Street Fighting With Jay Ferrari | Capital MMA & Elite Fitness

In the near twenty years I’ve been studying Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, I’ve had to use it in a fight exactly once. I recently came this close to having to use it a second time, but that altercation was avoided — thanks to Jiu-Jitsu.

On a typical Monday loop between my laundromat and grocery store (I have wash-cycle duration synced perfectly to match quick circuits through the nearby supermarket) a gentleman walking toward me from the opposite direction must have decided I wasn’t moving out of his way fast enough. From a good ten feet away on the sidewalk, he proclaimed: “You better move, mother@#&!.”

That should have been an easy enough request to accommodate, but my pacifist brain was not in command, and before I could even think, the words “Or what?” shot out of my mouth. Brilliant.

He stops dead in front of me, and I see he’s not just some goofball. Good-sized fella, wide set, black leather trench coat, slit eyes and a face scarred up enough to make it obvious he’s been in his share of scraps. Everyone radiates some kind of energy. This guy was either having a bad day or has lived a rough life. Likely both.

He was well out of striking range, and he was making the classic brawler mistakes: hands at his sides, fists clenched, posture set forward in that street-corner peacock stance.

He was well out of striking range, and he was making the classic brawler mistakes: hands at his sides, fists clenched, posture set forward in that street-corner peacock stance. While flawed, it’s not something to underestimate. If he had started running his mouth, I would have relaxed (an empty can rattles the loudest), but dude was silent. The “gimme an excuse” subtext hung in the air like diesel fumes.

I brought my hands together in front of my chest, fists loose but in a ready position known in Jiu-Jitsu as “the fence”, and maintained eye contact. The inevitability of a fight felt very real, and I watched to see if he would subconsciously pat his coat — the tell of a concealed weapon. He didn’t, but he did start shuffling forward, flaring his shoulders and jutting his chin at me — territorial posturing straight out of any National Geographic documentary.

My right foot drifted back and I bladed slightly into a fighter’s stance, hands up, weight loaded on my back leg, the front ready to pisao — the very effective sidekick that has both offensive and defensive applications as needed.

He remained well out of range. I drew a deep breath, then spoke as clearly and steadily as I could: “I’m just headed to the grocery store, friend.”

Maybe another ten seconds ticked by — a long ten seconds.

“F@#! you, b!$@&,” was his reply, but he stopped moving forward. We slowly circled past each other, backing away as we resumed our respective courses. I got my groceries. I returned to remove laundry from the dryers.

The only reason that went as well as it did was because I have been consciously putting myself in stressful, demanding situations — situations where larger, stronger people were trying to punch or choke me, or bend limbs in the wrong direction — on a near-daily basis for almost two decades.

The only reason that went as well as it did was because I have been consciously putting myself in stressful, demanding situations — situations where larger, stronger people were trying to punch or choke me, or bend limbs in the wrong direction — on a near-daily basis for almost two decades.

So, some thoughts: You win every fight you don’t fight, but this situation was brought on by my stupid response to his opening statement. I could have easily stepped aside with zero engagement when he politely requested I move out of his way. It would have cost me nothing, but my inner playground wise-ass had to have his say, and I had to be prepared to deal with the consequences I created.

Yes, you could argue that he started it. And yes, my training allowed me to project genuine confidence while de-escalating, but that scene could have been avoided if my brain wasn’t riffing in Reservoir Dogs mode. The only reason that went as well as it did was because I have been consciously putting myself in stressful, demanding situations — situations where larger, stronger people were trying to punch or choke me, or bend limbs in the wrong direction — on a near-daily basis for almost two decades. That is the absolute only way a person can develop a composed and therefore effective fight response.

The virtue of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, along with arts that demand similar pressure-testing (e.g. boxing, Judo, Muay Thai, wrestling) is that they forge a direct link between mental assessment and physical response. It is not something you can attain by immersing yourself in YouTube videos, repeating katas in isolation, or just hanging a heavy bag in your garage.

Learning to fight (and therefore, learning not to fight) demands training, which in turn demands practice. It’s not something you can rehearse for; it’s only something for which you can either be prepared or unprepared. It also helps if you can learn to keep your mouth shut, so I have work to do.

Learning to fight (and therefore, learning not to fight) demands training, which in turn demands practice. It’s not something you can rehearse for; it’s only something for which you can either be prepared or unprepared. It also helps if you can learn to keep your mouth shut, so I have work to do.

Please stay safe.

Jay Ferrari
Royce Gracie Blackbelt
Founder/Instructor
Capital MMA – TeamTakoma

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The rest you back up on your own.

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