 2


Good stuff.

I agree with Aizkolari about the immediate full on aggression. If nothing else it keeps you from being the victim equivalent of low hanging fruit. Just forwarded this to the gf with one minor adjustment "You swing first".

The advice she heard is def. spot on. In most fights the person who lands the first solid strike generally wins. We keep a baseball bat in the room and I want her to swing first. There would be barking dogs (another reason we hopefully aren't low hanging fruit) instead of cats jumping from the bed in another room (wow!...how did she hear that while asleep?) but hopefully everything else would go the same way.

Captain obvious here but Fuck everything about people coming into your house uninvited.
posted by NervousVarun at 2:39 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


What this means is that when I open the shower curtain I'm mentally preparing myself to tackle the person that is never, and will never be, hiding behind it.

Yeah, whenever I have to use the bathroom I check to make sure no one's hiding behind the shower curtain, especially if I'm at a party at someone else's house.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 2:43 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


Maybe they should just call them physical aggression classes. Then it wouldn't be framed in a victim-y way.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:45 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I 'm sorry about the "this is what happened next" bit, as that phrase really has transformed into a "boy who cried wolf"-style red flag of clickbait on the Internet.

But nothing else seemed satisfactory, somehow.
posted by chrimble at 2:45 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I don't know. I wasn't impressed. Are you truly sure the intruder has no training or does not have a weapon that is not immediately visible? Are you sure you won't make the situation a lot more dangerous? Are you sure you will injure the person sufficiently with your first strike?

Myth #1 You should reason with your attacker. (He’s a criminal ergo he’s unreasonable.)

I can see picking up visual clues that the person can not be reasoned with, but most criminals are in for a sneak in, sneak out. I have been in this situation and told the person to head straight out. He did.

Attacking (if trained) might be the best option if the person doesn't leave or else there are some clear visual clues that this will end the situation. But otherwise, no.

It worked out well for her. Good. But that wasn't the only possible outcome.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:47 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


bonehead: "I think her point is that she bruised part of her hand---in other words it wasn't a perfect hit.
"

Here's a small explanation for people who are not trained in the Way of Punch Fist:

When you practice punching on a bag, or pads, you're typically taught to punch with the fore and middle knuckles leading. There's some exotics like phoenix knuckles, but generally you hit with those two. Even when you do this well, the force of your strike will flatten out the fist and your floating knuckles -- ring finger and pinkie -- will still contact the surface.

The problem comes if your floating knuckles impact first. You could dislocate them or worse. There's no support for those two and they just crumple in unpredictable ways (seriously, try "folding" the bottom of your palm in toward the thumb joint. See how far it moves in before stopping/ hurting?)

If somebody's amped up on adrenaline, and swinging for the stands -- most martial arts teach you to punch "through" your target as though you were going to pierce it with your whole fist -- I could easily see any good solid punch resulting in bruising or split knuckles.

If I chased off an intruder and that was the result of my injuries, I would be thrilled.

Verdict: A good, clean punch.
posted by boo_radley at 2:47 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


See, there's a difference between saying "Self defense classes are useful in this unfortunate world we live in" and saying "All women should get self-defense training so they'll be raped less often." The article doesn't seem to be making that distinction and dismissing the larger point that "Twitter feminists" made about putting self-defense training as the end goal and proper response to the problem of assault, sexual or otherwise.
posted by Scattercat at 2:47 PM on July 2 [9 favorites]


. . . but the principles she articulates seem like they would lead to "eye gouge first" rather than "punch first".

A punch can be delivered much more quickly and reflexively than an eye-gouge, though, and is harder to defend against. It also has the potential advantage to very quickly stun or even knock out your opponent.
posted by ryanshepard at 2:47 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I woke up once to find someone breaking into my house in much the same way that she did. I didn't punch first. I just shouted a lot (just like she did). It had exactly the same effect as she had - he ran away. Most people trying to burgle your house are doing just that - they just want to take something and get away.

From her story it doesn't sound as if her punch did much actual damage (he made a "that wasn't very nice" noise, apparently), so if he wanted to become violent I'm sure he could have.

Did the "punching first" really make much difference?
It seems to me that's the kind of attitude that ends up with people keeping guns in their house
posted by silence at 2:47 PM on July 2 [5 favorites]


Is punching better maybe because someone's more likely to grab hold of you while you're eye-gouging or biting in the gentlemanly Southern style?

Especially when you're going up against somebody bigger and stronger than you, you don't want to get into a grappling match.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:48 PM on July 2 [6 favorites]


The fact that she got attacked in her home is awful. The fact that she fought him off is great.

Neither of those things give her the moral high ground sufficient to write off everyone that she happens to disagree with.

This reads as a calculated attack on her part, and that's unfortunate. She makes an interesting point, but she frames it as the last word on the subject, much as she has done before. She sees so-called "Twitter feminists" (that's a nice derisive nickname, eh?) as the enemy, in the same way that she sees trans women as the enemy, and she is arguing that their point of view flatly isn't valid because they haven't had her experience.

Ambient Echo: “I'm not surprised that she punches first.”

Yep. This article is clearly intended as a first punch. I'm not sure it landed.
posted by koeselitz at 2:53 PM on July 2 [28 favorites]


Made me smile.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:57 PM on July 2


I'm with koeselitz and Ambient Echo. Much as burglary is scary and self-defence legitimate, I can't approve of her agenda on this or on trans issues.
posted by imperium at 2:57 PM on July 2 [5 favorites]



Especially when you're going up against somebody bigger and stronger than you, you don't want to get into a grappling match.


