The Situationist

The Reality of Fist Fights

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 16, 2007

Fight ClubOne of the more popular films of the last decade is Fight Club, which stars Brad Pitt and Edward Norton and revolves around an underground fighting network for regular guys. The film’s fights, many of which are depicted as brutal and bloodied, are thought to reflect a way for otherwise disaffected men to feel meaningful–to feel like “men.”

Just as noticeably, the film depicts regular guys as being able to absorb a barrage of blows to the face in the quest of winning. In doing so, however, the film, like many other films, television shows, and video games, glosses over the unexpectedly severe, sometimes fatal, damage that may be caused by just one punch to the face. Michael Stetz of the San Diego Union-Tribune examines facial injuries caused by punches and whether Hollywood’s glorified depictions of hand-to-hand combat motivate people to engage in fist fights, under the false impression that such fights are not life-threatening. We have excerpted portions of his article below.

* * *

The human hand, when made into a fist, can do considerable damage. It can be deadly.

The May killing of a La Jolla surfer reportedly started as a one-on-one fistfight. Nobody had a gun, knife, pipe or baseball bat. It still turned very, very ugly.

* * *

Even a single punch can be as lethal as a bullet.

“I’m not certain if 20-something kids realize how much damage they can cause,” said Chris Cross, who does happen to know.

Cross teaches defense tactics for the San Diego Regional Public Safety Training InstiUltimate Fighting Championshiptute. Delivered with enough force, blows to the head, neck, spine, kidney and groin can cause serious damage, even death, he said.

Brian Walsh, a former Navy pilot, has two permanent metal plates in the left side of his face. Walsh can’t chew food on that side. He suffers headaches.

All from a punch to the face.

On July 4, 2005, Walsh and a fellow Navy pilot were barbecuing in the front yard of their rented La Jolla house as several cars driven by young men went speeding past.

Walsh, 27, a lieutenant then based at North Island Naval Air Station in Coronado, said he was “sick of it. So I sprayed a car with my garden hose and hollered, ‘Slow down!’ I figured I’d done my civic duty for the day.”

The enraged driver stopped, walked up to Walsh and shocked the pilot by punching him in the face. The blow shattered Walsh’s left eye socket and crushed his sinus cavity.

Walsh had been in the process of becoming an intelligence officer, but even if he wanted to go back to flying, he couldn’t. Walsh said he lost about 40 percent of vision in his left eye in the assault.

* * *

Guns far and away remain the top lethal weapon in America. More than 10,000 killings in 2005 involved firearms, according to FBI statistics.

Fists can kill and do, but there has been no increase in the number of people dying from weapon-less fights. In 2005, 892 such deaths were tallied nationally, compared with 927 in 2000.

Assaults are another matter. Their numbers aren’t growing dramatically, but in 2005, 25 percent of the 860,000-plus cases involved fists and feet.

There seems to be a growing popularity of no-holds-barred fighting in American culture. On the Internet, recorded fistfights are a popular posting.

Young people also seem to be fascinated by mixed-martial-arts fighting, which critics say is too brutal. Ultimate Fighting Championship events have outperformed baseball in TV ratings among men 18 to 34.

The La Jolla killing isn’t an isolated incident, said Robert Brager, a clinical psychologist who is referred clients through the San Diego courts for anger-management therapy. Brager regularly sees people in their 20s and 30s who have poor impulse control and are prone to violence.

“It reflects something unfortunate about the state of affairs of our culture,” Brager said, Def Jam Vendettanoting that many influences exist, from violent video games to movies.

It is anybody’s guess as to why men several years removed from high school were taking part in random assaults, picking fights and getting booted from bars – all the things that members of the Bird Rock Bandits have been accused of doing.

One explanation gaining traction is that cultural forces are causing a delay of adulthood. Young people are taking longer to finish college, start a career, get married, have children – pursuits that have maturing benefits.

“To this generation, independence is not a significant value,” said Jane Adams, a social psychologist and author of “When Our Grown Kids Disappoint Us” and other books. “Being happy is.”

* * *

To read the rest of the article, click here. To read about similar concerns regarding first-person shooter video games, click here.

