To Fight or Not to Fight

Last weekend, I posted an article on Good Men Project’s Good Feed called “Unprovoked Violence and Self-Defense.” I am a female who is exploring self-defense, martial arts, and fight behavior in both men and women. As part of that, I’m fascinated by the subject of how people stand up for themselves.

The conversation is an important one to have, anywhere that people can articulate the issues calmly and thoughtfully. In this case, there were many comments on the original post and on the Good Men Project Facebook page. But I’d also like to share with you the responses from the Martial Arts group on LinkedIn. The question I asked was,

If a woman attacked you—dropping damaging blows on you—would you hit her back?

There are a variety of answers, and of course, there is no clear-cut or right answer because each situation is different. Each of us has the right to decide how to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

The difficulty is, when you’re in the heat of the battle, in the middle of everything going down, that’s when you have to stop and assess and make a decision about what you’re willing to do or not do.

In the video provided with the original posting, you can clearly see the teenage woman backing the man up and striking him. One thing I noticed as a classic defense move is that the man used his loud voice well to establish that he didn’t know his attacker. That voice and his chosen words are especially important when your attacker is a woman. Anyone turning around to catch this attack after it started wouldn’t know who started it or who to rescue.

Most of us would assume the woman was fighting back and we would make an effort to rescue her. Perhaps that’s why no one came to his aid?

Here are responses from the Martial Arts group discussion on LinkedIn:

Christopher Gagne:

If escaping was possible this is my first choice. If there is no escape route or I am protecting someone (e.g., a child),  then I have to use appropriate force (depending on circumstance, e.g., does she have a weapon, is she with friends?) to remove the threat.

Not an easy situation.

Jarrod Jones:

I have been faced with a similar position before, I’ll tell you about one such situation. I was working security at a nightclub when a man was getting unruly, so I engaged him and tried to convince him to walk outside with me. He was pretty intoxicated and perhaps saw me as a threat so he threw a punch at me. I dodged it, got  hold of him, and started to take him out. His girlfriend came up behind me and started yelling at me and hitting me in the back with a cue stick. She hit me hard enough that the stick broke, but she kept on hitting me over and over. When I turned to see who was hitting me I expected it to be a man, but it wasn’t. I half froze because I really didn’t know what to do. I had never hit a woman before. Luckily I was close to the back door, so I hurridly shuffled the man outside. Then I turned my attention to the women. She was still swinging the stick at me, but not doing so effectively. So it wasn’t hard to disarm her. Once I did so she continued swinging at me, so I got her into an wrist/arm lock combo and walked her out the back door. Once she was outside she still wanted to fight me, but I closed the door and she didn’t pose a threat any longer.

This is perhaps a more unique situation since I was working security and this story was about a random attack on a subway. But the principle is the same. Assess the situation, do they have a weapon or not, are you with anyone, etc. Take appropriate action and then get the threat away from you as quick as possible.

Patrick M. Cunningham:

I was involved in such a situation before Christmas. It was three in the morning and the neighbors were intoxicated and playing music loudly despite me going to their door a few hours before to ask them politely to keep the noise down which they said they would. Three in the morning and I had to go and knock on their door again but this time the husband came out hurling abuse and getting more aggressive by the second and it was then that he grabbed a heavy stick from behind the door and raised it over his head and came at me. I had no choice but take him down quickly so as he grabbed my arm to pull me toward him I stepped in as he pulled and landed with a head butt followed with a palm strike under the jaw and front pushing kick to finish it. his wife came charging out and began punching me. I could never hit a woman so I let her hit me, sure pride hurts like a bitch but as far as I am concerned any man that hits a woman is no man at all. She punched me several times and then when she saw that she was getting no response she quit. That’s where self control comes in but if she had a knife or something else I would have tried to disarm and restrain (If it was possible to do so) rather than strike her. If you use force against a woman at least over here in Ireland in the eyes of the law you nothing more than a woman beater and a coward and if you are a trained martial artist then it’s even worse, so you really have to be careful how you handle aggressive women.

