The statement that titles this article is from a classic Western, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but it can just as easily apply to a back alley brawl, a bar clash, a mugging, a free-for-all, or an abusive situation. Like most every absolutist position, there are exceptions, and there are rules. The first rule is to do whatever you need to do to stay alive and safe. The second rule is to never forget the first rule.
Having studied the martial arts, been in a few fights (not the controlled ring types), taught seminars on self-defense, worked security, and spoken with bouncers and police officers, I want to share some of what I have learned. I had originally planned an article on cane fighting, as that is one of my skills. Being an older man, I’m not as spry and limber as I was in my wayward youth. A couple of injuries to my legs have left me with a slight limp which becomes more noticeable when I’m fatigued. To compensate, I developed an interest in cane fighting.
Cane fighting is perhaps the oldest of weaponed fighting arts. Millions of years ago a remote hominid ancestor hefted a stick or tree limb and brought it down on an attacker’s skull, as chimpanzees still do today. That was the origin, and all we have ever done since then is perfect it. Today I have a small collection of walking sticks and canes, and I have begun to make my own. The designs are simple. The styles I create are a basic “T” grip stick and the knobkierie, also known as an iwisa, based on the Zulu war club. This was the stick carried by Zulu women, and after a battle they would go out and use the iwisa to bash in the heads of any surviving enemies. These sticks can be customized with initials, pentagrams, runes, and other designs, and, of course, painted black.
Here I want to focus on self-defense for our own community. To do this, let us first pay homage to the true Goths – the Visigoths (West Goths) and the Ostrogoths (East Goths), Germanic tribes who gave Rome some serious trouble. The Visigoths scared the hell out of the decaying old city, and their King Alaric actually made himself emperor. The ancient Goths were feared for their fighting skills and ferocity in combat. Unfortunately, modern Goths are more often perceived as effete targets.
What I want to present here are some basic guides to keeping safe and still enjoying our lifestyle. First and foremost, society can be broken down into three basic types of people: predator, protector, and prey. Face it, in nature everything preys on something else, and humans are just another animal. Never forget that.
The terms predator, protector and prey, are obvious. The vast majority of people are basically prey. They have some sense of self protection and preservation but usually do not hone those skills. However, both the protectors and predators are skillfully doing their best to outdo each other. This is part of evolution. A bigger, smarter predator wolfhound will lead to bigger, stronger, fiercer wolves because any that don’t make it are killed and are eventually eliminated from the gene pool. We are the result of millions of years of evolution, and nature is merciless. Life can be brutal, and death can be around the next street corner. Instead of romanticizing it, let’s face it.
We have a weapon at our disposal that other animals do not – our imagination. Visualize yourself in a stressful situation. What is the first thing you want to do? This is your primary distress mode. The key here is to be honest with yourself, not what you want to do, but what you honestly do. Humans have three basic defense modes, two of which are the familiar “fight or flight.” The third one is freeze, commonly associated with opossums. These modes come from our earliest ancestors dealing with their environment, which of course included attackers. Let’s review the basic premises:
Fight – Facing the attackers and doing sufficient damage to injure, kill or drive them off.
Flight – Evasion, outrunning, outclimbing or whatever was necessary to avoid capture.
Freeze – Playing dead, lying still, or blending to avoid the attackers’ attention.
Defense choices also take the terrain into consideration, and you should do the same. Learn your states’ laws regarding self-defense. Some are more frontier, allowing the open carrying of arms, and some almost prohibit you from defending yourself. Most states regard physical conflict as a last ditch option. One of the most common criteria is the defendant has to have a means of escape, and be facing a reasonable threat of violence to yourself and or another.
As you’ve probably guessed, I’m a protector, and hopefully you are too. To fight a predator, you need to start thinking like one. The way to do this is by taking stock of yourself. What is your general health like? Are you out of shape? Being thin does not equate to fitness. How is your overall strength, flexibility and endurance? Do you have pre-existing conditions? In my case, I’m near-sighted, so I must wear glasses. Even more important, what is your mental state? This includes your temper. Are you laid back or quick triggered? Luckily for us, fights rarely occur in Goth clubs since we are more likely to stare daggers at each other than actually use them. Also, start looking at others from this predator perspective. How do they move? Do they appear emotionally distraught or have they imbibed too much? If they appear to be an easy target, how would you protect them?
It helps to have a friend who is a “cooler,” someone who can defuse a tense situation before it explodes. Don’t allow a situation to escalate. An apology, even if not warranted, is better than a punch in the face. If an aggressor sees that they may be dealing with two and not just one, they may think twice.
Know your alcohol capacity. Even in small amounts, alcohol dulls your perception, and paying attention to your environment is critical. There is an old Yiddish proverb, “When you are drunk, you are bold, charming, and you can sing and dance too.” Your perceptions are off, and you may end up in dicey situations.
I have had too many friends end up in the tank with a DUI, and you don’t want to spend a night in there. Besides the humiliation of a drunk driving arrest, there are the fines, impoundment fees, plus months of taking state approved classes and begging your friends for rides. You may have to take time off from your job to see your probation officer, or do community service. Even after going through all that a judge can rule that you still haven’t paid your dues to society and withhold your license. A DUI bar tab can run you thousands of dollars. Even worse, you could cause yourself or others severe injury or death. Having lost a family member and a couple of friends to DUI’s, I speak from experience.