Sometimes, that's the best tactic, actually.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:58 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


She sees so-called "Twitter feminists" (that's a nice derisive nickname, eh?) as the enemy

And she linked fucking Twitchy as a primary source... you might as well just cite FreeRepublic at that point.
posted by kmz at 3:07 PM on July 2 [8 favorites]


She's lucky.
posted by ReeMonster at 3:08 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


If you’re ever in a situation with another person that looks like it could go bad, punch first’. So, several times in his life he’s punched first.

I thought it was actually really good advice.


Obviously, in this particular instance that advice worked out OK for her. If some creep is creeping around in your house and you are in danger, OK, maybe an argument could be made that throwing the first punch is a good idea. But otherwise, "punch first" strikes me as some of the worst advice I've ever heard. Being prepared to fight is good. Some confrontations are unavoidable. Being the one who always throws the first punch is bullshit. If you find yourself repeatedly throwing the first punch, maybe you're the problem. Learn when to walk away, already.

(On preview:) I had no idea about her squabbles with the trans community, which I'm not going to really delve into because life is too damn short.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:08 PM on July 2 [5 favorites]


Uh, shouldn't the best thing to do first is to RUN AWAY?
posted by FJT at 3:13 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


"Did the "punching first" really make much difference?
It seems to me that's the kind of attitude that ends up with people keeping guns in their house."

Yes.
posted by ITravelMontana at 3:19 PM on July 2


When I first moved to DC, we lived in a basement apartment. Somewhere in the first couple of months, someone broke in in the middle of the night, while we were sleeping.

I remember hearing the blinds in the kitchen rattle; I remember my then-girlfriend calling to the cat to stop, and then she got out of bed, and then I heard her screaming. I don't remember leaping out of bed and running pellmell, roaring (so she told me), and naked, into the kitchen.

The burglar fled. Our landlords put bars on the windows the next day.

I didn't plan for my reaction and I didn't train for it. I wasn't conscious enough to know if I was screaming or roaring or making any noise at all. What I knew at the time was one second I was sounds asleep and the next I was in the kitchen, holding my girlfriend as some stranger's foot disappeared back out through the window.

I spent the next year or so visualizing putting the crowbar that I kept beside the bed through the head of the next person who tried to break in. That was fun. I never got to test if visualizing this action made me really good at it in life; hope I never do.
posted by rtha at 3:21 PM on July 2 [9 favorites]


FJT: "Uh, shouldn't the best thing to do first is to RUN AWAY?"

She mistook the intruder for her son, apparently: "Less than a minute later I heard footsteps in his room. Shoes on the wooden floor. FFS!! My teenage son was either sneaking in or trying to sneak someone out that he’d snuck in the night before. He’d never done anything like this before, but I was livid."
posted by boo_radley at 3:22 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


if you're faced with a home intruder, immediate full on aggression as exhibited here is the best response

It's a fairly fundamental part of the SAS training handbook (and mentioned repeatedly in the Ex-SAS reality/fiction genre) - immediate, severe and overwhelming aggression (loud, shouty attacks with as much force as you can muster) can often shift the immediate shock of two people suddenly happening onto each other in a situation like that and move it more in your favour - ie ONE of you is going to feel dominant, and one of you is not. Better to be dominant than not and immediately getting there first can do that. If you can shift that initial response in your... opponent(?) to defensive and take control of the situation it can allow you to control it that much better.

The key is overwhelming. Not being a bit louder, but being MAXIMUM ATTACK. You force them to bypass their considering of the situation and move to a flight response. The only issue you have is if you both use the same method and they show more aggression than you. Then you're pooched if they're bigger/stronger than you, but arguably you're actually back where you started, rather than worse off.

The fact that she attacked first pretty much does that overwhelming thing. Any fleeting thoughts he may have had of either subduing her and continuing to rob (or worse) were probably effectively dispelled and his response was "This is too much hassle, I'm off".

However, the other approach (of calmly standing there unflinchingly and saying "Well, you can fuck off" and showing no fear at all, employed by a friend of mine some years ago) can often have the same effect. I don't know about anything in between - I think maybe only total aggression or passive disinterest/unimpressednessosity would do it to effectively. At least the maximum attack shows that the only way forward is to leave or at least get a little bit hurt.

Uh, shouldn't the best thing to do first is to RUN AWAY?

Er. No. What was her son (also in/potentially in the house) to do if she ran?
posted by Brockles at 3:24 PM on July 2 [19 favorites]


"I totally get the "twitter feminists" (as Gia calls them) idea that the onus is on society to change itself so that women aren't victimized. But not taking self defense because you feel like you shouldn't have to just doesn't really work out. "

Ugh. That was such compound stupidity.

Miss Nevada got asked what COLLEGES could do to stem the campus rape epidemic. She responded that WOMEN should take self defense courses. Of course people were annoyed — she wasn't just saying that it was a good idea or that she liked it, she was answering the wrong question. Think about: "What should POLICE do to catch rapists?" "WOMEN should take self defense classes." Or even: "What should COLLEGES do to stop burglary on campus?" "MEN should take self defense classes."

That is putting the responsibility on women not to be raped, and you have to be either an idiot or disingenuous to not get the distinction. Unfortunately, in the Xerox internet world, that got collapsed down to "Feminists don't think women should take self defense classes."
posted by klangklangston at 3:27 PM on July 2 [28 favorites]


"I remember hearing the blinds in the kitchen rattle; I remember my then-girlfriend calling to the cat to stop, and then she got out of bed, and then I heard her screaming. I don't remember leaping out of bed and running pellmell, roaring (so she told me), and naked, into the kitchen."

Gawd, Mandyman lives near us and one day was home while some guy tried to break in through her kitchen window. The landlord's response? What are you doing leaving the windows open?
posted by klangklangston at 3:28 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Is punching better maybe because someone's more likely to grab hold of you while you're eye-gouging or biting in the gentlemanly Southern style?

