What’s running through Jack Reacher’s mind just before and during a fight? His rules of combat, of course — unless they are so ingrained that they are truly second nature. For most of us, the thoughts go something like this: Oh shit, this really going down.
I’ve been in a few fights in my time, former Marine and all. In my limited experience, fights last 30-to-60 seconds and are damn dangerous. Before I run through Jack Reacher’s fighting rules, I want to point out that no one wins a fight — they are dangerous, people carry weapons, they are never like a movie scene, and the odds of you beating two guys, let alone five or more, are very close to zero.
But still, there’s Jack Reacher, larger than life. So what’s rolling through his brain before and during a fight with five guys? These tips are from One Shot by Lee Child — and the commentary is from me.
Rule 1: Be on your feet and ready.
Thought: Self explanatory.
Commentary: Agreed. Only MMA guys and wrestlers are any good on the ground. MMA and wrestling have rules, but in a street fight the other guys are just going to start kicking and stomping on you.
Rule 2: Show them what they are messing with.
Thought: Jack Reacher, in the books, is 6’4″ and 250 pounds.
Commentary: If this is you, I agree. If, however, you are not physically imposing this is probably not a good approach. You are better off to station yourself in a advantageous spot to limit a frontal assault or an assault by multiple people.
Rule 3: Identify the ringleader.
Thought: There are five guys, the pattern is always the same: There is a ring leader, two keen followers, and two tagalong guys. If you put down the ringleader and the two keen followers, the fight is over because the tagalong guys always run.
Commentary: This is correct for movie scenes unless it’s a Jackie Chan movie where the numbers are unlimited. In real life any conflict involving more than five people is usually an association fight — gangs, military members, or rugby teams. The good news is you have people with you; the bad news is you are likely to get hit from behind. These are really dangerous situations avoid them at all costs.
Rule 4: The ringleader moves first.
Thought: This is how you identify the ring leader, which is the primary target.
Commentary: Agreed, but this also how you identify the ringleader in the pack of hot women you want get your guys talking to. This is less of a fighting lesson and more of a life lesson.
Rule 5: Never back off.
Thought: In a fight never back off.
Commentary: If a fight is imminent, backing off is a bad idea. My personal opinion is it triggers a predator-prey response in everyone involved. If you back off, you’re the prey and you better be running at top speed because the predator will be attacking.
Rule 6: Don’t break the furniture.
Thought: Don’t involve people who are disinterested parties like bar owners. If you break stuff, they call the police because they need a report for the insurance.
Commentary: If five guys want to drag you outside and beat the crap out of you, it’s probably a good idea to start breaking stuff. If you make a scene you may get bouncers and owners involved, and they don’t want fighting in their bars because it’s bad for business. Use the distraction to make a get away.
Rule 7: Act don’t react.
Thought: Keep focused, look for advantages, and try to drive the situation.
Commentary: Agreed. This is another life rule. Reaction is important but it has to be quick and effective. However, reaction is always secondary to action. Action is the driving force, and in every instance it is safer for you and more effective to be proactive than reactive in an unavoidable fight.
Rule 8: Assess and evaluate.
Thought: In a fight understand your opponent(s) and the environment. Reacher looks at hands for boxing scars — if the nose is broken it might be an indication of prior fights. And a relaxed but ready stance? Could mean the guy has hand-to-hand combat experience.
Commentary: This is very tough to do in the short period of time that exists between imminent fight and fighting. This is precisely why it is great for movies because it demonstrates the hero’s focus while extending the action and the moment. If you understand your opponent, great, and if not, you’re about to figure it out in the next five seconds.
Rule 9: Don’t run head on into Jack Reacher.
Thought: If you lower your head and run to tackle someone, they are going to put their knee right through your head, just as Jack Reacher does in the book.
Commentary: In the fights I have been in, I have not seen a running tackle executed. They do look great in movies and in football. I suspect that is why we see so many of them on screen.