Concealed Carry & Home Defense

Emerson Combatives: 10 Must Know Attributes To Win A Fight

Ernest Emerson Contributor
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As this is a Brotherhood of Warriors, it is fitting to establish a base line set of fighting skills that all brothers should know and become proficient in enough to use in a combat application. It is important to note that what is presented here is a core of basic skills that by no means represents the comprehensive skill set that are taught in the Emerson Combat Fighting System or the curriculum taught at The Black Shamrock Combat Academy. However here is a basic skill set that represents the core set of skills that can be effectively utilized, given the right attitude, the right attributes, and proper application.

I recommend that all members engage in ongoing formal training in some style of combat art such as boxing, jiujitsu, karate, kung fu, wrestling, MMA, or similar art. What I have done here is distill a set of combat fighting skills into a fundamental set of skills and techniques that will keep you alive in a deadly force encounter. As I tell the students in every class I teach, “An expert is one who has mastered the basics.” It is with that mantra in mind that I bring to you these basic fighting skills.

To begin, it must be stated that most fighters with no real combat experience tend to believe the reliance on techniques is what makes them a fighter. But those with real combat experience will tell you that it is attitude that makes a fighter. I have personally seen untrained fighters with a “bad attitude” beat the hell out of karate black belts in real world fights. I faced a few of them in my day and I will tell you that a bad attitude can make a formidable warrior out of an average man. Just ask any Marine.

As a fighter, I will tell you from personal experience, in a real life or death situation it is not important whether or not you best your opponent. The only thing important is that you survive and live through the fight. This is not about sport or competition. There are no referees or rules in hand-to-hand combat. There is no honor. No quarter and no mercy will be afforded to you and you should give none in return. So bear in mind that every technique that I shall describe has to be delivered with extreme violence of action. Everything you do should be done with maximum aggression and the intent to hurt, injure or kill your opponent. If you reference the Emerson Commandments of a Warrior, number 8 states, “Never Do Anything without a Purpose,” and Commandment number 9 states, “Never Do Anything That Is Useless.” In a life or death struggle, the difference between life and death is measured in tenths of a second and fractions of an inch. So adherence to those Commandments can make the difference. And never forget, there is no second place.

The attributes you must bring to action in a fight must be simple, brutal and effective.


  1. If a physical conflict is imminent, then you strike first. He who strikes first usually wins the fight. Don’t give him the first strike.
  1. When you strike, throw everything you have and do not relent until the opponent is no longer a threat. Strike the opponent with a barrage of overwhelming firepower.
  1. Maintain constant forward pressure. The opponent cannot fight if you are moving forward and he is moving backwards.
  1. There is no defense, only offense. Make your offense your defense. The old saying, “The best defense is a good offense” is really true. An opponent who is defending against an attack cannot attack in return. Conversely, you cannot be a counter-puncher against an opponent in a fight if a bad guy is trying to kill you.
  1. Attack with maximum speed, power and violence of action, and use every available weapon in your arsenal without hesitation.
  1. Do not focus on destroying the weapon; focus on destroying the man. You have far more to fear from a deadly man than a deadly weapon. Destroy the opponent and the weapon is also destroyed.
  1. Only engage in combat if it is absolutely necessary. And only stay engaged in combat if you absolutely must. At any point during the fight, if you have a chance to escape, then do so. The longer a fight lasts, the greater the odds that both combatants will be injured and the chance of a “lucky shot” connecting go up dramatically. The lucky shot does not care if it’s for the good guy or for the bad guy. Of course, this rule does not apply if you must stay engaged in the fight, such as in the case of a military mission, if you are a police officer, or to protect someone in need, such as an innocent, loved ones, family or your teammates.
  1. Train as you will fight. I’ve seen people in training, particularly where two students are sparring. In the middle of an exchange, one student gets a good shot in on the other. Not a knockout punch mind you, but maybe just a solid punch to the chest or midsection, and the student stops, saying, “I’m sorry, you okay?” The other student replies, “I’m okay,” and they continue sparring. Granted, sparring is not fighting and you’re not supposed to be trying to injure your training partner, but this is a bad, bad habit. Your partner is a willing participant, who is also sparring, because he wants to. He can take a shot. So can you. You don’t need to stop and apologize every time you sink one in. This is a bad habit you don’t want to establish. Even though you don’t think it will show up in real fight, it can. If you practice something in training, you will do it when you fight. You are both big boys. If you hit him hard, he can take it and so can you. Remember, part of learning how to fight is learning how to take a punch as well as give one. If you develop the habit of hesitating when you hit someone, and if you fall apart like a cheap suit every time you get hammered, you’re going to lose every time.
  1. Do not humanize the opponent. He is a bad guy. He is a threat. He is not a man, a father or a brother. This threat will not hesitate to kill you, your son or daughter, your wife or your teammate. Act without hesitation, sympathy or mercy until the threat is negative.
  1. Never, ever give up. You cannot lose. First place is life. Second place is the morgue.

Here is another important fact. Remember that I said that I would take capacity, (attitude) over capability, (technique) every time? Well, the same is true for Principles and Concepts in terms of overall survivability in a combat environment. It is more important to remember the principles than the technique. As I state over and over in class, “Apply the principle and the techniques will follow.”

Ernest Emerson is the owner of Emerson Knives, Inc. He is a tier one Combatives instructor, Master at Arms, noted author and lecturer, Black Belt Hall of Fame member and a connoisseur of fine whiskey.

Click here to visit Mr. Emerson offers a 10% discount on his knives to Daily Caller readers. Use the discount code – tdc (all lower case). Click here to visit the Emerson Training Center.