Punching is also better because you can practice punching. As she mentions in the article, she's spent 50+ hours practicing the punch she threw. You cannot practice eye-gouging (ethically). It's better to do something you can do well than attempt to do something that theoretically would do more damage.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:33 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


Er. No. What was her son (also in/potentially in the house) to do if she ran?

Also run? I mean, if I were back to being a teenager, I wouldn't fault a parent for running.
posted by FJT at 3:38 PM on July 2


So good for her! An intruder is in your house at 5am, protect yourself.

But could you imagine the American version of this story? "I shot first". Or maybe "I punched first, then he shot me". There's something to be said for non-lethal weapons.
posted by Nelson at 3:39 PM on July 2


That is putting the responsibility on women not to be raped, and you have to be either an idiot or disingenuous to not get the distinction. Unfortunately, in the Xerox internet world, that got collapsed down to "Feminists don't think women should take self defense classes."

Which, at least for Twitchy, wasn't an accident.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:41 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


"You cannot practice eye-gouging (ethically). It's better to do something you can do well than attempt to do something that theoretically would do more damage."

Huh. That was part of my judo classes — eye gouges, joint locks and pressure points, along with some more dangerous chokes. All of them are illegal in competition judo, but our sensei wanted us to be able to understand them and defend against them because while they're illegal, people in competition still try them from time to time.
posted by klangklangston at 3:43 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I had no idea that Twitchy was a Michelle Malkin joint until just now. I thought it was just a third-rate twitter aggregator, like any one of the Cheezburger knock-offs.
posted by klangklangston at 3:47 PM on July 2


You can practice eye gouges, but you have to already be pretty close (bearhug close) for you to dig in. A punch is much more sensible unless you're way too close already.
posted by benzenedream at 3:49 PM on July 2


Huh. That was part of my judo classes — eye gouges, joint locks and pressure points

But you didn't really gouge anyone's eyes, right? You might have slow-motioned some of the movements that you would use to gouge someone's eyes, but you didn't place your thumb in the eye socket and press as hard as you can. Meanwhile, people can throw punches at full speed and strength over and over again.

Judo was actually one of the first martial arts to learn to favor moves that could be practiced at full strength over moves that theoretically would do more damage but could never be done at full strength and speed at the gym.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:53 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


If you’re ever in a situation with another person that looks like it could go bad, punch first’. So, several times in his life he’s punched first.

I thought it was actually really good advice.


This is terrible advice. Just awful. Advice like this is why people carry concealed weapons and schools have zero tolerance policies. You never know when you'll encounter someone that's been taught to immediately escalate to violence when they think they've been disrespected or they just don't feel "comfortable".

Good for her for protecting herself and her family, but this little anecdote makes her sound like a trigger-happy asshole.
posted by Muppetattack at 3:53 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Can we have a ban on Upworthy style posting? In particular the phrase "happens next" should be an instadelete. (No offense to the content of the post, but goddamn does it set off all my rage triggers just reading those two words now.)
posted by symbioid at 3:58 PM on July 2 [18 favorites]


Wait - I'm guessing she told the guy to hold on for a bit, she had to go write something, then proceeded to write this really long post before getting to the direct point telling us what she did, in the hopes that the guy tires out of waiting and leaves?
posted by symbioid at 4:01 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I totally get the "twitter feminists" (as Gia calls them) idea that the onus is on society to change itself so that women aren't victimized. But not taking self defense because you feel like you shouldn't have to just doesn't really work out.

Rape culture is a gender issue.

Self-defense is self-defense, regardless of gender.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 4:02 PM on July 2


Jeeze, i feel like all i've been doing lately is crapping on linked articles, but i think there's two big problems going on here.

The first one being the aforementioned "self defense is a good idea in the reality of the world" vs "self defense is the solution to rape and assault!" conflation, and dismissal of twitter posters.

The second though, is the "this was a proper situation to punch first in since you have no opportunity to evaluate the threat safely" and "punching first is a good policy in general.

It seems that she has a general problem seeing the nuance between superficially, vaguely similar situations and an agenda in presenting the difference as nonexistent. Good times!

That said, on my initial readthrough before my brain really got to digest it and burp a bit, it is an admirable story of handling a specific shitty situation. And it reminded me of something i may have posted about here in the past.

My mom used to live in a shitty studio apartment in downtown seattle. The place was full of tweakers, losers, sex offenders, and mentally ill people. The area around it was regularly full of violent hobos and tweakers and just general batman the animated series generic criminals too.

My mom is hard as fuck. She used to be a pro tennis player and long distance cyclist, and has martial arts experience.

Right as she stepped out her front door, some guy tried to grab her purse. She held on to it, swung him around, hit him really hard, and grabbed him while he was stumbling and shoved him into traffic. He fell down into the street between two parked cars and someone narrowly avoided running him over. He ran away screaming something to the effect of "FUCK this".

Then she pulled out her phone, called me at school, and asked me how i was doing. Completely nonchalantly.

I love my mom, she's awesome.

Can we have a ban on Upworthy style posting? In particular the phrase "happens next" should be an instadelete.

I would support a ban on this. Make a MeTa.
posted by emptythought at 4:02 PM on July 2 [12 favorites]


I'm so sorry that Twitter Feminists broke into her house and told her not to punch people.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:04 PM on July 2 [14 favorites]


I've never heard of this woman, so have no opinion of her views, but that video transfixed me. I want to find boxing lessons now.
posted by sfkiddo at 4:04 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


but this little anecdote makes her sound like a trigger-happy asshole.

I take it that you are serious. If so, I don't have a clue about what you'd have one do in this sort of situation. I think that an aggressive attack is just right. Obviously, you differ.
posted by stirfry at 4:05 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


"But you didn't really gouge anyone's eyes, right? You might have slow-motioned some of the movements that you would use to gouge someone's eyes, but you didn't place your thumb in the eye socket and press as hard as you can. Meanwhile, people can throw punches at full speed and strength over and over again."

