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"Ideally, your self-defense will never get physical. Avoiding the situation and running or talking you way out - either of these is a higher order of strategy than winning a physical battle." - Wise Words of Rory Miller, Facing Violence: Chapter 7: after, subparagraph 7.1:medical

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Is It Bullying or Fighting?

I read a response by a person who has my attention in regards to violence. He made some excellent observations that cause me to stop and think. Maybe I am seeing the concept incorrectly. I look at it as "bullying," when I should be viewing it as, "fighting."

So which is it? Bullying is where one person tries to intimidate a person perceived as weaker or an easy victim. It might be an attempt to make a person do something unwillingly. It is also a domineering action; a tendency to browbeat another. It may or may not include some physical interactions.

Fighting is a struggle between individuals. At its worst is it a violent conflict intended to dominate another person. It involves physical altercation be it pushing another; bouncing chests; or actually punching/striking another. There are other levels and ways that are fighting, i.e. verbal exchanges are also fighting, but for this post I want to point to the worst, physically attacking another person for what ever reasons.

Fighting is a form of physical engagement. It does not take a lot to cross the line from bullying to fighting. It does not change the view previously posted here that bullying is not a good thing and should be avoided, stopped, prevented, or just not done. This is something someone should deal with so young persons don't do it. A huge task, yes?

Bullying can and does provoke fighting. There are so many dynamics it ain't funny so like self defense it is complex and difficult which may explain why it is still prevalent in today's youth (adults bully too ya know).

Once bullying escalates to fighting regardless of the reasons it must be dealt with. It must be dealt with as to both parties. Once it gets to fighting, fighting is illegal which should be a good indication that it is not a thing we should allow, if we can. Again a difficult and complex issue with no clear cut answers.

We can "what if it" to death. We can take sides and continue the conflict, ops I meant discussion, until the end of time. It would be great if we collaborated and achieved detente on bullying and fighting by young folks.

Hmmm, human nature, good luck with this.


  1. Hi Charles, surely the distinction between bullying and fighting is as clear cut as the distinction between fighting and self defence is? Fighting is consensual - both parties agree to do it. Being bullied is non-consensual and being forced to defend yourself is non consensual. No one consents to being bullied or being forced to defend themselves. If a bullied person is forced to physically defend themselves then they are still not engaging in 'fighting' but only in the defensive moves necessary to get away from the bully.

    A bully is just another type of aggressor/attacker from whom we learn to defend ourselves from in martial arts. Instructors should already be teaching their students the difference between fighting and self defence so as long as students realise they only use their skills in non-consensual situations (ie they are forced to in self defence)they won't go far wrong. Well that's my humble opinion....

  2. Hi, Sue: Fighting is not yet is consensual in a way. Arguments of the verbal kind can and do escalate into a physical altercation and are fighting. Also, a person can be attacked on the street where the moment they go beyond a point turn self defense into fighting; fighting here in the US is illegal. This is not always consensual but fear and anger taking it into that fighting arena. Both parties don't necessarily agree to it but one or the other allow themselves to submit to ego, the need to win, and other stuff and be dragged into fighting which is and is not actually consensual, agree? disagree?

    Being bullied over time may be non-consensual yet if the person allows that to reach a point where they lose it and respond then whether consensual or non-consensual is very muddy depending on whether the bullied stops when the force equals the attack and the attack stops. He must stop but if the ego, anger, fear, what ever caused them to step past that stop point it is fighting and not necessarily consensual.

    Consent is something that is arrived at in a non-emotional and rational state of mind yet when the mind is muddied by adrenaline dumps and monkey dancing it cannot be either one, in my humble opinion.

    by the way, your humble opinion is a very good one and remains a bone of contention in circles like this one yesterday, today and far into the future.