Melee Academy: Bar Fights and Being a Bouncer

Let me preface this post with a couple of facts about myself: I’ve done some form of security off and on for the last 15 or so years and have no formal martial arts training – just lots of experience. One of the first jobs I ever got was working in a bar where I was basically the doorman (aka a bouncer). Thanks to my natural size (over 6 ft after a growth spurt at 11) and a boss who didn’t look too closely at my photographic ID, I got my start with the security industry pretty early. Anyone who has ever worked as a bouncer will tell you it’s not like Roadhouse – it’s more like…Tapper. No, seriously, more people come to a bar to drink and have a good time than come to get sloshed and pick fights. I personally spent more time checking IDs and refilling the bar than I did anything else. That’s not to say that I didn’t deal with my share of hairy events – because I did – but most of the time it was quiet and in that business, you crave quiet. And when you do come across a potential altercation, you try your best to talk your subject out of a fight. You do this because, really, no one wants to get into a fight. Fights are messy, and someone is going to get hurt in the end and the whole time you’re hoping it isn’t you. What’s more, the aftermath can take a helluva toll on you. Anyone who has ever been in a life-or-death (or at least injury) situation will tell you that. You’re tired. You hurt. And your brain just won’t shut down. Anyone who says otherwise is a sociopath, adrenaline junkie, or never really been in a fight. I’m also not writing this to brag – people that need to do that are probably a member of the previous list or just a braggart.I simply thought this might be a neat exercise to do.

Finally, Jason Brick did a really good job explaining what the job more or less entails and if you find this post interesting, I really suggest you go buy a copy of Pyramid #3/42: Noir from Warehouse23. What I’m talking about are based on a few experiences I have personally had, stories I’d heard from others, or things I saw. 

Charlie vs. Alpha and Bravo

(I saw this from across the room while working at a strip joint in early 2000 – it was a blood bath). Charlie was on door detail when two young thugs gave him guff about seeing their ID. When he refused to let them in one of them pulled a knife.

What Happened: Charlie must have noticed the knife or been even more paranoid than his usual self because before Bravo could pull the knife completely from where it was stuffed in his jacket Charlie rammed the palm of his hand into the guy’s nose and headbutted Alpha in the face. Bravo dropped the knife, and Charlie kicked it half way across the bar. Before either Bravo or Alpha could react Charlie repeatedly slammed Alpha’s head into his pals until both of them stopped moving. (Charlie has anger issues, but is a helluva close-in fighter. He usually just stayed in the back doing busy-work unless we needed him in the front, which was thankfully rarely).
What Should/Might Have Happened: I’m surprised that Charlie actually saw the knife (a cheap “tanto” knockoff about 8″ long) given Bravo’s baggy clothing. It could have gone either way, and this is just another case of where paying attention/inattention can save your life/get you killed.
In GURPS Terms: Charlie obviously went first and performed a risky maneuver which I would call an All-Out Attack (Double), punching one guy in the face (-5 to skill), while headbutting the other in the face (-6 to skill). He either performed an Evaluate or threw the whole thing as a Telegraphic Attack for a bonus to skill. As a free action, he kicked the knife out the way since it was close enough. This is something you’re trained to do or you learn to do quickly in this line of work. Remove the weapons, remove the threat. You can recover from a punch easily – a stab wound? Not so much. What happened next was an application of Grab and Smash! (GURPS Martial Arts, p. 117) – specifically a twofer. Charlie beat them both into unconsciousness by quite literally knocking their heads together/against the wall.