Yeah, that's a fair point, though I don't know if there'd be that much physical difference between putting your thumbs on someone's eyes and putting your thumbs on someone's eyes and pushing as hard as you could. I mean, for the person gouging, not the one being gouged obviously.

It's all kind of beside the point anyway, because judo's not a very good system for self defense, not least because of the emphasis on clean throws and how the point system for pins works. There's a martial tradition, but it's a sport and a lot less defense oriented than, say, boxing or karate.
posted by klangklangston at 4:08 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I can't believe the support the "punch first" thing is getting! That's exactly the rationale behind the Stand Your Ground laws. Exactly. And we know how well those laws go over on Metafilter.

Depending on where she lives what she did was probably illegal. Not that it would likely ever be prosecuted but still illegal. It depends on whether her state has a Castle Doctrine which nullifies the duty to retreat if in your own home. Just like, you know, the Stand Your Ground laws nullify a duty to retreat outside the home.
posted by Justinian at 4:16 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


That's exactly the rationale behind the Stand Your Ground laws.

Are you forgetting the "gun" part in those laws?
posted by mondo dentro at 4:19 PM on July 2 [7 favorites]


I take it that you are serious. If so, I don't have a clue about what you'd have one do in this sort of situation. I think that an aggressive attack is just right.

I think the issue is that this is presented so stridently without any caveats so that it sounds like a setup for "Do you favor the punch-first philosophy or are you one of those figure-out-whether-anyone-needs-to-get-punched-first sissies?" There's no indication that she isn't generally prescribing that people be violently aggressive whenever they feel like it "just in case" the random guy walking through the neighborhood in a hoodie is a threat.
posted by XMLicious at 4:19 PM on July 2


She is in the UK, a thing which is apparent from the only link in the post.
posted by elizardbits at 4:19 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


Second of all whoa there bro let's not go comparing a lady who hit an intruder in her home to some fucked up racist lunatic piece of shit who shot a kid for eating candy in public.
posted by elizardbits at 4:20 PM on July 2 [22 favorites]


Are you forgetting the "gun" part in those laws?

I think you are confused.
posted by Justinian at 4:23 PM on July 2


She is in the UK, a thing which is apparent from the only link in the post.

As far as I can tell the only thing that makes that apparent is mentioning 999 instead of 911, but that is pretty easy to miss.
posted by Justinian at 4:25 PM on July 2


the website says .co.uk, it's right there in the link.
posted by elizardbits at 4:28 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


That's exactly the rationale behind the Stand Your Ground laws.

Are you forgetting the "gun" part in those laws?


There's also the "broke into my house" part of this situation. Because yes, breaking into my house is not remotely the same thing as daring to walk down a street wearing a hoodie.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 4:30 PM on July 2 [7 favorites]


Situations like this are always unpredictable. However, some in-mind or physical training can help. Just think about how many people have never full-on struck another human being. That's a lot of people. I sent my daughter and her friend to a one-day (4 hour) self-defense class with a live (padded) instructor so that she could learn a few basic skills and have the experience of kicking another person as hard as possible in the groin, and going for other vital spots on the face with 100% ferocity. She's not a skilled martial artist, but she will have had the advantage of knowing what striking another person feels like. Body memory is a helpful thing, and stays with a person. Many K12 school systems offer classes like this, for a small fee, on a Saturday or after school. Highly recommended.

Unless one has someone (oneself, or dependent other(s)) to defend, get the hell out of there - get away!!.

If you have minimal martial skill, or none - and you are going to strike to the head - check out this brief video about NOT using a punch to defend yourself..

Here's a cheap home security product that can help deter a door-breaker, or lock-picker. Also suggest window and sliding door locks, and motion-control lighting. ALWAYS have a light on in the evening; it's a powerful theft/intruder deterrent.
posted by Vibrissae at 4:31 PM on July 2 [8 favorites]


Second of all whoa there bro let's not go comparing a lady who hit an intruder in her home to some fucked up racist lunatic piece of shit who shot a kid for eating candy in public.

Without bothering to qualify or temper her advice to punch first in a situation that "looks like it could go bad", she's communicating to both other nice ladies as well as the fucked-up racist lunatics that pre-emptive violent aggression is justified—based on a list of principles and a theoretical threat (theoretical from the perspective of the reader who is contemplating applying the advice, though she may have had a bunch of context in that specific situation which was enough to be certain of a threat) that don't provide any reason to limit things to punching.

If we're going to recommend pre-emptive violence, I just think the advice should be a little more specific than "punch first", even though that makes a great sound bite.
posted by XMLicious at 4:34 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


> If I chased off an intruder and that was the result of my injuries, I would be thrilled.

I recently learned that there is a thing in medical parlance called a "fight bite" (or "reverse bite") injury, which is what you sustain when you sock someone in the jaw hard enough to cut your knuckles open on their teeth.

It's apparently the most common human bite injury, and like all bites -- especially human bites -- it's extremely dangerous due to the risk of infection (eg, 18/100 cases leading to amputation in this study).
posted by Westringia F. at 4:35 PM on July 2 [5 favorites]


What's the opinion of "kick to the balls first" as a tactic? Because that's what I can see myself doing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:36 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


Of people I know, 2 have "punched first", and both have been very seriously injured as a result. One was a friend with something like 15 years of very serious martial arts training, someone attempted to mug him, he punched the guy, at which point the other guy (who he hadn't seen) and the gun (which he hadn't seen) came out, and luckily they chose not to shoot him and only pistol whipped him -- he was in the hospital for over a month with a broken jaw and a bunch of other bad things. The other was in my neighborhood when there was a spate of bike- or run-by purse/phone snatchings. Most of the victims lost their phones and were angry. One person fought back. He was quite seriously injured by the guy (and they took his phone anyway).