Kevin Geary:

Women can’t be allowed to strike others simply because we refuse to hit them back. If it’s a loved one, I understand restraint absolutely. If it’s a crazy lunatic stranger they’re getting put on the ground in a hurry.

If you want to be treated like a woman, act like a woman. If you want to engage in combat, you best be prepared.

Jon Hansen:

I’d be stunned at first but I wouldn’t let someone attack me without defending myself. I’ve trained for scenarios where you need to stop an attack by someone without inflicting bodily injury so I’d subdue her if she isn’t accompanied by anyone who would join in the melee and if that wasn’t possible I’d control her with a standing lock until the police arrive. I’ve never had to defend myself against a woman and I hope I never have to.

Tyrone Griffin, MBA

I’ve never hit a woman, but I’ve seen some big and small women stomp some men into the ground. I’m not talking windmill action, I mean women who put their hands up like Ali and punched like Tyson. In some cases the men ignored or overlooked the threat because it was a woman, and paid the price. I don’t make special rules for women or small men, I will try to use appropriate force for the given situation, period. I don’t like to hit anyone, but if I feel threatened I will do what I have to to eliminate that threat. I’m not talking about bullying, but if a man or woman is brave enough to raise their hands, a bat, a bottle, or a gun, then they have made the decision that they are willing to accept whatever whirlwind comes their way. My instructor is a fourth-degree black belt. I’m about a foot taller and at least 60 pounds [heavier]. The first time I sparred her, she had a 3-month-old. Woman whupped me good. If women (or men) don’t want to be hit, don’t hit.


Quite a conundrum for a man to find himself in, wouldn’t you agree?

I’m digging deeply into the subject of how people stand up for themselves and, conversely, how we don’t stand up for ourselves and others. The situation doesn’t have to be physical. Mostly we find ourselves in some sort of verbal skirmish with shopkeepers, loved ones, bosses, or co-workers. They sting just as badly.

If you have experiences you’d like to share or other examples on video, please send them to me or leave the information in a comment on this post.

For a related article, see the post by Derek Markham on Dads Good, “How to Be a Good Man During Confrontation.” Derek talks about the less physical kind of confrontation, but the principles may still apply.

About Cheryl Ragsdale

Cheryl Ragsdale practices martial arts for fun and physical fitness. Her blog is called thatgirlisfunny. Her current passion is encouraging people to be ready when the need arises to "stand up for yourself".


  1. Point blank. If your hand comes at me in a violent manner… I’m returning it to you broken. My safety is paramount. I have no remorse in returning devastating force to any person who violates my rights to wellbeing. The only fear is that moronic bystanders will aid the woman out of sheer prejudice and false chivalry and cause me harm in a mob mentality. This is why it’s best to avoid fights at all costs. Its sad that a man has to get a public reprieve to defend himself against a woman. But rest assured if a woman is going to cross that line… I’m going to make her remember and regret it for the rest of her life.

  2. Do not ever fight a woman back, no matter what she is doing – unless she has a lethal weapon and is about to kill you. Why? So that you can stay employed or get another job, because YOU, not her, will get arrested and have a criminal record for the rest of your life.

  3. I think the sex of the attacker is irrelevant. She could have easily have been stabbing and slashing with a hidden knife.

    Self-defense depends upon escalating responses. When verbal deterrence doesn’t work, the next level up is physical defense which in this case involves attacking the attacker.

    The man in the video was clearly outmatched emotionally. He was in semi-shock and trying to appeal to reason with a person who clearly was not following a reasonable course of action.

    Therefore, he has no choice but to use force to stop the aggressive behavior as quickly as possible. And thereby create is opportunity to disengage and getaway.

  4. “Most of us would assume the woman was fighting back and we would make an effort to rescue her. Perhaps that’s why no one came to his aid?”

