Free Self-Defense Lessons From Jerry Springer

Jerry Springer

Years before The Ultimate Fighter and pay-per-view MMA specials, talk-show host Jerry Springer pioneered “reality” fighting entertainment.

While Jerry Springer’s talk show environment is obviously somewhat contrived, his guests’ fighting technique is in other respects spontaneous and natural. So how do the lessons taught in the average martial arts dojo compare to combat performances on Jerry Springer?

Dojo Fantasy: There are no rules in a real fight.
Jerry Springer Reality: Violence is a form of communication.
Analysis: Most animals naturally distinguish between fighting and killing. The purpose of fighting is not to maim or kill the opponent, but to establish a social hierarchy. Understanding this distinction is crucial for successful self-defense.

Jerry’s guests know they are playing a game: they pull their punches, and sometimes even smile and laugh during one of their pre-arranged scuffles. This is not to say such grudge matches are completely safe; however, failing to honor the unspoken rules of limited engagement can result in severe punishment, from the other principals, the crowd of observers, and society at large.

Dojo Fantasy: A fight consists of a series of offensive and defensive techniques, executed in turn.
Jerry Springer Reality: Everybody attacks, all at once.
Analysis: The best defense is to attack the opponent’s potential, whereas the worst defense is to resist the opponent’s attack. In this respect, Jerry’s brawlers show more intelligence than the average dojo strategist.

You rarely see guests attempt to block a punch or kick. Instead, they tend to stand far enough away that blows cannot reach them, while waiting for an opportune time to rush in for a clinch. While inside, they manhandle each other for a few seconds, waiting for the bodyguards break it up. Finally, they repeat the entire sequence again, and then go to commercial break.

Dojo Fantasy: A fight starts and ends with two participants.
Jerry Springer Reality: If you stand (or lay) still for even one moment, you will be surrounded, and you will be finished.
Analysis: Despite the constant guests’ constant squabbling, serious injuries appear to be rare. This must be in part due to the show’s large and ever-present security team.

After the producers encourage and facilitate each fight, the security team is expected to allow it, and then stop to it before it gets too ugly. And at this task, they are remarkably effective. Two or three security guards surround each of the freak show fighters, and pull them apart.

The take-away lesson is that you should never walk down the street without a team of security guards. If you can’t hire a bodyguard service, do the next best thing, and never allow yourself to be surrounded by hostile strangers.

My Final Thought

When a fight breaks out on stage, Jerry Springer can always be found standing safely in the audience section. Jerry has mastered the classic rule of self-preservation: ninety percent of success is not showing up.


  1. I’ll have you know that kung-fu hillbilly is me.

    Any pointers you have for me?

  2. One graduate of the Jerry Springer Street Defense program has already made the local news!

    Bremerton Man Exposes Himself During Fisticuffs
    Police were called to a store on the 500 block of Sheridan Road around 3:45 p.m. and found a 33-year-old man in a standoff with an 18-year-old and a younger boy, reports said.

    The 18-year-old said he had asked the 33-year-old for money outside the store. The older man flipped off the 18-year-old, and the teen returned the favor, reports said. The 33-year-old began throwing punches, but they were easily dodged because they were “really slow,” the 18-year-old said.

    The 18-year-old wanted nothing to do with the fight, he said, and attempted to grab the iced tea he’d purchased and leave. Then the 33-year-old exposed himself…

  3. The judo chops in the air sort of remind me of Barney Fife
    I can whistle the theme song. That was before my time by about 20 years.

    I need to work on my Judo Chop, is that what you are telling me?
    I studies pork chops to get that move down, I don’t know what kind of animal a Judo is.

  4. You are absolutely right about the vast majority of fights being more concerned with posturing and establishing social dominance. It’s one of the reasons I took up taiji, so I could deal with aggressors without becoming one. Kneecapping is generally uncalled for 99% of the time. Most of these ‘fights’ can easily be avoided by simply refusing to put fuel on the fire. On the other hand, living in New Orleans has exposed me to people who could give a f@&k about rules, unspoken or not. Encounters with these people are almost always unscripted (by us at least) and if they develop in to violence, it will most likely be swift, brutal and with little to no warning. Preparing for these types of attacks is, IMHO, less about techniques or drill and more about mental conditioning. Taking the possibility seriously is a good first step. I don’t see why it isn’t dealt with like other emergencies, such as fire, flood, etc..

  5. There are many types of rules. For example, one cannot do:
    1. What they are not allowed to do (without punishment)
    2. What they refuse to do (without changing their attitude)
    3. What they are unable to do (without increasing their resources or skill set)

    Nobody can opt-out of #3 in particular.

  6. Indeed Chris, but the fact is opting out of the first 2 would be far more effective.

Add a Comment