I get that she didn't know this guy's intentions, but even if I were well trained, I am a very small woman, and if that one punch didn't go perfectly, and the guy reacted with anger instead of running, I would be 100% screwed, and way, way worse off than if I had run, and screamed for my kids to run too. It's been a long time since I was threatened by someone with a gun, but I ran, and it was without question the right decision. It may not be the right decision in all circumstances, but neither is "punch first", that's for damn sure.
posted by brainmouse at 4:37 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "What's the opinion of "kick to the balls first" as a tactic? Because that's what I can see myself doing."

Entirely valid. Back when I was in martial arts, the groin kick is sort of the "hello friend, how are you today?" conversation starter of woman-based self-defense violence. A person can take that conversation in a lot of different ways and there are many topics that might be broached. Perhaps in another thread, at another time, I will write about when I was uke for some kunochi. (spoiler alert: I got puncture wounds from a comb)
posted by boo_radley at 4:47 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


A friend pulled up to her house one day in time to see someone running off her porch and down the street.

She recognized him as a local kid from a family "well known to the police," and when she went inside she found that the house had been burglarized and vandalized (she's an out lesbian and had been taunted by the kid and a friend of his).

She reported it to the police, and it turned out that the kid had a long juvenile record, but had just had his 18th birthday that week. Police and prosecutors were very anxious to put him away, and she agreed to testify.

He was released on bail, and he and other members of his family made threats against her to keep her from testifying. She bought a gun and put it on her nightstand.

A few days before the trial was scheduled to begin she woke and felt a presence in the bedroom. "Who's there?" she shouted; "bitch!" the intruder said; "I have a gun," she said, "get out of here!" "Stupid bitch" he said, and took a step toward the bed.

She fired once toward the center of the dark shape; he fell and did not move, but she could hear heavy breathing.

She called 911 and held the gun on him; during the time it took the police to arrive, his breathing developed a bubbling sound.

After the police broke into the house, they stopped at the bedroom door and shouted for her to put down the gun; "I can't" she said, and she couldn't-- no effort of will was enough to make herself stop pointing the gun at the kid; finally after several such exchanges, the quality of his breathing changed, she was able to drop the gun, and the cops rushed into the room. The kid had stopped breathing and could not be revived.
posted by jamjam at 4:48 PM on July 2 [10 favorites]


It's been a long time since I was threatened by someone with a gun, but I ran, and it was without question the right decision. It may not be the right decision in all circumstances, but neither is "punch first", that's for damn sure.

Exactly. What most people don't know is that the purpose of martial arts training, at its core, is to give the victim (you) enough time to escape. It's not about "winning" anything. Sometimes, getting away requires that one physically encounter one's attacker. Even then, it's about disabling the attacker to enable your escape. Of course, our entertainment media would have us believe otherwise, like a lot of other stupid things that the media would have us believe.
posted by Vibrissae at 4:48 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


I just went back and read the article again. I didn't notice her mention, guns, or castle doctrine, or Stand Your Ground or transgender people. Is is possible that readers with their own axes to grind are reading their own expectations into this? I guess she's glad that she took boxing classes and not Zumba.
posted by Megafly at 4:58 PM on July 2 [11 favorites]


Depending on where she lives what she did was probably illegal. Not that it would likely ever be prosecuted but still illegal. It depends on whether her state has a Castle Doctrine which nullifies the duty to retreat if in your own home. Just like, you know, the Stand Your Ground laws nullify a duty to retreat outside the home.

English and Welsh law has neither Castle Doctrine, Stand Your Ground, nor even Duty To Retreat. Seeking to understand the lawfulness of her actions with concepts from US law doesn't work. Courts basically judge the reasonableness of your actions according to the circumstances (and your belief) of the threat posed.
posted by Thing at 5:06 PM on July 2 [6 favorites]


No, it's just that when talking about one specific case of self-defense it makes sense to look at it in the broader context of self-defense in general, the wisdom of various forms of self-defense, and law when applied to self-defense. What else would you do?

I have no idea what transgender has to do with anything, I can only presume she has written about that somewhere else. Though that's just a guess.

In any case, whether or not someone must retreat if able is actually murkier in UK law than in US law as far as I am aware. There is no specific duty to retreat but if you are able to do so and don't do it your use of force can be seen as "unreasonable". My guess is that in this case it would be seen as just fine since no-one was seriously injured and she only used her fists. That helps her out a lot legally.

Whether charging an attacker like that is a good idea is another issue and it's pretty easy to second guess someone after the fact. But "punch first" is neither a good idea 100% of the time or a bad idea 100% of the time.
posted by Justinian at 5:07 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Yep, though as I said whether you availed yourself of an opportunity to retreat is one of the criteria by which the reasonableness is judged. But it's definitely a more complicated question in the UK since 1967.
posted by Justinian at 5:08 PM on July 2


I just went back and read the article again. I didn't notice her mention, guns, or castle doctrine, or Stand Your Ground or transgender people. Is is possible that readers with their own axes to grind are reading their own expectations into this?

Unless those several times her dad (who would likely be Minnesotan, btw; her "About" page says that she's originally from Minnesota) used his "punch first" principle were also the same scenario she describes, it seems like she's conveying that "punch first" being reasonable is a fairly general thing. (So it does not seem unreasonable to me that people are bringing up their own examples of when it wouldn't be reasonable, since she didn't provide any examples of her own.)
posted by XMLicious at 5:14 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


You know what Bruce Lee would have said about an encounter such as this?

Use whatever works for you.
posted by valkane at 5:15 PM on July 2


If we're going to recommend pre-emptive violence, I just think the advice should be a little more specific than "punch first", even though that makes a great sound bite.