So, if you are going to a club, how are you traveling, and what sort of areas might you be going through? If you’re driving, consider the walk from your parking spot to your destination. Will your outfit help or hinder you in a dangerous situation? Can you move effectively in it? Can you run or climb? What if a fire breaks out? Will those tight pants or layers of skirts slow you down?
Practice running and climbing in your Gothic finery. Can you get out of restrictive clothing easily and quickly if you need to? Remember, jewelry and piercings can be yanked out, causing debilitating pain. And what about those gorgeous boots? How do they center your weight and your ability to move easily? My wife Jezibell has some badass thigh-high stiletto bitch boots, but she can zip out of them fast if she has to, and she always brings comfortable shoes as a backup.
We all know that you shouldn’t smoke, but a lot of you do anyway, so use your vice to your advantage. Think of a cigarette as a distraction weapon, blowing smoke (or e-cigarette vapor) into someone’s face, flicking ash at them, or even burning them with the tip. Ladies, how about adding a cigarette holder? C’mon, you are tapping into the dark feminine, the femme fatale. Ladies look badder and bolder with a holder. Holder fashion usually dictates that women should use one at least six inches in length or longer. A holder will extend your reach by several inches and gives you a firmer, stronger gripping surface than a rolled paper tube filled with dry, shredded dry leaves. A holder can even be a short-range weapon, jabbed into the eye or ear. This can work with a e-cig or a pen as well.
I know some of you carry your money and other sundries in small beaded bags. Think about adding a roll of quarters or a small stone. This was commonly done in the Victorian period, and your bag is now a weapon, good for a blow on the side of the head. Another prize from that period was the hat pin. They were usually fairly long, and could be pulled out from the hat very quickly and easily.
You may want to add that walking stick to your ensemble. Some of you may be thinking of the ever popular sword cane, but I don’t recommend them. They are illegal in many states, and they usually involve unscrewing the cane top to get to the sword, which you won’t have time for in a combat situation. But, the main reason is that most are made of poor quality steel and do not really hold an edge well. You are better off with a wood or rattan walking stick.
I like a shillelagh, the classic Irish walking stick, originally called a bata. It was originally about eighteen inches long with a leather thong, and could be used to swing freely or garrote if necessary. Today’s models range in size, and can be quite striking (no pun intended). Although walking sticks are usually associated with men, women can use them also. Just remember to practice with them. Learn how your cane feels as you walk with it, lift it, twirl it. I work with a punching shield attached to a tree (because Jez won’t hold it for me!), and I move about and strike at it. Most people are surprised how much force can go into such a strike. If you look into cane fighting, there are many good videos on Youtube. Another option is an umbrella, which can be used like a cane, but the tip makes a great thrusting weapon. The hook can also be used to strike, block or entangle.
If you are of Northern European descent, you probably have Goth or Viking or Celtic ancestors. If not, tap into the warrior traditions of your own culture for inspiration. I favor basic, practical moves, not fancy show-off techniques. The average street fight can be over in seconds. It may help to know some basic hand strikes.
Two of the most effective open hand positions are the classic knife hand or “karate chop,” and the claw. The karate chop is delivered in a swinging motion downward or sideways across the body, targeting the nose, mouth, side of the neck,
collarbone, and ribs. For the claw, strike with the heel of the hand and use the fingernails to rake the face. The semi-open position, also known as leopard paw, is as effective as a fist and can reach places that a fist can’t. Everyone knows the classic fist; the knuckles of the first two fingers are your main striking area.
Self-defense is particularly important for those who are also in the LGBT community. I cannot address how important it is to learn how to protect yourself and others. When I lived in New York, I intercepted a gay bashing, and the victim was a buff young man who obviously worked out. I don’t know why he didn’t also learn some self-defense.
In New York, my friend Matthew used to train with me, and I taught him basic jujitsu techniques. One day he told me an amusing story. When he was in college, the LGBT student alliance held a seminar on self-defense. When the presenter was demonstrating techniques, Matthew stood by watching and smirking. So the instructor called Mathew over to be a participant in the demonstration. He put Matthew in a neck hold, and promptly found himself on the floor in an arm bar.
I highly recommend learning a fighting art if you can. I prefer practical ones such as Krav Maga or traditional jujitsu, not just kickboxing for fitness. Learn to give a punch, avoid a punch, or, if need be, take a punch. It’s best to work with an instructor, but Youtube tutorials and magazines also teach armed and unarmed skills.
Don’t forget your technology – we all have smart, or at least, cell phones. Use their video abilities if you see something awry happening. If you are arrested, even by accident, don’t say anything other than you choose to remain silent and you want to speak with an attorney. Have one present if you are questioned. The police aren’t interested in who is right or wrong; that is for the courts to decide. I honestly hope you take heed of what was presented here and I wish you all the best. Have fun and be careful.
One more thing I have to say – even if you call yourself Vlad or Nocturna, wear fangs and speak of being centuries old, and even if you consume blood, you are not a vampire. You do not have superhuman strength. You do not have the ability to control another’s will. If things get too real you may be put into a coffin that you cannot rise from.
In closing, I see a lot of social media posts about whether parents should allow their daughters to go to parties in revealing clothes. If I had a daughter, she could wear whatever she wanted, because she would not be allowed to go to parties or date until she had earned a black belt, could handle a gun, knife and stick, and change a tire blindfolded. But that’s just me.