    -It’s far more likely that somebody would help her beat him up by assuming he deserved it. He would be the one to get arrested without videotape evidence or credible witnesses. The only choice for a man in such a situation is to RUN!

    Reactions to female-on-male violence

  5. This was a hard, yet interesting read, given my past experience with abusive and violent women. At 19, a woman drugged and then raped me. Following that experience, I unconsciously gravitated toward angry and abusive women. While free of that cycle now, I am naturally a bit mistrustful of some women these days.

    While I’ve never hit a woman back in response to violence initiated by her, I do reserve the right to protect myself and I no longer put up with threatening of violent women. I remember an incident on the Metro at Farragut West when a woman got extemely aggressive and got in my face because, heaven forbid, she was expected to wait her turn to get in line just like everyone else. She followed me up the escalator and toward the exit bumping me and getting louder and louder and progressively more aggressive. Finally, I told her to go ahead and do it. Take a swing at me and see what happens. Maybe I hit you back and I don’t pull the punch. Maybe I have you arrested instead. Then I proceeded to tell her that after she spent some time in jail, I’d be sure to sue her for assault and battery until she was so broke that she was sleeping on the sidewalk. Then I squared off in front of her and met her gaze in silence, letting her know that she was not going to continue knocking me around without serious consequence.

    For some reason, she didn’t want to bump and jostle and harass me anymore. She seemed a little shocked though. I’m guessing she was not used to being called out on her behaviour. Given how confidently and aggressively she kept coming at me, I have to believe it was normal behaviour for her.

  6. I wouldn’t ever fight a guy unprovoked, but, if i ever did throw the first punch against a guy I’m expecting him to come back at me. Maybe it’s because I grew up with brothers and have been sparring with them since i was a kid, but, I don’t think ‘chivalry’ is a natural response I think a man’s response is congruent to his level of fear– if a woman legitimately threatens a man it’s not fair to ask him to restrain simply because his opponent is in possession of a vagina. That said if she doesn’t present a legitimate threat or there’s an opportunity to get away i feel like that’s the only option.

    • Hello emm,
      To your last point, if the woman doesn’t present a legitimate threat, then the man has more options to restrain or get away from the woman or whatever it is he needs to do to de-escalate the situation. The person in the situation is the only one who can make the right decision based on what he’s facing and what he thinks his options are.

      Growing up with brothers was good practice for you 🙂

  7. Female Feedback says:

    When being assaulted or dominated by another person (whether a man or woman), I was taught by a therapist about the effectiveness of IMAGINING retaliating in order to get the natural emotional response expressed, but then stopping to make a decision whether to actually do anything. I was impressed by post you quoted that “She punched me several times and then when she saw that she was getting no response she quit.” I suspect this type of self-control gets you out of the victimization polarity the attacker is trying to put you into.

    After the physicality has settled down, you can ask the aggressor what it is they want and why they are angry and attacking. This often calms the attacker down even further to be able to verbalize their issue this way. Then you can consider yourself and what you want, whether the complaint is fair, etc. and try to suggest some resolution, such as a win-win, hopefully.

    Your question is about what men do in response to an attack from a woman, but I think this could even be used by women when attacked by a man. I suspect the same underlying psychology is going on. There is often some subconscious misogyny (anger at all women for some things missing in the man’s upbringing that are associated, often wrongly, with women) and when you show you have more self-control than the woman who patterned the misogyny, you can sometimes get them out of their fighting drive.

    • Well, I’m not sure I’m following everything that you’ve said here. The original question was based on an actual unprovoked attack by a young woman on a man she didn’t know in a subway station. I don’t think he had time to “imagine” retaliating because he was uncertain as to how much danger he was really in.

      You bring up a lot of other good points about where the discontent comes from that causes one person to strike another. There’s no simple answer.