I think the advice is to learn to defend yourself, or at least consider the possibility that you might have to. Definitely true that the appropriate response depends on the situation. I've been in sticky situations and punched first, and been in others and not punched at all. It really depends.

But if my child was in the house with me and an intruder, I would do more than just punch. Thinking about this before hand, planning for it, thinking about different situations and the appropriate responses to each, will help if it ever happens. A decent self defense instructor will teach some of these variations as well as what is appropriate under the law.

Miss Nevada got asked what COLLEGES could do to stem the campus rape epidemic. She responded that WOMEN should take self defense courses. Of course people were annoyed — she wasn't just saying that it was a good idea or that she liked it, she was answering the wrong question. Think about: "What should POLICE do to catch rapists?" "WOMEN should take self defense classes." Or even: "What should COLLEGES do to stop burglary on campus?" "MEN should take self defense classes."

That is putting the responsibility on women not to be raped, and you have to be either an idiot or disingenuous to not get the distinction.


Yeah, context definitely makes a difference. I was not familiar with the specifics of the Miss Nevada thing. I think my point still stands. Perhaps Gia was trying to score political points. I just think it makes sense to plan for the worst.
posted by natteringnabob at 5:18 PM on July 2


I think you have to go a fair way in England and Wales to break "reasonableness". The best known case of somebody being jailed for self-defence is Tony Martin who shot and killed a burglar. It turned out that the burglars he shot (one lived, one died) were fleeing through a window at the time. In another case that resulted in jail a home intruder was dragged back to the scene after he fled and bludgeoned half to death.
posted by Thing at 5:29 PM on July 2


Is punching better maybe because someone's more likely to grab hold of you while you're eye-gouging or biting in the gentlemanly Southern style?

The idea behind martial arts training is so that, "when there is opportunity, I do not hit, it hits all by itself."

So if you've been training, it should kick in and the punch/kick/gouge/whatever should just happen. Which is why I'm a little surprised that she didn't automatically launch into a full-on combination. So, I guess, do whatever you've practiced.

I'd argue that an eye is a much smaller target than a face and a punch is going to either going to take less reach or if you're forming your hand into a spear to poke their eye with a strike, being off target will probably break some fingers and not do much damage while an off target punch will still hurt and/or stun them.

Most burglaries, in the US at least, happen during the day and burglars usually check to make sure no one is home or they'll move on to another house. If someone breaks into my house at night, my first thought is rapist or worse. You bet your ass that sudden, overwhelming violence will be my first reaction.
posted by VTX at 5:58 PM on July 2


Someone who is breaking into a house is likely looking for a soft target - unoccupied or with people who are deeply asleep. Sudden aggression is a good way to look like a not-so-soft target. If you've got the fight-or-flight adrenaline going, a circumstance like this is a fine time to channel it into fight.

Sometimes, just yelling at someone is enough to get them to stop trying to burgle you and get the fuck out. But in a circumstance like that, I think there's no need not to try to be as overwhelming as you can. Knowing how to throw a punch and having some skill at it is a fine accessory for this sort of thing.

Mrs Pterodactyl: "I check to make sure no one's hiding behind the shower curtain, especially if I'm at a party at someone else's house."

I have done this when at parties in other people's houses ever since I saw "Valley Girl" in the 1980's.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:07 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I was always taught that going for the groin kick was a mistake---men are pretty good at instinctively covering that. Instead, kick to the knee or shin, then punch the face when they bend, then run.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:12 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


The instructors of the self defense class I took told us to aim the heel of our palm up at the attacker's nose to cause the least damage to ourselves.
posted by brujita at 6:13 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I'm going to go with: situations like this are unpredictable. The one time I was threatened by a man with a knife, I just slapped the damn thing out of his hand. I have no idea why. I just reacted. He just looked scared all of a sudden, like I was Kwai Chang Caine or something, and ran like hell.

You could say that was a stupid thing to do and I'll agree. It was, literally, thoughtless. I was left wondering, WTF?, as I collected the knife and dropped it in a nearby mailbox.
posted by SPrintF at 6:27 PM on July 2 [8 favorites]


Do not throw kicks unless you're trained. Even then, probably not a good idea.
posted by Dark Messiah at 6:28 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I avoid violence wherever possible. The last fight I was in, involved someone (who lived in my building) forcing their way into my apartment. He left with a very likely broken hand and a concussion. I would not hesitate to do it again, in similar circumstances. Your mileage may vary.
posted by Dark Messiah at 6:31 PM on July 2


The most irritatingly viral thing about Upworthy is how their terrible headline style has infected the rest of the internet.

Indeed. It's become our "easy example" to people for explaining the concept of viral for the Internet. In this case the virus is a horrible sickness.

Can we have a ban on Upworthy style posting? In particular the phrase "happens next" should be an instadelete.

And, "You won't believe..."
posted by juiceCake at 6:34 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


My darn daughter had an automatic reaction to someone trying to yank her gym bag out of her hand on the street. Even though it only had sweaty workout clothes in it, she yelled like blazes and yanked back. The guy had a knife, and though she was bigger than him (and probably stronger - she was a rugby player and he was a little guy), she could have gotten badly hurt. She still regrets doing it, even though she was proud of herself. It's just that you don't know what you're going to do when you're attacked. The human brain works in weird ways. And you don't know what your opponent is going to do. Even if you're trained to hit people (and she was, because she was also a fencer of more than a decade's experience), there are no guarantees that your responses will kick in when the circumstances are different from your training situation.

