Learning how to fight is not the same as promoting belligerent, anti-social behavior. We live in an exceedingly violent society. Our films, books, TV shows, and video games glorify mayhem and carnage. Our leaders (sic) solve most of their problems through aggression...or the threat thereof. While talk of non-violence is understandable and the struggle for peace has never been more essential, let's face it: The odds are that sooner or later you're going to end up in a confrontation that may escalate into physical violence. So, why not be prepared?
The ideal scenario, of course, would be to stop a fight before it occurs. This could happen because you've developed (or faked) a rep and thus intimidated your opponent(s), you've talked your way out of the situation, or you simply ran like hell. But, if none of these reasonable options work, it makes a whole lot of sense to land the first shot.
Back in my juvenile delinquent days, there was a guy we called Ratt who earned hero status as a fighter thanks to one straightforward tactic: landing the first shot. At the first whiff of trouble, Ratt would snap out a hard right hand and I never saw anyone recover sufficiently to win the fight. This is not to say you start tossing haymakers every which way but loose, but there's a glorious logic to taking the offensive when all other options are denied. Plus: You send a powerful message to your opponent(s) when you demonstrate that you're willing to take things to the next level.
Ironically, I used an analogous ploy on Steve's younger brother, Paulie. Everyone thought he could take me so we ended up having a somewhat "play" fight in the schoolyard. I was holding my sneakers at the time (gym class was looming). As Paulie neared me with mayhem in his eyes, I tossed the sneakers at his face. When he ducked and covered his face, I pounced on him and got him in a headlock. The nuns broke it up but Paulie never bugged me again after that.
Another option (in case your running shoes aren't handy) is to keep plenty of change in your pocket. This way, if cornered into a fight you did not seek, you can reach into your pocket, grab the coins, and give 'em a hard toss at your enemy's groin. Like clockwork, he'll lower his guard to protect his sensitive parts...leaving his cocky mug wide open for a devastating opening salvo.
Of course, there are plenty of "dirty" tactics to employ when landing that all-important first shot, e.g. foot stomp, finger jab toward the eyes, and the old reliable groin kick (as Bruce Lee sez: "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times"). So, the next time you're faced with an unavoidable conflict against even the most formidable foe, remember Malcolm X's words: "Power never takes a back step-only in the face of more power."