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How to Break Up a Fight

Before World War III breaks out at the bar, here's how to calm things down — and react if necessary..

Let’s say you’re at the bar with a friend, having a fine time and minding your own damn business, when some bad-looking dude the size of a Mack truck decides he’s got a problem with your friend. Bad Dude comes at him with some stupid remark, your buddy snaps right back, and suddenly they’re this close to World War III.

What’s a Men’s Fitness man to do?

Before putting yourself between two hotheads, know that being a hero can get you seriously hurt, says Matan Gavish, the founder and chief instructor at Krav Maga Academy in New York City. That’s why you should only get involved if you care about one (or both) of the people involved.

“A ‘fight’ is usually a result of clashing egos,” says Gavish, who has trained combat experts ranging from Navy SEALS to the NYPD’s Tactical Training Unit. “There are usually plenty of opportunities to deescalate a situation before punches are thrown.”

First: Speak in an even, calm tone and relax your body language. (No need to escalate things further.) Try to defuse the situation by agreeing with him in any argument, and explain you’re getting your buddy out of there. “His ego makes him predictable and violent,” Gavish says. “Use it to your advantage.”

One easy fix? Offer to pick up Tough Guy’s tab. “That calms pretty much anybody down,” Gavish says.

If he stays on the warpath, signal to your buddy that it’s time to go. “You can be a little aggressive with your friend, which will help him save his dignity,” Gavish says. “Make it seem like he’s leaving as a favor to you, not because he’s afraid.”

And when you do manage to separate the guys, try to disengage them safely, without giving the hothead an excuse to attack. Never put your hands on him (unless you absolutely have to), and don’t turn your back as you walk away—that might have him seeing red all over again.

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