For me, it comes down to this: You are not responsible for being attacked. You are not responsible if you are hurt if someone attacks you. The world doesn't like bad things to happen to good people out of nowhere, so it generally blames the victim for not doing enough to protect themselves. But being prepared to fight like hell when you're trapped with an attacker in your house is a darn good thing.
posted by Peach at 6:45 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I've dealt with 3 intruders - 2 probably addicts of some stripe looking for some property to pawn, would be my guess. I left the overhead door up in my production area (opened into a fenced yard) & was in the office alone after work one day. I walked out of the office around 7 PM to shut down & head home, & suprised a guy rifling through my toolbox. I just yelled "GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!" while waving my arms wildly and he dropped my drill & ran like a bat out of hell & right over the fence. I guess I got lucky in that he didn't want any trouble over a 50-dollar drill.

Another time, I walked out into the parking lot on a Friday afternoon about 6 PM and the first thing I noticed was my driver's side door ajar. I thought "how did I manage to leave the door open all day..." then I noticed the feet hanging out of it, attached to the body that was trying to jimmy my car stereo. (I never locked the thing -- the window glass was worth more than anything in it) I had the same immediate response: "GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY CAR!" The guy jumped up, stumbled back, muttered somthing about "just wanted to have a little fun on a friday night" and something about "Please don't call the cops," as he backpedaled. I think I managed something really quippy like "Go sell your own shit!" or some equally brilliant snark, and he ran away.

I wasn't equiped or prepared to fight either time -- I didn't even think -- i just reactively issued "THE COMMANDING VOICE" and they both complied. I figure I was lucky. Gathering up the gumption to hit someone is hard. Also, Texas. Guns.

Another time, I was renting a room in a big house with 2 other roommates -- boyfriend & girlfriend, and got awoken by the boyfriend shouting "Chris! There's someone in our house!" & much commotion. An actual whacked-out (on coke or speed, for sure) stalker had managed to sneak into the house & was trying to pull the covers off of the girlfriend, (whom he had, it turned out, been watching through the slits in the blinds off & on for some period of days or weeks) when she woke up & screamed. He took off running, the boyfriend started hollering, and I managed to get my pants on & out of my room just in time to hear the front door slam, so I took off out the door in hot pursuit. I could hear the guy running, but couldn't see him, about 30 yards ahead of me, until he hopped on a parked Harley, and tore off. The cops interrogated the guy whose house the Harley had been parked at, and indeed, he'd been a guest there, & they tracked him down, told him they had physical evidence, & he confessed. Repeat sexual offender, who knows how long he went away for. I couldn't listen to Gabriel's The Intruder for about 10 years after that.

Again, holy shit I'm lucky -- it didn't occur to me to do anything other than chase after the bastard, barefoot. What was I going to do if I caught him? In hindsight, again, Texas. Guns. But he wouldn't have been caught if I hadn't pursued him up to where he got on his bike. Roommate was busy with freaked-out girlfriend. I think the cops told me "Don't chase after intruders, but we're glad you did," or something like that. The details are pretty foggy 20 years later, & it was 3 AM.

You never know how you're going to react until it's actually happenning, I guess, is the moral of my stories. I should take some self defense. It's not just for women, I suppose.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:02 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


A simple 'get the fuck out of here' probably would work just as well.
posted by Sportswriters at 7:07 PM on July 2


I couldn't believe what happened next!
posted by mazola at 7:33 PM on July 2


Boxing isn't really great training for self-defense, is it? The focus on headshots is going to get you a broken hand in a real fight. I thought in a bare knuckle fight, you swing for the liver, no?
posted by empath at 8:39 PM on July 2


A real fight will usually be ended by whoever lands the first really solid blow. It's not like THEY LIVE as much as I love that movie.
posted by Justinian at 8:44 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


Depending on where she lives what she did was probably illegal.

In how many places would it actually be illegal to punch an intruder in your house at night? I'm dubious on this one. There are all kinds of laws about deadly force, but it's pretty universal to be ok to defend yourself with your fists from a rapist/burglar/etc.

And even if it was illegal in some country somewhere, would you want to be the prosecutor bringing charges against a woman who defended her children alone, barehanded? You'd be a laughingstock.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:59 PM on July 2 [6 favorites]


He was released on bail, and he and other members of his family made threats against her to keep her from testifying. She bought a gun and put it on her nightstand.

In several other universes, the intruder made it to the gun first and relieved her of the burden of taking the stand.
posted by klanawa at 10:54 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I just discovered this woman is married to Brian Cox and now I'm all disappointed that Brian Cox is married to someone so unaccepting of trans people.
posted by goshling at 11:01 PM on July 2


I once chased three knife wielding men out of the house I lived in at the time. I was very loud, very obviously angry and, most importantly very willing to either kill them or die trying. In retrospect not the brightest move of all time but one I have a pattern of repeating (so far I've faced down a total of five people armed with knives, each time my obvious aggression and willingness to both accept and cause physical harm has probably saved me).
posted by longbaugh at 12:01 AM on July 3


Article is crap. Author is full of shit.
I strongly suggest anyone interested in unarmed combat go train Krav Maga.
I suggest this especially for women. Boxing, hatpins, pepper spray, etc, is all bullshit that will get you killed.
Also attempting to kick a man in his balls when you are not a martial arts expert. Worthless.

Go train Krav Maga.
posted by Pudhoho at 12:14 AM on July 3


Ah the classic "My martial art is better than yours" comment! I'll go next ;)

All fighting styles work in the right circumstances. Krav Maga preaches aggression and forward pressure but the techniques are generally going to be lower percentile than boxing.

10 hours of learning to punch correctly with accuracy and power in boxing is vastly superior to 10 hours training in Krav Maga and splitting those same 10 hours between two dozen disparate moves that work in limited circumstances.

