I punched a guy in the gut. Maybe a little lower than the gut.

I broke up a fight in a parking lot of the gym this morning. Actually, all I really did was stop one guy from beating the hell out of another guy. As I exited the gym, I saw the two guys standing in the two empty parking spaces between my car and the next. One was big, and the other was about my size. Both were wiry and in good shape.

The kind of guys who lift free weights but can’t seem to put on any bulk.

Both guys had blood on their hands and mouth, but one guy, a long haired blond, had clearly lost the fight. He was cowering, just trying to protect himself from the punches of the other, who had apparently removed his coat prior to throwing punches, exposing his retro A-Team muscle shirt.

Probably for intimidation purposes.

I quickened my pace and yelled, “Alright! Enough! You got him!” In my experience, the interjection of a third party in any way is usually enough to end a fight.

Unfortunately, my verbal interjection did not, so as came upon the scene, I placed myself between the two men, saying again, “Alright, man. You won. Give the guy a break.”

A-Team Shirt backed off and dropped his hands, a sure sign that the fight is over. I was in many fights as a young man, and I can usually read these signs fairly well.

Unfortunately, A-Team Shirt had decided to violate the laws of fist fights and do the unexpected. As soon as I relaxed, he charged after his opponent again, attempting to sidestep me in the process.

I won’t lie. My punch was a sucker punch. I don’t think A-Team Shirt ever expected me to participate in this altercation in a physical way. As he came even with me, I punched him in the gut, stepping into the punch and giving him everything I had. My original thought was to punch him in the chin with an uppercut, but at the last moment, I changed my target. I decided on the gut.

Honestly, I decided on below the gut.

And it was a damn good punch. It was ten or fifteen years of punches rolled into one. Hard and low. Definitely lower than what would be allowed in a boxing match.

A-Team Shirt dropped to the ground with one of those incredibly satisfying groans that only an experienced fist fighter knows about.

I then turned to Blondie. He had the look of a guy who thought my lower-than-the-gut punch was not so cool. "You should probably go," he said.

I did. I turned back to A-Team Shirt, who was still crumpled on the ground, and said, “I’m going. Sorry.”

By the look on his face and the expletives that were coming from his mouth, I suspect that my punch landed somewhere rather unfortunate.

I got into my car, drove to an adjacent parking lot and turned off my car, waiting for my hands to stop shaking and wondering what either one of the guys might say to me next time they see me at the gym.

I don’t advise becoming involved in physical altercations such as these, and quite often I won’t, as much as I might want to. But it was 7:30 AM, one guy had already won the fight, and the chances that either guy had a weapon was minuscule. They were in gym clothing and the sun was barely up.

Most important, I did not enter the fray planning to throw a punch. My intention was merely serve as the voice of reason.

They were also blocking my car door.

But like I said, I used to fight a lot when I was younger, and I learned some important rules that these two guys had clearly never learned.

Matt’s Rules of Fighting

1. Avoid fighting whenever possible.

2. Doing your best impression of a complete mental case can often convince an opponent to walk away.

3. There is no shame in being able to run faster than your opponent.

4. Never get in a fight if you cannot take a punch. Until you take your first punch, assume you have a glass jaw. Most people do. Thankfully, I have always been able to withstand a punch well. It’s my only real talent when it comes to fighting. I’m not the fastest or the strongest, but I can absorb a lot of punishment.

5. If you know that you can take a punch, let your opponent land the first one and show no signs of pain or damage. Intimidation is a huge factor in a fight. Hitting your opponent in the face and watching him take it without so much as a flinch can be scary as hell.

6. Never punch someone in the mouth. It cuts your own knuckles open and will likely result in blood in the mouth of your opponent. This will only serve to further enrage him. I’m quite certain that this is the origin of the term blood lust. I have felt it myself. It is a powerful force and extremely helpful in a fight.

7. The three preferred places to punch an opponent (and the only places you should ever punch an opponent), in order, are:

  1. The gut (never sexy but highly effective)
  2. Between the eyes (almost as good as the gut but harder to hit with any force)
  3. The groin (actually the best place to hit a man but chivalry demands that I place it third on the list)

8. Never hit an opponent after he has quit fighting. It is a cowardly act and increases your chances of seriously hurting someone.

9. Never turn your back on an opponent, even if you think the fight is over.