Ask any random male how they think they would do in a street fight, and you will get the same response with different versions. ‘Of course, I’d kick ass! I can fold anyone put in front of me!’
It’s a hardwired ideology. Men firmly believe that nine times out of ten, they’d be able to emerge as the stronger one in a random altercation. The scenario will involve a lot of posturing and puffing of chests to prove their alpha status. And that applies across the board. It’s all part of that caveman DNA that requires no further explanation.
Of course, what one perceives as truth won’t always pan out. And often, the story ends anti-climatically.
Have you ever wondered why men, in particular, have an overblown perception of their abilities to handle themselves in a street fight? For this, we once again asked some experts.
Why Do Men Overestimate Their Abilities in a Street Fight?
We’re focusing on the men, not for any gender-specific reason or agenda. But when you see two women throwdown in a street fight, they mean business. There isn’t the usual display of verbal arrogance, and in most cases, they’re all bark, no bite.
When women fight, they leave it all on the line, seemingly throwing all caution to the wind.
We’ll begin our deep dive with a possible research-based connection.
The Dunning-Kruger Effect
The explanation of the Dunning-Kruger effect doesn’t require scientific deciphering. In the 90s, Cornell University professors David Dunning and Justin Kruger wanted to gauge people’s perception of their incompetence.
The duo gathered 45 undergraduate students, had them answer a 20-item logic test, then rate their performance. As it turned out, those who scored the lowest saw themselves doing better than 62% of everyone who took the test. From the other end, those who scored the highest believed they did better than 68% of test-takers.
Here’s another unsurprising statistic: 93% of American drivers have it in their heads that they are better than the rest. That’s a large chunk of people who get behind the wheel of a vehicle, and that likely includes you, who’s currently reading this.
The Dunning-Kruger effect stipulates that people may be unaware of their capabilities and, in this case, the lack thereof. And while the study went under scrutiny multiple times, one accepted fact remains: men have an overblown perception of their abilities in a street fight? Why is that?
To answer this question, we turn to the experts.
The Knack For Risk-Taking
A February 2023 study in the National Library of Medicine revealed that men “exhibit a stronger innate inclination to be risk-prone” than women. According to the study’s abstract, one possible reason is for men to “advertise” their “intrinsic quality to prospective mates.” They show off, thinking it would impress their female counterparts, and that’s no secret.
For Mumbai-based psychiatrist Dr. Ketan Parmar, a man’s knack for risk-taking could potentially contribute to his inflated view of handling himself in a street fight scenario.
“Most men naturally possess a greater tendency for risk-taking compared to women because of evolutionary factors; this could contribute to an inflated sense of confidence during a physical altercation,” Dr. Parmar explained to SOFREP via email.
“Risk-taking behavior has been linked with testosterone levels found in men, which also explains why men are more likely than women to engage in high-risk activities such as extreme sports or gambling.”
It’s In the Upbringing
Traditionally, parents raise their sons to be protectors when they grow up. And even with the current society’s openness towards gender neutrality, the general public expects men to take on the ‘defender’ role.
As Mental health professional and licensed social worker Ann Russo explains, the answer lies heavily in how parents nurture young boys.
“Boys are often socialized from a young age to believe that physical strength and aggression are essential traits for demonstrating masculinity,” she told SOFREP. “This messaging is reinforced by media and pop culture, as well as peer groups that may engage in physically competitive activities or teasing.
“This upbringing can lead to an overestimation of their physical abilities and a reluctance to back down or de-escalate situations.”
It seems rare for men to choose to back down in a street fight unless they get their egos constantly checked in a controlled environment like a gym. And more often than not, the outcome is least desirable.
A Displaced Defense Mechanism
In most cases of street fight situations gone wrong, the parties involved are usually untrained individuals filled with confidence and false bravado. You’ll rarely see a professional fighter incite an altercation, not only because they can be an easy mark for an assault charge but also because they don’t need to.
According to clinical therapist Alex Honigman, the overestimation of a man’s ability to handle himself in a street fight is a defense mechanism.
“To be effective as a man, it would require various aspects of masculinity such as fighting that many, in fact, most men never have to delve into. So they view, watch, and engage in aspects of physical prowess… typically enjoy the new John Wick or other action-laden films.
“They may even go to various fighting-related classes (Boxing, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, or Martial Arts) though they haven’t gotten into a real altercation.
For Dr. Parmar, it could be a method to compensate for low self-esteem.
“Men with low self-esteem may also overestimate their ability to fight to compensate for feelings of inadequacy or insecurity. Overestimating one’s own fighting skills provides one with an assurance that one would be capable of defending themselves if needed.”
“This kind of behavior is often seen in men who have a history of being bullied and feel the need to prove themselves as capable fighters to gain the respect of others.”
How Should Men View Their Street Fight Abilities?
We already explained how martial arts training wouldn’t necessarily translate well in a street fight scenario. In that piece, we ultimately advise walking away from an unwinnable situation.
But the overestimation comes down to ego. Men are hardwired to puff their chests and act alpha in a confrontation automatically, but there are ways to condition yourself to do otherwise.
Develop Healthy Habits
Healthy habits lead to a healthier view of life in general, and we’re not just talking about diet. Men with an overblown perception of themselves have unaddressed rage that sometimes requires professional help.
But you can douse those flames through healthy, productive practices like journaling and meditation. Try this: get a cheap journal notebook from Amazon that would encourage you to write daily. Anytime you start to feel your blood simmer, jot them down. Don’t spare any ill feelings.
Putting your emotions down on paper allows you to look at them from the outside and see how absurd they are. Have that notebook with you at all times, and instead of spewing all your rage into the world, pour it all on paper. You’ll see a massive difference.
You should be adept at simple mindfulness practices if you don’t want to have a notebook with you. Someone cuts you off in traffic? Rolling down the window, yelling obscenities, and driving away can be tempting.
But what if you pause and take a few deep breaths instead of following your instincts? Four inhales and exhales, apiece should cool you down in an instant. You’ll notice yourself no longer seeing red within a few minutes.
Give it a try. You’ll be amazed.
Go to a Gym and Train
Do you know why trained fighters keep away from inciting a street fight? Because they take regular beatings in the gym. Even championship-level fighters receive constant reminders that they are humans who bleed when punched in the mouth. But they are trained killers conditioned to snap a person in half if necessary.
A good training facility puts no one on a pedestal. Everyone will treat you like family and lift you, but no one holds a god-like status. And you’ll feel the vibe the moment you set foot inside.
Boxing and kickboxing provide aerobic cardio, conditioning, and the satisfaction of hitting something that won’t fight back. But if you’re not a fan of getting punched in the face, submission grappling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are the way to go.
Gentlemen, make it an instinct to back away the next time you find yourself on the cusp of a street fight scenario. It will never end well for you.
Editor’s Note: This piece of expert content was contributed by longtime mixed martial arts competitor and coach certified by the International MMA Federation, Miguel Antonio Ordoñez. He’s our resident expert on hand to hand – GDM