Baker Blue and I vs. Little Mike

(This actually happened to me in 1999 while I was working at a nearby honkeytonk.) The not-so-Little Mike (easily 400 lbs. and over 7 foot tall) had been drinking a lot, I think he’d lost his job or something. When the bartender took his keys early on in the night, he didn’t seem to care. But when 2:00 am rolled around he wasn’t so happy; he eventually called his wife to pick him up. I don’t know what happened after he left, but when I heard a woman screaming in the parking lot, I ran outside as fast as I could. Little Mike was beating his wife’s head into their pickup in a drunken rage.
What Happened: I ran forward without thinking and tackled Little Mike to the ground. Once we were both on the ground, I shouted for Nadine (the bartender) to call the cops. Mike punched me in the mouth and sent me sprawling onto my back. I scrambled to get back on my feet and both Mike, and I sized each other up before he threw a punch which I deflected with my forearm. I got in close enough to slide my arm around his neck and managed to get behind him to choke him out. Little Mike did not like this, but owing to my own size and weight, he couldn’t do what he obviously did when others did this to him – use his greater bulk to shake them off. Eventually, he decided that falling backward was his best bet, but I held on. Throughout this, he constantly elbowed me in the ribs, but I held on. Eventually, a local cop, Baker Blue, showed up and tried tasing the drunk giant (which didn’t work), macing him (dido – and I got mace in my face), and then ended up using a nightstick against Little Mike’s balls (which did). On his gasp of pain as he exhaled I squeezed harder, and eventually he passed out. I pressed assault charges against Little Mike, but he got off with required Anger Management. His wife never pressed charges. I heard he killed her years later, but I never found out what happened.
What Should/Might Have Happened: What I did was stupid. I went on instinct. When you rush into a situation without assessing it: It. Can. Get. You. Killed. Little Mike could have had a gun (he often carried a 9mm) or even a knife (which was on his belt, luckily he was too drunk to realize it was there).
In GURPS Terms: I would say that once I was outside, I performed an All-Out Attack (Determined) and Slammed Little Mike. When he punched me I suffered Knockdown and was stunned for a few seconds. Once back on our feet I know I was performing the equivalent of an Evaluate and after Little Mike tried punching me again (which I parried) I got in close and performed a Choke Hold (-3 to hit). Since both Little Mike and I were big guys this took several turns, and I ended up crushed underneath his bulk as he tried to shake me free. He performed multiple Elbow Strikes (-2 to hit), but either didn’t land a solid hit (in GURPS terms, did damage), or I moved out of the way (Brawling Parry or Dodge). Eventually, Little Mike went unconscious as I cut off his air supply.

Tom-Tom vs. Xray, Yankee, & Zulu

(This is somewhat apocryphal, despite the fact that I was there when it happened – I was restocking the bar and ready to get home so I wasn’t paying attention to anything but the clock. This happened at the first place I ever worked as a bouncer, a strip joint name “3 Tens.” Furthermore, the guy I’m talking about here, Tom-Tom was an ex-Army MP, so he had way more training than I or any of the others guys had). Tom-Tom was on “stage duty” (basically, making sure no one touched any of the girls) when a group of soldiers (I think Army guys, but I don’t remember the uniforms clearly) decided that one of them was shaking her goods at them. When Tom-Tom asked Yankee not to get near the girls, Xray and Zulu decided that he was disrespecting them and got up in his face. Xray proceeded to poke Tom-Tom in the chest…
What Happened: As soon as Xray touched Tom-Tom, he grabbed the man’s finger, bent it backward, and wrenched his arm out of the joint so fast it looked like a magic trick. Xray then fall back onto the stage crying out as he cradled his dislocated arm. Zulu rushed Tom-Tom, and both went sprawling on the floor. No one knows what happened, but after a few minutes of struggling Tom-Tom got up, and Zulu didn’t. That left Yankee who backed off quickly. Tom-Tom then told him to set in the chair till the police came and handcuffed the two other soldiers to the bolted-down table.
What Should/Might Have Happened: Considering the odds, it could have gone badly, but Tom-Tom was used to putting drunk soldiers down before I was even born so he had a ton of experience doing it.
In GURPS Terms: Tom-Tom performed a Fingerlock (Arm Lock -3) and followed it up with a Wrench Arm so fast that it had to have been a Rapid Strike (-6 to skill). Once Xray was down, Zulu rushed at Tom-Tom performing a Flying Tackle (p. B372) as an All-Out Attack (Strong). I don’t know what happened next, but Tom-Tom was said to have knocked the guy out in one hit so the only thing I could think of GURPS-wise is a very lucky Grab and Smash! (GURPS Martial Arts, p. 117) executed using the Kiss the Floor! rules. Once Tom-Tom was up he used Intimidation to get Yankee to back off. I’d be scared too if an old man knocked the hell out of my buddies (however drunk) in the span of ten or twenty seconds.

Posted in Melee Academy and tagged , , .


  1. Thanks. I didn't want to come off as pretentious so this one has been floating around a while and I really wasn't sure if I'd release it to begin with. As has been noted the skills for most combatants seem to be in the 14 range. I may or may not be biased but this could easily be folks taking All-Out Attack (Determined) to hit. Most people that lack training are probably doing this exact things. While I'm loath to give myself "stats" I probably *do* have around a Brawling of 14. I'm a pretty experienced scrapper.

Leave a Reply