Depth in skill is better than breadth in skill. Here is the awesome Mick Coup on the subject (I highly recommend watching all his stuff - it's by far the best intro to SD training I've had the fortune to come across).
posted by longbaugh at 1:38 AM on July 3 [5 favorites]


You're less likely to hurt yourself if you hit with your palm heel than if you hit with a fist.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:25 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


I just went back and read the article again. I didn't notice her mention, guns, or castle doctrine, or Stand Your Ground or transgender people. Is is possible that readers with their own axes to grind are reading their own expectations into this? I guess she's glad that she took boxing classes and not Zumba.

No axe to grind between her and "Twitter feminists" obviously.
posted by dry white toast at 4:57 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Empress Callipygos, the only downside to kicking in the balls is that it's usually causes the receiver to crumple on the floor and become immobile. And you don't want them immobile on your floor, you want them running out of the house.
posted by dry white toast at 5:01 AM on July 3


On the other hand, if they're immobile on the floor that gives me time to get away and call 911 from a safe distance.

I do tend to take more of a "get myself out of immediate danger and then let someone else take over" approach. If they escape before the police get there? Oh well, at least I'm safe.

Eh; your mileage may vary. I think "your mileage may vary" is something we all are in agreement on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:27 AM on July 3


No, everyone's mileage is the same. I INSIST.
posted by Brockles at 6:44 AM on July 3


This is sort of the rule of many so called martial arts, especially the more practical ones. Hit first, hit hard, and get out. I'm sure someone has already mentioned that Israeli commando style that is so hip to study these days. Same thing.

The notion is that most of us can't and shouldn't expect to trade punches like in the movies. It doesn't work that way.

I was a skinny little guy who spent a lot of time in poorer areas of western Canada. Like, the murder capitals of the country. I always felt I ought to unfairly sucker punch going for the nose, jaw or throat. I had observed that real fights are usually short, and end when someone gets a good, bloody hit in.

Well, once I had the opportunity to try, and I bloodied his nose and chipped a knuckle before a ran away like a movie coward. But I fucking won.

Fighting and open aggression is stupid. But there is no sense being some meathead's victim if you can help it.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:54 AM on July 3


"I just discovered this woman is married to Brian Cox and now I'm all disappointed that Brian Cox is married to someone so unaccepting of trans people."

I read the trans thing, and it doesn't seem like she's unaccepting of trans people so much as suckered by an over-confidence in high school biology and unable to see why that's so provocative for trans people; instead all she sees is a lot of pretty incoherent anger lobbed her way, including misrepresenting some things that she has said in order to make her look worse.

That doesn't mean she's not dumb with the "It's just science!" mantra, but it does mean that yelling at her isn't going to make her more accepting; educating her will. (Or won't, but that's when I'd feel more comfortable coming down on her for being transphobic.)
posted by klangklangston at 9:26 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


Klang, you've pretty much knocked it on the head, i expected a higher level of thinking from someone married to Brian Cox.
posted by goshling at 10:45 AM on July 3


ryanshepard: A punch can be delivered much more quickly and reflexively than an eye-gouge, though, and is harder to defend against. It also has the potential advantage to very quickly stun or even knock out your opponent.

As someone trained in Wing Chun (which specializes in disabling blows like eye gouges, and was specifically redesigned for women's self-defence), I disagree completely.

However, there is a HUGE internalized avoidance in most people to do things like "straighten your fingers out and attempt to punch your fingers straight through his eyeballs and into his brain." If you aren't willing to throw a straight-fingered "gouge" with all the speed and determination of a punch, it's going to be much easier to block (because natural eye defences are amazingly good).

And, of course, most martial arts do not emphasize knee breaks and eye gouges. I doubt she was trained in one that did, so she did what experience & reflex taught her - we're evolutionarily optimized for punching.

--

As for her bruising: meh, it wasn't perfect, but it was perfectly effective. I once had to convince a carjacker to get out of my car with a backfist to the face. The back of my hand was painfully bruised for a week. Every wince happily reminded me there are far more nerves in his face than on my back hand.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:04 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Sample size: 1. I think the advice to take self-defense training is important precisely because every attack scenario is different and a good training will teach adaptation. "Punch first," is by far not a universally good strategy.

I was confronted with a knife on the subway because I yelled at a man who was attacking his partner. I deescalated with words. "It's good. No problem." I've also run that moment through my head countless times and I know that I did the right thing. How do I know? Hindsight. Pure, simple hindsight. I'm still here.

If it happens again, using words may or may not be the best survival strategy, but if I choose the wrong strategy, I won't be around to blog about it.

In any event, it makes no sense for me to extrapolate my one experience to others. That isn't victim blaming, per se, but it is a kind of know-it-allism.
posted by Skwirl at 11:07 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Klang, you've pretty much knocked it on the head, i expected a higher level of thinking from someone married to Brian Cox.

Ha. I was confused as to why you expected more from her; I mean, I liked Super Troopers too, but I didn't think it was a paragon of progressive virtue ;)
posted by klangklangston at 11:20 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Devils Rancher: i just reactively issued "THE COMMANDING VOICE"

I have never been in an altercation with a human, but one time I was out walking my dog and another dog came running out from a yard somewhere, dead silent, and tried to bite my dog. THE COMMANDING VOICE was exactly my reaction too: without thinking about it I pulled my dog away, got inbetween them, stared the dog down, and told it as loudly and as sternly as I could to GO HOME.

It worked, but it wasn't a smart way to handle the situation, really. That dog meant to do harm, and I had no way of knowing if it would respond to being commanded that way, or just refocus its aggression on me. I don't know if this is how I'd react in a situation with a person, but it's my only real datapoint.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:46 AM on July 3


It worked, but it wasn't a smart way to handle the situation, really.

Actually I think it was smart. Dogs aren't humans; running away may have simply provoked an aggressive dog to pursue you and attack.
posted by Justinian at 12:24 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


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