      • Female Feedback says:

        I can understand that it seems there would not be enough time, but for someone who is practiced, like the security guard you quoted and I re-quoted, it is possible to do it.

        It takes practice to learn these skills of emotional regulation, self-control, self-defense maneuvers and other maneuvers that tend to stop or neutralize the fight. They then become almost automatic, like riding a bicycle, driving a car, etc. Those of us who grew up in homes where we were taught emotional awareness & regulation have a huge edge, I suspect, although these can be learned at age.

  8. Hey Cheryl, good article. I wrote a mostly unrelated article on 8BitDad – – about how girls learn to hit. I think the important point that Kevin touched on is that there’s an image disparity in the country.

    Let’s start it by saying that no one should be hitting anyone (what are we, in 4th grade?), but when bringing gender politics into it, the lines get blurred. In our “perfect” society, which existed for a mere 200-and-something years, men are supposed to be the tough protectors. Men are “supposed to” hit. Women are supposed to be the nurturers, and thus, never hit.

    So – with that built up – men hit, women don’t. Men never hit women. Women only *slap* men when it’s deserved, and everything is then resolved before the credits run.

    But echoing Kevin again – we have to decide if women are “equal” or if they’re “women”. If they’re equal, then women hit and men defend themselves – but we can’t then go back and re-judge either the man or woman and say that they’re acting atypical. If women are “women” then we get to celebrate all of the wonderful things about a woman – the physiological and biological. And in that world, men *know* not to hit a woman because they’re acting “like men”, that is to say, like a gentleman. But women have to then act “like women” – and that’s the slippery slope that (sing along) “brings us back to DO”

    • Hi Zach,
      It all goes back to your point about why are we hitting in the first place. The best position is “no hitting”. I read your post. That image of the woman backing the man up against the wall was pretty horrifying. Why can’t we just play nicely together?

  9. Many women have hit me in relationships. I’d smile not too ever see them again. Too me it’s a clear indicator that my presence is no longer needed and that’s the only way some women can communicate that they want too move on. just think if women didn’t have vagina’s. Men if you take 30 days of complete celibacy, no masturbation. You’d be amazed how insignificant things are in relationships.

    • Hey Greg,
      Looks like it’s time for you to start fishing in a different pond, my friend. There are kind, sweet and gentle women out there looking around for a good man. Probably, you need to change your bait too. With a haircut and a shave, you’ll be all set.

  10. I don’t think it is as ethically difficult as it is socially difficult…given the axiom that the a woman making an unprovoked attack on an utterly innocent man. First– I want to caveat this by saying a quick look at domestic abuse statistics confirms that men are generally beating the crap out of women, & I don’t want to diminish that reality with this little thought experiment. That said, I’d hit a girl who was beating me up…unless I thought it would socially doom me. You know what I mean– “you hit a girl!” is a stigmata that could be tough to shake. I also suppose it would depend on the damage being taken. In reality, I’m a pretty big guy, & I’m fairly strong– the weight discrepancy between my 200 lbs & this theoretical woman might mean that I could restrain her before the situation escalated. The counterpoint being– if a woman attacks me with a baseball bat or a knife, & there is no avenue of escape? As Mel Gibson once so wisely said– “Swing away.”

    I can’t remember if I mentioned this on the last thread– it is likely I did– but Nicola Griffith’s book “Always” is a great read for anyone interested in this subject.

    • Hello Mordicai,
      You bring up a really good point. “You hit a girl!” sends shivers down most men’s spines bringing shame and humiliation that doesn’t go away. People will always bring it up to remind you of what you did.

      Restraint – if you can manage it – is the most heroic course of action from my point of view.

      But a man has to do what a man has to do.

      I’m going to check out your book suggestion too.

    • Women violently attack men as or more often than men do so to women. DV stats are based on police reports, which are heavily biased – since the police seldom arrest women for the same offenses they arrest men for. When there is an actual fight and only one person gets arrested, it will as a rule be the man.


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