13 Responses to “The Reality of Fist Fights”

  1. […] The Reality of Fist Fights (tags: society culture) […]

  2. […] Why you should think twice before joining a Fight Club… […]

  3. dalton said

    u guys are a bunch of sissys whinning about fighting all u do is sit their whinning all day about the ufc saying its a bad sport its a great sport i love watching 2 guys beat the shit out of eachother for fun and they love it to their growen men they no the dangers your just board with your gay ass life so u pick at other people get a life

  4. Chris said

    To which critics are you referring? Sen. John McCain, the politician who lead the charge against MMA fighting, specifically the UFC, has since revised his opinion, based on the rule changes. Without citing your sources here, you make it hard to respond to the “critics”.

    However, the overall message is wise: fighting in the streets runs an elevated chance of serious injury and death. Fighting should not be entered into lightly.

    As to the delayed maturity of youth: perhaps, though I am always suspicious of any “kids these days” argument. I work with 18-24+ year olds and some of them display a retarded maturity; others, however, work and support families while they attend college.

  5. anm said

    While all the particulars of the fist-fighting issue could be debated endlessly, the deeper issue and solution is much broader and is fundamentally philosophical.

    In gang and other criminal interactions, force (e.g. guns and fists) will always be the rule – this is a given. But why is violence so popular in media, sports, entertainment, cinema, etc? Why is dominating or destroying another man with physical force an act of manliness and a source of pride and entertainment?

    Man’s basic means of survival is through the use of his mind – this is his crucial distinction from other animals: his cognitive faculty. He cannot compete with the tiger, the elephant, or even the domesticated cow in terms of physical strength. So, in his early days he created the spear, the knive, and the bow & arrow.

    Now apply this idea to men’s interaction with one another: it is immeasurably better to for men to deal with one each other without physical violence…so man developed language, the alphabet, and thus communication. He planned, he wrote, he thought, and he applied his mind. And he created the machine gun, the skyscraper, automobiles, internal combustion engines, refrigerators, the computer chip, the nuclear missile, and the F-22.

    Is today’s culture one that values the fist over the mind? The Fist is the tool of the dumb, unthinking brute, too stupid and thoughtless to integrate the facts of reality and his own capability into a plan of action to achieve his goals and desires. The mind (i.e. rational thought and action) is the tool of any real man or woman.

    (The use of physical force is, of course, warranted in the case of self-defense or retaliation on the part of an individual or a nation. And no doubt the skill and training involved to be a successful mixed martial arts fighter is impressive.)

    The solution is not to ban fighting on television, or restrict violent movies, or abolish war-simulation video games. The solution is a shift is values and a crucial recognition of the fact that man’s mind is infinitely more powerful than his fist.

    The mind can produce immeasurable wealth. The fist and the gun can only destroy. It’s time our culture and our entertainment reflect this.

  6. Hoot said

    Has it occured to you that if you really enjoy UFC and other MMA fighting, not only are you immature, but probably a closet (or maybe open) homosexual? These are sweaty, shirtless men who get into the missionary position and roll around. How is this entertaining to a straight man? I know…IT ISN’T! Dalton, above, is deff. an enraged closet homosexual. And judging from his spelling and grammar, quite immature.

  7. Matt said

    I DO NOT agree with street fighting between (mostly) teens in high school trying to prove they are tough. In the real world the only time you see people fight is when they are drunk (bars, or at home). See, in Middle and high school if you look at someone the wrong way or say something they say “Meet me after school” or just punch em in the face and beat the shit out of them right when they say it or look at them. I also DO NOT agree in UFC and boxing. I dont mind that they are fighting in a controlled ring and are trained, but kids watch this and then go out and try and re-enact it and some of the moves performed in these sports are deadly, but kids still wana try them on kids.

  8. Rodney said

    I was walking down the street last weekend. A popular strip of bars. I had a girl under each arm. Both wer pretty hot. six guys are staniding in a circle harassing people as they have to walk through them. I walk through them and I am hearing alot of derrogatory statements. As I look over my shoulder I make eye contact with a guy he says to me” What you gonna do you fake ass bitch?” I said nothing spun around walked calmly up to him… And smashed his face with my right elbow, actually cutting myself on his teeth. He goes down on all fours. Nobody said another word.

  9. 1handclap said

    Violence keep it as a game,not worth killing someone and living with the guilt, or going to jail.
    Here’s a free online fight game with all the physics of fighting, without the doctor’s visits…

    see you in the dojo

    ps. My favorite movie

  10. Hoggle said

    Wow… your gay because you like fighting or watching it? Hoot, you my friend need to grow up and get over yourself.

  11. Nice Work man Your blog is so great.Thanks very much for posting this topic

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  13. […] article in The Situationist told the story of Brian Walsh, who has metal plates in his face and suffers headaches resulting […]

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